Arrow 5×17 Review: ‘Kapiushon’

It feels damn good to say it, for the first time in a long time – Arrow was good.

Like really good. Like impressive. Like I’m going to re-watch this episode to dissect even more than I’m about to do. Like the writers could’ve fooled me into thinking that everything was leading to this episode. It probably wasn’t, but it’s a nice illusion. Or maybe it was, and it was just a rocky journey to this point. But it was impressive nonetheless – fueled by sensational acting that emotionally shook me.

As far as I’m concerned, Arrow’s fifth season really started with this episode. This was the episode that changed everything. This was the episode that laid the groundwork for what’s to come. This was the episode that brought a newfound sense of optimism to a season that has felt hopelessly lost.

There were small moments that the writers used as small easter eggs to pay homage to fans, including Felicity’s glasses, Oliver’s son, recreating the three arrows to Count Vertigo’s chest that saved Felicity. There was no magic. There was no useless character focus. There was a singular focus that this episode used as its driving force that made it as effective as it was.

I’ve made it no secret that the flashbacks have severely disappointed me throughout the seasons. Sure, they’ve had their moments. But a lot of the time they take away from the present day storyline instead of advancing it. “Kapiushon” was an episode that actually added context to the present day storyline. It actually served a purpose.

“Kapiushon” was all about examining the man that Oliver Queen was in the past and in the present. In the present, Adrian Chase/Prometheus made it his mission to torture a secret that even Oliver didn’t know out of him. A secret that was Oliver didn’t kill because he had to. He killed because he wanted to. In the past, we saw Oliver become the monster that we found him as in Arrow’s pilot. We saw that he went out of his way to make people suffer, to kill even when it wasn’t necessary. And more than that, he enjoyed it.

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But right there lies the true impressive nature of the episode. As we wind down Oliver’s five-year journey on the “island” and watch him come full-circle as a hero in the present, we’re going to get to watch Oliver come to that realization of just how different he is now versus his past self. When he comes to the realization, he’s going to become the hero he’s aspired to be.

Oliver has fallen. He’s not the hero he once was. He’s not the hero from even last season. Things changed. He gave into the monster inside of him. But that doesn’t mean that he’s beyond redemption. We’ve seen him redeem himself from the killer he was in season 1 and become a full-fledged hero in season 4.

Now it’s time for another rebirth. You can’t be reborn until you die. And Prometheus has seemingly “killed” Oliver, the hero.

Now, at his worst, is the moment for Oliver to rise up. Only as we saw at the end of the episode, Oliver has seemingly given up. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. He’s at his lowest. And that’s when he rises to the occasion. He’s never done it alone. He’s going to need his loved ones to help him along the way, which is exactly why Prometheus intends to hurt those that Oliver cares for. If he doesn’t have them, he can’t fight back.

I keep wondering what is Oliver’s trump card in all of this – how is going to eventually defeat Prometheus? Because while right now it feels like Prometheus has won, we all know that the hero always manages to defeat the bad guy in the end.

I feel like Oliver will be able to defeat Prometheus by relying on his strength – a strength that Prometheus doesn’t have: his friends, his loved ones, his family.

The very thing that Prometheus has been trying to destroy Oliver with – attempting to hurt or turn Oliver’s friends against him – is the very thing that might actually spell Prometheus’ downfall.

But that’s yet to come. Let’s focus back on “Kapiushon”:

The best thing that Arrow has done this season – which is also a credit to the actors – is the focus on this dynamic between Oliver Queen and Adrian Chase/Prometheus. While this was a flashback heavy episode – one that I wish had less flashbacks and more present day action – Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra completely stole the show with their impressive performances.

There was an intensity every time Oliver and Prometheus were on screen together. Every time we flashed to the present I sat up a little straighter because this was something that I just could not turn away from. I was entranced. I needed to see what happened next. In a way, those scenes between Oliver and Adrian actually benefited from it being a flashback-heavy episode. It made the moments all the more meaningful as you sat waiting to see what Prometheus would do next.

When it comes to playing mind games there’s no one who’s managed to do it better than Prometheus. This entire episode he was trying to get Oliver to confess his “secret” that would ultimately undo him. But was that the truth? Or was that exactly what Prometheus wanted Oliver to believe was the truth? Let’s take a look…

THE CON

Prometheus has known for a while how he was going to approach this chess move with Oliver. It wasn’t an accident that he and Talia were able to abduct him. Prometheus wasn’t playing it by hand. He had a skillful and tactful purpose for breaking Oliver.

