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.
Last week’s extremely dark episode saw Adrian Chase / Prometheus achieve a victory of sorts over Oliver, by forcing him to admit that he’s a monster who kills because he likes it. With that in mind, you could be forgiven for thinking this week’s Arrow was going to be all doom and gloom with a side-order of soul-searching, but happily, that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Instead, we get yet another great episode in what’s turning out to be an extremely satisfying fifth season.
The episode begins where last week’s cliffhanger left off, with a beaten and bruised Oliver returning to the Arrow Cave and announcing that he’s done with being a superhero and is disbanding Team Arrow, effective immediately. To be fair to Oliver, he means what he says – as soon as they leave the Arrow Cave, he changes all the locks and security codes, which explains why no one appears in their costume for the rest of the episode.
Anyway, Diggle’s not happy about the whole thing and he summons the team to Felicity’s apartment for a strategy meeting. They determine that regardless of whether or not Oliver wants to hang up the hood for good, there are still people in Star City that need saving and they’re the ones to do it.
Meanwhile, Adrian Chase continues to openly taunt Oliver, brazenly walking into his office, plonking a knife down on the table and effectively begging the Mayor to stab him. Naturally, Oliver refuses, leaving Adrian apparently annoyed that Oliver didn’t kill him when he had the chance. However, whether Oliver planned it or not, things work out rather nicely when the authorities insist that Adrian be placed under police protection and taken to a safe house while his life is supposedly in danger from Green Arrow.
But it turns out Oliver does have a plan after all. He summons present-day Anatoly to Star City and tells him he wants the Bratva to kill Adrian Chase. Anatoly asks for something in return and Oliver agrees. Unfortunately, what Anatoly wants is a shipment of drugs so he can make super-strong heroin and earn back some respect within the Bratva (he’s fallen on hard times since Oliver left, you see). Naturally, the plan goes horribly wrong: Team Diggle catch them in the act of stealing the drug and administer a beat-down.
When word reaches Oliver of what Diggle has done, he has a go at him, but Diggle refuses to abandon Oliver, and tries to talk him out of his deal with the Bratva. It’s all very touching stuff, as Diggle and Oliver thrash out the history of their friendship, and Oliver admits he didn’t want to corrupt the rest of Team Arrow, by forcing them to kill Prometheus.
Eventually, Diggle gets Oliver to see sense and Oliver tries to call off Anatoly and his men, saying that the deal’s off. This doesn’t go down to well with Anatoly and there’s a violent stand-off that ends in a rooftop confrontation between the two men, during which they also rake over their past, with Anatoly admitting that he has had to make severe compromises in order to survive without Oliver around. They don’t exactly part as enemies, but they’re not exactly friends anymore either.
Meanwhile, Felicity once again gets deeper in with Alena and the other members of hacktivist group Helix, who this week reveal that they know everyone’s secret identities. Ruh-roh! Felicity asks Helix to decrypt a vital piece of tech that Adrian is using, which enables any image of him to have his face scrambled on CCTV footage. Something they could really do with having, because they just so happen to have stumbled across some video that shows Adrian unmasking himself. There’s a fun moment where Curtis tracks them down, gloating that he hacked the hackers by putting a tracking device in something Felicity drank back at her apartment. Which seems a little creepy, actually, when you think about it. Not cool, Curtis!
The Felicity storyline is fascinating, partly because the whole Helix thing is bound to bite her on the arse sooner rather than later, but also because Oliver is working as hard as he can to ensure that Diggle and Felicity, etc., don’t lose their souls in their pursuit of Prometheus, and here Felicity is, making bigger and bigger moral compromises each week.
It’s a pretty good episode for Curtis, as he gets both the Helix infiltration moment and a massive win against Prometheus, courtesy of his balls – sorry, T-spheres. Yep, that’s right, Curtis’ balls are back in action, cleverly stealing the specs for Adrian’s tech right off his face while in mid-fight, after Team Diggle stop the Bratva from killing Prometheus, while he’s being transferred to the safe house. Excellent work, balls.
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, the story has reached the point where Oliver is about to head back to Lian Yu, so that he can be found there with minimal questions. Once again, the flashbacks this week are used exceptionally well, primarily in illustrating and underlining the contrasting relationship between Anatoly and Oliver in the past and present. In particular, there’s a sequence in the past with Oliver and Anatoly stealing drugs, only it turns out they are doing it to distribute them to people who need them. That shows how far Anatoly has fallen in the last five years, but the kicker comes in the flashback sequence, where Anatoly worries what kind of man he will become without Oliver, thereby implying that Oliver deserting the Bratva is indirectly responsible for the drug theft in the present day.
This is excellent storytelling, because it pulls together all the various threads of the episode, most notably the central idea that Oliver’s relationship with his friends – primarily Diggle and Felicity – is directly responsible for the man he’s become, and that without them, he would be the ruthless killer he was when he left Anatoly five years ago. Conversely, Anatoly is in a worse situation, because he no longer had Oliver by his side; the implication is strong that the same is true of Felicity, that without the key members of Team Arrow to keep her on the right path, she is drifting off towards the dark side.
The cliffhanger for the episode involves Team Arrow exposing Adrian as Prometheus, with the aid of the now-decrypted video footage that shows him unmasking himself. There’s a cut to Adrian’s security detail receiving the message on their phones and getting ready to bring Adrian in, but he’s too quick for them and murders them both before escaping in a car, whistling a happy tune as the police zoom past him, heading for his previous location. It’s a nasty, chilling moment that underscores just how dangerous Adrian is, and leaves you wondering what he has planned for the remaining five episodes.
All in all, this is a richly thematic episode of Arrow, delivering strong emotion in both the Diggle / Oliver dynamic and the scenes with Anatoly, as well as setting up plenty of future intrigue for the back half of the season, what with Prometheus’ escape and things with Helix heading towards an imminent crisis point. Let’s just hope the show doesn’t spin off on some weird tangent and spoil the great season they’ve been having so far. Tune in after the mid-season break for Dangerous Liaisons, which the promos indicate will be a full-on Helix-centric episode.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:
– No Thea again. Can somebody please let Thea out of the plot cupboard?
– No Dolph Lundgren either, although the odds are good that he’ll be up and about for the back end of the season.
– Props are most definitely due to David Nykl, who’s been great all season long, but is especially good as both past and present versions of Anatoly in this week’s episode. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him, as he’s one of the show’s best supporting characters.
– Unintentionally hilarious moment of the week: an unnamed Bratva member attempting the lamest bit of bounce-off-the-wall fighting imaginable, by only managing to use the lowest possible shelf as a launch-point. It’s a wonder Oliver didn’t just laugh in his face.
– We doubt they’ll go there properly, but the idea that Felicity herself could be the big bad of the season’s final stretch makes us extremely keen to see the next episode. Hurry back, Arrow!
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.