Arrow: “Checkmate” Season 5 Episode 16 Review

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Prometheus has never been enough. Some hooded guy meant to mirror the Green Arrow, who also had the goal of making him atone for his sins, was never going to be able to sustain a 23-episode arc. “Checkmate” may be kind of a mess, in the same way that Arrow as a whole has been lately, but it did successfully expand the season’s central conflict into something that drives Oliver’s self reflection a little more interestingly.

Talia al Ghul’s purpose on Arrow before tonight was something of a mystery. She appeared in the flashbacks a little while back and helped shape some of the core aspects of Oliver’s Hood persona. Now, she’s back, with Oliver on her doorstep in the present, asking for answers. The instant manner in which she reveals Prometheus’ identity to Oliver is hugely anti-climactic, but at least its at the beginning of the episode instead of the end. Adrian Chase’s alter ego is no longer a secret and that’s for the better of the show.

Even plot points as basic as Quentin and Rene having to deal with him at work now just add to the season’s overall tension, which was severely lacking until this week. In fact, there’s even a sense of some momentum building toward something.

But back to Talia al Ghul. After a very physical duel with Prometheus, it’s Talia to take Oliver down. Again, this execution is so forced and out of nowhere, but then came Oliver and Talia’s discussion about her father. Oliver calls him “honorable,” but Talia clearly isn’t prepared to play by her father’s rules. Where Prometheus’ revenge seeking came from a kill Oliver made around season one that wasn’t seen on the show, Oliver killing Ra’s al Ghul was a momentous event for the series. Prometheus and Talia both represent the sins of Oliver’s past, but the latter is already far more successful thanks to the visual continuity and the gravity of the precise moments Talia wishes to avenge. Chase can kill as many wives as he wants to as Prometheus, all of which is of course to prove the point that he’s committed to his mission to take down Oliver, but it doesn’t quite measure up to writing that builds on an actual history.

Heading into the end of the season feels a lot more exciting now that these villains are adding tension to a lot of situations and depth to the season’s central conflict. Prometheus and Talia make for a much more lethal combo than either one of them alone. Now Arrow, much like Oliver, has a chance to redeem itself. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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