Arrow "Burned" Review: Backdraft

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jan 17, 2013

Arrow S01E10: "Burned"

When you’re doing a good job protecting your city and carrying out your father’s wishes, you start to feel invincible, like you there’s nothing you can’t handle. But then you get beaten, and you get beaten bad, and it rattles you to your emotional and mental core (thankfully, your physical core is still okay because you’re able to do your salmon ladder reps). It’s tough to bounce back from a defeat like that.

And that’s how we found Oliver, who took six weeks off as the hood to try and get himself back together, both physically and mentally. He couldn’t do the little tennis ball trick, and he hadn't been crossing names off the list. On top of that, there’d been less than nothing about Walter’s disappearance. Nothing from Diggle’s contacts with various investigative agencies, and nothing from Oliver’s link to the Russian mob (thought the show had forgotten that, hadn’t you?). Things were seeming rather dire for Oliver’s career as a protector of Starling City.

Since his return, Oliver had been ignoring the trauma that he experienced on the island and funneling that denial into his crime-fighting. But then he suffered a blow that forced him to deal with his issues because it struck him at a place where he felt safest and the most in control. If he wants to continue working through the list and improving Starling City, he has to fight through barriers and not lose sight of his goals. That he was able to do so in "Burned" indicates that he may just be ready to start dealing with other issues as well.

It may also mean that he’s ready to move away from being a vigilante and become something more heroic. Oliver seemed to respond well to the crime stats that a news pundit rattled off on the TV, and to the fact that his actions at the gala were considered heroic (we’ll circle back to that). Coupled with his actions against the Reston bank-robbing family, he can see himself doing things that help Starling City beyond taking down people on the list.

But we got there in a really ham-fisted way, didn’t we? While Diggle provided the necessary analysis of Oliver’s behavior, it took Laurel saying “Our feelings... our fears, they control us, not the other way around” for everything to sink in, for Oliver to realize that he allows his fear to paralyze him. It’s what led to the admission that he’s worried about dying because of the pain it would cause those who care about him, because they’d go through that trauma of loss again. And it was all spelled out for us, and with a nice little bow as Oliver, facing Garfield Lynns at the gala, told the arsonist and murderer that his problem wasn’t that he was afraid to die, but that he was afraid to live.

Lynns and Oliver are (half-baked) inversions of each other: Lynns was surviving purely on revenge in the same way that Oliver had been using his father’s list to drive himself forward, but now that Oliver has something to live for, there’s more to be done, and being the hood isn’t his only responsibility. It was a telling moment when Oliver offered to help Lynns instead of putting an arrow through his head—an acknowledgment that Oliver needs help as well—but did he really have to just stand there while Lynns set himself on fire? Was that heroic? Or did the show sacrifice an admittedly barely drawn character for the sake of thematic parallelism? It felt very much like the latter, and I was not crazy about it.

While Oliver was coming to grips with his defeats and trying to find a new path, Moira wasn't handling Walter's disappearance all that well, even though she’s responsible, in one way or another, for it. But I like that it forced a confrontation with Thea. Say what you will about Thea’s perceived-of-as-selfish behavior, but she was on the money here, and her speech about Moira no longer asking her to do things sort of summed up her problems: There’s no expectation for Thea, no one wants her to be anything, so she’s turning to bad models (pre-island Oliver) and it’s not working for anyone, least of all her. Hopefully this development continues a trend of Thea improving her life, but I have my doubts.



NOTES & QUOTES


– The island stuff wasn’t very compelling this week, as it felt more like gear-turning for that plot (Oliver needed a way to infiltrate Fyers’ camp and got one) than a strong commentary on the events in the present day.

– “What did that prove?” “That this is one sturdy desk.”

– Another Stagg Chemicals mention in this episode. Is it too much to hope that we’ll see Simon Stagg at some point?

– DC Comics hat tip of the episode: Nodell Tower was likely named for Martin Nodell, one of the creators of Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern.

– If you’d like to do a little prep for next week’s episode, check out the Arrow digital comic, Issue 4. It’s about a major event from Diggle’s time in Afghanistan. I’m not sure how canonical these comics are intended to be, but for 99 cents, you can’t go too wrong.

– I’ll go ahead and type this for some of you now, and hopefully we can all move on: “But Firefly’s a Batman villain! This just proves that Arrow is a cheap knock-off without a single original idea, and I hate it, even though I watch it every week!” Do you feel better? Good. I actually rather liked this take on the Firefly character (he’s a special effects pyromaniac in the comics), and was hopeful for more than just that one scene at the gala for him to be able to speak and have a voice.

– I want to thank Nick for filling in for me last month, and on short notice. I hated to miss the last episode before the winter break, but when it feels like a xenomorph is about to burst out of your abdomen, it’s important to prioritize.


What'd you think of this Arrow's return?

