In the previous episode, “Checkmate,” Prometheus basically won the season by kidnapping Oliver and trapping him in his torture basement. An entire episode of Oliver being literally tortured could have been figurative torture, so fortunately, “Kapiushon” doesn’t give us 40 plus minutes of Arrow misery. Instead, they give us a story that is primarily in flashbacks. It’s a lot better than that might sound and in fact, “Kapiushon” might actually fix the season’s flashback issues.
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Die Hard Russian(s)
Arrow could only pull off a primarily flashback episode in this current situation. With the Prometheus material being so heavy (but still excellent) it is almost a relief to retreat to Oliver’s more ruthless and simple days.Rather than just assume that the audience has been paying close attention to the flashbacks this season, Arrow offers a quick refresher course and sets up a new-ish conflict. The basic gist is that Anatoly and Oliver discover that Kovar aka Ivan Drago, aka Dolph Lungren, is planning on overthrowing the Russian government.
It’s as simplistic as can be, but anything more would be confusing. It is also a great chance to use Lungren to his full potential. Kovar has been severely underutilized all season and Dolph Lungren gets to fully dive into his smiling sociopath of a character in “Kapiushon.” It’s still strange that most of these Russian characters speak English even when there are no Americans around but “Kapiushon” is so full of terrific action pulp and superb villain cheesiness, all logic can be checked at the door.
The flashback is all very reminiscent of an 80’s movie. Kovar plans to lethally gas the entire Russian government and it is up to just one man with a bow, to stop him. If Stephen Amell wasn’t forced to wear the stupid flashback wig, he’d basically be a (slightly) more murderous John McClane.
East Meets West Meets Fists
Eventually, it comes down to just Oliver and Kovar in a battle to the death. The fight scene that ensues is tremendously brutal. Oliver is wild, scrappy and completely unhinged. Arrow does a great job of pulling off the fact that Oliver is nowhere near as polished as he in present day but still a terror. Oliver’s spider-monkey-esque qualities make for a fantastic contrast with the lumbering and aggressive Kovar. It’s basically Rocky IV with a lot more blood, no happy ending and even more unfortunate hair.
Oliver wins his bout with Kovar and gets the Bratva captain on his knees. Antaoly asks Oliver not to kill Kovar but Oliver doesn’t listen. Ollie plunges a knife into Kovar’s heart and the blonde giant falls to the ground lifeless. Unluckily for Oliver, Kovar has a secret partnership with a certain American businessman named Malcolm Merlyn. Merlyn ends up reviving Kovar miraculously and the undead Russian is ready for some revenge. The biggest miracle though is that I might be excited for the next flashback now just to see how this all comes to an end.
After Five Years in Hell and One Week in a Torture Basement…
As mentioned, the present-day storyline is just Oliver being stuck in Adrian Chase’s prison. The thing that saves the whole sequence from being complete sadism are the performances by Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra. Segarra remains as a creepy (and still oddly charismatic as he has been of late) but Amell truly knocks it out of the park. This is Oliver at his most broken and it’s heart-breaking. It gets even worse as Chase doesn’t show the slightest bit of sympathy for Ollie. Chase keeps asking Oliver to tell him “his secret.” This secret will set Oliver free figuratively and literally according to Chase, but Oliver is clueless.
Chase does several horrifying things to get the secret out. He has Oliver’s victims from The List plastered on the walls. Chase shoots several arrows into Oliver. He brings in Evelyn, who has apparently been Prometheus’ prisoner, into the cell. Chase tells Evelyn that Oliver must kill her or she must kill him. This will remind Oliver of his secret. When neither of those things happen, Chase snaps Evelyn’s neck in front of Oliver.
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This is the final straw for Oliver. In a powerful scene Chase screams at Oliver to confess and then Oliver drops his “secret.” Oliver didn’t kill because he had to, he killed because he wanted to and he liked it. This proves everything that Chase has been saying all long and it completely restructures our view of “Season 1 Oliver” without damaging the character. Chase has gotten what he wanted. The confession breaks Oliver and he is emotionally destroyed. To add insult to injury, it is revealed that Evelyn never died. It was all just a ploy. She is still on Prometheus’ side.
Chase is true to his word however. He lets Oliver go and a defeated Ollie slinks back to the Arrow cave. Inside, Felicity, Curtis and Diggle are waiting for him. They want to know where Prometheus is but Oliver tells him it is over. He is quitting. Oliver no longer wants to be the Green Arrow. This is far from the first time that this has happened but the look of despair is so all compassing it feels final, even though we all know it’s not.
There is a bit of tonal whiplash in “Kaplusion” with the action-packed 80’s movie flashback and this very dark present day stuff. It’s not the best episode this season by a long shot. Ultimately, both timelines are left in very good places narratively for future episodes and that’s all that matters. But what did you think? Were you shocked by Oliver’s confession? Were you drawn in by the flashback storyline?
Arrow season 5 airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Arrow Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)