Arrow: Checkmate


That Pandora file was really well named

The writers on Arrow have done a great job of letting comic book fans mislead themselves at the series has gone on. Several characters with familiar names from the comics have shown up, and turned out to not be much like the originals at all. Kate Spenser, the first DA in Star City to get killed, was Manhunter in the comics, but was just a supporting character in the series. Likewise, as we found out last episode, while Adrian Chase is the Vigilante in the comics, he wasn’t in the show. And, this episode’s title carries on the tradition. Checkmate is a powerful spy agency that’s been around the DCU since the 80’s. I really expected they might turn up in this episode, but no, “Checkmate” has nothing to do with the organization.

Once again, Oliver is faced with a big problem, and ends up in the mountains. I had thought at first he’d gone back to Nanda Parbat, which had me curious, since Malcolm is off with the Legion of Doom as far as I know. But no, this is yet another isolated mountain fortress full of fighters. We never do find out the name of the place, but this is Talia’s school. After Oliver wades through her current crop of students, she comes out of the shadows to talk with him.

Talia is fully aware of Oliver’s problems with Prometheus. She tells Oliver Prometheus doesn’t want to kill him, he wants to destroy him. We’ve heard this a few times too many this season. Oliver gets a few major shocks in this meeting. He learns that Talia is Ra’s’ daughter, but that revelation gets lost when she tells him that Prometheus is currently calling himself Adrian Chase.

Things aren’t going smoothly in Star City, either. Felicity is ignoring texts from Curtis as she gets in deeper with Helix, the shadowy hacker group she’s been dealing with lately. Kojo, the woman Felicity’s been talking with, calls it an international operation, like a UN that can actually accomplish things.

Oliver goes back to work and finds that Chase is actually there, much to his surprise. They have a veiled conversation with a lot of double meaning to it. Later, in the parking garage, Green Arrow confronts Chase. Chase taunts the archer, saying that he’s the only one who knows where Susan Williams is, so if he’s not free, she’ll die from dehydration. “I’m ten steps ahead of you, and don’t even know what game we’re playing,” he says smugly before leaving

Back at the Lair, Oliver brings the team, minus Felicity, up to speed about Chase. Dinah, newcomer to the city, is particularly surprised that the DA is supervillain/serial killer. No one knows where Felicity is, and the various off-screen characters, including the once-again absent Thea, are “safe.” The team essentially goes around in circles, finally agreeing that they can’t do anything until Susan is safe and don’t have anything to take to the police.

Green Arrow and Spartan go to check on a sub-basement in Chase’s house, while Mr. Terrific and Black Canary go pay another call on Chase’s mother, which seems pointless to me. The second team use Terrific’s T-Spheres to scan the house, amid Terrific’s making horror movie references. They do find something surprising after some tension building. Arrow and Spartan find a mostly empty house and then have a run in with Mrs. Chase, who seems terrified of GA. After Quentin and Rene have another confrontation with Adrian at City Hall, the Anti-Crime Unit storms the Chases’ house, and Green Arrow has to use a ninja smoke bomb kind of thing to get away.

Once again back at the Lair, the team finds no leads from their most recent attempts. Oliver muses that he should never have gotten involved with Susan. Felicity finally reappears, apologizing but not explaining her absence. Oliver clears the room, and just sits and stares at Felicity for a few moments. He finally says he’s not mad, it’s not like she works for him. He’s worried about her. Slightly hypocritically, he says that keeping secrets doesn’t end well. She finally agrees, but says right now isn’t a good time for big discussions, and I’ll grant that point to her. She has dug up Prometheus’ birth name, Simon Morrison, and gives Oliver a flashdrive to prove it. She’s then surprised when he takes off to bring it to Captain Pike right away, and Oliver says he has to make a statement about Green Arrow breaking in to Chase’s home.

