Arrow S04E15 “Taken” REVIEW

Arrow S04E15 “Taken” REVIEW

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stars 4

Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Keto Shimizu, Brian Ford Sullivan
Director: Gregory Smith

 

Essential plot points:

  • Oliver and Curtis’s husband Paul try to help Felicity at physical therapy as she attempts to walk, following the implanting of Curtis’s chip. However, it proves too much for her. Paul tells her not to be disheartened, and that the human body needs time to adapt.
  • Leaving the therapy centre, Felicity is disappointed Curtis’s chip hasn’t worked yet, but as Oliver comforts her Damien Darhk appears, and tells Oliver he has William. He tells Oliver to drop out of the Mayoral race if he wants to keep William safe. Felicity asks who William is, and Oliver reveals it’s his son.
  • Unsurprisingly, Felicity is upset Oliver couldn’t tell her about him, even despite Samantha’s ultimatum. The rest of Team Arrow – apart from Thea – are shocked to find out.
  • Samantha turns up at Oliver’s campaign HQ, trying to find William after it turns out he was snatched from her home two days previously. He tells Samantha he will get William back – and reveals that he’s the Green Arrow.
  • He takes Samantha down to the Lair where the Team are working to find William – and Samantha confesses her affair to Laurel. With Constantine in hell, they need someone with magical powers to counter Darhk – so Oliver turns to Detroit superhero Vixen, Mari McCabe.

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  • He brings Mari to the Lair to use magic, and she tracks William’s scent.
  • Thea finds Malcolm at her apartment, and confronts him about putting the League before her.
  • Diggle and Oliver talk about his predicament over keeping the child secret. Diggle tells him the only thing to focus on is getting his son back safe, and protecting him.
  • Back at the Lair, Felicity and Samantha work up a profile of William to make finding him easier for the police. Samantha tells Felicity not to blame Oliver for not telling her about his son – and that it was Samantha who forced him to keep it a secret.
  • Meanwhile Captain Lance mobilises what’s left of SCPD’s resources to find William. Laurel admits to him she’s still hurt by the fact Oliver cheated on her and got Samantha pregnant when they were still together.
  • Mari tracks down William to a penthouse, and the team raid the building, taking down the HIVE forces. Oliver bursts into Darhk’s room, but Darhk reveals he had the boy moved before Team Arrow got there. Mari jumps in and Darhk finds his powers are are limited against her totem – so he throws Oliver through a window. Mari catches him just in time, but it gives Darhk a chance to escape – and Mari reveals she’s lost the scent for William.
  • Darhk phones Oliver and tells him after the botched raid that he must drop out of the mayoral race tonight, and endorse Ruvé Adams in the process. Mari works out Darhk must have a totem like hers, and Lance recalls the idol he saw in the HIVE HQ.
  • Oliver stages a press conference at his campaign HQ and suspends his campaign, announcing he’ll support Ruvé, to the disgust of campaign manager Alex. Oliver apologies for not being able to explain to Alex why, despite a 16 point lead in the polls, he has to quit the race.
  • One of Mari’s contacts recognises Darhk’s idol, which has to be connected to a lay line to work. Oliver confides in Mari that he’s concerned Darhk will double-cross them. Mari tells Oliver that keeping William at as far a distance as possible might be the best thing for him after all, after her own experiences.
  • Felicity works out where Darhk is holding William, just as Damien phones to say he’ll release the boy in three hours.
  • Realising they have a chance to get him back and take Darhk out for good, Samantha urges them to go for it.

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  • Team Arrow raid Darhk’s compound. Vixen fights Darhk, channelling her animal powers to steal his totem while the rest of the team take on the ghosts. Darhk uses his powers to try and strangle Oliver, Thea and Laurel, but Mari manages to destroy the totem, and suddenly Damien is powerless. Oliver punches him out as the police arrive – with William found and safe.
  • William reveals he was snatched by a man with a missing hand – Malcolm Merlyn. Thea confronts Malcolm and tells him she never wants to see him again.
  • At Oliver’s suggestion, Samantha takes William to a new home away from Central City and away from anyone who might know him, keeping him safe until he’s old enough to know Oliver is the Green Arrow. But Felicity tells Oliver she can no longer trust him, and breaks off their engagement. The emotions fire up her chip and she gets up out the wheelchair… and walks out of their relationship.
  • In flashbacks to Lian Yu, the tunnel Reiter has had the prisoners dig produces a ghost version of Conklin to protect it, threatening to kill everyone. Reiter locks Oliver and Taiana in with it, but the magical lettering Constantine imbued Olly with protects them and the ghost allows them to pass into a massive cavern beyond the tunnel…

 

Review:

As the review’s being written, the news that Arrow has been renewed for a fifth season by the CW has been announced. That will take it up to the point where Oliver’s flashbacks have caught up with the actual show, unless we start getting more diversions or something else shoehorned into the plot. And with Amell starting to pick up more film roles, it wouldn’t necessarily come as a shock if next season turns out to be the last.

All of which makes the constant expansion of the Arrowverse seem a lot more understandable. Vixen came in as a half-hour cartoon, thrown onto a website during the summer when the show was off air, and yet here’s the character now brought into the wider, live action world in a way that feels definitely like the seeding of the Legends Of Tomorrow characters earlier this season.

Producing five interconnected live action series might seem a stretch (if you include Supergirl) but adding Vixen into Legends, or bringing it in as a show in its own right to replace Arrow in future doesn’t feel like a stretch. Although how much the producers could make Toronto look like Detroit on a regular basis remains to be seen.

