Oliver breaks under Chase's torture, revealing the truth of his dark beginning
Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
S5 E17
Show MoreAbout Arrow
  • TV Show

Now this was an episode of Arrow. Bravo to Stephen Amell for tonight’s fearless, haunting performance of Oliver at his darkest, most shocking low.

We open on what’s clearly the latest in a long series of torture sessions, with Chase holding Oliver’s head underwater until he confesses. Confesses what? Chase says it’s the one thing Oliver’s been afraid to admit even to himself. Oliver has no idea what that is, so it’s back underwater for him.

Flashback, the first of many: Oliver and his wig (which actually looks pretty good tonight!) spare Gregor’s life — only to jump straight to torture to get the man to confess what Kovar’s planning. Anatoly warns that Gregor will never tell the truth when he’s in pain.

Yet he does speak some truth just before dying, saying “samovol shchniato Anatoly and telling Oliver, “You are no one’s hero. Everything and everyone that you love will wither and die at your touch.” As last words go, that’s awfully metal.

The Pakhan’s dead, long live the Pakhan! Seniority gives it to Anatoly, and after his installation ceremony, he tells Oliver that Gregor’s phrase meant, “Do as you will.” It was code for overthrowing the government during the 1917 Russian revolution — and perhaps a clue about Gregor’s deal with Kovar, which Anatoly plans to honor.

Meanwhile, Oliver offers to see if he can get any information from Kovar’s housekeeper, Galina. He finds her shopping for apples at a market, where the music playing in the background is definitely one of the songs from the old-school Tetris Nintendo game. Before he can do much more than say he knew her daughter, Taiana, Galina’s bodyguard tussles with Oliver and gets shot for his pains, resulting in a fruitless trip (except for the pie supplies).

Anatoly’s meeting with Kovar goes a little better, and can I say how nice it is to have Dolph Lundgren’s gorgeous, slightly unsettling smile back on this show? He’s meeting with none other than Malcolm Merlyn, the CEO of Merlyn Global Group, to arrange a not-at-all mysterious shipment. As Merlyn leaves, he bumps into Anatoly, who amusingly introduces himself simply as “gangster.”

Kovar congratulates Anatoly on his ascendancy, and Anatoly blames Kapiushon, or “the hood,” for Gregor’s death. Then he assures Kovar that he’ll honor Gregor’s commitments, including samovol shchnia. Unfortunately, Kovar explains that his plan has to do with ridding Russia of the weakness that’s gripped it since the death of the Soviet Union. In other words, it’s time for a coup.

Anatoly rightly recognizes this is a big, terrible plan and urges Oliver to return to America. But Oliver points to their brotherhood, so they head to the docks to see exactly what Merlyn Global’s shipping to Kovar.

In the present, Chase is keeping Oliver shirtless and chained (calm down, ladies and/or gentlemen!) in a cell with photos of Oliver’s victims tacked to the walls, but he promises to set Oliver free if he’ll just confess his secret. When Oliver still claims ignorance, Chase shoots him in the shoulder with the arrow he used to kill The Count (who was about to murder Felicity at the time).

Then Chase really digs in, brandishing a pair of Felicity’s glasses that he took from her apartment without her knowledge. Oliver starts to vehemently threaten him, and Chase next says he’ll locate Oliver’s son. Oliver may not know his location, but Chase brags that he’ll find it. He leaves Oliver to think about his confession along with the person Chase will kill next. Oliver’s starting to break down, but he still doesn’t know what Chase wants him to confess.

Flashback: Anatoly and his crew arrive at the docks, while Oliver-in-hood keeps watch from the roof. They locate the shipment, and it’s sarin gas, like something out of an episode of 24.

As the Bratva are loading the sarin into a truck, a beaming Kovar shows up, kicking off a gun battle that ends with a handful of Bratva dying from sarin exposure as Kovar and his men escape with the toxin. Oliver decides the only solution is to don the hood and torture the captured Kovar henchman, and he does — using a Mongolian skinning technique. Yuh-ikes. Much screaming later, Oliver has the plan, but Anatoly describes what’s left of the Kovar associate as “not human.” Oliver says the hood helped him direct the darkness inside him, but Anatoly strongly disagrees. “You’re a fool to think a piece of cloth can separate man from monster.”

He compares Oliver to Slade Wilson or Anthony Ivo, and lest you think Anatoly’s worrying for nothing, Oliver admits that the man on the table gave up the information pretty quickly. “The rest was me practicing.” Um, anybody else get literal chills at hearing Oliver describe how he became the “something else” he describes in the opening credits every week?

Anyway, thanks to the torture, the Bratva know that Kovar intends to kill Russia’s political and military leaders at his casino’s opening, so Oliver hatches a plan to infiltrate the heavy security with some help from Galina.

Back to the market (no Tetris music this time), he knocks out Galina’s bodyguard and breaks the news that Kovar’s been lying to her, and her children are actually dead. He describes his vow to Taiana, solidifying his claim with the saying that the same hammer that shatters glass also forges steel. Galina swiftly hands him her key into Kovar’s casino. When she asks who killed her children, Oliver replies, “A monster.”

On opening night, Oliver breaks in, killing all the guards on the way to the security room. He uses the monitors to locate the gas, then lets his Bratva brothers in and tells them where to head. However, he spots a monitor showing Kovar interrogating Galina. He races to her, but by the time he gets to her, she’s dead. (Which seems kind of likely, all things considered; did Oliver consider the danger he was putting her in?) While he’s standing over her body, Anatoly warns him over the coms that Kovar’s men have them surrounded because Viktor sold them out.

