Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
Admittedly, we still have six whole episodes to go before the season ends, and Lord knows this show is more than capable of messing up the final stretch, but on the evidence of both this week’s episode and what we’ve seen so far, Season 5 is shaping up to be the best run of Arrow since the heyday of Slade Wilson. A large part of that is the success of Adrian Chase / Prometheus as the season’s villain, who finally reveals the lion’s share of his endgame in Kapiushon, resulting in perhaps the darkest episode of Arrow to date.
There’s a break from the usual structure here, in that we see next to nothing of the rest of Team Arrow and the action is instead split between Oliver being tortured by Adrian in the present and an extended visit to Flashback City, taking up at least half of the episode. The flashbacks can often feel like they’re treading water, or that their relevance to whatever’s going on in the present is negligible at best, but that’s not the case with this episode, thanks to some skilful writing and editing. We’re not going to be chopping and changing between them in this recap, though, so you’ll just have to take our word for it how beautifully put together the whole thing is.
The episode begins with Adrian torturing Oliver by holding him underwater. Of course, Adrian doesn’t do anything without it meaning something, so this near-drowning is in reference to the death of his father at Oliver’s hand – Adrian tells him that Oliver’s arrow didn’t kill his father, but he died underwater, after struggling for 145 seconds, with his aorta pierced. He also chooses this moment to tell Oliver why he chose the name Prometheus, but it’s some rather flimsy nonsense about Prometheus defying the judgement of the gods and Oliver setting himself up as judge, jury and executioner, so let’s just zip past that. Oliver asks Adrian what he wants, and Adrian tells him that he wants Oliver to confess the one thing he’s been afraid to admit to himself, which both sets up the stakes for the episode and sets up the importance of the flashbacks.
Initially, Oliver says he has no idea what Adrian is talking about, which only brings forth more torture. Adrian puts three arrows in Oliver (the same number as he put into Count Vertigo, apparently, so it’s nice that someone was keeping count) and threatens his loved ones (Felicity, Diggle, even Oliver’s son, despite the fact that even Oliver doesn’t know where Oliver Jr. is), but Oliver still doesn’t know what Adrian’s getting at.
For his next trick, Adrian brings in Evelyn, who looks pretty messed up. It appears he’s been holding her captive since we last saw her a few weeks ago. He tells Oliver he wants him to kill her, because if he doesn’t, she’ll kill him, and he gives her a knife. Evelyn looks desperate enough to go through with it (and let’s not forget, she still wants revenge on Oliver for her parents), but Oliver says he won’t kill her. He manages to disarm her, despite being in chains, but Prometheus snaps her neck anyway. This seems to finally break Oliver, who confesses that yes, okay, he admits it, he killed because he liked it. Adrian seems satisfied with this and points out that Oliver’s entire crusade has been a lie, and that there’s a price to be paid. He basically accuses him of starting the whole vigilante thing just to have an excuse to continue his murder spree, like a common or garden serial killer.
Then, it turns out that Evelyn isn’t really dead and she’s in on the whole thing. She’s rather smug about Adrian having broken Oliver and leaves with a big grin on her face. Hopefully, we’ll see her again, because there’s definitely some unfinished business there. Anyway, this appears to be all Prometheus really wanted and he prepares to let Oliver go, but not before burning off his Bratva tattoo with a blowtorch.
The cliffhanger has a battered and broken Oliver returning to the Arrow Cave and announcing to Diggle and Felicity that it’s over, that Prometheus has won and that he’s getting out of the vigilante super-team game, for good. Will that happen? No, of course not – we still have six episodes to go, after all. But does he have a secret plan? We’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, in the afore-mentioned extended visit to Flashback City, we get an entire episode’s worth of plot, which is signified by the title of this week’s episode, Kapiushon, which means “The Archer” in Russian. There’s a lot of significance to this week’s flashbacks, and it’s important to bear in mind that the following plays out against a background of Oliver denying his appetite for killing.