And it worked.

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Prometheus shows Oliver how easily he can get to those he loves. He snuck into Felicity’s apartment and took her glasses – presumably while she was inside and without her knowledge. He knows where his son is. He’s hanging the people Oliver cares for over his head as a warning.

Prometheus wants Oliver to confess a secret. A secret that prior to this episode I had no knowledge of. I’m sure there are still things Oliver hasn’t revealed about his past, but not a secret to this degree. The thing is, Oliver doesn’t know what Prometheus wants him to say. He has no idea about this “secret.”

But Prometheus is convinced. In fact, when he leaves Oliver to think it over he threatens to kill someone while he’s away, and you can see this sense of helplessness all over Oliver’s face. Oliver, for the flawed man that he is, cares deeply for those that he loves. He’d do anything to save them or protect them – he’s proven that.

But Oliver doesn’t know what to do. There wasn’t fear on Oliver’s face when Prometheus tortured him. But when Prometheus threatened Oliver’s loved ones, you saw real fear written all over his face. Oliver has proven that he doesn’t care what happens to him, but he gives a damn about those that he cares about.

And Prometheus knows that. Which made selling this con so easy.

Prometheus spends the entire hour berating Oliver for the ruthless killer he is. He’s no hero. He’s just someone who kills because he wants to.

The hood, the crusade, it’s all an excuse.

The real reason Oliver has done what he’s done isn’t because he wants to help people. It’s because he wants to hurt people. All of the people that he’s killed, even though they’ve done terrible things, didn’t have to die. Oliver had taken on an almost God-like quality with deciding who gets to live and who dies. Which is part of the reason Adrian assumed the identity of Prometheus.

“You didn’t kill because you have to,” Prometheus eggs Oliver on.

There it is. The confession. Oliver’s big secret. He’s no hero. He’s a killer.

Prometheus tells Oliver that he affects every life that he touches. Because his crusade is based on a lie. He used his father’s notebook to go on a killing spree. Oliver can’t possibly think that he affects people’s lives for the better, can he? Does he really believe that he’s made John Diggle and Felicity Smoak’s lives better?

Does Oliver really think he’s anything but a killer?

THE TRUTH

Prometheus spent this entire episode attempting to get Oliver to confess that he didn’t kill because he had to, but he killed because he wanted to. Adrian already knew the secret that Oliver was to confess at the end of this episode. And that’s exactly why it wasn’t a secret.

Prometheus is so incredibly scary because he’s able to play tricks inside of your mind. He’s spent years surveying Oliver, getting to know everything about him to the point where he knew him better than Oliver knew himself.

And what do we know about Oliver? We know that he’s spent the past five seasons attempting to run from his past, from this monster he believed he was. There was a moment in season 1 where Tommy called him a killer – a ruthless killer who killed because he wanted to. That was something that stayed with Oliver for a long time.

Oliver’s greatest fear – next to losing those that he loves – has been that he really is as terrible a person, that monster that people have told him that he is. He’s also afraid that his mere presence in other people’s lives ruins their lives or gets them killed.

And you don’t think Prometheus knew that? Of course he knew that.

Prometheus had Evelyn go in there and play victim (“I’m dead because I’m a part of your life.”) in order to show Oliver that it was true. That people in his life are tainted. That every life he affects is worse because of it. Only it isn’t, as we know.

“What’s the point of this?”

Adrian is doing this to remind – well, actually convince – Oliver that he enjoys killing, does it because he wants to. That’s what Adrian wanted Oliver to admit. Prometheus is a master chess player. He’s setting Oliver up, getting inside his head, breaking him down to the point where he has no other option but to believe it.

“I know him better than he knows himself.”

He does. And he proved it. He was able to manipulate Oliver’s fears into creating this false reality where he managed to convince Oliver that he’s the same killer he once was.

The flashbacks served to parallel to the present. Only it was a different parallel than we thought. To Oliver, on screen, it was Adrian forcing Oliver to confess to being a killer and enjoying it. But in my opinion it was more about paralleling the killer Oliver used to be with the hero he is today. Yes, he’s killed. Yes, he’s flawed. No, he’s not perfect. But it’s night and day between present day Oliver and this past Bratva Oliver.