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  • Lion_Turtle Mar 20, 2014

    Oliver keeps inserting himself in Laurel and Tommy's relationship in ways that seem forced, unnatural, and just plain awkward. I understand that he still has feelings for Laurel and deep down wants to be with her, but I feel like the show has him expressing them in a weird, ham-fisted way instead of letting us empathize.

  • ferrage Jan 22, 2013

    the soldier of that picture has a "b-4-1" in his hands

  • AndrewHart Jan 22, 2013

    The CW is at work once again with shirtless Oliver and now Diggle.

  • airsign78 Jan 20, 2013

    So I watched this episode after it aired by way of pvr. I'm not sure if it skipped or just didn't explain, how did Laurel and Tommy escape the fire after the club started falling down around them?

  • noelrk Jan 20, 2013

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. No, I don't think it was explained.

  • airsign78 Jan 21, 2013

    Thank you. I thought I was going crazy. They made such a big deal about "We can't leave Oliver behind!" Then nothing.

  • AndrewHart Jan 22, 2013

    Maybe its in a deleted scene.

  • Aesandil Jan 20, 2013

    An alright episode. Or slightly less than alright. There was nothing terribly outstanding. I was rather disappointed how little it took for Oliver to have a vigilante crisis. So last time we had one solid ass-whopping performed by the bad guy, which of course had to be followed by the obligatory: "the hero loses faith in himself and in what he does, decides to take an indefinite break - but worry not, he'll be back to his old self by the end of the episode". The writers tried to justify that, yet... I don't think it worked.

    Diggle makes an awesome shrink, but the man needs some action other than briefly sparring with Mr Hood. Oliver should bring in some good therapist, and rather sooner than later. I'm starting to worry here.

    The main "villain" was rather bland. The easiest take on blind revenge there could be. There was a hint of personality towards the end, where Oliver showed him some understanding, but alas, it was all too brief and was quickly consumed by the flames.

    The rest of the cast was mostly on the boring side. If there were any highlights, it would be this not-so-unexpected move of having Laurel's father tinker with the phone, and then lie to his daughter with straight face.

    The island time didn't amount to much, but I felt like it did a good enough job of relaying Ollie's fear and his fairly inept attempts at survival.

  • DavidJackson8 Jan 19, 2013

    While I managed to like Thea a little more in this one, there was one part of her convo with mom that had me rolling on the floor... and rolling my eyes. And surprisingly, it wasn't a Thea line!

    Thea: "You basically stopped being my parent."

    Moira: "Well, how's THIS?! You don't talk to your mother like that."

    Aaaaaaaaahahaha! And, UGH! While I miiiiiiiiiiiiight have been okay with that line if Moira said it less dramatically and as kind of a joke, it made me want to barf the way it was so dramatically delivered. Then again, maybe that made it much more funny. Well, funny or not... it sucked. I think I may be hating Moira more than Thea now. And considering I don't like Laurel at all either, this show is doing a really good job of making me hate women.

    Anyway, the episode was enjoyable. As with pretty much every episode of Arrow, there were plenty of moments where if taken seriously or logically, you can't help but get frustrated at scenes being cheesy, lazy, or illogical. But because my level of expectation for "good" writing is much lower with Arrow, I'm never particularly disappointed.

  • noelrk Jan 19, 2013

    But why shouldn't we take it at least a little seriously? Goodness knows it's taking itself seriously.

  • tv_gonzo Jan 19, 2013

    I liked the episode overall.Just the scene where Firefly was drenching the fireman in turpentine in a burning building and Oliver decided to go downstairs and put on some make-up was a bit ridiculous. But that could have been mixed up in editing.

  • RimaAbraham Jan 19, 2013

    it was a stupid episode , too many unrealistic stuff.. i was laughing a lot

  • Lyta_499 Jan 19, 2013

    I like this show, and being a long-term fan of the comic books I think it's a decent effort to put them to screen. Stephen Amell is great for the main part, not only because of his looks but he also acts very well. Digg is awesome, I think we all agree on that. The Dark Archer is pretty badass, as he should. There's enough psychological trauma, ideological background and dark secrets to justify the invention of Arrow, just as in Batman. This is also a dark, struggling hero torn between his desire for a normal life on the one hand, and who he has become through his experiences on the other. This is adequately presented on the show.
    But I'm still waiting for it to reach its adulthood narrative-wise, to get out of its comfort zone of ready-made emotionality, elementary-school moral preachings and teenage dialogues. It's as if it's trying to appeal to different audiences at once, there are points when each episode is clever, and other points when it over-explains things and seems juvenile. It needs to find its balance and decide whether it's a teenage or an adult show.

  • heartzkidnapper Jan 18, 2013

    It was a more welcoming episode from a break than a solid- story based one .The whole fire fighters story was like watching some low-budget, b-rated american horror movie written by kids . In the other hand , there are some developments, the island part was very interesting "the best part" , Diggle being awesome and the detective tracking the communication between Arrow and his daughter.

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