Arrow recap: 'Checkmate'
Has Oliver Queen forfeited the right to human connections? By killing for justice, is he slowly killing himself? By the end of the hour, he’d probably give a resounding yes to both of those questions.
First, Oliver travels to Talia’s monastery (located on top of an unnamed mountain in an unnamed country), where she tells him that she started training Prometheus, a.k.a. Adrian Chase, two years ago to destroy Oliver. Why? To the surprise of Oliver and Oliver alone, Talia reveals that her last name is al Ghul, then basically tells him, “You killed my father, prepare to die.”
When Oliver’s back in Star City, he bursts into Chase’s meeting with city officials, and Chase, speaking in code so the civilians don’t catch on, tells Oliver that he’s glad everyone knows what everyone else has been up to.
Almost immediately, Oliver changes costumes and, as Green Arrow, stops Chase in the parking garage and threatens to expose him as the Throwing Star Killer. That’s when Chase announces that he kidnapped Oliver’s girlfriend. “I’m 10 steps ahead of you, and you haven’t even figured out what game we’re playing yet,” he evil-laughs. Now that Chase is out of the serial murderer closet, he’s gotten all growly and monologuy, and I… don’t hate it.
Next, Oliver swings by the Arrow Cave to tell the team that their big bad is the DA. “This is a hell of a city you’ve got here,” Dinah says. They don’t have enough evidence to go the police, and Oliver laments that Chase has them in check. “For now,” John assures him.
The team is short one member for Oliver’s update, as Felicity is ignoring Curtis’ many tests during her introduction to Helix central. It’s vast and well staffed, and Kojo Sledgehammer describes the group as “kind of like the UN, but it actually accomplishes things.” As they should, with a real-time feed from every cell phone camera in the world running through a facial recognition program. Felicity worries about this setup, but Kojo replies, “Power to the people, right?”
At City Hall, Rene and Quentin wonder if they should just be showing up like normal when Chase strolls by to gloat about how evil he is and also to yell at them for not providing him with some reports he’d asked for. Not only is he a murderer, but he’s a stickler for paperwork? He’s a monster.
Since Rene and Quentin have eyes on Chase, Oliver and John feel safe heading into Chase’s house (in what looks like the middle of the night – why is everyone still at City Hall?). They find Chase’s wife, Doris, and try to convince her that her husband’s the Throwing Star Killer. But the police break in, responding to a call from Chase, who does, in fact, seem to be 10 steps ahead. But Oliver’s also prepared, and one flash grenade later, he and John escape.
When video of a bloody-faced Susan being menaced by Prometheus turns up, the team wastes no time in analyzing it, but they don’t find any clues to her whereabouts. Naturally, Oliver beats himself up for getting involved with her. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” Yeah, dude. Your viewers have been saying that ALL SEASON LONG. But he doesn’t mean it the way we do, instead blaming himself for putting her in danger because he’s a vigilante.
Felicity comes racing in at this point to receive a tongue-lashing from Oliver (settle down, everyone; it’s metaphorical) for being MIA. Oliver says it’s fine, she doesn’t work for him, but he’s worried about her and the secrets she’s keeping.
She acknowledges said secrets but asks him to trust her. He agrees, and she gives him an update: Thanks to Helix, which she leaves out of her info-dump, she knows that Chase’s birth name is actually Simon Morrison, which makes his current ID an alias — and enough for an arrest.
Armed with this knowledge, Oliver leaves for a press conference about the break-in at Chase’s house. What time is it? Is it like 2 in the morning now? Why do they love press conferences so much? Do the Star City citizens get tired of every show being preempted by Mayor Mopey’s face?
He and Chase both earnestly address the press corps about the awfulness of the hooded menace threatening Chase’s wife, and Oliver announces that Green Arrow has 24 hours to turn himself in “before I am ordering the SCPD to shoot on sight.” Um, do mayors even have the power to do that?
