‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 5 Episode 17: ‘Kapiushon’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
On this week’s episode, Prometheus and Ollie both prove that torture is an effective interrogation technique, and Dolph Lundgren finally returns! “Kapiushon” was directed Kevin Tancharoen and written by Brian Sullivan and Emilio Aldrich.
Emma: Chris! Your dream came true! Dolph Lundgren came back!
Chris: I knew he wouldn’t abandon us! You may not be surprised to learn that I enjoyed this episode and it’s unparalleled levels of Lundgren. But with or without Dolph, there was a lot going on in this episode. What did you think, friend?
Emma: One of the better episodes this season, I think, although I had a hard time understanding everyone for the first seven minutes. A lot of Russian accents and mumbling and dialogue I didn’t really care about anyway. But Dolph + Chase interrogating Ollie + Anatoly is going to equal a great episode.
Chris: Thank goodness for subtitles. They’re a real godsend with this show. I didn’t even realize it until the end of the episode, but this episode really benefitted from the focus of only featuring a few characters. When it jumped back to the rest of Team Arrow for that last little scene at the end, it was completely jarring and immediately made me realize why the rest of the episode had been going so well.
Emma: For sure! I might have preferred if the stuff in Russia was a bit tighter like the scenes in Star City, but it’s all good. We do get some very interesting information right off the top --- like Malcolm Merlyn meeting with Kovar! Now that Gregor is dead, Anatoly becomes the Pakhan --- leader --- of this branch of the Bratva. He goes to meet with Kovar to honor Gregor’s deal (even though that deal is part of the reason Gregor’s dead) and sees Kovar meeting with this sketchy American we know and love from previous seasons. Were you expecting that, Chris?
Chris: I was not. But I actually made a note of how tonally incorrect he felt in this episode (especially talking to Dolph Lundgren), and possibly in every episode I’ve seen him in if I’m being really honest. I love John Barrowman, but I’m just not sure he fits on this show. Is that fair? I haven’t seen the season where he was the big bad, so maybe he was great then.
Emma: Even back then he felt a little weird on this show. John Barrowman is so delightfully campy; he was perfect on Doctor Who but feels out of place in a show like Arrow, where everyone talks like they’ve just smoked 20 packs of cigarettes. Same thing with this episode. It gets dark, but then there’s John Barrowman making jokes in Russia.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, never fear, dear Arrow-Heads, I still have things to complain about this week!
He’s supposed to be scary kind of, right?
Emma: Malcolm Merlyn? Yeah. I mean, John Barrowman can pull out that intensity when he needs to, but he tends to portray the smiley creepy side of Merlyn most of the time. Which is scary in an entitled rich white man sort of way, but not scary like a supervillain.
Dolph Lundgren, now he’s scary in a big handsome muscle-y man sort of way, and I like it.
Chris: Who doesn’t? Plus he’s a genius, so you know you’d be able to have all kinds of interesting conversations with him. And he plays the drums. I guess I’m getting a little off-topic here.
Emma: He plays the drums? Amazing.
Chris: He’s basically the ultimate entertainer.
Emma: Okay, back to Arrow. This episode basically jumps back and forth between flashback Russia and Ollie’s interment in Chase’s cell in Star City. (Do we know where this is? Did Chase just build a jail somewhere?)
Chris: I mean, I assume he has to keep it local. This guy keeps a very, very full schedule remember.
Emma: In Russia, Ollie and his Bratva bros are trying to deal with the fallout from Gregor’s death and Kovar’s Big Evil Plan, which we’ll get to in a minute. In Star City, Chase is just trying to get Oliver to confess. Not to killing his dad, because Oliver will happily admit to that. Chase wants to know basically who Ollie really is. Or rather, he wants Oliver to admit to himself and to Chase who he really is.
Chris: What did you make of this “revelation”?
Emma: We’re going to get right into it? Okay! So Oliver’s “confession” is that he kills because he wants to, and he likes it. I wasn’t surprised or anything. Anyone who regularly kills has to get some measure of enjoyment out of it, otherwise, why would you keep doing it? Justice, sure, but there are other ways to take out the bad guys. Incapacitate them, jail them, etc. This whole season has been about Oliver trying to separate himself as the Hood or himself as the Green Arrow from who he is as Oliver Queen, but you can’t just disassociate these parts of your identity from each other. Doing so is dangerous.
I understand why Chase would want Oliver to admit this --- Ollie wants to think of himself as a good guy, and admitting that you like killing gets in the way of that for sure --- but does Chase think that wanting to kill, or enjoying the kill, is a bad thing? Does he think that he’s better than Oliver simply because he acknowledges that he enjoys killing? Was Chase a secret serial killer all along before Oliver killed his dad?
Chris: See, these are the questions I want to get at. And others maybe! Part of why I asked that though is to ask, even though we, as viewers, aren’t really surprised by this admission, does it really have the shocking weight “in-universe” it felt like it was meant to? Hasn’t Ollie had numerous bouts with the whole killing vs not killing quandary throughout the run of this series?
