Last week, Arrow came through one of the more solid and focused hours of season 5 with, oddly enough, a renewed sense of focus. So far this season the series has been doing its level best to keep things as grounded as possible within the expanding Arrowverse, to keep Green Arrow and his (mostly) non-powered associates dealing with the sort of story lines that best suit them. That means instead of doing battle with magic-powered forces of evil, Team Arrow has tested its mettle against well-funded criminals who can hold their own in a one-on-one confrontation with Star City’s resident green-hooded savior.
For the first five episodes that storytelling effort came largely in the form of Tobias Church, who was played exuberantly by the normally sedated Chad L. Coleman. And although Church had his final run-in with the Green Arrow – and anyone else for that matter – during ‘Human Target,’ the example the character set for the show moving forward is still plainly visible. While there’s no telling how the presence of a character like Prometheus will dictate the story line from here on out, but knowing that Arrow successfully began the season with an effort to rebuild its core storytelling principles gives some hope that the bow-wielding antagonist will continue the example that Church set – i.e., a Big Bad that’s larger than life but remains at least as tethered to the specific experience the story aims to convey as the heroes are. And while it is more than a little on the nose that the Green Arrow is set to do battle with yet another doppelgänger villain, the copycat syndrome actually works in the show’s favor to some extent.
For all that is known about Prometheus, the most important aspect may be that he (if the character is indeed a he) represents a reset of sorts for Arrow. Like Malcolm Merlyn’s Dark Archer before him, Prometheus is the shadowy side of the show’s titular protagonist. Now it’s likely that Prometheus’ seemingly personal grudge against the Green Arrow and Oliver – provided he knew Green Arrow was Oliver before Church spilled the beans – will manifest into something other than Merlyn’s push to destroy the city in order to save it, but that is to serve the season’s still-nascent overarching storyline. With luck, that storyline will reinvigorate Arrow from a creative standpoint. Until then, Prometheus works more as a symbolic gesture of good faith that, although terribly familiar, may actually be more logical than it appears if the show is really going to get back to its roots.
But as is made evident in ‘So It Begins,’ what motivates Prometheus isn’t some misguided attempt to recreate Star City or cleanse a crumbling metropolis (or world) of its supposed rabble, but rather the Green Arrow himself. And, more to the point, the Green Arrow’s on again, off again stance on killing his enemies. In that regard, the villain of Arrow season 5 might be one of the more interesting adversaries the series has introduced. And aside from the usual action sequence that have helped make the series a standout in the past, the hour actually creates a genuine sense of tension that Oliver and his teammates are about to face a villain who can do some serious damage – damage that may go beyond the physical and into how they are perceived by those they’re trying to protect.
That makes the possibility of Quentin Lance being Prometheus a fairly startling reveal that will almost certainly prove to be either more complex than Lance being unaware he’s been killing cops and criminals in an attempt to get to Oliver, or it will have been a red herring designed to confound both the audience and one character in particular. If it is the former, Arrow may have stumbled onto a compelling story that stands a chance of deepening Lance’s recent struggles with alcohol and lending a very comic book-y kind of gravitas to the many (repeated) losses the character has suffered over the last four years and counting. That doesn’t necessarily explain how Lance became Prometheus – which could mean there’s an even larger threat pulling the strings of the deputy mayor and Star City in general – but when the why is as potentially obvious as it is with Lance, the how is allowed some leeway in terms of when it chooses to arrive.
As information about Prometheus trickles in, the reason behind his actions becomes clearer. Melting down all of the Green Arrow’s old arrows and fashioning them into his weapons is a considerable statement, one that, if his purpose is in fact to make a statement about the Green Arrow and Oliver Queen, requires some knowledge about how Team Arrow operates. That means anagrams comprised of his victims’ names being used to spell out the entries in Ollie’s original kill list isn’t a ridiculously small needle in a haystack; it’s a signal Prometheus is aware of the team’s inner workings. The same goes for knowing Felicity would eventually find out what the throwing stars were made out of. That sort of knowledge certainly strengthens the finger-pointing at Lance, but doesn’t necessarily rule out certain other candidates.
Playing the guessing game of “Who’s Under the Hood?” is all well and good, but Arrow isn’t just setting up the reveal of the latest villain’s identity as a distraction. ‘So It Begins’ still manages to be another solid, focused hour for the series. Watching as the new recruits again struggle to trust their leader, as he again refuses to share information with them – both about Prometheus and his own past – gives Rene, Curtis, Rory, and in this case, Evelyn, a nice break from slipping on the steep learning curve Oliver has set them on to discuss their grievances with – among other things – the poor communication in Team Arrow 2.0. That doesn’t necessarily excuse the clunky sequence in which the team confronts a crowd of well-armed civilians firing weapons at nothing, but giving the recruits an opportunity to voice their concerns and weigh their devotion to this experiment helps paint them as more than greenhorns designed to make every conflict more difficult for Oliver.
The same can be said for Dolph Lundgren’s appearance as Konstantin Kovar. So far the flashbacks this season have established a fairly routine level of engagement with the present-day storyline. That’s no different here, but it seems to suggest that Kovar isn’t just the adversary Oliver must face in his path to becoming Green Arrow, he is also the learning experience that, as it’s reflected upon now, reveals a need for “unity” amongst the team if they are to overcome this new threat. With any luck, Arrow will find a way of acknowledging this realization in the present-day, so as to add some much-needed substance to the fun but largely unnecessary trip to the past.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Vigilante’ @8pm on The CW.