Something that I noticed when Adrian was addressing Oliver – and all of the terrible things he’s done – was that he was speaking in the past tense. “You didn’t kill.” Once again it’s one of Prometheus’ mind games – using Oliver’s past against him and attempting to convince Oliver that his past is his present. Only it isn’t.

Prometheus even used Oliver’s strength against him after he had gotten him to admit his “secret.

 

This was Prometheus kicking him while he was down. Twisting the knife in his gut. Using the one thing that he believed he held over Adrian against him.

OF COURSE Diggle and Felicity’s lives are better for having known Oliver. Not only have we seen that on screen, but they’ve both told Oliver as much. On multiple occasions. There has never been any doubt that Diggle and Felicity’s lives are better because of him – and the same goes vice versa.

That’s the thing that Prometheus doesn’t understand. I feel like he’s so focused on breaking Oliver that he’s underestimating Diggle and Felicity. We saw as much when he Prometheus tricked Oliver into killing Felicity’s boyfriend. He’d hoped it would drive a wedge between them. But it didn’t. Prometheus underestimated Oliver and Felicity’s relationship.

One of the things that makes Prometheus such a terrifying villain is how he uses emotional torture to kill his victims, in this case Oliver. Sure, they’ve fought. But it’s not the physical presence that’s daunting about him. It’s that eerie calm, that cunning approach, that intelligence, the way he anticipates everything and is able to get inside of your head in a way that’s paralyzing.

It’s what’s made Prometheus – in just the last two episodes alone – perhaps my favorite big bad in the series. And with six episodes left, there’s plenty more to come.

THE RESULT

Prometheus has spent years planning this game with Oliver. This isn’t something he decided to do just five months ago. Just a year ago. This has been in the works since the Vigilante killed his father back in season 1. There’s been a real patience to this game. Everything had to be right.

We know that Prometheus’ goal is to make Oliver Queen suffer for what he did – to Adrian’s father and all of the others that have died. We know that Prometheus has been using the people Oliver cares about to punish him. But what really is Prometheus’ endgame here?

Following what was an emotionally traumatic episode for Oliver and us, the viewer, Oliver broke. He completely broke.

He had spent God knows how many hours being emotionally tortured and threatened by a psychopath who isn’t any better than he is. Prometheus, like he planned, had exhausted him to his supposed limit. He go inside his head. He convinced him that he likes to kill. He convinced him that everyone would be better off without him in their lives. He convinced him to give up.

You’d think that Prometheus eradicating the hero that Oliver Queen is was the endgame. That he destroyed Oliver Queen by destroying the Green Arrow. By destroying the hero inside of him and provoking the monster within.

But that’s not Prometheus’ endgame. Not even close.

Six Things…

1. Can we burn the flashback wig please? Being forced to stare at it longer than the typical 4-5 minutes really did me in. How do these wigs keep getting worse?

2. We’ve only really gotten to see Josh Segarra as Prometheus, and he’s already the best villain we’ve seen. He’s so incredibly powerful, terrifying, and electrifying in his portrayal. He has made Prometheus a viable threat while also managing to both appeal to and terrify the hell out of the audience.

3. Prometheus using Felicity’s glasses to unnerve Oliver. Those glasses are famous. Prometheus basically told Oliver that he could go to Felicity’s apartment whenever he wanted, without her knowing, and insinuated that he could end her life as quick as snapping his fingers. It was a warning. And Oliver’s reaction said it all.

4. Prometheus recreated the moment Oliver saved Felicity from Count Vertigo. Three arrows in the chest. The one kill we’ll never forget. (Who else went back to re-watch that scene from “State vs. Queen?”)

5. I only wish we’d gotten more Oliver & Prometheus than we did. I’m realizing that it was intentional – not only because it was a flashback heavy episode – but because the few scenes with Oliver and Prometheus carried so much more weight.

6. It almost killed me going most of an episode without seeing Felicity or Diggle. I felt like the show wanted to keep that part of Oliver’s life away while he was being tortured, which might explain why we didn’t get glimpses of them until the end when he was free. But I missed them like crazy. They’re two important reasons why I watch this show. Them and Oliver.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.


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