By now, Oliver is fed up with mean ol’ Adrian, so he slips Chief Pike evidence about the Chase alias and orders him to work the lead while keeping the source of the information confidential. This doesn’t work out well for Pike when a hoodie-wearing man stabs him in murder alley behind the precinct. Seriously, how many people have we seen die in that alley this season? They really ought to invest in, like, chain link around the police parking lot, for everyone’s comfort and safety.
Oliver finds Chase creepily sitting by Pike’s hospital bed, and does it feel like Chase is everywhere at all times this episode? Oliver says the second they find Susan, he’s putting an arrow through Chase’s heart. Chase calls him impotent. (Yeah, if that were the case, Susan probably wouldn’t be his… you know what? Never mind.) Anyway, he threatens to kill her.
“She will be as dead as your mother, as Tommy, as Shado, as Laurel, as your friend Pike here, probably. All dead because of you.” Dang. Chase knows all of Oliver’s secret tender spots, doesn’t he? He gloats that Oliver’s one more loss away from being destroyed, concluding, “If you kill me, you’ll only really be killing yourself.”
This causes Oliver to storm back to the Arrow Cave, knock his suit-wearing mannequin to the ground and start destroying the equipment and literally flipping tables.
Let’s flash back at this point, shall we? We left Anatoly, Oliver, and Oliver’s wig staring down Bratva guns, and tonight we watch them gain the upper hand in a vicious gun battle that at one point finds Oliver pumping a guy’s belly full of lead from like two inches away. Um, didn’t this show just have an episode devoted entirely to gun violence? Way to both have and eat your cake, guys.
Anyway, after Gregor escaped to the Bratva’s hockey rink safe house (LOL), Oliver, Anatoly, and Viktor lick their wounds and worry that he’ll just promote new captains to replace the ones they just killed. Without proof of Gregor’s treachery, they’ll be dead men. Their only hope is to kill them first. And to do this, Oliver dons his new hood costume, which blows. Anatoly’s. mind.
“Why are you playing Robin Hood?” he marvels. When Oliver explains that it’s a way to give his dark side an identity separate from the rest of him, Anatoly scoffs that the woman who taught him that will one day “be the source of your greatest pain.” That… seems like quite a leap for Anatoly to make. But he redeems himself when he hears Oliver speak as the Hood and asks the world’s most important question: “What is this thing you’re doing with your voice?”
Inside the rink, they open fire on the Bratva while the hockey players continue gliding around the ice, which tells you everything you need to know about Russia. The skaters eventually flee, leaving our heroic trio to drop or scatter the Bratva. When Oliver corners Gregor, the man gasps, “Oliver, is that you?” Oliver says no, it’s the man who’s going to kill him. Gregor warns, as Chase does, “If you kill me, you’ll only really be killing yourself.” Man, if multiple people say that to you, you should maybe examine your life. (Which, fine, is pretty much what this whole season has been about.) In the end, we don’t see what Oliver decides to do.
Okay, back to today, where Felicity asks Helix to scan their database for the Susan video location. But Kojo says people around the office are starting to be all, ask not what you can do for Felicity but what Felicity can do for you. In other words, if she doesn’t break the encryption on a Homeland Security drone (without asking why), she gets no location.
Felicity gets to work (in the Arrow Cave, weirdly – wouldn’t it be better to keep that confined to Helix?) as Curtis looks on in horror at her 100 percent illegal activities. She confesses that she’s made some new friends who are helping her. (Yeah, helping her redirect a couple of Border Control drones.) She begs Curtis not to lecture her the way John and Oliver did, assuring him, “I am a grown woman making my own grown-up decisions.”
Yeah, but Felicity? Miss I-Wiped-a-Town-Off-the-Map? Does that woman tamper blindly with tech, for fear of another situation beyond her control? Yes, she’s desperate to help Susan. Yes, she’s in a dark place. But did she forget the lesson of Havenrock, which drove her to that darkness in the first place?
