What is it about the 15th episodes of Arrow each season that leave a sour taste in my mouth? Beginning with season two, I feel like we go into the 15th episode expecting the worst and feeling even worse by episode’s end. But then again it serves as the final hiatus break and it serves to be the launching point of the final run of the season. So obviously it hurt like hell.
But with that said, this episode wasn’t too bad. It hurt, sure, but it did exactly what it needed to do. It set up several important storylines heading into this final run of episodes and saw brilliant performances all around. Frankly, I was expecting worse.
“Taken” saw the baby mama storyline brought to the forefront as Damien Darhk had Oliver’s son kidnapped and used as leverage to get from him what he wants. And what he wanted was for him to drop out of the mayoral race so that he couldn’t stop what Darhk had planned. But man Darhk did even worse damage than he intended as William being brought front-and-center resulted in a shift in Oliver and Felicity’s relationship as Oliver’s lie was revealed and Felicity realized that she needs a break from Oliver and his lies.
This episode was made better with the introduction of Mari McCabe, who raced her way into our hearts as the badass, magical Vixen. While this isn’t Vixen’s first interaction with Team Arrow – seeing as Oliver and Felicity appeared on the Vixen animated series, which will see a second season this summer – seeing Vixen come alive in live action was hands down my favorite thing about this episode.
Now Arrow is on a three-week hiatus, which leaves us shell-shocked, angsty, and needing an immediate – as in a week, not three – resolution to what happened in this episode.
While things might not be the best right now, we have to remember that this happens every season. There’s a reason why that 15th episode affects us like it does: this is the storm before the calm in Arrow land. Things have to get really, really bad before they can get better. If things were really good at this point I’d be very concerned. So consider this a good sign as we head into the final eight episodes of the season.
Broken Trust, Broken Hearts
Since Stephen Amell can’t immediately ease our concerns on the Olicity front, I’m going to step in and tell the fandom what he’d probably say at this point: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And man it seems pretty dark right about now.
Oliver has been lying about William for nearly three months, and wouldn’t you know it the truth was revealed just as it always is. The thing here is that Oliver is someone who has lied countless times in his life. Whether it was during his pre-island playboy days (where he cheated on Laurel and knocked up a one-night stand) or his island days (where he lied to his friend Slade and prompted a vendetta five years in the making) or the present (where he has been lying to his life partner about an important part of his life), Oliver Queen has never learned his lesson. That’s it. It’s why it’s a repeated cycle in his life; it’s why he continues to find himself in these situations where people he cares about get hurt; it’s why Felicity needed to take a break from their relationship.
It was nice to pretend for most of the episode that the end scene wasn’t coming, seeing as Felicity put that to the side while they focused on William’s safe return. And at one point it even seemed like perhaps she was willing to look past keeping that secret from her only because Samantha had told her that she forced Oliver to do as much. But then something changed. Felicity, listening from the sidelines as Oliver recorded a video message for his son to watch eight years in the future, realized something: Oliver made this decision on his own with, once again, not turning to her like he should, like a fiancé/husband should.
For Felicity this isn’t about the fact that Oliver has a son, it’s that he repeatedly chooses not to include her in this discussion. Felicity might not be William’s birth mother, but if she’s supposed to be Oliver’s wife and a part of his life then she needs to be included in these decisions. And she’s damn right.
Oliver isn’t there yet. He’s lied repeatedly in his life – not so much with Felicity, but this lie and the way he’s choosing to keep her excluded from this part of his life serves as a reminder that Oliver doesn’t understand that. And Felicity can’t marry him until he gets there.
So while watching Felicity remove her engagement ring, set it on the table, and regain the use of her legs and walked out of their loft caused me physical pain, this is something that needed to happen. The only way that Oliver is going to learn, and the only way that Oliver and Felicity’s relationship is going to grow stronger is through making decisions, paying the consequences, and then fighting like hell to make amends. But I’m damn proud of Felicity. She knows that this relationship is too important to screw up. It needs to be done right.
While it’s painful to watch and think about a few episodes where Oliver and Felicity are divided – especially with a three-week hiatus on the horizon – this is something that needed to happen. Things would have been much worse if this hadn’t have happened. Remember that when things get dark and it feels like they’ll never to sunshine again. From mistakes from growth. And from growth comes healthy relationships.
Now it’s time for Oliver to man up and go earn Felicity’s trust back. It’s not going to be easy, but then:
The End of the Baby Mama Drama?
While this episode featured a storyline that I’ve been against from its inception – the baby mama drama – the best thing about this storyline in this episode was that it now appears that this was the end of this storyline once and for all – unless Arrow somehow decided to continue for eight more seasons, you know, William’s 18th birthday.
From the beginning I’ve always felt like this storyline could’ve been handled in a way that didn’t result in cheap drama to drive a wedge between two characters. This could’ve been more about Oliver and William – and how he fits in his life – instead of about Oliver’s lie. The focus was just off.
We were presented with two opposing sides regarding how Oliver should approach the situation with William. First we had Diggle – from father to father – telling Oliver that keeping close to your child is the best thing a parent can do. And while Diggle was right, it’s not something that applies in all instances. It doesn’t apply when the parent leads a somewhat unhealthy life – unhealthy here meaning that his life is at stake every day – putting his child in danger. That’s exactly what Vixen told Oliver.
