Arrow "Vendetta" Review: Y U No Explain Your Thoughts on Revenge and Justice, Show?

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Dec 06, 2012

Arrow S01E08: “Vendetta”

Last week's episode of Arrow started a discussion about revenge and justice, and the differences between those things. They floated around as both Oliver and Helena each killed some guys, and Oliver tried to explain why it was different but then got distracted by Helena’s bedroom eyes and the mood lighting. I can understand that. While I’d certainly be happy to continue a philosophical discussion about those issues while getting undressed, I get that not everyone is turned on by that sort of thing.

So with “Vendetta,” I was prepared for a deeper interrogation of the differences between revenge and justice, an exploration of when it’s okay to murder someone and not murder someone. It’s a tension we’ve been been grappling with here at, in the comments on these reviews: Is Oliver killing mooks kosher while he lets the people on the list keep their lives but go to prison? Was Oliver’s attempt to stop Helena from killing Nick last week okay, even though he'd just snapped another guy’s neck?

Arrow still has only some vague ideas on the matter.

I think the series wants to say that the difference between the two is ultimately grounded in intent and the possible effects. Helena’s crusade (to borrow Oliver’s phrase) is deeply personal, a way to free herself from her pain and suffering caused by Michael’s death. It is, like Oliver says of the guns Helena favors, emotional and unpredictable. It can put innocent lives in danger, like it did with Moira. Likewise, the way Helena has gone about things—by provoking the Triad—could start a gang war that I assume would result in Starling City experiencing something like the crime spree that gripped Sao Paulo, Brazil last month.

Oliver offered an alternative example to this as the two teamed up to take down an associate of Frank’s, and a name on the list. He and Helena smashed the oxy warehouse, the police arrived, people got arrested, and a blow was dealt to Frank’s criminal operations. No innocents, as Oliver noted, were hurt. And that, Oliver argued, was justice. It employed the system that was already in place, it wasn't just killing folks, and it didn’t provoke other criminal organizations into starting a war (though I have to imagine that they’d just move into the vacuums, but whatever). And it was all for a greater good, something beyond personal feelings. In theory anyway.

The problem is that “Vendetta” never really crystallized these differences in a meaningful way. It’s one thing to allow the audience to interpret a situation—it’s a sign of deeper narrative and thematic gears at work—but it’s another thing entirely for the audience to essentially have to make the argument for the show. As a result, Arrow isn’t giving us the opportunity to dissect it for meaning, a meaning we can debate in the comments using evidence to support our position; instead we’re given poorly devised little scraps of ideas that we can’t hang much of a discussion on.

I wouldn’t have spent 300 words on that issue if it wasn’t something I thought the show didn’t want to engage with. Helena’s behavior forced Oliver to not only explain his approach, but to justify it and clarify it. It forced him to draw a line that has remained largely undrawn, one that even now feels a touch fuzzy. But it’s also one that doesn’t seem super important to anyone.

Diggle is rightfully concerned about Helena’s behavior, but this week's narrative didn’t afford him the opportunity to actually do anything about it except give small lectures to Oliver (to David Ramsey’s credit, his delivery of those lectures is fantastic, just the right blend of caring jerk). And by the end, when Oliver was comforting himself with chili cheese fries with jalapenos (and had he been drinking? Amell played that scene like Oliver was pretty buzzed), Diggle was suddenly okay with Oliver’s attempt to reform Helena, despite saying five scenes earlier that it was a waste of time.

I think it’s safe to say that Diggle is probably most people's favorite character. I don’t think I’ve seen many fans speak ill of the character, just of how the show has been using him. While I preach patience on such issues, this is one of those times were a little involvement would’ve been much more powerful than what we ended up with.

Since the costume aspect of the episode was a bust, that leaves the romance B-plot and “Walter and Felicity Investigations,” which may be Arrow’s best bet on a spin-off thus far.

