Arrow delivered one of its darker, if not darkest, episodes this week as Chase tortured Oliver into confessing his ‘secret’ while the flashbacks ramped up Oliver’s transformation into The Hood we met back in season 1.
This was the first episode of Arrow, ever, that genuinely fascinated me. It’s been banging about my brain in the days since I watched it, and I’d argue it’s the most compelling episode that the show has delivered owed to the brilliant big bad storyline this season. Arrow has always been entertaining – more so in its first two seasons than it has lately – but those torture scenes were a level above anything the show has done before.
This psychological war that Adrian Chase is waging against Oliver hit a new high this week, with Chase goading Oliver into revealing his ‘secret’. If the whole episode had been devoted to those scenes alone then it would have been the best episode the show has ever done. No question.
It was near faultless with Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra mastering the material thrown their way. That explosive confession scene is one of favourite Arrow scenes of all time. Amell gives us everything in the space of a few seconds. There’s the initial shock as the words escape his mouth, then comes an acceptance, then comes rage and then, like that, he’s broken. Amell delivers it in such a way, it feels real. Throughout the episode he’s on it, make no mistake, but he hits the high note when he needed to. It’s the standout moment of an excellent episode.
And what of Segarra? Shows like this tend to only be as good as their villain. The first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the opening two seasons of Arrow itself being evidence of this. Segarra has proven a brilliant addition to the cast and with the shackles off, he is absolutely nailing Prometheus. The initial reveal in 5×15 didn’t make or break Prometheus but the episodes since have been a slam dunk – if this carries on, he’ll be the best villain the show has done. From the victorious little smirk after Oliver made his confession, to the bouts of rage, to the ‘I believe you Oliver, I just don’t care’ – Segarra just seems to elevate every scene he’s in.
When we consider 4×17 saw Oliver and the team take on ‘the bee lady’ (I don’t even remember her real name) in what was one of Arrow’s worst ever episodes, it’s quite the transformation that a season on 5×17 is one of its best.
The season itself is comparable to a ship on stormy seas, heading for a formation of jagged rocks being steered back on course. And, a lot of the credit must go to the big bad plot this season.
It’s perhaps a harsh way to put things but, it just feels grown-up. It’s a level of sophistication that I honestly thought was beyond this show, yet they seem as if they’re right on top of it. It’s been near perfectly paced thus far. Amell and Segarra are flourishing with the material coming their way. Prometheus looks like a badass. He’s a complex, fleshed out, brilliant villain – that honestly would flourish in any other superhero show out there.
Aside from having the entirety of this episode devoted to the torture scenes, my only other wish would be for a stripped down season of solely Oliver v Chase. 13 episodes. The psychological war in all its glory. It’d be a superb watch.
The Hood is born. The flashbacks, although not flawless, were immensely entertaining. The biggest takeaway from this, is that the Hood is born. Oliver is in a really dark place. He killed a man and practised on his corpse. He took on Kovar when he didn’t need to. He ‘killed’ Kovar when he didn’t need to. Anatoly sees it, Oliver refuses to. Even if it’s been a rocky ride to get there, it does feel as if the flashbacks are on course to flow nicely into season 1.
Also, Anatoly’s ‘gangster’ line. Another gem to an increasingly large collection. Also (also) Malcolm. It’s a nice little connection to season 1. It’s also welcome to see they didn’t shoehorn him back into the present day when there’s no place for him at present.
Obviously, there’s still questions left. Is Kovar a zombie? How does Oliver end up back on the island? Is that castaway beard we saw in the pilot real or fake? Regardless, after two season three’s laundry line, and god knows whatever the hell season 4’s flashbacks were supposed to be, it’s nice to be in a position where the flashbacks are genuinely interesting again.
Oliver Queen is broken. Arrow has broken its hero. He’s thrown in the towel. Chase has claimed a big, big victory. It’s a bold move and Amell absolutely sold it at the end. Where do we go from here? It’s a really strong foundation to push on with.
This episode was a perfect example of how less is more. It’s something Arrow hasn’t always done, yet this week showed just how good it can be. This season is righting some big wrongs – here’s hoping that continues.