Summary: A good summation of the season so far, introducing the real personal threat the new big bad poses for Oliver.
If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
Following Tobias Church’s death, Prometheus leads Green Arrow and Spartan to a message left in fire: “So It Begins.” The evil hood is killing seemingly random people using ornate throwing stars that look similar to large arrowheads. Oliver and Diggle are reluctant to bring in the recruits until they figure out what’s going on, but when they do, the young ones bristle at being left out, specifically Evelyn. Felicity takes one of the throwing stars in evidence from her boyfriend to study it, and eventually reveals to him that she’s working with Green Arrow. She and Curtis determine that the names of people being killed are anagrams for those on Robert Queen’s list of corrupt people. The recruits are shocked to find out Oliver was the Hood and the Arrow, more or less a serial killer when he first started, and question whether they want to work with him. Oliver is bothered by their reaction and that he might still be the same man. Diggle assures him he’s not just simply by asking that question.
Meanwhile, Thea is trying to put together a music festival while also noticing that Quentin is frequently late. She discovers he never quit drinking and wants to help him get sober. Analyzing the list, Felicity determines six potential targets for Felicity for each team member to watch over. Prometheus attacks Evelyn’s target. As he fights him, she slashes his arm. Green Arrow has to come in to protect her and the target, and Evelyn and Oliver come to an understanding. Later, Felicity reveals to Oliver that the throwing stars are made from the various arrows he’s used over the last 4+ years. They figure someone with access to SCPD evidence is or is helping Prometheus. At his apartment, Quentin wakes on his couch, disoriented. He discovers a slash on his arm and one of the throwing stars on his table.
In the past, while Oliver trains in skills like bomb making, the Brtva is attacked in a drive-by by Constantine Kovar’s men. They learn that Kovar wants the territory so he can build a casino. They recruit Oliver to pretend to be his former playboy self trying to help fund the casino so they can get in and blow up the building. Oliver’s knocked unconscious while trying to set the bombs and later wakes to find himself face to face with Kovar.
It’s the safest bet going that Quentin Lance is not Prometheus. The episode put in a few hours of overtime to try to sell it, but it never felt like it wasn’t in on the fact that you, the audience, knows that this is a classic bit of misdirection.
Thea spends the episode questioning Quentin’s sobriety after he shows up late to Oliver’s interview with Susan Williams, just the latest in a growing pattern of tardiness. Finding out she was right makes a lot of sense, and good on Arrow for not blowing Quentin’s addiction and escapism off as minor annoyance in the way of finding something new to do with his life. Even locating some purpose doesn’t erase that inherent hole one feels in themselves, especially given the loss Quentin has experienced. Coping with positive changes in one’s life, just as with the negative ones, can find an outlet in drinking or whatever addiction of choice.
Yet, with the tag at the end of the hour showing Quentin’s slashed arm and his discovery of the oversized arrowhead-like “throwing star,” the assertion was that his disappearances and squirreliness were a result of him hunting people down as the new hooded menace. By the same turn, he wakes up dazed and confused about what is going on, unsure why he’s injured and just what the hell the throwing star is there for. One could infer the idea that Quentin goes into some kind of unconscious trance and turns into Prometheus, but that would feel convoluted. The likely scenario is that Prometheus is trying to set Quentin up, especially given the evidence Felicity uncovers about the make-up of the throwing stars. Someone with familiarity and potential access to the SCPD evidence store to retrieve any and all arrows Oliver has left behind over the last 4-plus years could strongly point to Quentin, but it’s an obvious ploy.
What’s really fascinating about Prometheus in the episode is the motivation and connection to Oliver. We were told going into the season that the new baddie would have links to season 1 Oliver and his efforts as “the Hood.” It’s the execution that’s proving really fun and one of the best developments the show has had in years. Crafting the stars out of Oliver’s used arrowheads and targeting people whose names were anagrams of people on Oliver’s father’s list is both engaging and downright personal in its creepiness. It’s a clever way to tie everything together, and proves yet another integral piece in slowly — and smally — building this season into potentially its strongest since Season 2.