I know folks have been down on the Laurel and Tommy thing, and I know I’ve been gently defending it, so allow me to continue to do so here as it was the least bothersome aspect of the episode. Sure, the whole impromptu double-date blow-up played out waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too quickly, but given the intensified situations of three of the four of those involved, it was sort of understandable that it would happen. If anything, it gave me a parallel-scene giggle when, immediately after the scene in which Tommy and Laurel made up, we got Oliver attempting to make up with Diggle instead of Helena. Those two are so cute together.

Walter remains, thankfully, wary of Moira. He was a bit distant toward her, and I liked that. But then he went and threatened to fire Felicity after she did exactly what he asked her to do before he ran off to Australia, and that was look into Tempest LLC. He’s stressed and unsure of what’s going on, but his actions were really abrupt and a little out of character. And then he didn’t even really apologize when he handed over the notebook for Felicity to do her tech magic on it.

So it was a pretty frustrating episode for me. What’d you all think?

Notes & Quotes

– Island flashbacks remain MIA. I am missing them.

– I have absolutely no idea if China White is dead or not. If she is, that entire role was a massive waste of Kelly Hu. If she’s not... well... then she’s not, I guess. So weird.

– “I don’t know where the next Olympics are at, but you should think about signing up.”

– The first Arrow Cave scene, when Diggle and Oliver were talking about Helena, was sort of awkward in its blocking. Oliver was all over the place, attempting to work out but never really doing it. As a result, it became mostly a reason to see Amell do the salmon ladder again.

– “I’m trying to teach you something.” “What, the least effective way to shoot someone?”

– “She knows my name. That’s lovely.” I adore Diggle.

– I’m glad the writers are continuing with the club-building story. I imagine they were holding off completing it until after the show got the full-season pick-up, for budgetary reasons. Which is sensible.

– “Will I be getting dental? This smile wasn’t cheap.” “I’ll look into that.” “Thank you.”

  • Comments (149)
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  • winterbmine Mar 04, 2013

    I actually really like Tommy and Laurel. The have really good chemistry together and I definitely prefer them than Oliver and Laurel. I hope their storyline continues for a long time tho I have a feeling Oliver and Laurel are endgame.

  • abdulay31 Jan 14, 2013

    The episode felt rushed and out of place but am glad it may be the last we see of Helena which i hate and hope she is out for good, Love the Diggle/Oliver Bromance and hope it will be developed much further. The Walter Moira tension is good for a subplot and will add more to the show in the future. Felicity needs much screen time as she is funny and good in what she do and i hope she gets involve with the Hood.

  • AdaHui Dec 21, 2012

    Finally caught up to this episode and I have to say it is definitely the worst, IMO. The narrative was uber cheery, like a bad soap opera. I liked Helena even less than I did the last episode and the whole quadruple date was stupid. Especially since Helena threw a fit despite the fact that she invited Laurel and Tommy to join them.

    I do say Diggle, Felicity and Oliver workout moments are the best in the show lol

  • Arwen Dec 18, 2012

    I think the reason Walter threatened Felicity initially was because he didn't want her to end up dead like the guy earlier who had looked into this mystery.

    I am finding this shows take on killing people (villains or their henchmen) kind of disturbing. I mean dead is dead, whether by a gun or an arrow, or by breaking someone neck through crazy ninja moves (or whatever they are). And can Arrow actually cry self-defence when he seeks these people out on purpose! Revenge/Justice - someone is dead;and most often not the main criminal but his goons. I thought that was like a hero code that could never be broken?! And killing is the easy way out. Disabling someone shows more ingenuity than simple killing I think and what makes a hero, hero!

  • cubeslave Dec 12, 2012

    Diggle's "it's okay" bit at the diner was a positive spin way for his character to say that he was glad it didn't blow up as badly as he expected it to, and it might have had some of the desired effect. It's equal parts, "you'll get over this," and "you had a point but I kind of told you so."

  • BrianLam1 Dec 11, 2012

    We need more Yao Fei! And Deathstroke.

