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Arrow returned last night from midseason hiatus with “Burned,” which centers on our burned-out hero temporarily abandoning his mission while still smarting from the butt-kicking he received at the hands of the Dark Archer. It also introduces us to yet another DC Universe villain: Firefly, played by SGU Stargate Universe alum Andrew Dunbar.
The episode picks up six weeks after the midseason finale, with Oliver’s stepfather Walter is still missing, kidnapped by Starling City’s top villain Malcolm Merlyn. Dark Archer by night and the father of Oliver’s best friend by day, Malcolm conspired with Moira to make her first husband disappear in the shipwreck that left marooned Oliver on the island for five years. Yes, the mythology is running thick and deep at this point, although aside from some more flashbacks, “Burned” doesn’t advance all of that much. No, it’s more about Oliver’s momentary self-doubt in the wake of the Dark Archer fight.
The crime rate jumped back up in the six weeks Oliver has been out of commission, and the residents of Starling City start to realize that perhaps the bow-wielding vigilante isn’t such a bad guy.
“Burned” begins with one firefighter torching another, who turns out to be the brother of Jo, Laurel’s coworker. And he isn’t the first firefighter to die under such circumstances. Meanwhile, Oliver is training at his headquarters, but he’s clearly off his game. When Diggle shows up and pesters him about ignoring his father’s book of names, Oliver insists his family needs him more right now.
However, a call from Laurel on the secret cell phone entrusted to her detective father is all it takes for Oliver to get back in the game, especially once she explains the mystery of the firefighter killings.
Or maybe Oliver isn’t back in the game quite yet: He passes the information along to Diggle, instructing him to give any evidence he finds to the police. And instead of hitting the streets as “The Hood,” Oliver opts instead to contribute as his billionaire-heir persona, agreeing to help Tommy throw a fundraiser for the families of the firefighters.
The family time Oliver gets with his mother and sister isn’t exactly quality, as Moira is (understandably) upset about Walter’s disappearance and busy arguing with the Queen Corp. people about how to handle it all. And then Diggle pulls Oliver away with information about the Firefly’s next target, which finally puts The Hood back into action.
Arrow is too late to stop Firefly, but he gets a good-enough description of him to pass on to Laurel to try to learn his identity. Oliver is still not fully invested in the case, something Diggle chides him about, resulting in a scuffle that ends with Diggle telling him not to let his fight with the Dark Archer rob him of his spirit.
At the fundraiser, Laurel and Oliver begin to piece together Firefly’s identity during a conversation with the fire chief, determining that they’re looking for a firefighter who supposedly died tragically a few years back, but who is in fact very much alive.
Thanks to a pep talk from Diggle in which Oliver realizes he should use the people he cares about to inspire him to fight harder rather than worry about how his own death might affect them, he’s ready for battle when Firefly shows up to attack the party. After some one-liners are exchanged, Arrow tries to reach out to Firefly, but his opponent chooses instead to (apparently) self-immolate. If we have one major gripe about this show, it’s the habit of killing off villains about as quickly as they’re introduced.
One villain we did get to see a repeat performance from, however, is Deathstroke, albeit in island flashbacks only.
Sprinkled throughout the episode, we see Oliver on the island just after the capture of his mentor Yao-Fei by Deathstroke and his goons. Oliver is confronted by one of the goons, whom he kills and then buries. He finds a map and some keys in the man’s clothing, and sets out to locate and rescue his teacher.
Speaking of tracking, we also learn that Detective Lance is hoping to hunt down The Hood via that cell phone he gave to his daughter, who used it throughout the episode.
Back in the present, “Burned” wraps up with Oliver assuring Diggle the hunt for Starling City’s worst white-collar criminals is back on.