The effect of learning about the list on the team of new recruits is an even better instigator. The ragtag group is still finding itself as a cohesive unit, learning to trust one another. Having Oliver’s seeming mistrust of them as a catalyst to bring them closer feels properly motivated. Road-worn Oliver and Diggle checking things out before bringing it to the team as a whole makes a great deal of sense; they can sort out the valuable intel and focus from the cruft. But that level of a well-oiled machine requires everyone to be up to speed and on the same page, and the newbies just aren’t feeling that yet.
It’s learning that Oliver Queen — Green Arrow — is actually the Hood, the murderous vigilante who took the entire criminal justice process into his own hands and freaked the city out five years ago, that really kicks them off and proves far more necessary to the story arc. What’s so effective about this is it gives us a context we either hadn’t considered or hadn’t really thought about in a long time. As an audience, we’ve naturally just bought into Oliver’s crusade from the outset. We were somewhat aware of the public’s perception of his methods to start, and it was a big point in him needing to embrace the Arrow persona and move away from killing for the public to accept that he was there to help.
Make no mistake, Oliver was an assassin when he first came back with a hitlist, just like Floyd Lawton. His intentions might have been good, but it wasn’t until Diggle pointed out to him that he could use his abilities to help others that Oliver began to shift his mind and eventually head down the hero’s path. So, it was a bit odd but completely on-point to hear the recruits talk in disgust when realizing Oliver was that killer. It’s a terrific use of the show’s history and narrative legacy. But it does underline an inherent hypocrisy in Oliver’s approach to the new team.
Part of his training the team is that he doesn’t want them out in the field potentially making bigger problems. Amongst those problems is Wild Dog or Artemis taking lives as their only solution to fight crime on the streets. After focusing on the heated relationship between Rene and Oliver — it’s a great bit of continuity that Rene is still dealing with the wounds from Church’s torture — for a couple of episodes, it’s welcome and invigorating to shine the spotlight on Oliver and Evelyn.
In many ways, Evelyn’s got the most baggage from Oliver’s intervention on the city. Her parents were held captive and then died at the hands of Damien Darhk, losing their lives in a situation that Green Arrow could’ve potentially saved them from. Then, she was motivated by Laurel’s death to take up Black Canary’s mantle and cause, though Oliver shut her down because he didn’t want her to tarnish BC’s unique legacy in a play for revenge. Evelyn was not concerned with Oliver’s self-imposed restriction, and that he’s trying to force it now, all the while having been a cold-blooded killer himself, her reaction is justified. (Though, trying to apply logic to executions by a 17-year-old masked vigilante is a bit precarious, as it is.)
It’s great to see Diggle back as Oliver’s moral touchstone. The show is really at its best when the two are partners, working together, and providing the support they need to be better individuals. Diggle points out that, despite his return to killing when dealing with Church’s men, Oliver is still fundamentally a different man than he was when he returned from Lian Yu to start this thing even by him questioning himself. It’s a great point, but more important, it was good to see them fall back into those roles and connect again. Coupled with Felicity’s jokey asides throughout the hour, Original Team Arrow put on a good show this outing.
Still, it was Diggle reminding Oliver that he is a good man who is flawed but is constantly trying to be better that allows he and Evelyn to come to an agreement. Anything to strengthen the bonds between the team is welcome, and it was especially fun to briefly see them all in action at the open-air mall while trying to quell the panicked crowd.
Back to Prometheus, as obvious a ploy as the Quentin misdirection is, how much more plain can they telegraph that new ACU hotshot Detective Billy Malone might be said shuriken enthusiast? Look, it’s likely Malone is not Prometheus, but one can’t help but feel he’s the boyfriend in the slasher horror film where everyone’s trying to guess the secret killer and things just keep oddly turning toward him. There is nothing explicit, but the setup and the tone seem to want to offer Malone up, in addition to the fact that we know nothing of him other than he’s a cop and Felicity’s boyfriend. The kind of maybe-too-good-to-be-true boyfriend who instantly accepts that his lady love is working with a known vigilante.
“So It Begins” is a great summation of the first episodes of the season, cementing Prometheus as the kind of threat that made Slade Wilson so much of a joy to invest in. Rather than some looming menace that threatens to obliterate the city, this goes straight to the core of all Oliver has done in the series up to this point. It gives Oliver a chance to remind himself who he is now, and that allows him to forge a better connection with his team. Rooting everything in character more than simply plot is proving to be the best element of what appears to be a rejuvenated season.