TV Review: Arrow – “Taken”

Vixen in Taken
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of all Arrow episodes here.
A whole lot of major developments took place in “Taken”—secrets were revealed, relationships were shaken up, and major stories took unexpected and potentially long-lasting swerves.
“Taken” thankfully marked the end of another era of secret-keeping on this show, as Team Arrow found out about Samantha and William, and Samantha found out about Team Arrow. Samantha’s perception of Oliver definitely changed, and Team Arrow’s reactions varied, but they resulted in a few standout scenes.
Laurel in particular had one of her best scenes in the show’s history, as she was faced with the revelation that Oliver had cheated on her and fathered a child while she was dating him. In this Felicity-heavy era, it’s easy to overlook how close Laurel and Oliver were. And though they’ve both (supposedly) moved on, this news still hit Laurel pretty hard, leading to a very touching scene as she confessed those feelings to her father. Not only was it one of Katie Cassidy’s strongest moments, but it was also a very realistic emotional touch, and I’m glad the show took the time to include this scene in a crowded episode.
Oliver QueenUnlike the movie to which this episode’s title is referring, “Taken” is surprisingly devoid of the desperate, rage-filled Oliver that appeared after Felicity was shot. Even though he was willing to do and sacrifice anything to get his son back, it didn’t feel as urgent as it perhaps should have. There were a lot of “what should we do next” discussion scenes in the Arrow cave, which slowed down what should have been a frantic episode.
Thankfully, the appearance of Mari McCabe, aka Vixen, livened up things considerably. She was a pure badass, delivering some of the episode’s best one-liners, and using her unique powers to give us a different kind of action than we’re used to on the show (despite one or two instances of weak CGI).
I’d wondered if this was the right week for another superhero cameo, but “Taken” found a way to make Vixen very relevant to the Damien Darhk conflict. I’m glad the show acknowledged how repetitive Oliver’s confrontations with Darhk have been (“I win, you lose, rinse, repeat!”) and the need for a different approach. Enter Vixen, whose knowledge of magical artifacts proved instrumental in the battle against Darhk.
That’s right: Darhk was defeated. Or so it seems. Destroying the totem from which he drew his magic left him without any powers, but can it really be that simple? Darhk was fairly nonchalant when Mari stole his totem, so he must have something up his sleeve. Either way, this is a welcome shake-up of the status quo as Arrow gets ever closer to the final leg of the season.
Another major shake-up is Oliver suspending his candidacy for mayor. Now, this storyline hasn’t been given as much attention as I thought it would when Oliver first ran for mayor—mostly it’s been about putting Oliver’s civilian identity in Darhk’s crosshairs, rather than the campaign itself—but this added a nice wrinkle to the proceedings. Could Darhk’s wife use her position as mayor to carry on his work even as he sits behind bars?
Damien DarhkI still have to wonder if Darhk’s defeat and William’s rescue really needed to be part of the same storyline, since the episode kind of felt like it had two resolutions to the same conflict. Either have Oliver resign and get William back, or have Team Arrow rescue William by defeating Darhk and locking him away. Strangely, “Taken” did both. It was a weird structure, but it moved the plot forward on multiple fronts, so I’m not complaining too much.
Malcolm also made an appearance this week, once again swearing that he loved Thea, and once again being rejected by her. In fact, after it was discovered that he kidnapped William, things may have ended between him and his daughter for good. Between “Sins of the Father” and “Taken”, Arrow seems to be putting Malcolm firmly back into the scenery-chewing villain position, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The final question of the week remained: should Oliver stay in William’s life, or should he push him away? I thought “Taken” handled it very well, offering very valid arguments for both sides of the debate. On one hand, the ever-comforting Diggle argued that keeping William close was the only way to keep him safe. On the other, Mari cited her own experience and insisted that Oliver being the Green Arrow was far too much of a complication, and that William would be better off leading a safe and simple life without that burden. And in the end, Oliver agreed.
This led to the best scene of the episode: Oliver recording a tearful message to his son, explaining why he couldn’t be in his life until adulthood (accompanied by a great musical score quoting a theme first heard in Season 1). Stephen Amell absolutely shone, putting his full dramatic acting skills on display.
I’ve complained in the past about Oliver keeping William a secret from Felicity—how it was a contrived and illogical plotline that was bound to implode. This week, it finally did. Like ripping out a band-aid, I’m just glad that it’s done with. I imagine many Felicity-hating fans will blame her for leaving Oliver at such a vulnerable moment, but honestly, her reaction was the only sensible one in a storyline full of illogical character choices.
Now, I have issues with Felicity regaining the ability to walk thanks to magic deux ex technology. Nothing against Felicity, I just wanted the midseason finale cliffhanger to have a longer-lasting impact. That being said, her finally regaining use of her legs only to walk out on Oliver was a suitably dramatic way to end the episode.

Rating: 4/5 (Great)

Notes and Observations

  • “What about Constantine?” “He’s in Hell.” “Really? What’s going on?” “I mean he’s actually, literally, in Hell.” Ha, love it.
  • Oliver said he had an “animated encounter” with Mari. Get it? Because Vixen debuted on an animated show? That got another chuckle out of me.
  • Neal McDonough continues to be an absolute joy to watch as Damien Darhk.
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