Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
After the previous episode’s reveal that DA Adrian Chase (played by Josh Segarra) is, in fact, Prometheus, everything kicks into high gear in Arrow Season 5, so much so that it comes as something of a surprise to realise that there are still seven episodes left to go this season. As it is, Checkmate ends up being one of the best episodes of the season so far, so here’s hoping the showrunners can maintain that level of quality as we enter the home stretch.
With Oliver having hinted previously at tracking down Talia in the present day, the episode opens with him doing exactly that, tracking her down in what one assumes is a mountain-side temple, albeit one that definitely isn’t in Nanda Parbat. He’s recognised one of Prometheus’ moves as something that she taught him, so he asks her who he might be. Talia reveals that the man he’s looking for came to see her, saying that Oliver had killed his father. She then drops the non-bombshell that she readily agreed to help the man, because by then, Oliver had killed her father too. Talia’s all, “Oh, that’s right, I never told you my surname – I’m Talia al-Ghul and you killed my dad”.
Needless to say, this raises a lot of questions. Did Talia give Oliver a fake surname or did it just never come up? To be fair, if there was ever a guy who wasn’t going to ask a girl for her surname, it’s probably Season 1 Oliver (or rather, Season Minus 1 Oliver). Also, he’s not the brightest tool in the box, so maybe it’s not all that surprising that he didn’t work it out, but even so, Talia is so like her sister, Nyssa (which reminds us, Talia is now also technically Oliver’s sister-in-law), that you’d think he might have mentioned the similarity at some point.
For her part, Talia says that she and Ra’s (and presumably Nyssa) fell out at some point in the past, and were never reconciled, which explains why Ra’s (and presumably Nyssa) never mentioned her before. But that doesn’t mean she’s not still mad as hell at Oliver for killing Ra’s, so she delights in torturing him, telling him flat out that the man he’s looking for is – Gasp! – Adrian Chase. Oliver: annoyed.
What’s interesting, of course, is that, if Talia trained Oliver to become the killer he is today, then, in a very real way, she is also directly responsible for her father’s death. It remains to be seen whether the show plans to address that at any point, and whether Talia feels in any way guilty about it, but let’s hope they do, not least because it would give Alexa Doig some much more interesting notes to play.
Anyway, Oliver strops back to Star City, storms into a meeting Adrian is chairing and basically goes, “Prometheus, can I see you in my office, please?” Adrian: rumbled, but unruffled. In fact, he’s flat out relieved everything’s finally out in the open and he tells Oliver as much, which leads to Oliver confronting Adrian in the parking garage as Green Arrow. Adrian then reveals that he’s holding Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams captive and that if he dies, she dies. Oliver backs off, realising that he has severely under-estimated Adrian.
After Oliver clues in the rest of Team Arrow (minus Felicity, who’s mysteriously missing, but we’ll get to that in a minute), Dinah and Mr. Terrific head to Opal City to track down Adrian’s mother, but only find a video of Prometheus threatening Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams. Meanwhile, Green Arrow and Diggle pay a visit to Adrian’s wife, Doris (Parveen Dosanjh), and tell her straight out that her husband is the Throwing Star Killer, as the press are still calling him. Naturally, she doesn’t believe them, and the police arrive while Oliver and Diggle are still there, so now it looks like Green Arrow broke into the DA’s house and threatened his wife. That is obviously a pretty serious situation, so Mayor Oliver Queen solves it by, um, giving the Green Arrow 24 hours to hand himself into the police or he’ll issue a shoot-on-sight warrant. We’re not entirely sure Oliver has thought this through, to be honest, but whatever.
So, yes, while all this is going on, no-one knows where Felicity is, and yet, for some reason, they all assume she’s safe, even though Prometheus has already killed her boyfriend (well, Oliver did, but Prometheus made him do it), and kidnapped someone Oliver doesn’t care about nearly as much. To be fair, they’re right, and she’s fine – it turns out she’s been hanging out with her new buddies at super-secret hactivist group Helix, including her nerdy new best friend, Kojo Sledgehammer (Kacey Rohl), whose real name is apparently Alena.
When Felicity swans back into the Arrow Cave, Oliver pulls her to one side and says he knows she’s hiding something and she tells him it’s not the right time to tell him, but that he should trust her. So… does Felicity have some sort of secret Helix-based plan? Because she’s looking awfully into it when she’s over there – she practically passes out with pleasure when Alena shows her Helix’s global mobile phone footage tracker or whatever it is.
Anyway, Felicity redeems herself somewhat by using Helix’s Giant Database of Everything to come up with proof of Adrian’s real name, which turns out to be Simon Morrison. (So relax, comics fans, Vigilante could still turn out to be Adrian Chase after all, just… a different one). Oliver takes this news to Captain Pike, believing it to be enough to get Adrian arrested. Unfortunately, Oliver’s just not that lucky and Pike ends up getting stabbed (by, we assume, Adrian, although we only see a figure in a hoodie) and taken to hospital. When Oliver visits him he runs straight into Adrian, who taunts him by telling him he figures Oliver is only one loss away from being destroyed and that if he kills him, he’ll only be killing himself. This makes Oliver so mad that he goes back to the Arrow Cave and smashes everything up like Phil Mitchell on EastEnders.
