Arrow S05E17 “Kapiushon” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- In the present day, Oliver is being tortured by Adrian Chase, who wants him to confess — although Oliver doesn’t know what to. First he subjects him to water torture, then shoots him with three arrows, before bringing Evelyn into the room and putting a knife between them, saying the survivor gets to leave. Oliver disarms her but refuses to kill her, so Chase breaks her neck.
- A distraught Oliver breaks down after being taunted by Chase and admits he enjoyed killing people as the Arrow – at which point Evelyn reveals she’s alive and in on the ruse.
- Chase lets Oliver go, but not before burning his Bratva tattoo off his chest with a blowtorch.
- In the Russian flashbacks, Gregor dies, making Anatoly the new Bratva captain. He goes to see Kovar, who’s struck a deal with Malcolm Merlyn to bring in tanks of Sarin gas. Oliver brutally tortures one of Kovar’s men to find out his plan: Kovar plans to stage a coup and kill Russia’s leaders, gathering them all together at his new casino. He meets Taiana and Vlad’s mother, who works for Kovar, and tells her the gangster had lied about looking for her now dead children. To get revenge, she gives him a key to the casino.
- Oliver leads Anatoly’s men in, but Taiana’s mother has been tortured and killed, and Kovar’s men are waiting for them. He starts to release the gas, but Oliver stops it and takes out his forces before a brutal fight with Kovar. He stabs Kovar – seemingly to death, but Malcolm helps rescue him. As he prepares to leave Russia, Anatoly warns Oliver about the darkness growing inside him.
- Back in the present day, a broken Oliver returns to the Arrowcave, having been missing for six days, and says he can’t do this any more: he’s shutting everything down.
This is, it’s safe to say, not a fun episode of Arrow to watch, especially if you’re in any way squeamish. The show’s producers haven’t been shy about flinging the claret about before, but this week sees folk being near-drowned, violence towards women, people being skinned alive, people bing poisoned by nerve gas and people being being brutally tortured.
One scene near the end, as Adrian Chase leaves his mark – literally – on Oliver by burning his tattoo off with a small blowtorch, is genuinely horrific and lingers slightly longer than you might expect it too.
In some ways this week’s episode owes more to golden-era 24 than your standard Arrow episode, with Oliver resorting to ever-more brutal ways to dig out information – including pulling a bullet from someone’s arm with a bottle opener. Jack Bauer would be proud, son.
The structure of this week’s episode is as curious as it’s troubling. Most of it is told in flashback, apparently wrapping up the majority not just of the Russia storylines but also the flashbacks themselves; as we’ve pointed out before on MYMBuzz, this year needs to conclude them or they’re in danger of lapping themselves.
It’s in service of a key idea: Chase’s torture isn’t designed to break Oliver’s body, but his spirit by making him realise the same thing he was warned about by Anatoly after his antics in Russia – that ultimately, Oliver killed people not for vengeance or because they had failed the city, but because he enjoyed killing people.
But the switch in Oliver’s behaviour in Russia is so extreme it’s almost cartoonish. Yes, we’ve seen him do bad things and kill people before, but the acceleration between defensive violence and psychotic behaviour here is ridiculous. No wonder Anatoly’s getting so worried about his soul.
But that’s not the Oliver we really see in Arrow; not just these days, with Team Arrow supporting him, but really since about half way through series two. Indeed, you could argue that once the List was completed and Oliver’s role became defending the city from supervillains, his actions were those of a soldier.
Diggle, who has that background, has little compunction in taking a life when it’s necessary, and Oliver’s spent so long agonising about this over the last couple of years that the idea this should be some shocking, spirit breaking revelation to him feels slightly unearned.
You could argue, though, that Chase is looking at it from the point of view of the old Arrow – the List-completing one – which is the one who offed his old da’. In which case, his weird behaviour to the Green Arrow makes slightly more sense.
