Smallville: Checkmate

Tess: "I can't believe you wear tights."
Oliver: "They're not tights."

I liked this episode, but at the same time I felt kinda 'meh' about it. Smallville is always best when it remains simple; when they go for complicated, it tends to get convoluted. This episode was no exception. It was convoluted personified, with pointless plot threads leading up to a conclusion that didn't actually reveal anything.

Still, the stuff that happened was definitely cool. We got to see our three superheroes show their abilities off, and it was a joy to watch. We got an example of almost all of John Jones's powers, including his weakness. They attempted to work in a little bit of back story for Tess, which worked although it made her already murky motivations even murkier. And the cherry on top for me was seeing the end to the Oliver & Tess love/hate saga, with Oliver finally and officially rejecting Tess, then subsequently threatening her.

This brings me to my two major criticisms. First and foremost is the blatant over use of slow-mo. When used for dramatic effect, slow motion can be a wonderful tool. It can prolong a moment into awesome action or painful drama. In the first few minutes, the slow motion tool was used so often that it felt like a way to pad the episode for time to make up for a distinct lack of content. Sure, the frozen moments were pretty, but it was nothing more than spectacle without substance. It was as if the director had graduated from the Michael Bay school of directorial grandstanding. Okay, that's unfair. But it really pulled me away from taking this episode seriously.

The second major gripe is about Checkmate, which I really wanted to like. Checkmate and the Suicide Squad are DC Universe mainstays. But here they aren't really being used, they're being abused. From the random placement of chess pieces in obvious locations, to give our heroes strategic clues to who was responsible for the kidnappings. To the complete and utter lack of separation between Checkmate and the Suicide Squad, and also between the white and black pieces (black should be Ops, and white should be Intelligence if they are following the comics at all). I'm not fanboy and I don't usually nitpick stuff like this, but this whole Checkmate plot seems to be shoehorned in because the primary antagonist for the season (Zod) really hasn't worked so far.

Still, there was fun stuff. I liked that we got a chance to see John Jones again, and he really had a chance to shine. I liked Pam Grier as Amanda Waller, and she should work as a central antagonist if they actually made Checkmate and/or the Suicide Squad function properly. But plot holes aside, I think the idea of the government going after Watchtower was appropriate. I think the way Chloe got captured was stupid, though. Although she is prone to walk where angels fear to tread, the guy who captured her was so obviously a bad guy that I couldn't believe she went with him willingly into a dark and isolated place. This is week number two (my personal count so far), of Chloe doing ridiculously stupid things to put herself in trouble so Clark (Oliver, John, etc.) can save her.

Bits:

Don't you just love telepathic aliens providing a convenient excuse for Amanda Waller to see and then forget all of our heroes faces?

The stupid guard guy falling for the doppelganger of Waller, played by our friendly neighborhood Martian.

The slow motion strobe effect at the end, which was really cool, but not nearly cool enough.

Oliver/Green Arrow using the armored truck door as a boogie board on the asphalt.

Tess finally finding out that Oliver is Green Arrow, and not blabbing on him (this should've been a bigger part of the episode but it was such a small note that it belongs in the Bits section).

Waller is attempting to build an army to fight some ambiguous threat, a.k.a. Zod's people.

Tess faking out Green Arrow and literally stabbing him in the back during the intro chase scene.

What does the Red Queen at the end of the episode mean?

& Pieces:

Oliver: "That's quaintly coincidental. Or maybe he's working for the same lovely lady whose gaze wilts small trees."

Waller: "Green Arrow, welcome to Checkmate."
Green Arrow: "You got the wrong Green Arrow. I don't remember signing up for any chess club."
Waller: "You're a guest of the U.S. government. And the time has come for you to do your patriotic duty."
Green Arrow: "Yeah, well, I didn't know Uncle Sam was into drugs and bondage. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the 'I want you' posters, doesn't it?"

This was an inconsistent, poorly constructed episode. Which is truly unfortunate for the first follow up of a brand new major villain group.

2 out of 4 White Knights.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

3 comments:

Nick said...

That's two weeks in a row with no Zod and no real way forward in the story. I mean, stuff happened, but it's like...nothing happened, you know? Forgive the contradiction. For some reason Amanda Waller is both impressive and annoying...impressive because she is somewhat strategic as per the whole chess analogy thing, but annoying because for some reason the idea of trying to take on a bunch of superheroes. Which got her mind-wiped and beaten after all. To me only Lex can really stand up to Clark like that and look cool in a villainous way.

Hope next episode looks up. I think there should be Metallo or something.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I can guess for the slo-mo / stop action was to "simulate" a comic book. At least that's what my wife and I thought.
-Peter, Phoenix

Anonymous said...

1. No Lois
2. The red queen I guess was referencing that not all players are black and white