Arrow is the cornerstone and namesake of DC’s Arrowverse, but despite a few recent high points, the show has been an unenjoyable dud. You’ll never see any more self-loathing in a fandom than on the r/Arrow subreddit. This week’s episode “Taken” is another example of Arrow doing great to set up other shows at the expense of its own health.
Right now, Arrow’s biggest issue is that it’s populated by increasingly intolerable characters making very dumb, very poor decisions that contradict with what they stand for. Just last week, Felicity lectured Capt. Lance, telling him secrets are OK to keep people safe (which I have issues with, but that’s their thesis). And, yet, at the end of “Taken,” Felicity walks out — literally walks out — on Oliver for keeping his son William from her.
Putting aside that I’ve been a Felicity fan until recently: I value smart, emotionally fulfilling storytelling above all, so understand that that is why I’ve never been one to board the Felicity hate train. Not only is directing hate toward a once exemplary female character a toe dip into coded misogyny, but she’s also a fictional character. If there’s any blame target it’s the writers room, who ended Felicity and Oliver’s most significant scene yet with an ill-paced, ill-timed walk off — a hilarious miracle made possible because of some magic computer chip. It was the knife twist that’s punctuated a series of bad decisions from Arrow lately.
But not everything Arrow has been doing recently is substandard. Arrow has been great at launching other stories, their most successful clearly being The Flash. But Legends of Tomorrow is something quite special, and it did well to bring us back Constantine (who got a fun update this episode). The one I thought would be forgotten was the web series Vixen, which introduced Mari McCabe as DC’s animal superheroine. Au contraire, Arrow brought Vixen into live-action with Mari McCabe’s voice-actress Megalyn Echikunwoke guest starring in “Taken.” And her role is so efficient and solid that I wish she’d get more than a cartoon.
There’s a lot of eye-rolling but necessary exposition dump to get non-Vixen viewers up to speed, but “Taken” is similar to “Haunted” in that it uses its guest character to do voodoo of which no one else on Team Arrow is capable. Last time it was Constantine, this time’s Vixen, who can mimic the strength and abilities of wild animals. She’s recruited by Team Arrow for a final assault against Damien Darhk to undercut him of his own Force-like magic and to rescue William (who will not be the Green Arrow of the future in the next episode of Legends of Tomorrow).
Echikunwoke absolutely shines as Vixen, and if her power-set weren’t so out of place in Arrow’s grittiness, I would wish she’d stay forever. Like Legends of Tomorrow making a case for a Firestorm series, Arrow shows how good a standalone Vixen series could be. Respect to animation, but this character deserves the live-action treatment.
Unfortunately, there’s no treatment that can help Felicity and Oliver. Moving as Oliver’s goodbye to William was, Felicity’s walk out was irrational and unbelievable. I’m not married, but Felicity leaving Oliver for not telling her about William — whom he just cut out of his life for his safety — isn’t a thing a supportive spouse should do.