The flashback sequences contain some of the best moments of the entire Russia storyline. Anatoly has always been a likeable ally, even back in his earliest appearances years ago, and his interaction with Oliver is almost parental in its concern. The attack on the casino, and especially the brutal fight between Dolph Lundgren – one of the few men to tower over Stephen Amell in both height and physique – is hard-hitting. Kevin Tancharoen’s origins making Mortal Kombat show through especially here.
Madison McLaughlin’s cameo is a wonderful surprise too. Since we last saw Evelyn, leaving by the side of Prometheus, her whereabouts have been unknown, making the idea he’s been torturing her for weeks as part of his campaign against Oliver makes sense — making her apparent murder all the more shocking, and her subsequent revelation that it was all a mindgame even more so.
But the star of the show here is Josh Segarra. Last week we saw the panto villain Adrian Chase, but this week his performance goes in every direction, from creepy to comforting to genuinely deranged. It’s like watching Christian Bale do full-on coke binged Patrick Bateman as a supervillain, and no need for Michael Dorn to do the voice, either.
Quite where Arrow goes from here remains to be seen, but we’ve had plenty of redemptive arcs for Oliver before, so making this another one feels like it’s covering old ground. And given the show’s ratings wobble in the States, it seems like audiences agree. Whatever comes up over the next few weeks needs to be pretty spectacular.
- Dolph Lundgren. He doesn’t get a tonne to do in the episode, other than look good in a tux and then get beaten up by Oliver, but he makes it look so damn effortless. It’s a shame they’ve not done more with Kovar this season; as with Reiter last year, it feels like a slightly squandered opportunity.
- We’ve highlighted the links between Arrow and the Nolan version of Batman many times before, but with Talia now pulling the strings here – and the Al Ghuls now effectively having been shown to have created the Arrow – does this make Adrian Chase Bane?
- Not really sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but there’s so much going on in this episode it’s a full 12 minutes before we leave the pre-credits sequence and hit the titles themselves.
- We know he’s meant to be subdued and broken, but Stephen Amell’s line reading that he’s closing down the Arrow operation is so odd, it put us in mind of Steve Coogan in The Day Today’s soap opera spoof, The Bureau.
- The flashback sequences have always had a weird colour tint on them to differentiate them from the real world, but with so much of them this week much of it, and especially the stuff in the dockyard, looks like it’s been shot through a haze of gunk on the lens.
- Okay, let’s talk about Sarin gas shall we. The producers at least got the formula right for it (C4H10FO2P). But it’s a very nasty gas which, even at low levels of exposure, is fatal. It’s got a decent lifespan too – around half an hour or so – so Anatoly running about the room’s getting exposed to it whether or not he’s put a damp cloth over his mouth and nose, and Oliver running into the room even after the gas is turned off isn’t going to feel that well. It also can get in through exposed skin via vapour penetration, so that cloth’s not doing much to save him. You’ve got less than 10 minutes once exposed before you die, unless you’re given atropine or biperiden. And since one of the side-effects is a loss of bodily control, that casino floor where Kovar and Oliver have their ruck is going to be awash with vomit, faeces and urine. TL;DR version — the producers know as much about sarin gas as they do nuclear bombs…
And the Random:
- Kevin Tancharoen returns to the director’s chair, having helmed the “Monument Point” episode last year. He’s been busy in the Marvel Universe too recently, working on Agents of SHIELD (showrun by his sister Maurissa) and Iron Fist, but is probably most famous for doing the Mortal Kombat video that ended up inspiring the YouTube series. He also did the Glee 3D concert video, but we won’t hold that against him.
- So, the episode name, “Kapiushon”, is a fairly rough Russian translation to Hood. Amusingly, though, the original version of the episode was called “Kapot” which means the bonnet (or hood, for our Septics readers) of a car. Oh, the dangers of Google translate…
- Popping up in the flashbacks is Mr John Barrowman – who recently celebrated his 50th birthday with the assistance of Stephen Amell in a tight pair of pants – to complete a sweep of appearances, also cameoing in this week’s episodes of The Flash and Legends. We think this calls for a gif…
Review by Iain Hepburn