Arrow: 5.17 Kapiushon
Remember when the flashbacks in season two were the highlight of our Arrow viewing? The dissolution of Oliver's friendship with Slade Wilson, the death of Shado, the alliance with Anatoly Knyazev and the confrontation with the freighter that was reminiscent of some of Lost's best storylines; it culminated in The Promise, bringing to a head almost two year's worth of Lian Yu plotlines. Fast forward a couple of years later and it was a very different story. The Hong Kong-based adventures of season three were frustrating and the attempt to recapture the magic by returning to the island in season four were incredibly dull. Like Lost, one of Arrow's best features - the flashbacks - became its undoing.
Now in season five we're starting to see the show full circle. While not as great as the season one and two storylines, the flashbacks this year have had a sense of purpose and relevance to the events taking place in the present. Oliver's quest to take down Konstantin Kovar by joining the Bratva have recaptured the show's more grounded, violent, gritty undertones, the return of David Nykl as Anatoly has provided a great bromance of sorts with Oliver and the arrival of Talia Al 'Ghul and and Oliver's transformation into the bow and arrow wielding Hood have taken him closer than ever to the man we first saw on Lian Yu in the pilot episode. Those Russian-based adventures seemed to come to a head this week in an episode that flitted between Adrian Chase's torture of Oliver Queen in the present and the spectacular Russian showdown in the past.
Now Kapiushon wasn't as good as season two's The Promise, but it did have some great moments, particularly Dolph Lundgren going full Bond villain as Kovar in a plot to take over the Russian government. Making shady deals with [surprise!] Malcolm Merlyn and continuously having the upper hand, he not only gained the upper hand on the Bratva at each stage but ruthlessly unleashed sarin gas on his own guests as a ploy to overthrow the country. His final showdown with Oliver in Hood mode was and spectacular; there was literally blood on the dance floor as the brutal, bloody, bone crunching smackdown took place, with Oliver triumphantly taking victory.
But what was startling here was just how ruthless Oliver was. Anatoly, rising to become leader of the Bratva after Kovar's infiltration of their ranks was quick to notice just how dark his American friend would go. Oliver calmly noting that he tortured the prisoner from Kovar's ranks well after he had broken showed that there really was a monster lurking within him.
And that was the crux of what this episode meant; Oliver is not like his super powered counterparts on the other DC superhero shows. He is a killer and worse still, he likes it. Season five has been all about Oliver returning to his roots, the man who would put an arrow through a criminal's chest without a second thought. While he has fought against that for so long, this year killing has indeed been on the table. Anatoly noticed it in Oliver back in Russia and in the present, Adrian forced Oliver to confront that harsh truth.
And the present day stuff, with so much focus on the Russian flashbacks, were stripped back to that one cell where Adrian tortured Oliver into confessing. He used water torture, forced the traitorous and broken Evelyn Sharp to try and fight him to the death and in the end burned the very Bratva tattoos Oliver earned in the flashbacks, stripping his identity of everything except the reveal that he was a psychopath too.
And what does this mean for the show moving forward, both for the rest of the season and on to the recently renewed sixth year of Arrow? Oliver returning to his friends at the end and disbanding the vigilantes shows just how far he has fallen. His monster has been laid bear and the Anatoly's words in the flashbacks rang true. His deal as the Hood will not keep the monster at bay. Will the end of being the Green Arrow also be the end of his heroic stance as mayor of Star City? And what does this mean for Diggle, Rene, Dinah and especially Felicity who is already going down her own dark path with Helix?
I suspect the rest of the season will follow a path similar to the third, with Oliver truly ostracized from everyone before he finally takes down Prometheus. But there also has to be hope. Arrow is truly getting into some dark territory, revealing its hero to be a cold blooded killer but at the end of the day, it is a superhero show; just what will it take for him to take up the mantle of the Green Arrow once more?
Season five of Arrow continues to deliver, truly recapturing some of the magic of season two. I can't wait to see how it all ends.