Time for some manly bonding. John finds Oliver sitting among the wreckage of the Arrow Cave and does not say, “Hey, man, this is our secret base. You know we can’t just bring janitorial in. It took Curtis hours to clean up your last tantrum.” Instead, he tells Oliver he’s not alone. Oliver replies that John does a wonderful job of convincing him that he’s changing to be more optimistic, more trusting. But he worries that next time, it could be John or Felicity or his son (whom he apparently hasn’t forgotten about) as targets.
“We’re not targets, man,” John says. “We’re your teammates. We’re your strength.” Caring about people doesn’t make him vulnerable; it makes him human. But Oliver, the human sad trombone, replies, “Being human’s a luxury I might not get to have.”
At this point, Felicity calls with Susan’s location (thanks, Helix!). Oliver sends John to fetch what makes Chase vulnerable, while the rest of the team heads out. Man, imagine how much more powerful this rescue would be if we cared at all about the kidnapped person. Imagine if it was Thea (incapacitated somehow, I guess) or John or… literally anybody else, really.
The team arrives at an abandoned multi-story building, which they quickly learn is packed with explosives, putting a tight clock on their search and rescue. Oliver easily finds Susan and sends her out to safety—and that’s it. No hug, no vast relief. Just “You okay? Great, now get out.”
Then Oliver and Chase face off, and Oliver explains his new plan: keeping them both inside the building until it explodes. See, this is why you really don’t want to send a suicidal hero on a rescue mission. But Chase calmly turns off the explosion countdown, gloating about still being 10 steps ahead… until John shows up with Doris. That’s a tricky little gamble, there. What if Chase loves his murderous side more than he loves his wife?
She cries and begs him to turn himself in. He hugs her and, over her shoulder, demands to know why Oliver brought her here. Then he stabs Doris in the gut. John rushes her out of the building, and Oliver and Chase start fighting. Honestly, for two Talia-trained warriors, it’s a bit of a letdown, mostly punching and falling through walls. I was hoping for something with more finesse.
Oliver’s got the upper hand until Talia springs up behind him and shoots him in the leg. When his team arrive as backup, they only find Oliver’s bow.
Unfortunately, Doris dies on the way to the hospital, and when Quentin and Susan bump into Chase at the precinct in his DA clothes, he smirks, “Please don’t threaten me. I’m in mourning,” then says he’ll send Oliver back in pieces if they arrest him. Hate to say it, but that really does seem like the view from 10 steps ahead (if you don’t mind murdering your spouse to get there).
Felicity heads back to Helix to locate Oliver, despite Curtis’ pleas not to go. Kojo’s delighted at how often Felicity’s stupid friends get kidnapped because that means she’ll basically be working off her debt with them forever.
And we end this week on Oliver in shackles, telling Talia that her father would be ashamed that she allied herself with a murderer like Chase. She says she’ll bow to his expertise on father-shame and instructs Chase to make Oliver suffer.
“My friends will find me,” Oliver tells him. “They’re my strength.”
But Chase has big plans. Oliver helped him discover who he really is, so “that’s what I’m going to help you do, Oliver.” Um, he’s going to help Oliver discover that he’s a gifted archer whose hero complex is at war with his survivor’s guilt? I think Oliver already has a handle on that.
Arrows for your quiver
- Helix has stolen Palmer Tech tech!
- Why were the police wearing ECU on their backs at Chase’s house? Aren’t they with the ACU, or is there another elite law enforcement agency in town?
- Regarding the Green Arrow shoot-on-sight order: Oliver, baby, what is your endgame here? There’s Twitter speculation that we’re going to see Human Target Christopher Chance again this season, and I’m starting to wonder if they might not be onto something, what with Oliver denouncing his alter-ego left and right. How does Green Arrow get to go on being Green Arrow at the end of this mess? The mayor saying, “Nah, he’s cool” probably won’t be enough this time.