‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 5 Episode 16: ‘Checkmate’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
On this week’s episode, Oliver learns the truth about Prometheus, Felicity is forced to do hacking that is somehow more illegal than normal, and Russian mobsters hang out at a hockey rink! “Checkmate” was directed Ken Shane and written by Beth Schwartz and Sarah Tarkoff.
Chris: Welcome back to Star City, Arrow-Heads! One thing is certain about this week’s episode, and that is that it was definitely an episode of television that aired this week. What did you think about the show this week, Emma?
Emma: I actually really enjoyed this episode! I think I’m into villains being open and honest about their villainy, it means we get some real good eye contact as they say mean things. I loved how campy Chase got now that he was finally able to be evil out in the open. I take it you did not enjoy yourself this week, Chris?
Chris: I honestly don’t even know how I felt about it other than it felt like it was a million years long. I’m not sure why it felt like that though.
I’ll agree I like out-in-the-open villainy though. Chase always seemed a little too intense and odd in his delivery for me to fully trust him, so it’s nice to see him drop the facade and use those odd diction powers as the kind of villain he’s just been dying to be the whole time.
Emma: Chase is having so much fun now that he’s not trying to befriend Ollie, but instead actively trying to destroy his life, so, in turn, I had a lot of fun!
But that’s not all that happened this episode. We get to see Talia al Ghul again; Felicity goes deep into her hacker nerd clique; and back in Flashback Russia, Anatoly gives Ollie crap about putting on his “Robin Hood” outfit. Let’s start with Talia! The episode opens with Ollie climbing a mountain to find Talia in a very conveniently located monastery. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ollie beat up Talia’s students while wearing basically a North Face jacket.
Chris: I have to say that the charmingness of how seriously this show takes itself and how hilariously cheap all of that looked was undeniable. I was just kind of laughing to myself and thinking, “This show is so cute sometimes. It’s trying so hard.”
Emma: Wait, you mean Stephen Amell didn’t actually climb a mountain for that shot??? I’m shocked.
Chris: I mean, just the obviously fake snow, the CGI breath to make it look like he’s cold, the fact that he’s basically just wearing an outfit I’d wear when it’s in the 30s or 40s to walk my dog, the way he just opens the door to this “secret” monastery and then just closes it behind him while none of the ninjas notice him. It’s just adorable.
Emma: It was pretty cute, I agree. Once he’s just let himself into this secret monastery, he gets into a fight with Talia’s current students (natch) but Talia comes in and tells them to back off. Ollie confronts her about Prometheus, who was also one of Talia’s students, just like Ollie himself was. It was a big “How could you do this to me?” moment, and it turns out she did it because Oliver killed her dad. Dead dads just all over this show.
Chris: It’s a real running theme/driving narrative force, for sure. So, if Talia is so mad about Ollie killing her dad, why hasn’t she done something about it previously?
Emma: Uh, that’s a great question, Chris. Maybe she’s just lazy and wanted someone else to do the work? Or maybe she was planning her own sweet revenge when Adrian Chase climbed up that mountain and found her.
Chris: I guess I shouldn’t let things like this bother me, because the rules of the real world don’t really apply on this show, but from knowing real martial artists, you can’t just saunter up a mountain and learn to be a ninja in two years.
Emma: Well, Talia did say that by the time Chase came to visit her, he already knew a ton about our boy Ollie. Maybe he had also been studying martial arts that whole time too. But, probably not.
Chris: ::side-eye emoji::
Emma: Talia also get some great villainous lines, like when she says she’ll tell Ollie the name of his nemesis “because I want you to suffer.”
Chris: “I want you to suffer… when it’s convenient for this other guy’s plan.”
Emma: I told you several episodes ago that this Talia was terrible, Chris, what do you want me to do?
Chris: I want you to get a job on this show and make it better.
Emma: Okay, I’ll call up the Arrow production office tomorrow and tell them you demanded it.
