Arrow TV Reviews

Arrow’s “Kapiushon” Forces Oliver to See Himself for Who He Really Is

Remember how season 3 had that one short montage of R’as al Ghul torturing Oliver, successfully breaking him both physically and emotionally? Yeah, that was stupid. Arrow wanted a do-over. Thus, we have “Kapiushon.” Of course, it’s not an exact comparison. Back during the season 3 debacle with the League of Assassins, Oliver was simply pretending. The torture didn’t actually break him; it just gave him a believable excuse for why he was suddenly willing to do whatever Mr. Fancy Robes wanted. “Kapiushon,” though, went full-length with the torture, and concluded with Oliver feeling genuinely defeated and deflated. Adrian did exactly what he said would do, which is to destroy Oliver without killing him. No harm, then, in simply letting him go. Thus, the episode ended with a physically battered Oliver wearily addressing a stunned Felicity, Diggle and Curtis at Arrow HQ: “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m shutting everything down.”

But hasn’t he tried to quit before? And we already know Arrow has been renewed for a sixth season? It’s not like this is going to stick.

Sure, the common logic of TV storytelling dictates Arrow will eventually return to its default setting, but as Stephen Amell told HeroicHollywood, “The interesting thing is that what Prometheus has done is base his plan off of Oliver’s pattern of behavior. Oliver’s pattern of behavior has been, ‘I’m going solo.’ When the chips are really down, he retreats and it’s just him. So, the fact that Oliver now has a team might be the one thing that Chase can’t plan for.” The thing to watch going forward will be how the rest of the team reacts to Oliver’s characteristically go-it-alone decision to unilaterally shut everything down, to not only stop being the Green Arrow but also dictate that everyone else also has to stop doing what they’re doing.

But aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves a bit? We’re supposed to be talking about “Kapiushon.” How exactly did Adrian break Oliver? And please tell me we surprisingly got a nearly episode-long Russia flashback? Because I’d been dying for one of those.

Sarcasm noted. While season 5’s Russia flashbacks have occasionally suffered from the “why should we care about any of this?” syndrome which has plagued Arrow’s recent seasons, “Kapiushon” justified all of it by finally pulling off what the show’s producers promised long ago, specifically that the five-year flashback structure would eventually lead to a Godfather 2-esque point of departure from past and present. There, the father rose in the past while the son fell in the present. Here, Oliver gave away his soul and pretended it was okay by hiding underneath a hood in the past (as represented by several moments in Russia where he – as the Hood – tortured, maimed an killed as first recourse in defiance of alternate, more peaceful options) while the cumulative weight of five years of soulless killing finally crushed him in the present (as represented by Adrian finally getting him to confess that the true reason he ever killed anyone is because a part of him actually likes it, justifiable homicide or not). The Hood was born in Russia, but it led to Oliver dying a little in Adrian’s torture chamber.

Arrow Kapiushon2

You could tell “Kapiushon” wasn’t going to be like most Arrow episodes when after an initial visit with Oliver and Adrian in his torture cell we flashed back to Russia and never left. By the 12-minute mark, the titled card finally flashed, and we were still in Russia. This was clearly going to be something closer to the all-flashback episodes Arrow used to do so well.

But it wasn’t all-flashback.

Yes. Thanks for keeping up. “Kapiushon” was designed in such a way that it wanted to tell us the story of how Oliver got his iconic Bratva chest tattoo, but turn the story into a moment of loss, not triumph. We come to learn that tattoo has always been a reminder of the time Oliver auctioned off his soul in the name of vengeance (and killed Dolph Lundgren when he didn’t actually have to). He just never quite chose to see it that way.

All of this over a girl?

In retrospect, the fact that his Russian adventure has all been in service of avenging that one girl he kind of knew on the island for a while works even better now. It used to seem like a poor foundation for a season-long storyline because, let’s be honest, Oliver was never really all that close with the girl before she died. Is his sense of honor so powerful that he would pursue her oppressors to the death? Or is it just that he needed an excuse, any excuse, to kill, and then carried that over into the season 1 version we remember doggedly killing people off of his father’s enemy’s list? Killing, “Kapiushon” argues, has never been the means to whatever end Oliver is working toward at any given moment. Instead, killing is something he enjoys. He’s a serial killer.

Yeah, but what about all the endless “I kill because I have to”/”I’ll no longer kill because Tommy wouldn’t want me to”/”Totally killing again and loving it”/”I promise not to kill again. I just want to stay home and make sweet, sweet love with Felicity”/”Killing’s back on the menu, folks” back-and-forth over the past 5 years? That suggests he has a conscience. He’s not a sociopath.

Never said he was, but Adrian’s argument was essentially Oliver has always been a hypocrite. There is something broken inside of him which can’t be fixed, and being the Green Arrow simply enables the on-going deterioration of his being and drags down everyone around him.

Fine. Whatever. Please tell me some female character had to die to bring about all of this mansuffering.

Actually,  kind of yes and no. “Kapiushon” fridges a character (Adrian appears to snap Evelyn’s neck in front of Oliver), but then brings her right back (they were only pretending, and Evelyn still super hates Oliver for…reasons).

So, was this a good episode?

Yes. One of the better in recent memory, that is if you go in for Arrow’s signature self-serious manpain and brooding.


  1. This episode reminds me of a conversation Oliver had with Barry about his brutal methods and the necessity of killing an enemy. Barry had been appalled by Oliver’s methods. And the latter seemed to hint in a brutal way that in order to be a costume vigilante, Barry needed to be more realistic. So, was Oliver merely making an excuse, even back then?

  2. I honestly can’t believe you reduced full on torture to manpain and brooding with your last paragraph… Gross

    1. Fair enough. The point could have been more communicated more eloquently. I think back to when I attended a Katie Cassidy panel at convention, and multiple female fans during the Q&A portion joked that they’ve never been able to get into Arrow because of all the brooding and manpain. Instead, they wanted to talk to her about Gossip Girl. Of course, by this point we know exactly what Arrow is, but sometimes its more brooding vigilante hero tendencies are undercut or softened by Felicity or other such pomposity-puncturing presences. To that point, I’ve encountered multiple commenters to my reviews who’ve flat out told me Oliver is actually their least favorite part of Arrow. It was those fans I had in mind when I mentioned that if Arrow’s “oh, the whoa of Oliver’s poor soul” go-to device for drama is not for you then even though “Kapiushon” was the best possible version of this it probably still wasn’t for you. To conflate full-on torture with manpain and brooding was a mistake on my part, or at least this episode wasn’t really a case of brooding. Instead, it was a case of literal manpain.

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