Arrow: “Kapiushon” Season 5 Episode 17 Review

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Whoa. Did Arrow just have a major comeback? “Kapiushon” was excellent in so many ways, that its small faults can easily be forgiven. It’s only the second truly great episode of the season, after the 100th episode special in the middle of the December crossover.

Perhaps most surprising about this episode’s excellence is how prominent the flashbacks were. Granted, that is just about the only area where season five has improved over the past few seasons. But still, they weren’t exactly amazing, a testament to how truly bad Arrow had gotten.

The last two episodes saw an uptick in quality, as Prometheus’ identity was revealed and the show started to put the pieces together. But damn, an episode as good as “Kapiushon” at this point is just unprecedented.

Let’s start in the present, where Oliver is being held captive by Adrian Chase/Prometheus. As the villain pokes and prods his prey, history is brought back to light. Adrian throws him a photo of the Count, who Oliver killed in season two, in an episode where Oliver first betrayed his new “no killing” stance. Arrow‘s core values have always been at war with it identity. When the show began, Oliver wasn’t a superhero, but an assassin with a kill list. It was only as his friends started to appeal to him and he let others in on his crusade that he started to serve as the city’s protector. That’s a morally complex transition that the writers didn’t quite pull off in season one, but they at least made up for it with the swashbuckling fun of a superhero comic.

Since season two, Oliver has gone back and forth on his stance on killing so many times its impossible to keep track of. Diggle will sometimes give him a pep talk saying “this isn’t you,” and then Oliver will stop for half a season before he thinks a threat warrants an act of murder (which is precisely why Talia’s allegiance with Adrian makes even more sense now).

“Kapiushon” aims to do two things. The first is to build Oliver into the killer we know he becomes in the flashbacks. The second is for Oliver to finally admit a character flaw most audiences likely haven’t really thought about. Through both pieces, Arrow gets to fix a lot of its contradictions.

Watching Oliver go essentially on a murdering spree in Russia and claim the “monster in the hood” is the one responsible is the best pilot Arrow ever got. This is the character development the show was missing when it first started.

Meanwhile, in the present, Adrian is forcing Oliver to reveal some big secret even Oliver himself is unsure of. There’s genuine tension here, which Stephen Amell plays up very well. But Oliver is only able to realize and admit his secret after Adrian seemingly snaps Evelyn’s neck, a powerful crux of the episode that is sadly undone when revealed to be a fake out. Prometheus actually killing one of Oliver’s new recruits right in front of him could have been his Jason Todd moment, but apparently Evelyn has some other role to play later this season.

That said, believing Evelyn is dead finally pushes Oliver to shout out that he enjoys killing people. Damn. It took a commercial break for me to process it. Green Arrow is the hero of this show, he can’t be a murderer, right? Oliver has always killed those who threatened the city or his friends, more akin to the Punisher than Batman. There’s no way every single one of them deserved to die. I’m sure there are a hundred moments that contradict this one throughout Arrow‘s long run, but Oliver running around town with a bow and arrow killing people isn’t just because he thinks it’s his duty. He likes it, and now he has to deal with that realization. This profound character moment, if done well after this episode, could permanently rock the show. Where Bane snapped Batman’s back, Prometheus snapped Green Arrow’s self worth. Now Oliver has to investigate himself and find the hero within once more. But this time, he’ll have to justify all the death he’s caused. I’m not sure Arrow can pull that off, but this episode was brilliant enough that I’m excited to find out. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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