Arrow: Taken Review
A riveting final act saves Arrow from an episode otherwise defined by underdeveloped paternity drama.
Arrow Season 4, Episode 15
Superhero drama may feel like a sprint sometimes, but — like any serialized television show — it is actually a marathon. There was a lot working against Arrowin tonight’s episode: “Taken.” The big two? The half-baked inclusion of a new character in the form of Vixen whose relationship with Oliver was formed completely off-screen (well, technically, on-screen, but on animated web series Vixen). And the narrative logic (or lack thereof) of trying to make Oliver’s decision to lie about his son to keep him safe seem at all valid.
That being said, the episode as a whole was saved by a killer final 10 minutes, which saw Thea finally severing ties with Malcolm, Oliver recording a heartbreaking message to William, and Felicity getting the use of her legs back just in time to walk away from Oliver. (Oh, the irony!) Yes, serialized television is a marathon — the ebbs and flows of long story and character arcs — but, sometimes, the culmination of those longer arcs can make an otherwise lackluster episode just a little bit better. That is what happened with “Taken.” Let’s break down all of the big developments…
Vixen arrives on the scene.
There’s a lot to like about Vixen’s showing here: Her channeling the spirit of a gorilla and charging Darhk. Lifting Oliver from certain death with only one arm. And her impressive knowledge of ley lines. However, her character would have greatly benefitted from an episode not already loaded with the burden of resolving this secret son nonsense. In the midst of all of this interpersonal drama and because of the fact that Vixen and Green Arrow met on the Vixenanimated show, her appearance felt way too random. It also led to the question: Given that she has the background in magic, why hadn’t Oliver contacted her for help with Darhk before?
Like the one-off appearance of Constantine, this was hard to swallow as someone who hasn’t watched Vixen.There is little reason to care about her character (though she did get some killer lines), and Arrowdoesn’t try to give us much reason to. For me, it was frustrating to see Mari get more character-driven scenes with Oliver that, realistically, he probably would have been having with someone else. (I appreciate Mari’s own insight about William given her own upbringing, but would Oliver really take it into account over his best friend’s?) This felt like a missed opportunity to develop some of the dynamics Oliver has with the rest of the main cast. And Vixen’s confusing involvement here just made me wish she had been given an episode where she could have had more of a focus.
An apparent end to the son drama.
Hopefully, this is the last we’ve seen of the secret son drama. For a plot line that was introduced way back in season 2, you’d think Arrowwould have had a better plan of execution for how William and Samantha would affect Oliver and Team Arrow. Nope. Instead, we’re given episode upon episode reiterating Oliver’s flawed logic about how keeping secrets someone keeps your loved ones safe. (It doesn’t. Case in point: This episode. Or, you know, any Arrow episode.)
Samantha was undeveloped and uneven, coming off like a narrow-minded, irrational harpy one moment and a level-headed, empathetic BFF the next. (I don’t think this was Anna Hopkins fault, but the writing.) It also would have been nice to spend some time with William — either in this episode or in prior ones (other than the crossover). Because he is such a non-character, we only care about him in the most theoretical of ways. We don’t want Darhk to harm any 10-year-old, and we don’t want to see our protagonist hurt, either, but that is far from caring about this character — or the dynamic with his biological father — in any real, tangible way. The moment that has him coming out of the house, asking Darhk not to hurt Team Arrow was a good start, but it came too late, after the suspense of the kidnapping had passed.
That being said, Stephen Amell acted his butt off as Oliver recording a video message to 18-year-old William. We understand how much Oliver is sacrificing here (even if, again, his logic feels weak), and that is all up to Amell’s acting. It makes you wonder what he could have done if Arrowhad given him more scenes with William.
Weirdly, my favorite part of the William reveal was what it meant for Laurel. Seeing her admit to her father that, even though she knew Oliver wa s a crap boyfriend, this revelation still hurt her felt so incredibly real — as did Detective’s Lance assumption that Oliver has a whole army of illegitimate children running around. (Probably true.) As is usually the case, the relationship between Laurel and Lance is easily the best father/daughter dynamic on this show, and their interaction here was a nice, light reminder of that fact.
Thea severs ties with Malcolm.
In all of the ways the Oliver/William stuff fell flat, the few moments between Thea and Malcolm totally succeeded. This is a father/daughter relationship we have seen play out over the course of multiple seasons and though, at times, it has felt redundant and/or silly that Thea would still give Malcolm a chance, it has never been boring — probably because John Barrowman and Willa Holland sell the complications of this relationship so damn well.
This has never been more clear than in their final scream-match with one another in Thea’s apartment. It was a nice touch to bring Robert into the conversation, as Thea’s relationship with the father who raised her (and his loss) informs how she feels about Malcolm. This moment was a long time coming, and acted so perfectly. It’s been a long time since I’ve been afraid of Malcolm Merlyn, but between losing his hand, his army of assassins, and his daughter, I am terrified of what Malcolm will do next.
Damien Darhk has been defeated?
This moment felt weirdly anti-climactic. Probably because it was Vixen — again, a character Arrowviewers just met — who can take credit for his defeat. Or maybe I’m calling this one too early? Darhk is still on this show as Malcolm’s apparent prisoner, if the promo at the end of tonight’s episode is anything to go by. But, without his totem, there’s really not much Darhk can do. I’m not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, Merlyn is a much more personal and, therefore, interesting villain for Team Arrow. On the other hand, the show has already invested so much time in Darhk to have his quest for power end now — not to mention that Neal McDonough is a delight as a bad guy. I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. Maybe Darhk and Meryln could be co-bad guys. Yeah, they both seem like the type to share power. It’s settled, then.
Oliver and Felicity split up.
It’s so damn heartbreaking to see these two split up after they’ve come so far — and since Oliver has learned so much about being in a committed, healthy relationship — but I am so proud of Felicity for trusting her gut on this one. In my eyes, she was 100 percent in the right here. Oliver lied to her for months about the existence of his son while they planned their wedding, while she put her faith and trust and hardship on Oliver in the period after her paralysis. Then, icing on the wedding cake (too soon?), Oliver makes another major decision about their lives without her in sending William away. Not cool, Oliver. Not cool at all.
I have to admit: I was really worried that this show didn’t realize how weak Oliver’s logic was in lying to Felicity, but I stand corrected. Now I can only hope that Olicity’s path back to one another (because, let’s be real, we all know they will eventually reconcile) is not too repetitive of Arrow season 3 Olicity dynamics. I cannot take another Arrowseason 3. In the mean time, I feel pretty bad for Team Arrow — because you know the lair is going to be so awkward for the forseeable future. Silver lining? Felicity can walk again! Huzzah!
The flashbacks — now with zombies!
The Lian Yu crew found a cave. But, first, Oliver had to show his tattoo to a zombie. Just another week on the island!