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‘Arrow’ Review: “Checkmate”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor

In the first episode since the big Prometheus reveal, Arrow pulls out one of its best hours in a long time. As the big bad rises to wreak more havoc on Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Team Arrow, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) retreats further and further into Helix. In the latest episode entitled “Checkmate,” Arrow lets its villain shine while characters hurdle towards their final moments in season five.

It’s hard to imagine that over five seasons, Arrow can continuously create villains that are engaging to the audience and put our favorite characters in perilous situations. We’ve seen Deathstroke, Ra’s al Ghul, Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn. With such a hefty list of villain characters, and actors, the season five villain had a lot to live up to. We may have seen Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) being Prometheus coming from a mile away, but this episode is one of Arrow’s strongest hours thanks to Prometheus. Broadway and TV veteran Josh Segarra gives one of his best performances to date. While we’ve loved him as DA Adrian Chase for the entire season, seeing him as Prometheus opens up an entire new world to explore. His brand of manipulation is truly impressive as he continues to be ten steps ahead of Oliver.

A new addition to Arrow season five, Segarra proves he can hold his own against Arrow’s formidable scene partners. He steals every moment he’s part of in this latest episode. Segarra plays Adrian/Prometheus as sinister, charming and witty. In a singular interaction with Green Arrow in a parking garage, Prometheus cements himself as one of the best villains Arrow has given us. Within a single episode, Segarra flips an acting switch. After keeping his character’s identity under wrap for an entire season, he steps out of the shadows and gives an unbelievable performance.

Segarra is a worthy adversary to go toe to toe with Amell in the rest of season five. While Prometheus is one of many villains Arrow has thrown at us, this one hits closer to home for Oliver. He’s mean, tough and willing to do anything, including killing his wife, to take Oliver down. Unlike other villains, Team Arrow as a whole isn’t in the crossfires of the villain, it’s just Oliver. What makes Prometheus so interesting is that he never yells. He rules over Oliver with an eerie calm that makes him even crazier. Segarra is insanely talented and watching him play this villain is amazing. We almost wish he was unmasked episodes ago, so we could see Segarra play Prometheus for longer. We’re already upset we’ll most likely have to say goodbye to Segarra come season five’s end.

Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "Checkmate." Photo Credit: The CW
Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “Checkmate.” Photo Credit: The CW

The big elephant in the Arrow room this week is Susan Williams (Carly Pope). The entire season, Arrow has been shoving the Susan/Oliver relationship down our throats. We understand that Felicity and Oliver weren’t going to be together this season, but is it necessary to have Oliver in a relationship with someone we don’t care about? Similar to Felicity dating Billy Malone (Tyler Ritter), there’s no storylines built into this season that allows us to learn and care for these significant others. It just seems like Arrow shoved Felicity and Oliver with other people, so the audience wouldn’t question why Olicity wasn’t together. It’s downgraded a lot of the relationships in season five.

Susan Williams is kidnapped by Prometheus and Oliver does everything in his power to get her back. It’s a scenario that Oliver’s romantic love interests have been in before, but this one carries little weight with audiences. Susan and Oliver’s relationship has been a sore spot in Arrow season five and this episode doesn’t make us feel for her anymore. This season has done very little in making us feel for Susan, in fact we still don’t trust her.

Even in the beginning of the season, Susan seemed to be a fleeting love interest, but it’s only been in these latest episodes that Arrow wants us to now believe she’s very important to Oliver. Green Arrow manages to save Susan in this episode, but for us, the stakes weren’t that high. If she lived or if she died, we didn’t feel much concern.

Josh Segarra in the Arrow episode "Checkmate." Photo Credit: The CW
Josh Segarra in the Arrow episode “Checkmate.” Photo Credit: The CW

Prometheus is possibly the smartest villain Oliver has encountered in five seasons. He’s constantly bragging that he’s ten steps ahead of Oliver. So, why take Susan Williams? If Prometheus has been watching Oliver for years and knows about Shado, Tommy, Laurel, his parents, then why take Susan? If we’re supposed to believe that Susan is on the same level as Laurel, Shado and Tommy, then Arrow must think we haven’t been paying attention. We can’t help but think that taking Susan is a clever misdirect by Prometheus.

If Prometheus truly wanted to cause Oliver to panic, he has to know that taking Diggle (David Ramsey), Felicity and/or Thea (Willa Holland) is the best way. If Arrow tries to tell us Susan is Oliver’s great love of the season and Prometheus hurting her will crush him, they clearly haven’t been watching their own show.

One of the big reveals Arrow gives us is that Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig) trained Adrian Chase and is helping him take down Oliver. It’s a great twist that brings the flashback storyline to present day. This is the best thing Arrow could’ve done to revitalize the flashbacks. While the Bratva storyline held a lot of promise leading into season five, the flashbacks have once again taken a nosedive. For several weeks, the flashbacks have become more and more tedious to watch. The plot feels like filler as we wait patiently for Oliver to get back to Lian Yu before the season ends. Talia jumping to the present day and helping Adrian is an exciting twist. Doig brings the character to life in a very intriguing way and we can’t wait to see her and Segarra interact even more.

Kacey Rohl and Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode "Checkmate." Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW
Kacey Rohl and Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode “Checkmate.” Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

While Segarra may rule the episode with his bow and arrow, Rickards makes quite an impression as Felicity retreats deeper into Helix. After sitting on the sidelines training Team Arrow 2.0 for the beginning of the season, Felicity finally gets a storyline worthy of her character’s stature. For once, she’s not attached to Oliver and gets to shine on her own. While this may lead to a darker version of Felicity, we’re excited to see where this leads not only the character, but also Rickards. A key component in Arrow’s success, Rickards has always given us some of the best moments, so there’s no surprise her work with Helix will give us even more.

One of the most interesting portions of Arrow this week, is actually the setup for the next episode. After an epic sparring match, Prometheus and Talia kidnap Oliver. This leads to several new development leading into the next episode. One, Oliver will finally have to come face to face with his sins. Oliver’s characterization has been all over the place in season five. Unable to recognize the hero we’ve grown to love, Oliver has become the shell of his former self. Now being captured by Prometheus, Oliver is going to have to confront everything he’s done. We’re hopefully this will allow us to see the sins Oliver’s harboring and we can see the hero we’re willing to fight behind.

Oliver’s kidnapping also plays into Felicity’s Helix storyline. Helix is Felicity’s darkness. It’s an organization that gives Felicity all the power she needs to help her friends and family. It’s the perfect organization that plays to Felicity’s strengths and weaknesses. In this episode, we see that she’ll do anything for Helix, especially if it means protecting those she loves. Now, Oliver’s kidnapped and they don’t have a single lead as to where he is. Felicity is going to do everything in her power, even if she has to cross  some moral lines, to find him. Felicity and Oliver look to be getting closer and closer and we hope this gives us some hope for some semblance of the characters we loved in the previous seasons.

While this episode of Arrow holds some amazing performances, namely from Segarra, “Checkmate” proves to be a set-up episode for next weeks. Arrow still isn’t perfect, however we’re starting to see some promising storylines as we head towards the end of season five. Prometheus is still looming large and for the first time, we’re excited more about the villains take over than Oliver’s heroic moments.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW

Overall Grade: B-

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