Emma: Anyway, armed with this new knowledge, Ollie gets dressed up in his Green Arrow gear and shoots at Chase’s car in the city hall parking garage, because that’s a good idea. Chase is all “That’s your big plan? Arresting me?” which is a totally fair point. A nemesis deserves better! But it’s all moot when Ollie finds out that Chase has his girlfriend Susan Williams, and killing (or arresting) Chase means that Susan will die. This is where Chase gets really fun and sassy, I loved it.
Chris: Oh, for sure. All of his plain clothes interactions with members of Team Arrow in city hall or at the police station were the best. And, I have to hand it to Chase, he really does seem to be ten steps ahead of Ollie all the way. Even if all of this really does seem like needless time-wasting to destroy his life. I did enjoy that line he had about being serious about his job as DA and demanding the TPS Reports on his desk.
Emma: Yes! I loved that. He takes his job very seriously, Chris. I also love that he just called Rene “Dog” as he was leaving. I half expected him to let out a quiet little bark too, but I guess that was too much to hope for.
Chris: Didn’t someone else make a joke about his name this episode too?
Emma: Dinah calls Rene Lassie! When they’re out looking for Susan, after Felicity finds them an address using her Helix connections.
Chris: Yes! I kept wanting to think she called him “Snoopy”, but I knew that wasn’t it. Speaking of Felicity and Helix, isn’t it interesting that before this season, basically anything that needed hacking, Felicity could handle, but suddenly now she constantly needs this other group's help? Am I being unfair?
Emma: And yet, they need her help to hack DHS drones? I think with Helix the main thing is that as a network of tons of hackers, they have access to lots of data that Felicity would have a harder time getting her hands on. Like the live video feed from every cell phone in the world, which I’m going to be unfair about here. Come on, guys. Come on.
Chris: Maybe that’s why my battery life is always so terrible.
Emma: It’s possible! I’m more likely to believe the government has all that info, though, rather than hackers. Or that the hackers would be getting it from the government. I feel like hackers are too anarchist to band together like this! Or at least they wouldn’t have enough money for the sweet setup they have, with a million monitors.
Chris: I guess if you’re hacking on that level, stealing money out of bank accounts isn’t too much of a problem, but yeah, the idea that they’d all set up together in one centralized location is pretty funny.
Emma: Not just in one centralized location, but one centralized location in Star City? It’s not that great. It has a huge crime problem, as we’ve learned over four and a half seasons of this show.
Chris: Yeah, Star City is within a short drive of everywhere. That mountain Talia was hiding out on was probably just somewhere in Canada, because Ollie didn’t even have time to change clothes on the flight back to Star City.
As a noted Felicity fan, let me ask you what your take is on all of this Helix business?
Emma: I’m a fan of Felicity cracking bad jokes in the Arrow Cave and miraculously saving the day through technology. This Helix business is bad business. Before Felicity went all in, they seemed to be fairly innocuous, even altruistic. They gave her a ton of information just to help her out. Now they’re demanding quid pro quo and getting her to hack government systems and that’s fine when she knows why she’s doing it, but Helix’s motivations are totally unclear here. What are they ultimately trying to accomplish? Felicity can’t say it’s doing good anymore, otherwise they’d just be sharing information with her freely to save lives and all that.
Chris: Is there any chance that they aren’t up to something evil?
Emma: I highly doubt it. Plus Felicity’s Helix buddy has an evil face. Something is wrong there. Oh, I just remembered she was on Hannibal, so yup, evil evil evil.
Chris: Haha, I appreciate it so much when you recognize these people from their other genre television work.
Emma: Chris! I also realized this episode that Ollie and Anatoly’s Bratva friend Viktor was also on a Stargate show! Stargate Universe! If only Stephen Amell had been on SG-1, it would have been perfect.
Chris: Was he on some other version of Stargate? This is the only thing I’ve ever seen him on besides wrestling.
Emma: No, the guy who plays Anatoly was on Stargate: Atlantis. Stephen Amell has yet to step through a Stargate, as far as I know.
