Arrow season 5 is at a turning point. After revealing the identity of the season’s Big Bad in satisfying fashion, the series now has to make it count. That means putting Oliver through the ringer and further exploring the motivations of Prometheus and, to certain degree, Talia al Ghul. It’s something of a tall order, but given that Arrow has been laying the groundwork for Oliver to look upon his works and despair all season long, the series is in a good place to actually make this one count. Unless, of course, the method with which the series aims to get its point across undermines its otherwise lofty efforts.
‘Kapiushon’ is one of Arrow‘s mostly flashback episodes that the series does every so often. The series has had a certain level of success with them in the past, but the season 5 version stands to be a little different. This time around, the season’s flashbacks are poised to take Oliver’s pre-Starling City (now Star City) savior status full circle, meaning this will logically be the last time a season of Arrow will utilize the flashbacks in the same manner as they have before. That’s not to say the showrunners won’t find an excuse to implement a flashback structure into the show in season 6 and beyond (if there is a beyond), but – questions aside – this could be a milestone for the show and hopefully the start of a new direction when it comes to dedicating a full episode to Oliver’s present-day adventures as the Green Arrow.
It also promises the return of Dolph Lundgren as Kovar who has, up to this point, only made a few appearances. There’s weight to Kovar’s presence, and with all that’s been going on in Russia (in the show, not real life, which is even stranger) having him back makes a difference – especially with the hour spending so much time focused on Oliver’s time in Russia and how it immediately preceded his trip back to Lian Yu and then home. But while it might seem that Kovar is set to steal the show, it turns out ‘Kapiushon’ has a potentially series-altering twist lined up that reveals a secret Oliver has been keeping from everyone: he really is a killer.
Such an admission is a bold move by the show’s writers. It’s a big gamble undermining the hero’s quest like that, turning the journey of a spoiled son of a billionaire into one that takes a heretofore-unmentioned detour into pleasure killing territory. To be fair, Arrow tries to mitigate the concern that audiences have been rooting for a serial killer for the last four and a half seasons by making Oliver cognizant his dark urges and uses his donning of the green hood as a way to bifurcate man from monster. The only problem is, it sort of turns the DC Comics superhero show into Dexter with a bow and arrow.
At this point, circling back to Oliver’s season 1 tendency to kill his enemies by turning it into something he actually liked doing smacks more of the show trying to come to terms with the way the hero was presented initially than trying to upend the audience’s perception of him now. Oliver has always struggled with the decision to kill or not to kill in his pursuit of justice; this just reframes that pursuit as something more akin to The Most Dangerous Game than the typical superhero story. And by the episode’s end, Oliver’s confession to Prometheus results in his deciding to shut Team Arrow down.
While there might be some interesting things Arrow can do with this re-contextualizing of its hero as essentially a serial killer, it first needs to address some of the questions regarding Prometheus’s intentions as his torture of Oliver went on. While Adrian’s motivation seems clear enough, whatever he has planned for the second act isn’t. There’s something to be said for the show delivering a surprise, but when it comes to villains getting their adversaries to confess to getting a kick out of killing, there needs to be more underneath the revelation that helps drive it to greater narrative importance beyond simply being a surprise.
Prior to its airing, executive producer Marc Guggenheim described ‘Kapiushon’ as a “stage play”, and he’s right. The hour actually derives a great deal of energy from the interplay of Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra, resulting in the present-day segments often packing an equivalent emotional punch to the physical ones seen during the Russian flashbacks. In that regard, the hour’s execution makes it a standout of the season, with it not only succeeding in being (as advertised) the “darkest” episode the show has ever done, but it also featured one of the strongest performances from Amell since the series began.
Despite some of the episode’s shortcomings, and the distinct feeling that Arrow just slotted its main character into a position the writers won’t be able to convincingly write their way out of, it has been a long time since the series felt like it hit a turning point as potentially devastating as this. Whether it’s devastating for the characters or for the show remains to be seen, but it’s nice to see Arrow taking some big risks and making some dramatic choices.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Disbanded’ @8pm on The CW.