Meanwhile, back at Helix, Alena finally starts calling in debts, listing all the ways they’ve helped Felicity so far and basically saying, “So what are you going to do for us?” For starters, she wants Felicity to break the encryption on a Homeland Security Drone for undisclosed reasons. Felicity even ropes in Curtis to help her with it at her apartment, telling him it will help them find Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams. Curtis realises that what Felicity is doing is highly illegal, and also realises that Oliver and Diggle have no idea what she’s up to.
Shortly afterwards, Diggle arrives at the Arrow Cave to find it all smashed up and Oliver in a sad mood. Oliver tells him he’s afraid Prometheus will just go on creating new targets out of the people he loves and that having friends, family, a girlfriend and a son he never sees makes him vulnerable. Diggle tells him to pull himself together and that his friends are his strength, not his weakness, and that caring about people makes Oliver human. Then, Felicity calls with Helix’s tech-assisted information on where to find Adrian and Oliver and Diggle decide they need to fight fire with fire and target someone Adrian cares about.
So, Team Arrow head over to Adrian’s secret base. Dinah and Wild Dog end up in a trap, but Curtis rescues them in the nick of time, using his shiny new balls, sorry, T-spheres, which are happily shown in all their glory again this week. Elsewhere in the house, Green Arrow finds Susan tied up in a lift and rescues her. He then confronts Prometheus and Adrian taunts Oliver, saying that he’s ten steps ahead of him while Oliver hasn’t even figured out what game he’s playing yet. This time though, Oliver has a trump card and Diggle comes in with Adrian’s wife, who’s heard enough to realise that her husband is a murderer and tries to convince Adrian to turn himself in. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out too well and Adrian coldly stabs her, leaving Diggle to quickly grab her and run out of the room. (Sadly, she dies on the way to hospital).
This leads to a pretty decent fight between Green Arrow and Prometheus, with the former getting in a pretty decent series of rapid-fire punches, like that’s his new special move or something. However, the fight is brought to an abrupt end, when Talia appears and shoots Oliver in the leg with a drugged arrow. Curtis, Wild Dog and Dinah burst into the room seconds later, but they’re too late – Prometheus and Talia have disappeared and taken Oliver with them.
The cliff-hanger has Talia and Adrian visiting a shackled Oliver in his cell for a round of mutual taunting. Oliver tells Talia her father was an honourable man, and that he’d be ashamed that she’s allied herself with a psychopath. She doesn’t rise to it, though, and walks out, telling Adrian to make sure Oliver suffers. However, when she leaves, Adrian tells Oliver he’s still not interested in killing him, and that, instead, he plans to help Oliver discover who he really is, whatever that means. Not the most dramatic ending in the world, but you can’t have everything.
To be fair, Adrian is pretty great in this episode, and that’s largely down to the quality of Josh Segarra’s performance, who keeps Prometheus cool and collected but also clearly unhinged. He’s genuinely terrifying because he’s so unpredictable and the fact that he and Oliver are still basically working next door to each other, despite each one knowing the other’s identity, is a great touch that makes their situation a thousand times more interesting. We’re going to come right out and say it – this is the best Arrow has been since the glory days of Slade Wilson in Season 2.
Oh, right, Flashback City. It’s a bit dull again this episode. Oliver and new Bratva head Anatoly discuss killing Gregor. Oliver reveals to Anatoly that a woman he met (meaning Talia) recently taught him to give his darkness a name so that it doesn’t consume him, so not to worry, The Hood will do the killing for him and it won’t bother him in the slightest. Anatoly warns Oliver against the road he’s heading down with this idea, but Oliver’s not having any of it. Later, there’s a shoot-out between Anatoly’s men and Gregor’s men at what appears to be an ice-skating rink and Oliver kills Gregor, after he begs for mercy.
Overall, this was a terrific episode with satisfying twists and turns, significantly raised stakes and some great action sequences. If Arrow can keep up this level of quality for the following seven episodes, we may finally have a rival to Season 2 for the best season of Arrow to date. In the meantime, tune in next week for, um, Oliver getting tortured a lot.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:
– Best moment of the episode: Anatoly seeing Oliver in costume for the first time and asking, “What is thing you are doing with your voice?”
– Curtis’ balls. We don’t know about you, but we cannot get enough of Curtis’ balls. It’s great to see Curtis finally embracing his Mr. Terrific identity from the comics, after so much shilly-shallying around and the balls – sorry, T-spheres – are a big part of that.
– Let’s be honest: would anyone really have been that bothered if Prometheus had killed Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams? That’s one of the only problems with this episode – the writers haven’t really done enough to make us care about either Susan herself or Susan and Oliver as a couple, so when she’s threatened, it’s more a case of, “Oh, I hope they don’t kill someone Oliver likes again, because we’ve seen that lots of times already”, rather than, “Oh no, please let Susan be okay!”
– No Thea this week. If she’s gone for the rest of the season, there are going to be murders. Hurry back, Thea!
– Still no Dolph Lundgren this week either. One can only assume he’s due to come roaring back in a big way sometime over the next seven episodes. Fingers crossed.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.