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In the first half of season 5, Arrow ran two “Who is that Masked Super Villain?” mysteries concurrently. Fans were left debating the identities of Prometheus and the Vigilante. The latter seemed easy to deduce: DC Comics die hards knew that the comic book Vigilante’s secret identity was Adrian Chase, and Adrian Chase just happened to be the name of Star City’s new district attorney (Josh Segarra).
What fans didn’t know is that Arrow’ s producers were playing a game of bait-and-switch. Never shy to take DC characters and make them “ Arrow-fied”, the series revealed that Adrian Chase was actually Prometheus, who plotted an elaborate revenge scheme against Mayor Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). As for the Vigilante, he simply disappeared for the rest of the season as Prometheus/Chase took center stage as the season’s Big Bad.
On this week’s Deathstroke-centric episode ‘Deathstroke Returns’, Arrow decided to surprise fans again by not only bringing Vigilante back but also suddenly revealing his true identity. When Vigilante took aim at Star City Councilwoman Emily Pollard for putting forth the Anti-Vigilante Referendum requested by Mayor Queen, Lt. Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), who is also the Black Canary, confronted the Vigilante and shattered his visor with her Canary Cry sonic scream. Vigilante abruptly unmasked and revealed the scarred face of Vincent Sobel (Clayton Chitty).
If the name Vincent Sobel sounds familiar, it’s because he was Dinah Drake’s partner when they were both detectives with the Central City Police Department, and he was also her boyfriend. Four years ago, they went undercover to bring down the crime lord Sean Sonus, but their covers were blown. Dinah was kidnapped and tortured, and Sonus executed Sobel by shooting him in the head in front of her. However, Sobel getting shot happened at the exact same moment the STAR Labs particle accelerator exploded. Dinah thought Sobel was dead and, as a metahuman with a newfound sonic scream, she went on to become a vigilante to eventually bring Sonus to justice. But now it turns out Sobel wasn’t dead after all; he too is a metahuman and his power is a healing factor (but apparently not the kind that heals the scars on his face).
The full details of why Sobel donned a costume of his own and became mass murderer with the most generic codename ever aren’t yet known. Even before Dinah came to Star City, the Vigilante was already racking up a body count. Now that they know his identity, Team Arrow was able to find the Vigilante’s lair and saw his massive arsenal. Dinah noted that before he forged his own bullets, Sobel’s hobby was creating matchbox art, with little paper roses inside. Sobel left one for Dinah after he went after Councilwoman Pollard once again, only to be thwarted a second time by the Black Canary at the Channel 52 building. ( Arrow did humorously note in dialogue that after months of silence, what drew Vigilante back into action was the literal threat of an Anti-Vigilante Referendum.)
Prometheus’s vendetta against the Green Arrow was a deeply personal one, so it’s fitting that Arrow ‘s creative team decided to make the Vigilante’s backstory also very personal, but to a different Team Arrow member. After joining Green Arrow’s crime fighting group, Dinah didn’t have much of a story besides her reticence in accepting the mantle of Black Canary. Bringing Dinah’s origin story full circle so that her past confronts her and makes her question the choices she made – “I’m not the only one wearing a mask,” Vigilante tells Black Canary – is a solid creative move. Vigilante’s true identity is also a surprise most fans didn’t see coming. Time will tell if Arrow will make the most of Black Canary’s very intimate animosity with the Vigilante – or if she will somehow decide to leave Team Arrow and join him if the romance between Dinah and Vincent is rekindled.