Arrow – Season 5 Episode 16
Arrow turns the antagonistic relationship between Oliver and Prometheus on its head when Oliver learns his true identity and works to find a way to beat him.
Last week’s reveal that Prometheus is Adrian chase behind the mask was equal parts surprising and unsurprising. This could be a personal thing as I had assumed that Adrian was moonlighting as Vigilante but it was at least clear that Adrian was hiding something. This episode wastes no time letting Oliver in on Adrian’s secret when he seeks out Talia and she simply tells him. Oliver finding out this way is slightly underwhelming as it is reasonably something he could have done weeks ago. Fair enough it might have been difficult to track Talia down but it removes the potential for the reveal to Oliver to be more powerful. Talia’s role in this plot is something that I’ll come back to.
From then on the episode fires on full cylinders as Oliver tries to find a way to legally do something about Adrian. It’s clear that Adrian has covered his tracks far too well by building up a lot of trust in Star City through his job and the connections this gives him. Essentially this allows him to be overt with his threats to Team Arrow because he knows that legally nothing can be done about it. It creates a fascinating dynamic between Oliver and Adrian who have to work together for the sake of appearances because there’s nothing that Oliver can do to prove what he already knows. It’s a rarely seen way to effectively use the concept of a secret identity. Oliver can’t do anything about Chase without first compromising his dual identity as the Green Arrow which would almost certainly cost him the Mayor’s Office. Until then he has to bide his time and hope that Adrian doesn’t do something horrible before he can figure out what to do next. There was a similar use of the secret identity being a barrier to the truth in a recent episode of Supergirl but this was handled in a much more sophisticated way.
Adrian has proven himself to be a competent villain who is able to handle the fact that his identity is known by Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow. His working relationship with Oliver as the Mayor hasn’t really changed in any significant way but there’s a tense undercurrent to any scene they spend together out of costume. Josh Segarra is great at playing this detached and threatening persona while Oliver is constantly on edge and looking for a way to get the upper hand but always comes up short.
The main source of protection for Adrian is Susan. He has taken her hostage in a location that only he knows which prevents Oliver from killing him since that knowledge would die with him. Holding the girlfriend of the hero hostage is definitely a tired cliche that is used far too often but this episode smartly keeps it in the background. Oliver’s relationship with Susan was never really strong enough to be something worth investing in so any attempt to capitalise on the drama associated with it wouldn’t really work. It does mean that her captivity has less urgency but as a purely mechanical reason for Oliver to not kill Adrian in the corridors of City Hall it more than does the job.
Susan’s captivity also represents Adrian identifying that Oliver’s relationships with other people are his greatest weakness. He is making that point by putting others that he cares about in danger and it really gets to Oliver in a big way. His conversation with Diggle shows how much Adrian has caused him to doubt himself and think about all the ways that Adrian could use other people against him. He uses the example of his son which would definitely be the most extreme hostage that Adrian could take and I’d be surprised if that would be a line that Adrian would never cross. I found this self doubt interesting because the show has spent a lot of time developing Oliver’s connection with his team as something that gives him strength and improves his ability to help people as the Green Arrow so having Oliver consider that a weakness is a massive blow to his ego that is difficult to recover from. Diggle is there to pick up the pieces but the damage has been done.
Oliver’s reaction to this is to try to handle things himself. He sees Adrian as his problem because he feels responsible for creating him so doesn’t want to drag anyone else into this conflict. Diggle is always there to support him and the rest of the team have gotten to the point where they are willing to trust Oliver so his support network freely supports him and Oliver doesn’t have a choice in accepting their help. It’s a satisfying resolution to this conflict but I’d like to see more of this. Proving that relying on others makes people stronger could be an important victory that Oliver gains against Adrian.
I really liked the scenes between Adrian and Oliver because of how the dynamic was put across. Adrian is completely in control and knows it so comes across as eerily calm where Oliver knows that he has absolutely nothing to offer and is clearly starting to panic over the situation. Everything he attempts as Mayor to bring Adrian down fails because Adrian is able to live up to the statements he makes about being 10 steps ahead in a game that Oliver doesn’t even understand. Oliver’s plan to give Captain Pike enough information to begin an investigation that would lead to Adrian being exposed is a clear example of this as Adrian arranges for him to be stabbed so severely that he ends up in a coma. It sends a clear message that Adrian has thought of almost everything.
