Five years ago, Oliver Queen left Russia to bring justice to Starling City (via a detour to Lian Yu, the only plausible cover story for his whereabouts for the last half a decade). Before he left, he helped his Bratva brothers steal the drugs necessary to treat a tuberculosis epidemic in a population too poor to afford the medicine, and Anatoly worried about what kind of pakhan he would become without Oliver by his side.
As it turns out, Anatoly was right to be concerned. But the man who wasn’t worried about the ramifications of his new mission? His name was Oliver Queen.
I offer you this introduction because tonight’s Arrow opens without the usual voiceover, as a broken Oliver has disbanded his team after Chase forced him to confess that his mission was really an excuse to indulge his bloodlust.
In the Arrow Cave, Felicity’s face is soft with sympathy as Oliver tells her, John, and Curtis that their lives are worse because of him. He begs them to leave, but John sticks around, sensing this his friend shouldn’t be alone. But Oliver’s adamant, and they quite literally go their separate ways, walking in opposite directions as mournful violins play over the soundtrack.
The team (sans Oliver) convene in Felicity’s loft, which she declares their new secret lair since Oliver reprogrammed the Arrow Cave’s security settings. John insists that Oliver will get over it, and in the meantime, they need to keep the city safe while Felicity figures out how to stop Chase.
At City Hall, Quentin confirms that he covered for Oliver during his disappearance, and now he’s ready to take Chase down. But Oliver repeats that it’s over. “He’s already won.”
Then the man himself strolls in to thank Oliver to granting him bereavement leave to properly mourn his wife. Say one thing for Adrian Chase: He’s bold. And Oliver’s so defeated that he simply takes it, even when Chase tosses a knife onto the mayoral desk in an invitation to kill him. Oliver declines, and Chase smirks that he’s disappointed, then skips off into SCPD protective custody — you know, since Green Arrow killed his wife. He does let Oliver keep the knife, though.
The next person through Oliver’s door is Susan. He does his usual “this is all my fault” song and dance, and Susan (brace yourselves; I’m about to say something nice) is understanding and reasonable about her recent kidnapping, insisting that he’s not to blame. Of course, she does tell him that it’d be helpful if he’d corroborate her statement to police that Prometheus is Chase. But this plan would force him to reveal his identity as the Green Arrow, and Oliver assumes that Chase has already prepared for that. His new plan is to do something unexpected.
Then Oliver tells Susan, “I can’t be with you. My apologies if that’s presumptuous.” Ha! What a great breakup line. Susan pouts and leaves, and if we’re very lucky, this is the last we’ll see of her. Again, imagine how much more powerful this whole story line would’ve been if Susan had been a love interest that anyone in the audience was rooting for.
Oh, and that unexpected plan of Oliver’s? Yeah, it’s opening the town up to Russian gangsters. That’s right! He welcomes Anatoly to Star City, telling him, “I need you to kill Adrian Chase.” Nope, no way will this backfire.
Oliver and Anatoly chat in the Arrow Cave amid the boxes where Oliver’s packed away the costumes that used to hang on the mannequins. He admits that the hood couldn’t contain his monster, and Anatoly doesn’t miss the opportunity to crow. “Such a burden, always being right. Life has no secrets.” He’s pleased Oliver sees himself clearly now and has remembered his Bratva oath. Then he insists on a two-part payment in order to perform the work, and Oliver agrees. Nope, no backfire potential here at all.
At Helix HQ, Kojo presents Felicity with a compilation of Prometheus’ greatest surveillance video hits in the hopes that there’s a shot of him taking off his hood so they can implicate Chase. Alas, he uses optic scrambling tech to pixelate his image on cameras, which is super cool. The women are excited that if it’s tech, they can engineer a solution, although Felicity soon realizes that un-pixelating his face on camera will require her to be in physical contact with his tech.