Arrow manages to continue their recent form in a flashback heavy episode. The second half of Season 5 of Arrow has shifted into a very dark and heavy centric-theme exploring the motivations and histories of the characters. Kapiushon manages to tackle the largest motive for Oliver’s lust to kill, albeit he has not been on any killing sprees as of late. An exploration of Oliver’s excruciating journey as he transforms himself into what he was and what he is has been perfectly captured through a lot of flashbacks and Prometheus’ torture methods.
Never has Oliver really had to face himself more than this week’s episode. After last week’s kidnapping, Adrian Chase has Oliver chained in a cell, beaten up, tortured by arrows and finally got to see Evelyn. In his grasps and mercy, Oliver shared more about his self than he has the past few years with anyone else. In what was only seen in small parts throughout the episode, Adrian’s malicious attitude and mesmerizing persona broke Oliver in a way no other villain has. If there was an Oliver kill count on Arrow, that number would probably be in the hundreds, yet it isn’t so shocking until the hero of the show admits that he really likes to do it.
Even though it featured them together a lot less than the flashbacks, Kapiushon fell deeply into Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra’s performance. The entire moment of the episode can be summed up in that one confession scene, in which both actors were superb. It is very possible that Oliver has been lying to himself for a while now, to kill because he thinks its right, to avenge his father, to deliver justice. Yet when he admits he likes killing to Adrian, there was a moment of disbelief that Amell pulled flawlessly. Something that was never really tackled so heavily until this week, Oliver has had a real problem. There isn’t a killers anonymous that he really could unburden, but the fact that he himself didn’t realize there was an issue and probably lied to himself for years gives not only this episode, but the entire season so much more weight. Watching both Stephen and Josh in such an emotionally raw episode, as they both get defeated and unhinged was a real treat.
Chase really knows everything about Oliver. In his torture methods, he had pictures of his victims, the method of which they were killed and used it against Oliver. In many ways, Chase and Oliver are one and the same. Both were consumed by vengeance, skilled in the art of bow and arrow, and really know how to torture people. Adrian Chase is one creepy man nobody should ever displease. His little sidekick, Evelyn did a more than brilliant job helping him out. In a bad cop dead cop routine, Evelyn gets “killed” by Adrian when he tries to get Oliver to kill her. Oliver finally confesses his deep dark secret after that, which she pulls a heinous face. Its great that she has returned, and will be exciting what Adrian has in plan for her and Talia, who was not featured this episode.
The entire theme was magnificently encapsulated by Oliver’s flashbacks in Russia. In Oliver and Anatoly’s growing bromance, they discover Kovar (Dolph Lundgren) is trying to overthrow the Russian government by gassing a bunch of people. Whilst Dolph Lundgren’s Russian accent fell off the Earth a lot, Anatoly has become a crowd-pleaser with his wise comments and one-liners. Even before Oliver was set to kill everyone in his father’s book, Anatoly knew that he wasn’t following anybody with that hood. Anatoly very much needed the help of Oliver’s alter ego, as they overthrow the Bratva and “kill” Kovar. However, it was the words of wisdom shared by Anatoly, that if Oliver keeps lying to himself about his “monster”, he isn’t going to like what he sees when he uncovers the mask when everything comes back to haunt him. And that’s precisely what happened, in the form of Adrian Chase. Oliver’s dastardly torture methods of skinning people and nature of killing was finally put to the test. What was uncovered was not a hero, it was a man who killed for pleasure, that man was both Oliver and Adrian.
In what could have been a finale, in terms of the season and the flashbacks, left audiences wanting much more. Kovar was revived by Malcolm Merlyn, and in Oliver’s return to the team, he announces his retirement. Oliver did not fulfill a dying wish in the past and will never be happy with himself in the present. As Oliver becomes a Bratva captain, it will be interesting to see if he goes back to Star City immediately, or he stays in Russia, still unknowing of Kovar and Malcolm’s agenda. The shift of hero to man and back to hero will be the greater narrative. Oliver must realize that he is not that man he thinks he was, but will forever be a part of him. What makes him different to Prometheus is his quest for justice. No longer fueled by vengeance or pleasure, he must rise to the top to be the hero of Star City.
Arrow airs on Thursdays on The CW.