  • bkto Dec 09, 2012

    felicity needs much more air time- i assume she'll find something, get fired, and go work with oliver and diggle (and i think you hit the nail on the head, Diggle is my favourite character thus far and he is very well acted)

  • ninjadent Dec 09, 2012

    The presentation of Helena's character was totally awfull and not believable . For one to fall to the mythos of a fantasy tale , it must follow some believable points . How a girl with a silver spoon in her mouth , can become something like a ninja warrior , kicking the butt at guys who are hard-ass thugs and much more muscular than her? It's just stupid !!!! And really tv and cinema producers will you ever give a more believable background for your kickass (supposently ) Heroins ? A hot body and a tight suit doesn't make you a master at fighting and weapons arts !!!!!

  • SokkaAppa Dec 09, 2012

    I think felicity needs more screen time. What do ya'll think?

  • mad-pac Dec 09, 2012

    OK, what does Diggle do exactly? Does he need a suit and a tie to do that, whatever it is? Is he there to be Oliver's therapist? And back to my cleaning concerns, I see two guys using that cave and nobody's cleaning it! No, seriously, in practical terms that would be a nightmare to clean.

    OK, you can say I'm being silly, this is just a TV show and people never clean, but just remember how well they integrated the cleaning problem to the whole operation in Breaking Bad in Gus's lab: simply put, both Walter and Jessie had to do it. And once Jessie was not there, Walter paid for a bunch of illegal immigrant ladies, and that prompted Gus to send them back to their countries.

    Noel, I'm from Brazil (but from Porto Alegre, not Sao Paulo) and I'm not aware of any exceptional crime spree in Sao Paulo last month. Nothing out of the ordinary, I mean. Where are you getting your information?

    Oliver: "My trust fund is your trust fund." It seems the best charity work Oliver has thought of was helping a former billionaire to live as a billionaire again. How charitable. Yeah, I couldn't think of a better use of someone's money, except perhaps funding a spa for overweight cats. If Oliver is so concerned about people who have "failed this city" why doesn't he invest in some elementary schools or free clinics in the Glades?

    I can't believe with all the money Tommy has handled, he never stopped to spare some millions (it wouldn't have to be many, you see) on a savings account, or invest in the stock market, or perhaps Brazilian bonds (those get good return these days, or so I hear). There are literally lots of things you can do if you have a lot of money and you don't want to be completely out of it. And you don't even have to get your hands dirty by working.

  • noelrk Staff Dec 11, 2012

    I'm a bit disturbing that 140 being killed is "nothing out of the ordinary" for you. I'd link to the Guardian news story by Jonathan Watts, but the system will just eat my comment due to the URL.

    You can do a quick search for the headline: "São Paulo murder spree leaves at least 140 dead in a fortnight" and it should be your top search result.

  • mad-pac Dec 11, 2012

    Don't worry, you're a bit disturbing with your interest in crime news from different parts of the world, but not too much!

  • noelrk Staff Dec 11, 2012

    Or "I'm a bit disturbed..." I'm not going to try and post this comment for a fourth time.

  • mad-pac Dec 15, 2012

    I just read that 27 children were killed in Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. As I was saying, I don't know what is more disturbing, the fact itself or the fact the press likes to focus on such events and an entirely community gets tarnished by the press coverage of a particular event, and we readers start to associate such communities, or sometimes an entire country, with this kind of crime spree or tragedy.

  • mad-pac Dec 11, 2012

    It didn't make any special news headline here. I suppose if you're specially interested in crime news, or if you live in that region or nearby, you'd be more affected by the situation, you'd've heard of it, but I live far and things in Porto Alegre are quite different. And you've probably never heard of my town since, well, not enough crime, so why would the Guardian be interested in it?

    But yes, the event by itself is disturbing. It's also disturbing that this is what the media chooses to talk about when they cover another country. People in America my be saying, "well, I don't know a single thing about Brazil, except that last month 140 people died in 15 days." It sort of gives us a distorted view of reality when the press cherry picks certain aspects to divulge.

  • noelrk Staff Dec 11, 2012

    This comment has been removed.

  • BrianLam1 Dec 11, 2012

    Diggle is Arrowboy s conscience.

  • mad-pac Dec 11, 2012

    He sure is, but that's not his job description, is it?

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