Episode Review:Smallville:"Checkmate" (Season 9, Episode 16)

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Handy Dandy Logline reads: "Tess kidnaps the Green Arrow and leaves him in the hands of Amanda Waller, but he escapes with his secret identity intact. Oliver, Clark and Chloe return to the scene to investigate the kidnapping and find John Jones doing the same. Later, Waller threatens Chloe's life to get information on the Justice League."

Wow. That's a lot of logline. Thank you for writing my recap for me. Oh, wait… there's more?

Recap

Amanda Waller is in a castle (hah!) in a room that has more checkerboard covered surfaces than a chrome sphere at a ray tracing convention. She sends a dispatch to Tess Mercer, agent of Checkmate. Tess disguises herself and goes out streetwalking…. I'm sorry. Walking the streets. She is followed, and turns out to have amazing command of slo-mo fighting. This catches Green Arrow's attention, and he joins in the chase. He rescues Tess from her assailant, but it's a setup (We figured as much from the TVGuide too-much-information summary). Tess knocks Green Arrow out, injects him with something and pulls a hood over his head.

Chloe is worried. Ollie usually follows her dial-in protocol, and she hasn't heard from him in a while. John Jones is out at the scene investigating. Clark confronts John and x-rays him. The Martian doesn't take kindly to that and flies off. They have trust issues.

Waller attempts her patriotic recruiting speech on Green Arrow, but after their witty reparte, Ollie decides that he'd much rather escape. Being the well equipped superhero, he does so, quickly. They don't make government black ops armored trucks like they used to.

John Jones confronts one of the Checkmate agents who set Ollie up, does some Martian-fu to try to determine the location of The Castle. The agent has a suicide pill, so John has to read his dying mind, but he gets the information.

After Ollie escapes, Tess gets the riot act read to her. Waller questions her loyalty…

Clark, Chloe and Ollie put their heads together and figure out that it was Checkmate who kidnapped Ollie and tried to take out the JSA. Their main lead happens to be the agent that John was interrogating, now taking up a morgue slot. Clark thinks John may've had something to do with the agent's recent status change to not-alive, so he zips off to confront the Martian Manhunter. Clark discovers a piece of Tess's chess set in the morgue with the body… so he zips over to Tess's place and x-rays the joint. She's got an armory inside the walls.

John finds The Castle but Waller outmanuevers him, encaging him in fire.

Chloe tries investigating where Icicle (remember him from the JSA episodes?) came from, and runs into a doctor who is an agent of Checkmate. Before you can say "Red Herring", Chloe is hoodwinked and taken to the Castle. Watchtower vs. Castle in a cage match… whoops.

Clark zips in to confront Waller while John gets free: Never underestimate a shape shifter. Clark and Waller play a bit of cat and mouse while she holds Chloe hostage. Waller is convinced that the Kryptonians are an invasion force, and wants the proto-Justice League in Checkmate's column.

In a really nicely orchestrated action piece, Clark rescues Chloe in a series of no-motion pseudo stills. He rushes her to the Watchtower and asks for her forgiveness for not trusting her enough.

Ollie and Tess have a heart to heart- Tess wants to leave Checkmate, but the only way to do that is feet first. Ollie decides not to help her.

John and Clark talk in the Kent farm hayloft. John has wiped Waller's mind of the Justice League identities, so they're slightly less unsafe. Clark says that Waller was right, there is a war coming. John says that Clark needs to be above all the fray, that he's an ambassador for all sides.

Well, we'll see.

Observations

Stuff happens so fast in this episode, it challenged my ability to get it all down. From the look of this episode, it seems that the Smallville production crew has found a way to shoot action that is cheap enough for TV budgets and dramatic enough that it doesn't look, well, stupid. The fight scenes and the action looked REALLY good this week. Seems that the key to Smallville action may very well be hyperstyle.

The Checkmate storyline was very well done. Pam Grier was very convincing as Waller, she believes in what she's doing, though her methodology is very suspect. She's all about the strategy and the game; the ethics? Not so much.

The Justice League seems to be coming together nicely- and John Jones, the Martian Manhunter proves why he may be the most powerful member. We see him use a full array of powers… I'm trying to think of one that he didn't use tonight.

I really had a lot of fun with this ep. What did you guys think?

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