Every year, Arrow uses at least one episode to dig into the flashback storylines. Usually, this isn’t so bad. Yes, the flashbacks are often terrible, but it’s one episode, no big deal. However, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, Season 5 has been Arrow‘s worst and despite preparing for this Bratva storyline since the show started, this year’s flashbacks are also the series’ worst.
However, while the Bratva stuff was mind-numbingly boring, it was the present-day scenes that really ruined the episode. To be clear, that is not Stephen Amell’s fault. He has always been good at conveying Oliver’s anguish and exhaustion and this was no different. The problem was that what happened and the conclusions the show came to were a retread of things we’ve seen repeatedly since the show began.
Every year, Oliver comes to believe that he is an irredeemable monster whose very existence hurts the people around him. Hell, we already did that storyline earlier this season. Granted, that realization was not really episode’s ultimate goal. That was to make Oliver admit that he did, at some point, enjoy killing. Now, he’s never said that aloud, but it seems ridiculous that he never privately acknowledged this fact to himself or that it would somehow be a shock to his friends–especially Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards)–were he to say it to them. Why else would he have been so determined to justify his right to be judge, jury and executioner in Season 1 despite his allies’ protests? Why else would he have been so reluctant and pained every time he had to kill after promising not to in the wake of Tommy’s (Colin Donnell) death?
The answer is obvious: of course, Oliver enjoys what he’s doing on some level. If his self-loathing were the only thing driving him, Oliver would have quite the vigilante biz years ago. No, this damning “revelation” is actually an obvious fact that has been part of this show’s DNA from the beginning. This is not new information and worse, it’s something the show has already resolved and explored multiple times. It is the same old crap with a different bow on top.
So, since Arrow didn’t bother to write a new episode, I’m not going to bother to write a new recap. Instead, I’m going to point you to an old recap from Season 3 for the 21st episode, “Al Sah-him.” In that, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) used torture to reprogram Oliver and turn him into a League Assassin. However, the torture wasn’t the whole story like it was in “Kapiushon,” it was a means to an end. The point of that episode was to explore the character dynamics and advance the plot in a way that was exciting and unexpected. That was the right way to write this story. So go ahead, read that and remember how good this show used to be.
See what I mean?