Chase plays up the grief and worry of having a maniac attack his family because City Hall has been speaking out against Green Arrow. Oliver takes over the podium and says he will not allow anyone to terrorize the city, shooting a sidelong glance at Chase. Oliver then says he’ll give Green Arrow 24 hours to turn himself in or he’ll issue a shoot on sight order. Ok, 1) the mayor doesn’t run the police department, and 2) “shoot on sight orders,” as much as tv and movies love them, aren’t a real thing.

After the press conference (has a hero show ever had so many of those?), Oliver goes to see Captain Pike. He gives the flashdrive to Pike and tells him about Chase’s fake background. Pike is skeptical, not helped any by Oliver avoiding answering any of the Captain’s questions about it. Felicity goes back to Helix for help in finding Susan, and Kojo mentions that Felicity keeps using Helix for her own ends, but what has she done for them? Felicity agrees and promises to help break into a Homeland Security system without knowing why. I swear, Kojo is the CW version of Mr. Gold from Once Upon A Time.

Pike manages to order a background investigation on Simon Morrison, so at least that much went right. But then he leaves, and in the same alley where cops keep getting ambushed, gets stabbed by a hooded figure. Someone really should put up signs in that alley. Or at least a guard. Oliver and Quentin go to the hospital, where they learn that Pike is in a coma. They go to Pike’s room, and Chase is already in there, for some more threats. Chase says that Oliver is just one more tragic loss away from breaking.

While Oliver goes back to the Lair and has a temper tantrum, Felicity has talked Curtis into helping her hack into the DHS computer. I’m not clear where they’re doing this, since it’s obviously not at the Lair, although that has the best computers as far as we’ve seen. Curtis is really worried about Felicity now, and she claims she can make her own decisions. I’m not sure that’s true from what we’re seeing of late.

Diggle finds the aftermath of Oliver’s hissy fit, and they talk about whether having people around is a strength or a weakness. This gets interrupted by a call from Felicity, who has found where Susan is. Oliver charges off to the rescue, sending Diggle off on his own secret mission.

The team goes to where Felicity tells them Prometheus was earlier. They find 12 heat signatures inside, and debate what that means. Finally, they go in and split up, GA and Mr. Terrific, Black Canary with Wild Dog. Black Canary and Wild Dog get into an amusing argument about kicking down doors, then find out how Prometheus bobby trapped the place. Throughout this mission, they keep using real names, which seems like a bad plan I mean, sure, Prometheus knows who Oliver is, and by extension the rest of the team, but there might be other people listening in. Green Arrow finds Susan, and manages to free her from various traps. Then Green Arrow faces off with Prometheus yet again, with a weird mix of good fight moves and brute force on both their parts. Spartan shows up with their big surprise, and Chase turns even more cold-blooded after a mini-breakdown. Then, after more fighting, Green Arrow gets a surprise visitor from his past, which goes badly for him.

Felicity freaks out over the results of the latest fight. Quentin brings Susan in to the precinct, and has yet another smirking run in with Chase. Felicity, increasingly desperate, goes back to Helix and makes yet another deal. The show ends with things looking bad for our hero.

Flashback Theater is more about Oliver’s time in Russia with Anatoli. They decide they need to go after Gregor, who is cleverly hiding out at… an ice hockey rink? Oliver reveals his new Arrow identity to Anatoli, who is less than impressed. They go into action, with Anatoli making a lot of mocking comments about the Arrow concept along the way.

What I liked: The interplay between Black Canary and Wild Dog was really entertaining. Oliver’s reactions to Talia’s revelations were great. I find him annoying, but Chase’s smugness now that things are out in the open between him and the heroes is well done.

What I didn’t: I don’t like the whole Dark Felicity bit. Helix just happening to always have what Felicity needs is getting a bit old. This episode felt padded to me. I don’t know why the heroes were surprised at how Chase dealt with their surprise. Oliver declaring war on Green Arrow makes no damn sense at all. And what happened to Vigilante all of a sudden? And who is he?

This was not one of their stronger episodes. I’ll give it a low 3 out of 5.