Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched this week’s Arrow! If you know Prometheus’ true identity, carry on.
Arrow’s season five big bad was finally unmasked on Wednesday’s episode, revealing the villainous Prometheus to be none other than Star City District Attorney Adrian Chase!
The no-nonsense DA had seemed to be one of Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) closest allies as mayor, but after a battle with another Arrow unknown, Vigilante, Chase (Josh Segarra) removed his Prometheus mask to reveal his true identity as the cold-blooded killer whose only goal is to ruin Oliver’s life after suffering a loss at the hands of his season one persona, The Hood.
“We really did want to, this season, build a villain that would be a dark mirror for Oliver, in the tradition of the comic books,” Arrow EP Wendy Mericle explained on a conference call with reporters last week. “Really honoring that and also honoring Oliver’s path on the show, and specifically, the first season. They’ve both suffered losses and they both answer those losses in very different ways.”
At the moment, Team Arrow believes Prometheus to be the illegitimate son of Justin Claybourne, a pharmaceutical CEO who was on The Hood’s infamous “list” of targets back in season one. But Mericle explained there’s even more to the character than meets the eye.
“On this show, historically, we’ve always striven to have the villain be the hero of their own story and really kind of get underneath the reasons why they are what they are and they do what they do,” she said. “Adrian Chase is no exception. We will get a lot more sense going forward as to why he has become so evil, why he’s so bent on revenge. The thing that’s the most interesting about it for us is just how close the parallels are with Oliver’s own story.”
Segarra also spoke to reporters about portraying the dual role, a hard-nosed litigator by day and a vengeance-hungry villain by night.
“I wanted to track this guy. You can’t come out the gate as Adrian Chase as this like, pissed-off killer, this tortured soul,” he explained. “I wanted to start somewhere, so with Chase, there was that part that you had to show him getting close to Oliver. You had to show why they trusted each other, and you want to make sure you do that within the confines that you’re given… I needed to know Oliver better than he knows himself.”
“You always want to find the good in them. You want to find what made that person,” he added of his complex character. “Because bad people don’t think that they’re bad, there’s a justification behind that.”
Part of Prometheus’ long game was earning Oliver’s trust as an ally in City Hall. Viewers watched Chase team up with Star City’s embattled mayor in last week’s episode to collude and cover for the Green Arrow as the Anti-Crime Unit investigated Detective Malone’s death -- and he even helped save John Diggle (David Ramsey), Oliver’s right-hand man, earlier in the season.
“This is part of his psychological torture of Oliver,” Mericle explained. “The further he gets into Oliver’s head, the closer he gets to gaining his confidence and gaining his trust. Obviously one of the ways to do that is by gaining the trust and confidence of the people that Oliver cares about. It was definitely part of his long-term game, and those chickens will definitely come home to roost by the end of the season.”
“Oliver does let him in, you know? And Oliver doesn’t let many people in,” Segarra added. “You have to show why he earns Oliver's respect… Now, you’re going to get to see it turn. This whole time, I’ve been waiting to kind of pop that top off.”
But, while Arrow fans now know that Chase and Prometheus are one in the same, it will be some time before Team Arrow comes to the same realization.
“We’re gonna watch the pot get stirred a little bit,” Segarra hinted. “You’re gonna see Chase just kind of trying to burn the world around him. I think we’ve seen the reluctance to kill [Oliver], I never want to kill him. It’s just to make sure that he can make him stir a little bit, make him uncomfortable… Once they do find out, it’s how then to continue with my mission.”
“I think one of the fun parts about what we’ve done is to really allow us to live with that reveal for a while and live with seeing the characters not knowing what their lives are like and still continuing to interact with Adrian Chase at City Hall and elsewhere without knowing his real identity,” Mericle added. “We really liked the idea of doing that story, and we're gonna play around with that for a little while before we let Oliver and the team find out.”
Mericle also gave some insight as to why Arrow producers decided to reveal Segarra’s Adrian Chase as Prometheus, rather than Vigilante, as many fans predicted due to the character’s arc in the DC Comics universe.
“I think one of the reasons we did do it was because everyone would be thinking, ‘Of course he’s going to be Vigilante,’” she admitted. “We thought it would be a really fun twist to do what we’ve always done on the show, which is to take the comic book mythology and turn it on its head and see what kind of story we could mine from a surprise like that.”
Part of the fun of creating a non-canonical villain, Mericle explained, was being able to draw on other inspirations for the season’s big bad.
“One of the things we talked a lot about was American Psycho. We talked about the big manipulators, people like Hannibal Lecter and Kevin Spacey’s character in The Usual Suspects, and also [the villain] in Seven,” she recounted. “We talked about those type of villains and how to bring that type of element into the series, because we were looking for something different to do in season five, a way to change it up and make it different.”
Even Segarra himself was surprised by the bait-and-switch, admitting that he had talked to producers about the show’s history of big bads -- and even the character of Prometheus -- but had no idea what he was in for until he arrived in Vancouver to begin filming.
“They announce Adrian Chase… and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m playing Vigilante!’” he said with a laugh. “I start reading Vigilante comics and I’m reading about Chase and the history of these guys, and I get to work and I’m talking to Marc [Guggenheim, Arrow executive producer] and I’m like, ‘Marc, I’m really doing my research, I’m really being studious about this Vigilante guy.’ And he’s like, ‘What do you mean?... That’s not who you’re playing. You’re playing this other guy.’”
After that, Segarra recalled, he got his first look at the Prometheus suit, which is when the character began to come together for him.
“I’d seen the Arrow [suit] for a couple years now, so it was a very cool feeling to know that there were images of that in it,” he recalled. “Because that’s what I wanted for the character to be, I wanted to be that counterpart...The first time I put that suit on, it told me a lot about who Prometheus was.”
“Behind that mask, I am screaming my face off sometimes, and I am just living out every supervillain dream that I’ve ever had,” he added with a laugh. “I’m putting it into that costume.”
As the show moves towards the season five finale -- and Oliver’s ultimate showdown with Prometheus -- Mericle and Segarra explained that both the masked villain and his plainclothes counterpart will continue working to destroy the Star City hero by targeting those closest to him.
“We really wanted to build [Prometheus] up as someone who is really good at being 10 steps ahead of Oliver, really being psychological in the way that he manipulates him and one of the ways he does that is by going after the people that Oliver cares about,” Mericle reiterated. “He really has no drive to kill Oliver, it’s purely based on torture.”
The next step in that plan, as viewers saw at the end of Wednesday’s episode, involves kidnapping Oliver’s estranged girlfriend, Susan Williams (Carly Pope), whose feelings of betrayal may align her more closely with the villainous vigilante than anyone expected.
“In taking Susan… it’s all part and parcel of this drive to break Oliver down psychologically, as opposed to physically,” Mericle explained. “We’ve seen Slade and Merlyn take him on hand-to-hand, this is much more of a mental game.”
“It’s the chess match,” Segarra added. “That’s what Chase has been playing this whole time, he’s moving pieces that he knows Oliver’s not going to be able to catch up with. And I think that Susan is a very, very important piece of that puzzle. Chase knows that. And I think that there are other very important pieces of the puzzle, other pieces on that chess board, that he’s gonna move.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.