NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Arrow” are present in this review
The CW has really been nailing its comic book dramas in their final bows before their month-long hiatus throughout most of March, with both The Flash and iZombie delivering seasonal highlights in their Tuesday timeslots. Arrow however unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to those episodes, in its own offering that caps off the series before it settles into its own hiatus, before returning to the airwaves on March 23rd.
“Taken” sadly proved to be frustratingly uneven, even if it was still quite watchable, and reasonably entertaining overall. On the one hand, there was lots of Damien Darhk, the supposed seasonal villain that Arrow has mostly benched over the past several episodes. The live-action debut of DC heroine, Vixen, formerly featured in her DC Television Universe-set animated CW Seed webseries, and once again portrayed by Megalyn E.K., was also a treat, especially since the effects behind her character were actually pretty awesome, even without the advantage of being in animation this time.
On the other hand though, Arrow felt like it was missing something here, despite so many seemingly exciting conflicts in both Oliver’s personal life, and his superhero career as Green Arrow. Even with Darhk currently holding William hostage, and Samantha going to Star City to demand an explanation from Oliver (at Barry Allen’s recommendation, apparently), it felt like the emotional stakes of the episode were sort of… Off. It feels like this episode contains several questionable character turns, and its conclusion feels particularly baffling, once again stinking a bit of the writers crowbarring the show in a certain direction for better episodes to come later.
Things start with Oliver just abruptly dropping out of the mayoral race, which is the main demand for Darhk to release William. This is done strangely unceremoniously, but maybe that’s the idea. From there, Oliver makes the questionable decision to immediately tell Samantha that he’s Green Arrow, even taking her into his lair, where she gets to interact with the rest of the team, and especially Felicity. Naturally, Felicity finds out about William in this episode, and doesn’t take it well, which we could have already guessed, after the disastrous first time that she found out in the aborted timeline from this season’s Arrow/The Flash crossover event. This results in more contrived Oliver/Felicity drama, but I’ll get back to that later.
At the very least, the idea of fighting Darhk’s magic with other magic makes sense, which leads to a good excuse to call Vixen in from Detroit. Again, the show wisely addresses why Oliver can’t just call John Constantine, with Oliver admitting that he is quite literally in Hell at present (hopefully not permanently, as Matt Ryan is overdue for a return to the DC Television Universe!), but that’s fine, since Vixen is a cool presence to finally behold in live-action.
In fact, Vixen is the only real highlight in a series of flimsy action scenes that feel like a step down from the quality action that most of Arrow’s previous episodes from this season have featured. The action choreography felt strange and sluggish this week, and that contributed to the sense of H.I.V.E. feeling like they were having an off day, despite Darhk once again proving to be a fantastic and entertaining presence. He even gets an interesting air of vulnerability this week, as Vixen finally identifies the totem that provides his power, and, after lots of straining with her animal spirits, manages to smash it, effectively rendering Darhk powerless during the climax, just in time for Oliver to knock him out and leave him for the cops. Surely, this can’t be the end of Damien Darhk, right? Honestly, he kind of went down like a chump, though it’s likely that he’ll return to menace Star City for the season’s climax, since it seems hard to believe that Arrow would introduce a great major villain like Darhk, only to have him rot in jail as the season amps up.
In any case, William is returned to his mother, and Vixen goes back to Detroit, and all seems well, beyond Oliver dropping out of the mayoral race… Until Felicity comes to see Oliver, takes off her engagement ring, and breaks their engagement, because Oliver honoured Samantha and didn’t break that trust for her sake. Then, right at that moment, Curtis’ miracle implant seems to work, and Felicity can walk, giving her time to walk out of the room, and leave her wheelchair, and this scene closes out the episode. Seriously…?
Needless to say, this was an odd and unsatisfying conclusion, especially since Felicity breaking the engagement is total bullshit, and feels like it was only done because the plot says so. Diggle directly told Oliver that he understood why he didn’t tell anyone about William, Vixen says that Oliver couldn’t have done anything different, and hell, even Laurel takes the news of Oliver cheating on her and having a child out of wedlock with another woman at the time pretty damn well, even if she admits to Captain Lance later that she’s a bit bummed at that news. What’s Felicity’s problem?! Given the rest of the team being supportive, and Oliver being put in an impossible situation, it’s just not possible to sympathize with Felicity here, who feels like she’s just being entitled and throwing a tantrum.
At least the flashbacks improved a bit this week, on the bright side, as Reiter rouses some sort of dark entity, following the coercing of Oliver and co. to dig through the prison wall, which possesses Conklin’s body, and starts threatening Reiter’s soldiers. Apparently though, Oliver is able to pass, which Reiter was fully counting on. Oliver is then able to lead everyone into a mysterious cavern, which probably holds some sort of special power, as Oliver’s protection ward from Constantine starts coming into play. The flashback plotline still feels like it’s moving rather slowly, but at least it took bigger steps this week, rather than just feeling like it’s dragging out Oliver being put through the wringer, seemingly for its own sake.
There were some other scenes with Thea and Merlyn, but they didn’t feel like they really went anywhere, beyond Thea just telling the audience what we already know, and reminding Merlyn that she really hates him a lot. Whatever. Truth be told, it was frustrating to see so much of, “Taken” coming off as a filler episode, despite its best efforts to be something greater. In fairness, Oliver’s personal struggles were pretty well done, minus the needless Felicity tantrum, and Damien Darhk finally getting proper screentime again was appreciated. Vixen was cool too, though it primarily felt like she was put into the episode because it didn’t have much else going for it, and the showrunners knew that. This leaves Arrow ending on a disappointingly flimsy note before taking a month off, and that’s a real bummer, especially after The Flash and iZombie did so well the previous day. Rather than provide exciting developments to have fans buzzing, it feels like Arrow forced contrived developments that obviously won’t stick here. Come on, Arrow. You’re better than that!
- Oliver's personal and heroic struggles
- Vixen is cool, and has great live-action effects
- Damien Darhk finally gets proper screentime again
- Action is unsatisfying
- Thea/Merlyn scenes are filler
- Felicity breaking the engagement is forced and excessive