By now, viewers are somewhat familiar with the formula that "Arrow" seems to follow, that of a thematic crossover between Oliver's five year island experience paralleling his current day exploits. This week's episode eliminates the island flashbacks, sticking instead with plenty of revelations and strong characterization in the present day, and it really doesn't suffer for it.
A mob hit on a member of the Bertinelli crime family catches Momma Queen in the crossfire. Oliver's attempt to identify the assassin finds him undercover and proposing a deal between Queen Consolidated and Bertinelli Construction. More importantly, it introduces us to Helena Bertinelli, aka The Huntress, born into the mob and anxious to get out by any means necessary.
Oliver and Helena share the burden of being saddled with a family name and reputation that they aren't terribly pround of. It also took the death of a loved one -- Oliver his father and Helena, we learn, her fiance -- to provoke them to attempt to rehabilitate their respective family's images. Their dinner is interrupted by Bertinelli's right-hand man Nick Salvati (Tahmoh Penikett) stopping by to collect payment from the restaurant owner, with both Arrow and The Huntress jumping to his aid before clashing with one another. Unfortunately, Penikett's role as a cliche-as-they-come mobster is a bit of a waste of his talents, not even really taking advantage of his hand-to-hand fighting skills that were one of the few highlights of Fox's "Dollhouse." The action in this episode overall is pretty average, seemingly setting up something much bigger for next week: Helena's actions seem to have had the unintended consequence of sparking a potential mob war between Bertinellis and the Chinese Triad. Huntress vs China White fight scene next week? Yes, please. Thematically, the "justice vs revenge" argument of Arrow and Huntress' respective quests is handled well, propped up by the undeniable chemistry between Amell and De Gouw.
Elsewhere, Thea lets on that she knows something's up with her brother -- she isn't so much onto his vigilante endeavors as she is simply fed up with his dishonesty. The final straw is when Oliver abandons his injured mother to chase down the assassin, showing in Thea's eyes how little her brother seems to think of the Queen family. Moira is more forgiving, relating her son's dishonesty and shady behavior more to his years in solitude. Again, Moira is portrayed as an increasingly sympathetic figure, a devoted mother in over her head rather than the clandestine villain she initially appeared to be.
The developing relationship of Tommy Merlyn and Laurel's continues this week. Tommy once again laments his past party-boy image, wishing he could begin the relationship anew with a clean slate. He might get that chance, as the big twist this week is that John Barrowman's 'Well Dressed Man' character is revealed to be his disapproving father, and that Tommy has been cut off. It sheds a little light on how such a sweet and charming character can be destined to be Arrow's future Big Bad... unless the senior Merlyn is set for that title. While everyone assumed Tommy would eventually become the arch-nemesis of Green Arrow, Barrowman's reveal trips up these assumptions.
"Muse of Fire" shook up the successful formula for the series, taking a gamble by eliminating the island flashbacks and really winning out. Despite the lack of character foundation that the Purgatory stay has provided Oliver in previous episodes, this week certainly didn't seem to suffer in the characterization aspect. A strong debut, an intriguing new relationship and several developing existing ones, as well as a few intriguing revelations help keep "Arrow" looking strong.
Final Grade: B