Last night on The CW, The Flash answered (sort of) one of the biggest mysteries of the season while teasing another, just before taking the next four weeks off. Arrow will also be taking a brief hiatus until March 23rd, but the show’s latest hour wasn’t half so rewarding as its Central City counterpart. Yes, a child’s life was saved, and yes, a dastardly devil of a villain was defeated, but the execution of these dramatic events fell inexplicably flat.
The saving grace of tonight’s episode came courtesy of guest star Megalyn Echikunwoke, whose heroic Vixen brought a much-needed power boost to Team Arrow. The DC Comics character was previously introduced through the CW Seed animated web series Vixen, also voiced by Echikunwoke, but this hour was her first live-action appearance. Thanks to her incredible ability to borrow powers from the animal kingdom, Vixen was able to single-handedly lead Team Arrow to the stronghold of their season-long nemesis, destroy his power source, and rescue a kidnapped child, all before dispensing some very practical, tough-love advice to a heart-weary and confused Oliver Queen. Thanks be to Vixen!
Tonight’s flashback sequence offered up some of the most intriguing bits of the episode, though ultimately left fans wondering just what the heck is going on on that island. Reiter’s prisoners have broken their way through into a cave that’s bursting with some sort of dark energy, an energy that manages to resurrect the recently deceased Conklin. Since his eyes were clouded over and he started speaking in a foreign language, I’m going to go ahead and assume that Conklin is not himself. (Could he be DC Comics’ Destiny, or some version of that character?) Whatever he is, he seems to be some sort of herald or gatekeeper since he grants Oliver passage *beyond* thanks to his mystical tattoos. Unfortunately, we get one parting glimpse of a very ordinary looking cavern before we leave Lian Yu behind for the next four weeks.
The main plot of this episode, titled “Taken”, left much to be desired in the way of story as well. It’s bookended well with scenes of Oliver and Felicity that illustrate the current state of their relationship, and it ties up some loose ends that have been established throughout the season, but it lacked the punch of some of the series’ better episodes.
As the title explains, this episode centers around Damien Darhk’s kidnapping of Oliver’s son William, an event that causes Ollie to break the news to pretty much everyone that, yes, he has a son. At this point, only Thea, Malcolm, and Barry Allen knew about William’s existence; Laurel is a bit stung by the revelation, and Felicity is downright outraged. You can’t exactly blame either of them for reacting this way, but once William’s mother Samantha shows up – and quickly learns Ollie’s secret identity because why not – she clears the air, saying that she was the one who made Oliver choose between being in his son’s life and being honest with his friends and family.
This was a pretty rough episode for Oliver Queen all around. His estranged son has been kidnapped by an incredibly powerful villain he’s gone up against multiple times with no chance of defeating, his lair is currently populated with multiple women who are super pissed at him, and he’s then forced to pull out of the election early. (If only he’d taken that advice while he was dating Samantha…) While Ollie’s run at Star City Mayor is now over, his public support for dastardly opponent Ruvé Adams, aka Mrs. Darhk, suggests that some political evils may await us in future episodes.
Beaten back into a corner by Darhk’s machinations, Ollie puts out the request for help from the magically inclined Vixen. Her abilities allow her to track William’s scent – by sniffing a Flash action figure, which was hilarious – but the team’s first clash with Darhk ends with the villain escaping and Vixen unable to trace William any longer. It’s now, after many, many episodes this season, that Vixen suggests that perhaps the secret to Darhk’s power lies in an idol or totem of some sort. It’s here that Quentin Lance just happens to remember seeing something like that, so Vixen does some research and figures out that the idol connects Darhk to magical ley lines, which Felicity uses to track down his location.
This second battle goes a lot better with the full Team Arrow engaged in combat. Though Speedy gets to fire off some cool archery shots from the back of a moving motorcycle, the moment again goes to Vixen, who cycled through her many powers in order to find the strength to destroy Darhk’s power source … which was just chilling on his coffee table. (It’s quite the conversation piece, or at least it was before it was shattered.) With Darhk’s power battery now destroyed, he’s as helpless as a baby lamb, one which Green Arrow punches in the face. William actually has the second best moment in this fight since he attempts to stop a still-powered-up Darhk from harming the costumed heroes, which caused me to worry for the kid’s safety, but everything turned out alright in the end.
Oliver takes Mari’s advice to heart and decides to give William a normal childhood free from his vigilante antics. He records a video message explaining his alter ego to his son, who won’t find out the truth until he comes of age. William is written out of Oliver’s life – and the show’s cast – for now as Samantha moves them to some undisclosed location far, far away. So Oliver’s estranged son is in good hands, his nemesis has been neutered, and the pressures of politics are off his shoulders. The only twist here is that it wasn’t Darhk who kidnapped William but Malcolm Merlyn! (“It wasn’t me! It was the one-armed man!”) But Oliver lets Thea handle that particular slight for the time being.
The bigger twist at the episode’s end is that Felicity has decided that she needs some space. After opening the episode in a scene in which Oliver supports Felicity while she tries to walk, we end with her giving Oliver back her engagement ring and then, lo and behold, she literally walks out on him! This hour was about as emotional a roller coaster ride as Stephen Amell has ever had to play on this show, and while he did a good job, the balance just felt off. The soap opera side was strong in this one, and the action elements were what we’ve come to expect from the veteran show, I was just hoping for a little more from this episode – though Vixen certainly helped – and wanted something interesting to chew on for the next four weeks. I guess I’ll to be content with figuring out who’s in the iron mask on The Flash.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Paul: “Be patient with yourself. These things take time.”
Damien Darhk: “You two just melt my stone-cold heart.”
Damien Darhk: “Sorry about the limo. Love the wheelchair. Might I suggest: motorized!”
Felicity: “Who’s William?” Oliver: “He’s my son.” Well that’s one way to break the news!
Samantha: “What can you do, Oliver? What can you do that an entire police force can’t?” Oliver: “Samantha, I’m the Green Arrow.” Just tell everyone!
Diggle: “What about Constantine?” Oliver: “He’s in Hell.” Thea: “Why? What’s going on?” Oliver: “He’s literally in Hell.”
Oliver: “Mari and I had an … animated encounter last year and she’s offered to pitch in.” Puns!
Resurrected Conklin: “Destiny, no. We are something far greater.”
Diggle: “Crazy world we’re livin’ in, huh? Metahumans, magic, Oliver Queen – Father.” This is the second episode in a row where Diggle warned a costumed hero not to let their feelings “eat them up inside.”
Damien Darhk: “My, my. I haven’t seen that trinket in a dog’s age. M’Changa province, am I right?”
So Damien Darhk is the only one who doesn’t know Green Arrow’s identity, right?
The fight scenes got a little sloppy in this one, what with a Ghost slamming his own head into a table and a very, very obvious stuntman stepping in for Neal McDonough at multiple points.
Resurrected Conklin: “No stranger shall pass. You … you are worthy to pass.”
Mari: “Look around you, Oliver. The best gift you can give him is his childhood.”
Pro tip: Always keep the source of your phenomenal magic power on fully accessible display in your living room.
William: “I’m kind of over The Flash. I want a Green Arrow action figure.” That’s got to be the biggest heartwarming moment for Oliver ever.
Malcolm: “I would rather you hate me and be alive than love me and be dead.”
The (unintentional?) pun of Felicity literally walking out on Oliver might have been the loudest inappropriate laugh I’ve had during this show in a long time.