Adrian’s endgame is ultimately unclear but it does involve tearing Oliver’s life apart in some way and the way he articulated that was really well done. I like the idea of loss taking a toll on someone over time and Adrian’s theory that Oliver couldn’t handle much more of it before being broken beyond repair. Could this be hinting that Oliver will be ending this season a completely broken man once something else is taken from him? Losing Susan might be enough to do that or perhaps one of the other characters.
There is one angle that Adrian hadn’t considered. Oliver using his wife against him by forcing her to see what he’s become and make him answer for it is a great idea but I don’t buy that Adrian wouldn’t have thought of it. He must have realised that his wife might be someone that Oliver uses against him once his identity was know but it’s possible that he misjudged how far Oliver might be willing to go. This scenario ties back to the idea of relying on others being a weakness since she is a weakness he has until he kills her and removes any leverage that Oliver has over him by using her. It was an emotionally resonant scene and I really liked how conflicted Segarra played Adrian murdering his wife. Following this up by having him tell Quentin that he’s in mourning in such a dispassionate way shows just how far gone he is.
Oliver’s other issue is that it is going to be very difficult for him to act as the Green Arrow because of what Adrian is making him do. Adrian has engineered events so that Green Arrow gets blamed for the things that Prometheus is responsible for Oliver is forced to issue a demand for Green Arrow to turn himself in or face a kill order from the SCPD. He has gone from being the City’s hero to public enemy number one and it’s Oliver who has to make these decisions in order to protect his identity. It’s really compelling stuff and I suspect Oliver’s future as a vigilante will be explored in the coming episodes.
Talia coming into the present day both works and doesn’t. She reveals that she is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and that she’s working with Adrian because she wants to bring justice to the man who killed her father. They were estranged from one another but it does make sense that she would feel some kind of loyalty and desire to avenge him. Where it doesn’t work is that the reveal was a surprise to Oliver. It shouldn’t have been too difficult to draw a connection between Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul considering he received League of Assassins training from her and knew about her long life being a “family trait”. At least Oliver is consistent in his cluelessness but I think at the very least he should have had some inkling.
I hope it doesn’t turn out that Adrian is simply a pawn in some larger scheme by Talia. It was a mistake to do this with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises as it removed all agency from him and the same would be true of this. If they are simply working together towards a common goal then that works and it does seem like that might be the case but I’m not sure Talia’s motivation is strong enough for her to be the mastermind behind everything. Talia becoming more prominent in the show is best saved for next season where she can be further developed. It’s important to keep Prometheus as Oliver’s main antagonist.
Felicity is descending further into the obvious corruption that is Helix. They are routinely ignoring the concept of privacy to further their own goals and I’m getting the impression that their intentions might be less than honourable. It was only a matter of time before Felicity was asked to do something in return for all the information she has been provided and that time is now. Curtis points out how concerning all of this but Felicity doesn’t want to hear it as she thinks her questionable actions are all in service of the “greater good”. It’s probably too late in the season for this to become a significant problem but I could see it building next season.
I really like Kojo Sledgehammer (Kacey Rohl) as a character to bounce off Felicity in different ways. Outwardly she seems idealistic but she’s clearly scheming beneath the surface of her pleasant demeanour and if played right she could become a really interesting antagonist for Team Arrow in the future.
The flashbacks are rapidly losing momentum and becoming uninteresting. They have been strong this season and the story is still interesting in the broader sense but the week to week has become fairly dull. The highlight in this episode was Anatoly making fun of Oliver’s double identity with special attention paid to his voice and reasons for wearing the hood.
Another great Arrow episode with a shift in the antagonistic relationship between Adrian and Oliver. Adrian’s identity being known to the team did nothing to reduce his upper hand and the entire episode became about Oliver scrambling to find a way to win. I like that Adrian made him doubt relying on a team because it gives him more to lose and the way that Adrian has prepared for almost everything and managed to discredit the Green Arrow in the eyes of the city makes him a really competent villain. Oliver using his wife against him was a really nice touch as well as it was something Adrian hadn’t thought of even though he should have. Talia being involved in this story sort of works but Oliver should have drawn the connection between her and Ra’s Al Ghul. I just hope that she isn’t the brains behind everything and that Adrian loses agency as a result.
Felicty’s dealings with Helix are getting more concerning now that they are asking for favours in return. She sees no problem with her questionable actions and it feels like Helix are being built as a future antagonist for Team Arrow. Unfortunately the flashbacks are rapidly losing momentum but it is amusing to see Anatoly make fun of Oliver for putting on a hood.
- the shifting Oliver/Adrian dynamic
- Adrian’s ability to be ahead of Oliver at almost every turn
- Felicity getting deeper into the dark hacker group
- continued loss of momentum in the flashbacks