While Arrow‘s Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was busy looking stupid over keeping the existence of his son secret from his fiancée, he did make one smart move in last night’s “Taken.” When Arrow and the gang needed to fight Damien Darhk’s magic with magic, he knew Constantine (Matt Ryan) was unreachable. “I mean, he’s actually, truly, in hell.” So Ollie turned to another one of his friends, Mari McCabe a.k.a. Vixen (Megalyn E.K.).
Now if you’re asking when did Oliver (and The Flash‘s Barry Allen) become friends with Mari, it all happened in the animated Arrowverse. Vixen is a web series on the CW Network’s digital arm, CW Seed (the character originated in the comics). Arrow and the Flash both made appearances on the cartoon, with Amell and Grant Gustin pulling voiceover duty. Hence the appropriately cheesy line Ollie uttered as exposition for how he and Mari first connected:
Oliver: “Mari and I had an animated encounter last year. And we stayed in touch.”
In “Taken,” McCabe was an integral part of the mission to save Oliver’s son from Darhk’s clutches. She’s stronger than everyone else. She was also essential in helping figure out the source of Damien’s power. For me, the case was made for seeing more of her in the future, and then some:
Vixen/Mari’s strength isn’t simply physical. You can tell this girl has been through some stuff, and that she’s come out the other side a better woman. She’s progressed as a person in the time between the conclusion of the first season of the animated web series and this first appearance on Arrow, and I’m interested in seeing how she got from Point A to Point B.
Her presence adds to the diversity of the Arrowverse. One of the great aspects of the trio of shows in this universe — Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — is its diversity. Adding Mari into the mix gives this world an African heroine who’s no longer at the beginning of her journey. Unlike Jax and Kendra/Chay-ara on Legends, she’s accepted who she is. Granted, Kendra’s very old, but she’s only recently remembered her true self. Mari represents someone who’s self-aware and isn’t angsting over her identity or her willingness to be part of a team. She provides a different perspective on so many levels.
With the help of that Totem, she makes a formidable ally. It doesn’t hurt that Vixen has the ability to call on those animal spirits in any given situation. They give her the power to fly, to fight, to crush, and can even give her super hearing thanks to those owl ears. But she’s not omnipotent. She loses that Anansi Totem, and she’s in trouble. So she’s not burdened with having to be perfect.
Arrow‘s VFX team pulled off the animal spirit aspect of Mari’s power. This was key for me. I admit, I was a little worried about how the animal spirits would be represented in the live-action realm, but I didn’t need to worry. They looked seamless, and will only get better as more strides are made technologically.
Mari would make a great teammate. On Arrow, it really felt like Oliver and Mari had done this before. No awkward conversations. They shared a nice, easy friends-type chemistry. Mari wasn’t afraid to dish out some painful advice that she based on her own experiences. And, ultimately, Oliver agreed with her and let go of his son so William can have the stress-free, violence-free childhood he deserves. Mari’s independent and can work on her own. But she also works well with others. I’m not going to say she’s ego-free, but she’s already showing she can keep her ego in check when necessary.
She shares some classic superhero traits. What I mean by that is she’s a lot like Oliver and Barry and so many other heroes. She’s ready to take the blame when things go wrong, even when it’s not her fault. So it’s only logical to think she’ll go through some of the same tropes, like beating herself up when she can’t save everyone. She’ll be tough on herself and she’ll make mistakes, but she’ll learn from them, too.
There’s a lot of her story to cover. Her parents gave her up to protect her. She grew up in foster homes and was eventually adopted. I absorbed what I could from Season 1 of Vixen as well as what she revealed on Arrow. But there’s so much more to learn thanks to the life of the character in comic books, where she’s been a part of the Justice League as well as the Suicide Squad. It would be criminal not to see some of this play out on the small screen, right?
At this point, I don’t care if Mari lives on as the center of her own show, whether she joins the Legends of Tomorrow team, or she continues to make guest star appearances on Arrow (although the first two options sound infinitely better to me). I don’t want Mari to be relegated solely to the animated world.
I feel like E.K. is ready for more. I’m really happy for her. She’s appeared on everything from That ’70s Show to Supernatural to The 4400, and she’s starring on the upcoming A&E series, Damien. I feel E.K’s made a special connection with Mari McCabe and Vixen and would love to see much, much more of her and this badass Detroit superhero.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on the CW.