And while adding Vixen to “Taken” makes sense in itself – if Constantine is unavailable to the production following his one-and-done appearance earlier this year, she’s the most obvious “magical” fit – it takes some gratuitous info dumping to explain who the character is and what she does, far more than we actually got when Matt Ryan turned up.

One line in particular, about how without the totem she’s just a fashion designer living at home in Detroit with her foster dad, is so egregious as to be wandering into the, “As you know, my father, the King…” territory so hated by m’chum Al on the must-listen House To Astonish comics podcast.

Credit to Megalyn Echikunwoke, though, who turns her voice role as Mari into an impressive live-action turn – enough to give confidence that a regular role for her wouldn’t just end up being an Arrowverse version of Manimal.

But the real star of the show is, again, Neal McDonough. It risks getting boring, having to wax lyrical each week about how much he’s brought to the role of Damien Darhk.

After three seasons of gruff, scowling bad guys (even Barrowman was guilty of that), to have McDonough’s urbane, witty, charismatic presence has brought such a vital dynamic to the show, not least because his power has been built up enough to the point where removing it feels like a genuine win for Team Arrow.

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It helps that he looks like he’s having a ball playing the role – providing a Blofeld to Amell’s Bond, and given the perfect line in asides. His “that happened”, after Mari makes off with the source of his power, is the perfect illustration. They say the devil gets all the best tunes – and Darhk’s dialogue has been singing so far.

As with the removal of the League Of Assassins two weeks ago, taking William out of the picture feel as much about clearing up loose ends – both Oliver’s political campaign, and his secret child – as it does driving the plot, even if the long-term ramifications of what happens are being set up with Olicity’s big break-up – something that couldn’t have been more telegraphed if had come with a big red flashing sign at the engagement party. Although, since the wedding’s off and they’ve now broken up, does that mean that they have to give all their engagement presents back? In which case, Felicity’s regained ability to walk is going to be very short-lived.

Pleasingly, with “Taken”, the writers resisted the obvious opportunity to have Oliver go all Liam Neeson on everyone – singlehandedly punching his way through all the HIVE ghosts at Darhk’s base. In fact, quite the opposite; where you’d expect him to rage and threaten down the phone at his child’s kidnapper, Oliver goes out of his way to comply with Damien’s demands, bringing to an end the political story in a way which – as with much of the mayoral race this season – feels really offhand.

Hopefully they’ll do more with that in the remaining episodes, because after weeks focusing on the campaign, it feels like we’ve been watching them take the show down a blind alley rather than what should have been a key plot driver.

 

The Good:

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  • So, a big hooray for Vixen entering the live action Arrowverse. Megalyn Echikunwoke is as good in the live-action role as she is in the cartoon, and the CGI version of the animated animal totem effects from Vixen work surprisingly well.

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  • Everyone’s general sense of embarrassment that the thing they have to use to trace William is his Flash action figure (and especially Mari having to sniff it) is very amusing. But especially lovely is the pay-off. Remember how back when we reviewed “Legends Of Yesterday”, we made a joke about Oliver having to play in a room full of Flash merch? Well, he gets his own back at the end. Kudos for playing the long game.

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  • Chenier Hundal, who plays Curtis’s other half Paul, hasn’t had a lot to do in his appearances in the show so far, but he’s always been interesting to watch. His wee speech to Felicity about how he and Curtis met, inspiring her not to give up, is a really lovely moment. It’s nice to have a positive character in Arrow who’s just a regular person for once.
  • The Constantine gag, to explain why he can’t help the team, is lovely – and given the ongoing back and forth over the character’s future, nicely meta too.

 

The Bad:

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  • Vixen’s costume. I know it’s meant to be a nod to the yellow Mari wears in the comics, but for a fashion designer, you’d think she’d know that horrible washed-out yellow doesn’t work with black at all, darling.
  • At the moment it’s a continuity snafu, although the producers have claimed they’re going to address it in season two of Vixen, but somehow Laurel knows Mari despite the two never having met in the cartoon.
  • There’s something that’s not completely clear in the episode – and indeed, the last few – and that’s whether Damien actually knows Oliver is Green Arrow, or whether he thinks they’re two separate people. Given Malcolm’s on his side, and filled him in on William, you’d have thought he’d also have exposed everyone else, plus they’ve gone face to face several times. Yet this episode seems to strongly suggest that as far as Damien thinks Green Arrow and his gang are pals with Oliver and nothing else. It’s a really odd situation which doesn’t make a lot of narrative sense, even if it does make for some fun dialogue.

 

And the Random:

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  • So, if you haven’t seen it, Vixen was a six-part short-form animated series that was screened on the CW’s website last August, during the gap between seasons for Arrow and The Flash. It brought the DC comics character Vixen into the Arrowverse, with Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes voicing cartoon versions of their TV characters – hence Oliver’s reference to an “animated” adventure with Mari last year. Megalyn Echikunwoke – credited on this episode, curiously, as Megalyn EK – also voiced Mari in the cartoon, and the producers have said having her appear in the parent show could also lead to her getting a Vixen live-action series or a role in Legends Of Tomorrow. Yes please.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with the character of Mari McCabe from the comics, she first debuted in 1981 and is an African-born superhero who inherited a magical totem from her parents after they were killed. She’s a model, rather than the TV version’s fashion designer.
  • Director Gregory Smith has form in the Arrowverse, having worked on the show last season and helmed an episode of Legends. He’s also an actor, most recently seen as a regular in Rookie Blue.

 

Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com


Read our other Arrow season four reviews

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