Arrow, Season 5, Episode 16, “Checkmate”
One of the main rules in the superhero TV handbook is that once a season, the hero and his support team must hit rock bottom before pulling themselves together to defeat the enemy that is causing them so much grief.
And, if by the end of this tense episode, Oliver and Company aren’t at their absolute nadir, then they are damned close.
Now that all the secret identities are out in the open, Adrian Chase/Prometheus has become a more a more dangerous adversary than ever before. Despite the fact these developments are following the playbook to the letter, it is refreshing to see Team Arrow getting outfoxed by a clever enemy, rather than the recent string of bonehead decisions seemingly made because the plot wouldn’t have advanced without them being made.
Chase and his not-so-silent partner, Talia Al-Ghul has Ollie and the team running around in circles first in an effort to rescue Girlfriend/Reporter, Susan, then trying to beat Chase at his own game. The best part of this new dynamic is that Chase does most of his damage in the public arena, where he is by far the superior operator. It’s a shame Ollie doesn’t have an ally with the political skill and ruthless cunning of say, a Moira Queen, on his side in this situation (We miss you, Thea).
The only thing that prevents Ollie from getting backed into corner after corner is the information Felicity is getting from Helix. Of course, in order to earn this information, Felicity — in her desire to prove she’s a grown-ass woman — forgets the lessons taught by every after school special (pushers get you hooked by offering a free “taste”), and the Dark Knight (any technology that taps into every cell phone camera is evil, but kudos for being topical; can’t wait for Kellyanne Conway to quote this Arrow episode on this week’s Meet the Press).
Once Oliver was captured by Chase and she needs their help to find him, after doing a shady favor for Helix — for information that leads them to Susan — Felicity goes hopelessly into debt with them.
There are still some questionable decisions surrounding Arrow right now, like was Susan jammed down everyone’s throats for the express purpose that her subsequent kidnapping would drive the plot of the first part of the episode? Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine any of the show’s fans really cared if she was rescued or not (there seems more to her time in captivity too). Also, why did Oliver or Diggs allow Chase’s wife, their lone bargaining chip, to get within arm’s length of a serial killer they know has a lot of knives on him? You’d think at least Diggle would have better tactical sense than that.
Those blunders aside, it was entertaining to see Team Arrow interact and be challenged by something than their own lack of common sense. It’s good that Curtis, Wild Dog and New Canary have made big strides of late, seeing as how it looks like Ollie is going to be spending the immediate future shirtless, and chained up in Chase’s basement.
With a handful of episodes left in the season, it’s difficult to think that this game of cat and mouse between Chase and Ollie can go on too much longer. He’s made his point, ruined the Green Arrow’s reputation, undercut Ollie’s power as mayor, and literally has Oliver as his prisoner. Keeping Oliver alive at this point is total hubris. Chase is an overly elaborate method of execution away from going full Bond villain.
After weeks of wheel-spinning, it’s good to see Arrow kick things into gear, warts and all. It feels like a battle of wits between Chase and Team Arrow is in the cards, and it’s a welcome development since the alternatives that have unfolded in previous weeks were so frustrating.