Last week’s flashbacks made it look like Oliver killed Gregor, but that’s not the case – at any rate, he’s still alive. Not for long, though – he dies from his wounds, but not before he tells Oliver that he will soon beg Kovar (Dolph Lundgren) for mercy. Anatoly is then sworn in as the new Pakhan (leader of the Bratva or Russian Mafia Boss), in a ceremony that includes a blood-brother-style hand-cutting exchange with Oliver. Anatoly then tells Oliver he has to go and see Kovar, because there are deals that need to be honoured or something.
We then cut to Kovar and it turns out he’s doing a deal with none other than a guest-starring Malcolm Merlyn, who, of course, can’t actually be seen by Oliver because it would mess up a whole lot of continuity and require more ret-conning than anyone really has the appetite for. But Anatoly certainly sees him, and realises Kovar is planning a coup.
Perhaps sensing that Oliver is dangerously close to going full psycho, Anatoly tells Oliver he wants him to leave Russia, but Oliver refuses to leave while Anatoly is in danger. Together they attempt to stop Kovar getting his hands on a shipment of Sarin gas, but it goes horribly wrong and Kovar gets away with the shipment. This leads Oliver to, um, skin a man alive for information, which is something that you think might have come up before now. Anatoly is rightly horrified, but Oliver’s all, “Hey, it’s totally fine – you see, I use this mask to let the monster do these things so that I don’t have to think about it”. Er, okay.
Through his horrific torturing, Oliver learns that Kovar plans to assassinate key political figures at his casino, using the gas. He comes up with a plan to infiltrate the casino, which involves him sweet-talking Taiana’s mother, Galina. (Remember Taiana from last season? You should do – she’s the whole reason Oliver came to Russia in the first place.) Anyway, Oliver gets a key-card that he needs from Galina and when she asks him who killed her children, he replies “a monster”. You see where they’re going with this?
So, armed with the key-card, Oliver, Anatoly and the rest of Team Bratva stage a raid on Kovar’s casino and prevent the coup from taking place. During the raid, it turns out that Viktor sold them out to Kovar, which results in Galina’s death, meaning that Oliver’s revenge quest is already something of a hideous failure. Still, he makes good on his promise anyway and launches a vicious attack, which ends with Oliver slitting Kovar’s throat. It goes without saying that watching Stephen Amell and Dolph Lundgren battle it out is immensely satisfying and one of the best fight sequences the show has done so far. It would be a shame if this was the last we saw of Kovar, wouldn’t it? Well, hold that thought.
After killing Kovar, Oliver and Anatoly relax by getting matching Bratva tattoos, the same tattoo that’s then burned off in the present day (a few moments later in the episode). Oliver reassures Anatoly, once again, that he’s totally fine, because The Hood did the killing, not him. Anatoly immediately shoots down that claim, telling Oliver that it’s a lie he’s telling himself, because he likes killing. This is particularly devastating, because it ties in with Oliver’s confession in the present and you realise that Oliver has known this about himself all along, he just kept it pushed down. Man, that’s dark.
There’s still a final kicker to come, though, because it turns out that Malcolm has somehow managed to bring Kovar back to life, meaning that we’ll almost certainly be seeing Dolph Lundgren again in the back end of the season. Hurrah!
Overall, this is a terrific episode that really delivers on the weighty themes of the season, bringing Oliver to a truly dark place. It also makes the best use of the flashbacks since Season 2 and if this season really is the last we’ll see of them (as has been rumoured), then they’re going out in style. Tune in next time for Oliver attempting to disband Team Arrow and Team Arrow not having any of it!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:
– We didn’t see much of Malcolm for obvious reasons, but his brief meeting with Anatoly did at least give us the exchange of the episode: Malcolm: “Malcolm Merlyn, CEO of Merlyn Global Group.” Anatoly: “Anatoly, Gangster”.
– Various DC-savvy internet sources have speculated that Kovar might be coming back as KGBeast, which would be a nice way of bringing in the character, seeing as he’s actually meant to be Anatoly’s alter-ego in the comics.
– A quick shout-out to Stephen Amell’s acting ability – he’s absolutely superb in the shouty confession scene. His acting has come a really, really long way since Season 1 and he deserves the credit for it.
– Sadly no appearance from Curtis’ balls this week. Hopefully they’ll be back in action before too long.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.