In the present, Chase pushes a battered Evelyn Sharp into the cell with Oliver, explaining, “I made her more… compliant.” Honestly, I’d forgotten all about Evelyn. Poor kid. Chase tells them that whichever one’s still alive when he comes back gets to go free. But if they’re both still alive, he’ll snap Evelyn’s neck himself.

She reaches for the knife, whimpering that she can’t spend another day here. Oliver begs her to use the knife to unlock his cuffs so they can ambush Chase, but she’s broken, having heard over and over from Chase that she’s dead because she was part of Oliver’s life.

When she rushes him, Oliver knocks her down and grabs the knife, but he hasn’t freed himself by the time Chase strolls back in. Oliver begs him to let Evelyn go, and Chase in turn demands to know what Oliver’s been too afraid to tell Thea, John, and Felicity. Oliver almost sobs as he says he doesn’t know, so Chase snaps Evelyn’s neck. Oliver slumps to the ground, hissing that he’s going to kill Chase.

Flashback: Kovar’s addressing the muckety mucks, telling them that the Bratva launched an assassination attempt, and tomorrow, the media’s going to report that the brothers all accidentally died with their victims. All of Kovar’s men don gas masks as the gas starts pumping into the main room through the air vents.

Oliver makes it to the room with the gas in time to shut it off, and when Kovar shows up, Oliver kills both henchman with one trick arrow shot. He and Kovar leap on each other, and when Oliver’s hood slips, Kovar’s surprised to learn who’s underneath.

Now we cut quickly between the past and the present. Chase continues to insist Oliver give up his secret: The hood is just a disguise, and his heroic crusade just an excuse. Oliver hauls himself off his knees in one fluid motion to stand face to face with Chase (I… may have watched that scene more than once), and Chase is delighted that Oliver’s rage is about more than just wanting to stop him. “Confess, Oliver,” he taunts.

Five years ago, Kovar and Oliver burst into the main casino floor where the guests are dead, dying, or staggering out. Their fight is brutal; I watched Iron Fist this weekend, and honestly, none of those fights were as good as this one, which isn’t even that extravagant on the Arrow scale.

Oliver slashes Kovar across the face, and Anatoly urges him to stop, promising that Kovar will face justice. “You’re right; he’ll face justice,” Oliver says before delivering Kovar a vicious, fatal blow.

In the present, Chase says Oliver doesn’t kill because he has to. “So why? Why do you do it?”

Oliver whispers, “Because I wanted to. I want to.” Then he’s screaming it: “I wanted to. And I liked it.” (Note: These are the tenses as I heard them through all the emotional whisper/yells: past, present, past, past. Closed captioning indicates all present tense “want” and a past tense “liked.” In my mind, this makes a big difference, and I’d love to know what you heard in this scene.)

Chase isn’t surprised, like having recognized like, apparently. And with that, Evelyn jumps up, her “death” just another psychological turn of the screw. She tells Chase she knew Oliver would break, and yeah, this twist got me good.

But poor Oliver’s flat on the floor, leveled by his confession — or realization. Chase won’t let it go, saying that the reason Oliver infects everyone in his life, the reason Tommy and his mother and Laurel are dead, the reason John and Felicity’s lives are worse, is because Oliver’s crusade is based on a lie.

“You promised to let me go,” Oliver finally chokes out. Chase says he will, but not before giving Oliver one final gift. He points at Oliver’s Bratva tattoo, which he says probably reminds Oliver of a great victory. Wielding a blowtorch, he says, “Now when you look at it, you’ll think about our time here together and the secret that you confessed to me.”

Oliver apologies for the pain he caused Chase, and Chase replies that while he believes him, he also doesn’t care. Man, Josh Segarra gives good torture in this role.

Flashback to Oliver receiving the tattoo, side by side with Anatoly, who tells Oliver, “You and joking are not exactly made for each other.” Ha! Since Oliver’s decided to go home, Anatoly says the tattoo will tell any Bratva he meets what kind of man he is. Oh my God, this is maybe the show’s best-ever use of past and present emotional parallels.

Before Oliver leaves, Anatoly hands over his hood, saying he can’t believe the scared kid he met on board the Amazo is the same one who killed Kovar. Oliver says it wasn’t him, it was the hood.

But as Chase will five year later, Anatoly recognizes this for the lie that it is and warns, “Someday it’s going to fall apart, and when it does, you’re not going to like the man you see underneath.”

One last flashback, to Merlyn congratulating a surgeon. Yep, Kovar’s alive, but with a heavily bandaged face. The surgeon won’t give up the name of the person who did this to Kovar, and Merlyn says, “Whoever it is, I’m glad I’m not him.” Ooooh, yessss, we’re going to get scarred, out-for-revenge Kovar in the present, aren’t we?

In the present, Oliver opens his eyes, alone and unchained. He’s been gone for six days, and when he staggers into the Arrow Cave to be greeted by a frantic Felicity, John, and Curtis, the burn obscuring his Bratva tattoo still oozes as he announces, “It’s over for me. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m shutting everything down.”

Alas, we’ll have to wait for next week to hear how the team responds.

Arrows for your quiver

  • If you were curious, Chase called himself Prometheus because in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole power from the gods, who, like Green Arrow, played judge, jury and executioner.
  • Thank goodness for the little bit of light that Anatoly brought to this episode, including this excellent life motto: “See how easy it is to think first and kill people later?”
  • Highest, highest praise for Stephen Amell’s performance this week. He swings from rage and despair to broken and hollow, and it’s effortless and effective and harrowing. Why is Oliver Queen consumed with guilt and blame and shame? Because the desires in his heart are dark — or they were, anyway. Has he worked through that darkness to defeat the monster? Does the growth that we’ve seen over the past five years represent his path out of the shadows? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Episode Recaps

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
  • TV Show
  • 8
stream service