Chris: Well, I know where your next fanfiction is heading. Getting back to the episode, Helix helps Felicity find Susan (somehow) and that leads to Team Arrow rolling out to save her and confront Prometheus.
Emma: Susan’s stashed at… well, I don’t actually know where it was supposed to be in the show? But it’s the Riverview Hospital, which is used for a ton of filming, most recently seen as the institution where Betty’s sister was being kept on Riverdale. I’m sure it’s even been on Arrow before. But it’s a pretty good place to hide someone you’ve kidnapped.
Ollie finds Susan, unharmed, and gets her on her way out of there as he goes to confront Prometheus. Chase finally unmasks himself here, because what’s the point in hiding now? But Ollie decided to try playing Chase’s game, and brought Chase’s wife here to see him as Prometheus and try to leverage whatever human emotions he has. Spoiler: not many.
Chris: I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, because there’s really no glory in this, but as soon as they brought her in, I said out loud, to no one, “He’s definitely going to kill her.”
Emma: We need to watch an episode together, Chris, so you can share your thoughts in real time. I can’t believe Ollie thought that was going to work. This dude has already murdered a ton of people and generally seemed to be a sociopath, why would he not sacrifice his own wife to fulfill this lifelong plan? Who’s to say his wife wasn’t part of the plan, part of making Chase look like a normal, well-adjusted DA? Anyway, Ollie’s hail Mary goes nowhere as Chase stabs his wife instead of succumbing to her pleading to change his wicked ways. I would like the girlfriends and wives to stop being victimized, thanks.
Chris: Poor Captain Pike got stabbed into a coma this week as well. I’d really love to see what Chase’s daily planner looks like, because he seems to be everywhere at once and I need that kind of time-management skills.
Emma: There’s no guarantee that Chase was the one to stab Pike, but he really does seem like a hands-on kind of guy. I don’t think Chase would trust anyone to do his dirty work. But at least we know he still puts in a full day at the office, even with all that killing to do!
Chris: Maybe it was Talia?
Emma: Maybe, but that seems a little too far removed from Oliver himself for Talia to bother with. I do feel for Pike. He’s just a poor pawn in Chase and Oliver’s game: Ollie comes to him with evidence that Chase isn’t who he says he is, and Chase retaliates by stabbing the guy. Oliver may have got Susan back this episode, but he’s still in the same position with Chase --- only even worse, because now he’s had a press conference about how the Green Arrow broke into Chase’s house and gave himself a 24 deadline to turn himself in before the SCPD starts shooting on sight.
Chris: How did Chase even know Ollie had told him? He probably had the office bugged or something, I guess. I’m just really marvelling at how much this guy is able to keep tabs on and still have a full-time job and marriage going, even if he’s kinda cut one of those out of his schedule this week.
Emma: He might not have even known that Ollie went to Captain Pike, he may have just assumed that would be Ollie’s next move and gone ahead with the stabbing. I’m betting Chase is on a lot of uppers to keep to his busy schedule. Maybe he’s evolved beyond sleep?
What else have we missed? Just the Russia flashbacks, I think. While I did love seeing Ollie and co. attack Gregor and his Bratva boys at a hockey rink, I most appreciated Anatoly questioning whether Oliver needs to put on a mask in order to let his dark side out. “Whatever you think is inside you is inside you. You cannot name it like bat and keep it apart from you.” Anatoly is so wise.
Chris: Yeah, he’s so wise he says the woman that taught him that could end up being the source of his greatest pain, and then, wouldn’t you know it, Talia shows up again to help Chase beat him! I wonder if there was ever a time I wasn’t so bitter. If there was a time… before Arrow. Plus, there was still no Dolph Lundgren.
Emma: Maybe next episode? You’ll just have to keep watching to find out, Chris!
Chris: Well, you heard her, Arrow-Heads, be back here next week as we see what new horrors Prometheus has planned for our hero, and let us know what you thought of this week’s episode down in the comments!