If the last episode was the Arrow Christmas special, this one is an Arrow Christmas letter. It shows off the characters and generally updates you on how they are and what they're doing, but not much more. Just when I think that this is going to be an entirely forgettable episode - distinguished only by a physically preposterous climax - the show does one interesting thing. This thing, I will tell spoiler-loving readers about under the cut.
I won't tease you. I'll tell you the interesting development right up front. During this episode, Laurel steals the phone that her dad, Quentin, used to contact the Hood so she can ask for the Hood's help. Quentin takes this badly, but after demanding the phone back, he seems to have a change of heart, saying that the vigilante keeps Laurel out of danger. He gives it back to her. Turns out? It was bugged. And he's going to listen to his daughter's conversations from now on. (I am so hoping for embarrassing dirty-talk. Look not through key-holes, Quentin.) Not only does this pit Lance against Lance, it's the first sign that Quentin is finally getting into the game after several episodes of professional-grade bumbling.
The rest of the show is, yes, very much like a staid family Christmas letter. This is a CW show, so they'd never risk covering up their male lead's chest with a Christmas sweater, but "Burned" does nothing more than letting us know how the characters have been without really moving them forward. And how have they all been? Mopey.
Moira's been Mopey because her irredeemable evilness means that Walter has been missing for six weeks - kidnapped by her evil boss. She's been sitting around the house looking at photos and snapping at anyone who suggests she go in to work. Thea sees this and decides to talk to her - and at last we have one scene that proves that the dark-haired, dark-eyed Thea actually is related to this family of towheads. Moira unleashes her inner brat. That's right. It's a brat-off! They take turns yelling things like, "I didn't ask you to worry" and "Who's supposed to be the mother around here!" I hope against hope that one of them will lunge for the other one's hair, but sadly it was not to be. Instead Moira decides to perk up and take the CEO position of Queen Consolidated. Hilariously, Thea is not touched by the fact that Moira credits her for her recovery, and snipes about Moira's newfound cheeriness. God, that girl and brattery. She doesn't quit it. She's like a lone champion holding up the sky. I love it.
Laurel has also been mopey. This is partly because Tommy wants a drawer at her place while she wants to keep it light. But it's also because her friend at the office, Joanna, has a firefighter brother who just died in the line of duty. Joanna has been in every episode but I've never needed to mention her because her only job has been to want exactly the opposite of what Laurel wanted. If Laurel wanted to work, Joanna wanted her to go out. If Laurel wanted to talk to Oliver, Joanna wanted her to ignore him. That gave Laurel a chance explain her reasoning to Joanna, and to the audience. Joanna was Laurel's exposition helper, and basically there because it would look too weird if Laurel constantly explained her motivations to a cat or a stuffed parrot or something. Of course, at the end of this episode, Joanna takes a leave of absence to cope with her brother's death, so Laurel might have to get that stuffed parrot after all.
That leaves Ollie. He's still moping because the Black Arrow beat him like a pioneer woman beats a carpet during spring cleaning. The overall beating lasted so long, and was so hard, that it featured prominently in an Edgar Allan Poe story. The only people who've got more beat than Ollie are The Go-Gos, is what I'm saying, and that's only because they were paid for it. Ollie has spent the last six weeks recovering, and it didn't do him much good. When Laurel tells him that Joanna suspects that her brother was murdered, he rushes to another fire, fails to save another fire-fighter, and gets kicked around by a dude wearing fire gear. Digg tries to follow up that ass-kicking with one of his own, slamming Ollie down over a desk when Ollie seems despondent. Ollie immediately snaps back, popping up and slamming Digg over the same desk. He angrily asks Digg what that was supposed to prove, to which Digg replies, "That this is one sturdy desk." I have to admit it, Arrow. That was funny. And, fan-ficcers? You know your entrance line, don't you?
Ollie at last confides to Digg that, on the island, he didn't fear death (which is a total lie, but we'll let that pass since a bigger one is coming) because he didn't have anything to lose. Now he has family and friends who will miss him. Digg heroically restrains himself from kicking the desk over and screaming, "Why do none of you people ever remember that you are all twenty-year-old billionaires? Do you really not even think about that? What is is like to live like that? I would really like to know."
Ollie flashes back to his first kill on the island. He basically got in a fight with one of the military guys, fell down a ravine, and landed on top of the man - on top of a rock. Glorious it was not, but it beat the hell out of the final kill of this episode, and it netted him a map of the island.
At last, Ollie works out that Joanna's brother, and all of the burning victims, are members of a firehouse squad that wouldn't go back in to a burning office building, despite one of them begging them to come back in and help him save lives. That one, Garfield Lynns, died in the fire along with thirty-something civilians. Except he didn't die. He was pulled from the wreckage as a John Doe, woke up badly burned, and swore his revenge on the rest of the company. The climax of his revenge is torching a fundraiser for the fire department, with the chief of his house still inside. And that leads us to the most physically ridiculous climax that could ever happen. The chief is soaked in turpentine by the villain and listening to the villain's speech. Ollie, who was standing in front of the chief when the Lynns entered, has time to run downstairs, change into his full costume - including Cirque du Soleil eye shadow - and come back up before the villain's speech has ended. The man holds out a lighter, which Ollie shoots out of his hand. The chief runs. Amazingly, a man soaked in turpentine is able to negotiate his way through a wildly burning building without any trouble.
But the most amazing part of the final confrontation was the villain himself. After Ollie shoots the lighter out of the Lynns' hand, he tells the guy to give himself up, and that he wants to help him. Remember, this is a man who burned multiple people alive. Lynns rejects Ollie's offer, and then Ollie stands still and watches as Lynns slowly, slowly, actor-in-a-fire-suit-slowly turns. He carefully lights his own sleeve on fire, kneels like he's finally going to do that weeding he's been putting off all weekend, and then just lies down in the flames for a while. All with Ollie still standing there doing nothing. Do you know what that means? It means that I saw a man burn to death in this episode, and the most painful part was how socially awkward the incident was.
But there's hope! The next episode features Digg and Ollie disagreeing about whether or not they should take vengeance on someone, and features a bow-and-arrow versus gun stand-off between the two. I wonder which one of them will win. As usual, I hope it's Thea. See you next week!