Emma: He has! Although killing vs not killing is not the same as killing because you have to vs. killing because you like it. If he truly enjoys it, then is he really any different than any of the villains he’s killed? (Yes, this is Vigilante 101.)
I think the only person who’s really shocked by his confession is Ollie himself, to be honest.
Chris: See, I really wasn’t sure how to take the way he played it. I have grown to love Stephen Amell on this show and he seems like a genuinely good dude in real life, but… and I say this with all due respect, because I really believe that acting is much harder than people think it is, I’m not sure he has a wide enough array of acting tricks to pull off what he is asked to go for sometimes on this show, and so I’m left not really sure how they want me to take it.
I mean, I know it would be really easy to just face value some of these things and move on, but I’m cursed with one of those brains that makes me ask questions I don’t even care to know the answers to, and when you start asking those kinds of questions, it can just make these shows fall apart. I guess that’s more an insight into me than the show, but this is the journey this show has set me on.
So, you think he was surprised?
Emma: Now I want to go rewatch that scene and see if I hate Stephen Amell’s acting as much as you do. If he’s not surprised, then how do you take the next scene, in which he walks into the Arrow Cave and tells everyone that Team Arrow is no longer a thing? “It’s over. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m shutting everything down.” I took that action to mean that, now that Ollie knows he’s not as good a guy as he thought he was, now that he knows he’s killing because he wants to, he can’t in good conscience keep up the vigilante business.
Chris: Haha, well, I definitely didn’t say I hated his acting, I’m just saying he tries his best, but he was possibly cast a little more for how handsome he is than his acting prowess.
That scene where he walks in at the end was almost one of, if not, the most satisfying moments I’ve had with this show since I started watching it.
Emma: How so?
Chris: Let me ask you a quick question first. When you’re watching TV or movies or whatever, do you ever say, out loud, either to someone you're watching it with or just for your own amusement, the line(s) you imagine a character is about to or should say?
Emma: Literally all the time.
Chris: It’s nice to know we have another fun thing in common! So, when you see Ollie walk in all beat up and bloodied with his costume only halfway on, I could not help but say for him, “Uhh, yeah... f--- this.”
And then that’s what he TV-14 said! And all I could think was, this is the exact right/only sane response to all of this. Just stop. So often on this show people do and say things that seem like the kinds of things no person in the real world would ever say or do, and then Ollie had the exact right response, and it was such a zag from what I was expecting them to ever have his response to the situation be that it was incredibly satisfying. Does that make sense?
Emma: Yeah, I get that! But this is TV, and the show is called Arrow, and we know he’s not really going to stop.
Chris: You couldn’t wait to take this away from me.
Emma: What did you think about Evelyn? She showed up again this week.
Chris: Well, it was nice to finally find out what had happened to her! I certainly didn’t like what they did with her, and again I have to ask, do you think this was their plan with her from the start of the season?
Emma: The writers? I don’t know! I’d hope it was all sketched out from the beginning, but these things can change. The scene with her and Ollie locked up together, with one knife and an ultimatum to kill or be killed reminded me of a creepy episode of Criminal Minds (I guess all episodes of Criminal Minds are creepy, really) in which three best friends are locked up with the same directive: kill, or be killed, and then you’ll be free. I found that scene pretty powerful, and I did actually think that Chase snapped her neck for real. But maybe I’m just a sucker, haha.
Chris: Good or bad, that actress is great at the role and is fun to watch. What else would you like to talk about from this week’s episode?
Emma: We should probably talk about Dolph Lundgren some more!
Chris: I would like nothing more.
Emma: Kovar was meeting with Malcolm Merlyn to get weapons from America, because while he’s got an army of men, he’s only got boring old guns for them. From Merlyn he buys a bunch of sarin gas, enough to kill thousands of people.
Chris: Yeah, his plan seemed a little iffy to me. Just seems like a lot could go wrong with getting everyone in one room and flooding it with gas and hoping for the best that nothing goes wrong and you aren’t also accidentally killed. But, it does lead to quite a fight with Ollie, who’s going by “Kapiushon” at this point. This show is really teaching us a lot of Russian.
Emma: Do we know what that means? I must have missed that part.
Chris: I believe they said it’s Russian for “hood”. Since he wears one.
Emma: Of course! And as the Hood, Ollie beats up Kovar, slices his face, and stabs him, all after turning off the gas so that not everyone dies. It looks like he killed Kovar, but turns out Malcolm Merlyn stuck around and rescued him.
Chris: You can imagine my excitement at that revelation.
Emma: I can! I may have let out a little “Yessss!” when I saw that. So do you think Kovar will come to Star City at some point?
Chris: Oh my god, I hope so! I think there’s one more episode on Dolph’s contract, and that setup would certainly suggest that he’s going to be coming for Oliver at some point.
Emma: I can’t wait. I want an angry, scarred Kovar to come for Ollie and make him realize he can’t escape his past by just hanging up his hood.
Chris: They certainly left us on quite a cliffhanger this week, so I guess we’ll see what next week brings!