Vixen, who grew up in foster care, never knew her birth parents but after going through everything she did, she realized that at a young age there was no way in hell she’d have been able to handle what she’s gone through. Vixen told Oliver the best gift that he could give to William is his childhood. And while taking a step back from William might hurt like hell, being a parent is all about making sacrifices. And this was a sacrifice that Oliver eventually made.
In the final scene we had Oliver recording a video message for William, where he revealed that he’s his birth father and also that he’s the Green Arrow. He explained that he couldn’t be in his life because of the dangers of being the Green Arrow. He reiterated Vixen’s words; that he felt like the best thing he could give him is his childhood. That’s why he told his mother to move them far away from here and, when he turns 18, to give him this video message.
Considering William is 10 years old now, Arrow would have to go on for eight more seasons for that storyline to surface again, right? Well, we have seen crazier things on this show. And once Oliver and Felicity find their way back to each other, get married, and eventually have a kid, you have to wonder if Oliver might decide to reach out to William before then. But at least for the time being this storyline seems to be resolved. Rest easy. Now, the fallout.
Vixen Owns This Episode
While Mari McCabe made her badass presence known in the CW Seed animated series Vixen, the mystical superhero from Detroit made her live action debut and did the impossible: made me love her even more than I already did.
Vixen is the costumed female superhero I’ve been waiting for. Ever since Sara Lance made her way to Legends of Tomorrow, I’ve been waiting for a badass female with an equal amount of heroism, charisma and smarts to steal her way into my heart. And from her very first scene, Vixen owned everything in this episode.
Vixen brought that mysticism that has been an essential part of Arrow’s fourth season as a means to counter Damien Darhk’s own mysticism and to find William. Along the way, Vixen dished out intelligent advice to Oliver – to let William go and let him live his childhood away from this dangerous life – and embodied what it means to be a badass in every sense of the word. She stood up to Darhk multiple times and took the beatings. So it was only fitting that when she captured Darhk’s totum – his source of power – that she would be the one to use her powers to destroy it and incapacitate Darhk.
Vixen is a character that we got to meet on her animated show, Vixen, and we got to learn about her past. How her family was driven from their homeland, who Mari never knew her birth parents, and how she was raised by a foster father and soon discovered her magical heritage. It’s an origin story that deserves more focus, but is equally inspiring. Mari has lived it all, and she has worked her way to become the hero that she is.
While Vixen is already greenlit for a second season – airing this summer on CW Seed – I’m already begging for more live-action Vixen on The CW, whether that’s Arrow or Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. She is one of those pleasant surprises that you didn’t think would have such an incredible impact as she did. And when that happens we know that the Arrow producers do not let that get away. (And if you haven’t watched Vixen yet, you need to change that right now. Something to do during hiatus!)
The End of Damien Darhk?
Ever since Damien Darhk’s introduction in the first episode of the season, we’ve been conditioned to believe that he would Oliver’d biggest advesary in this fourth season. But since the midseason finale the show has been setting him up more as a piece of the big bad than the big bad itself.
The big bad itself is in fact H.I.V.E., which Darhk ran and executed his plans behind. And I’ve always gotten the feeling that Darhk is expendable. This isn’t his personal mission, this is part of something bigger, and he can be replaced.
But now that Vixen helped destroy the totem that housed his mystical powers, Darhk is nothing more than a vile man with no ability to defeat the Green Arrow. Now the question becomes: what happens to Damien Darhk now that he’s in custody?
Is this the beginning of the end for Darhk within H.I.V.E.? Is someone else, perhaps a familiar someone, who will fill in his role? Perhaps Darhk isn’t the man we should be worried about here…
Malcolm: The New Big Bad?
Malcolm Merlyn is the cockroach that you can never get rid of. Sometimes he might disappear for a little while, but he always manages to reappear and bring destruction and pain in his wake.
Malcolm has been a villain since season one and he’s never stopped being one despite helping Oliver defeat Ra’s al Ghul last season or being a father to Thea. Nothing has changed the fact that Malcolm is a selfish, power-hungry villain who would step on anyone to get what he wants.
Luckily Thea wasn’t in the dark about her father’s dealings in this last episode where he was willing to sacrifice her life in order to remain in charge of the League of Assassins. Leave it to Malcolm to try and defend his decision – oh the world is in danger, oh I always planned on protecting you, blah blah blah. Those words mean absolutely nothing.
On a show where lies are in like the latest fashion trends, Malcolm is an example of someone who lies for his own selfish tendencies where elsewhere Oliver lied to protect his son. While both were wrong in their lies, one had good intentions while the other thought about nothing or no one but himself.
And God bless Thea for taking a stand and cutting Malcolm off. My favorite thing about it was how she reference Robert – her true father – and wondered what he would think. Malcolm may have turned Thea into a warrior, but while Robert was alive he turned Thea into a daughter that was loved and protected. Which one sounds like a father to you?
But after watching this episode I cannot help but think that Malcolm has been set up as the season’s big bad. That “he” from the flash forward grave scene is sounding an awful lot like it’s Malcolm that Oliver is referencing. Think about it, Oliver says that it’s his responsibility, and he’s had multiple opportunities to kill Malcolm – including most recently last week – but didn’t. Perhaps that tension in the limo between Oliver and Felicity isn’t about the lie but about Oliver failing to do what needed to be done and kill Malcolm. Because if he did maybe this death doesn’t happen?
All signs are pointing towards Malcolm being Oliver’s main foe this season. Malcolm is that cockroach that won’t die. And that’s the one constant that Oliver can depend on when it comes to villains.
Arrow returns Wednesday, March 23 at 8/7c on the CW.