This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 6
As much guff as Arrow deserves to get for its meandering main plot so far in Season 5, it’s already standing head and shoulders above some of its previous years. Especially with outings like “So it Begins,” which found a way to touch upon the two most exciting things this series ever has to offer – heroes and villains.
Last week’s slow-paced episode can hang it’s hat on the thrilling death of Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman). With his untimely passing, by way of a badass throwing star, the series somewhat acknowledged that a street-level criminal, however clevern, isn’t a good enough Big Bad for Green Arrow, even if he is getting star power from the former The Walking Dead. That’s, presumably, why this week opened with Prometheus, the not-quite-Oliver/not-quite-Malcolm dark archer who has been messing about in the background this whole time. He leads Oliver and Diggle on an elaborate mission, complete with timer-activated fire pits, so that he can send a message. That message, burned into the concrete, is simple: “So it begins.”
Just like that, the episode highlighted the villain and got everyone wondering what he’ll do and how he can compare to the nuclear threat of last season’s Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). The answer, as it turns out, is to simply murder a bunch of innocent people. Four bodies are on the ground before Team Arrow catches wind that they’re all the handy work of Prometheus.
Arrow normally does a good job of setting up the illusion of high stakes, without actually zeroing in on any victims. However, in this episode the lives at stake were quite real, and their peril hard to watch. Whether it was the young mother begging for her life inside her own home or the mere image of a cab driver’s body flayed out and bloody, the days of abstract threats from nuclear weapons or magic are over. Instead, people get a little villainous motivation fans can all get behind: killing innocent people is bad. This is especially potent in the larger Arrow mythos as the main hero’s relationship with death has been complicated as of late.
As fans will remember, Season 1 opened with Oliver crossing names off a master kill list. He used his bow to actually take out the bad guys rather than wound them and let the police sort it out. That changed and, frankly, really got in the way at some points. However, with the death of his cohort Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), he’s returned a not-so-gentle vigilante. It’s the main reason that Thea has had such a lame role so far as the behind-the-scenes mayor of Star City, which apparently her years as a nightclub manager prepared her for. It’s also why Diggle has been so depressed lately, having murdered his crazy brother and all.
Prometheus’ grand plan and Oliver’s horrifying past come to a big head when his new team Evelyn Sharp, Curtis Holt, Rene Ramirez, and Rory “Ragman” Regan discover that Oliver was keeping Prometheus a secret, as well as his past exploits as a serial killer. This plotline gave Evelyn some much needed room to develop. In previous episodes, Wild Dog got most of the screen time, Ragman had his plot with Felicity, and Mr. Terrific has been around an extra year. Evelyn, however, has just been resigned to the background. She was even left out of the insufferable catch-up episode from last week. Although her stake in this debate wasn’t exactly the most meaty arc for the character, it’s the best she’s gotten so far.
“So It Begins” isn’t without it’s pacing issues, but it does a good job of hanging a lantern on the two things that have made Arrow great since the beginning. The intense villains mixed with the legitimate internal drama (none of that, “it’s so hard to be ultra good” nonsense that you get on The Flash) came together in a stage-setting adventure that finally gave fans a Big Bad of the year worth getting behind… Also he’s different from Malcolm Merlyn, so shut up.
Fortunately for fans, the wins didn’t stop there. It’s always hard to talk about any one piece of the flashback plotlines on this series, given that there’s precious little story told in the larger arc each episode. However, “So It Begins” is significant because it gave fans their first look at none other than Konstantin Kovar, played by the legendary action hero (and faux-Russian badass) Dolph Lundgren. The actor is best known, in recent memory, for characters who are quiet and kind of dumb. That’s why it was so refreshing to see Kovar opening with a maniacal monologue about teamwork and his family village pulling a turnip out of the ground. As he tells his captive young Oliver all this, he’s delicately taking off his tuxedo and snapping a man’s neck.
Sure the tension is watered down a bit knowing that Oliver not only escapes his captivity but somehow eventually makes it back to the island of Lian Yu, but with Prometheus’ identity still called into question (despite big clues from tonight’s episode about him being connected to the Star City PD and former Captain Lance), it’s possible that the series will lean on star power even more as the Russia plotline continues to unfold.