Arrow: “Checkmate”

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Jim’s Thoughts

“Checkmate” is another Arrow episode I’d probably file under the heading of “It was watchable.” The showdown with Adrian Chase/Prometheus asked a lot in terms of suspension of disbelief. Seeing everyone with their quiet standoffs around City Hall rang false. I don’t believe anyone handled those situations the way they (or anyone) actually would, and Oliver is an idiot for not realizing he was handing along a death sentence to anyone he brought that evidence to, but the show moved forward, and that was something.

Speaking of sentencing people to death, Chase killing his wife was another thing Oliver should have seen coming. In fact, the Oliver we’ve been shown for five seasons would have, and that makes these scenes not work.

Keeping with the theme of things people should see coming, Felicity’s work with Helix also falls in that category. This “hacktivist” group is clearly not “grass roots.” They’ve got resources that dwarf Team Arrow by her own admission. Who does Felicity think is funding this? The answer will undoubtedly be some shady villainous organization, and I’ll be right back to saying she should have seen it coming. I’ve already turned on Felicity’s character, and her selective stupidity isn’t helping.

I liked seeing Mr. Terrific continue to develop his T-Spheres. It’s making him a more competent member of the team, and it’s digging into the comics source material.

The Russian flashbacks have been duds most of the season, and they weren’t great this week, but they are doing something that gives me a little hope. The tie-in with Talia Al Ghul is forced, but it does bring the show back to Ra’s in season 3. It was a better show then, and bridging back to that point could help the show regain momentum that was sacrificed at the altar of terrible romance (Felicity).

At this point, I’d say I’m doing some wishful thinking. Even if Arrow does delve back into the League of Assassins and memories of its better days, there’s no guarantee they’ll do a good job of it, but I’ll take a reason to hope for now.

Kyle’s Take

Jim’s spot on with the flashbacks, Chase killing his wife, Felicity, and the standoffs around City Hall. None of that storytelling worked for the various reasons he mentioned. I also liked seeing Mr. Terrific becoming something adjacent to the hero he should be. He’s at least more competent.

“Checkmate” was a watchable episode. It had Arrow’s usual shortcomings but it also fell flat in an area I never expected Arrow to fall flat: production value. The CW has done an admirable job with a small budget. Up to this point, Jim and I have accused the CW of neglecting the Arrowverse’s original show from a writing/storytelling standpoint, but the big showdown between Ollie and Chase this week featured sinfully fake sugar glass windows and walls of butcher paper.

I belly laughed when I saw these poorly constructed props in action. The entire sugar glass window pane shattered into powder; there wasn’t a single shard. Ollie and Chase could’ve been jumping through a poster held up by cheerleaders at the big game, instead of leaping through a wall, composed of two layers of drywall. Has Arrow stopped caring?

It’s as if the show wanted us to see these terrible props. Time slowed for the flying sugar powder and paper thin wall, and no one thought to digitally edit the scene so it wouldn’t look fake or perhaps, speed up the scene so it wasn’t as obvious. Is the CW’s entire special effects budget going to the other three shows?

If “Checkmate’s” production is any indication, Arrow is that shopping mall that used to be the one everyone visited until three new malls opened down the street. Look closely and you can make out a former Circuit City, Borders, and Kay Bee Toy Store.

I like Arrow. The second season is still the best, but season three was passable. Bringing back the League of Assassins will remind me of better times but that doesn’t always work. RadioShack aired Eighties-era commercials, reminiscent of their glory days, just before they went bankrupt. Ultimately, Arrow must give us a good product.

Thanks for reading.

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