Synopsis of 4×15: With his secrets laid bare and desperate to rescue William from Darhk, Oliver calls in help from Vixen, suspends his campaign for mayor and ultimately finds a way to hit Damien’s power at the source.
“What does it say about our relationship if your first instinct is to never tell the truth,” Felicity asks Oliver at the top of this week’s episode of Arrow, “Taken.” It’s a statement she probably could have made dozens of times since the series started and it’s strange to see it deployed here as it is.
So much of the interpersonal drama of Arrow has come from the secrets characters hide from each other and, despite their attempts to infuse some drama and consequences for those secrets, there’s little new here for longtime watchers of the show.
After Darhk kidnapped William last episode, Oliver and Samantha are desperate to find their son, even recruiting Detroit’s animal-themed hero, Vixen, to help track down the agent of HIVE. There’s some fun action here but the majority of the plot is fairly standard. It’s another episode where the game tangles with Darhk and he beats them up with magic.
At least the effects are neat. I noted how great Vixen’s effects looked in the character’s animated debut but they’re really cool in live action. The producers clearly infused her powers with ethereal, magical style and it looks great, better than this show often has and it highlights one of the most interesting issues about the show’s main cast.
There’s a compelling case to be made that moreso than in Flash, the extended cast of Arrow is stronger than the core protagonists. After being a less than compelling character in the first two seasons, Laurel is often an interesting driven individual with a host of her own stories. In his best moments, Diggle’s focus on family is much more compelling than what’s going on in any given episode.
The standout moments of this season have been Vixen’s appearances here and Constantine’s appearance at the beginning of the season that also gets a brief shoutout here. With everyone else going through familiar character beats, only the characters in the series’ margins get to have any development or fun.
Despite this, the focus is really on the consequences here. Vixen and Oliver figure out a way to at least temporarily break Darhk’s power, Oliver suspends his mayoral campaign, Felicity breaks her and Oliver’s engagement and learns to walk again. It’s nice to see the show begin to take steps at interrogating its characters and their relationships but it feels too little, too late. I mean, is Oliver lying about his son to Felicity the worst thing he’s done?
Remember when he married Nyssa al Ghul and took over an international terrorist syndicate without telling anyone? Remember when he set Felicity up to help him fight an insane, homicidal super villain? Remember when Oliver concealed Malcolm’s identity as Thea’s real father from everyone?
I mean, at least he has a reason for not telling people about William and everyone agrees that he’s in the right for not talking about his son but apparently this is the last straw for Felicity. I just don’t buy it, especially under the circumstances laid out here. At least Malcolm and Thea’s breakdown at the episode’s conclusion feels real and lived in, like a natural development in these two’s often complicated relationship.
“Taken” is clearly setting up the endgame for this season more than anything and it will be interesting to see how the major players get in position for the season’s final episodes but the big emotional beats feel less like game changes and more like minor shuffles of the cards. It’s good to see Arrow begin to make changes to the status quo, but it needs to ground those developments in believable actions and character motivations.