Season 4 of The CW’s Arrow has had its highs and lows. Here is Part 1 of the breakdown of what in particular worked, didn’t, and needs to happen next for Arrow after the events of “Taken.”
What Worked: “Taken” wasn’t a particularly great episode, but it does stand out among the last few installments in that it finally brought the baby mama drama in all of its nonsensical glory into the open. The truth is out. Everybody knows. The damage is done. Oliver has been a tough guy to root for ever since he revealed that he’s been secretly visiting William while lying to his fiancée who has recently been confined to a wheelchair, so the truth coming out is a major positive.
Also a positive is the fact that William and Samantha have been shipped off the show. Even at its best, Arrow has never been a show on which the hero can actually raise a child, and the baby mama plot in Season 4 has been so mishandled that Arrow has not been at its best since the moment that Oliver decided to lie. William and Samantha needed to be gone for the show to salvage what is left of the story.
Oliver facing consequences for his actions had to happen. He had to experience some kind of blowback for the flub of not reaching out to Samantha as soon as he discovered that Malcolm Merlyn knew about William, and being forced to bow out of his campaign for mayor is definitely the kind of blowback that he won’t forget any time soon. Should Oliver theoretically be able to just announce that Damien Darhk had leverage over him and take up his candidacy once more now that Darhk has been neutralized? Sure. But it cost him something to give up what he’d been fighting for.
Oliver also needed to experience blowback on the personal front. Unfortunately for fans of Olicity, that blowback had to be Oliver and Felicity breaking up. Oliver betrayed Felicity’s trust by lying to her, failed to actually apologize to her for the lying, and showed a lack of trust in her by leaving her out of the decisions he was making that would affect both of them for the rest of their lives. She had to end the engagement and he had to take the hit.
Breaking up Oliver and Felicity in the aftermath of the baby mama drama was absolutely the right call for the show, but Arrow did a solid job of offsetting the reality of the end of their relationship with the possibility of a rekindling. The tiny moment when they looked into each other’s eyes after Felicity moved her foot was so important. Oliver and Felicity were at odds for so much of the episode that this one beat of instinctive connection was necessary if the audience is going to root for them to get back together.
It was nice that Stephen Amell finally woke up in time for his monologue at the end of the episode. That the monologue apparently wore him out to the point that he couldn’t bring much spark to the rest of the scene was unfortunate, but at least Oliver’s tearful message to William proved that Amell hadn’t been replaced by a very handsome cyborg.
Stephen Amell may have been surprisingly off his game, but Oliver was more in-character than he’s been in a long time. Oliver was trying to compartmentalize everybody into separate boxes and hold down the lids for as long as possible. He pretty clearly knew that things were not going to go well for him once Felicity had the chance to talk, so he avoided the conversation for as long as possible. There’s a definite element of tragedy to the fact that he might have been able to actively defuse the situation in “Taken” if he hadn’t been going to such great lengths to avoid the explosion, but it was in keeping with Oliver’s character from the days before he became a happy homemaker.
As much as “Taken” was about Oliver and his quest to rescue his son, the most compelling scenes belonged to the ladies. It was one of Katie Cassidy’s best episodes in the entire series. Laurel has been more about action and exposition than characterization in Season 4, so seeing her realize that Oliver getting another woman pregnant while they were dating years ago still stung was an effectively humanizing moment.
Thea was fantastic throughout the hour. Owning up to knowing about William when Felicity was clearly furious about the secret is a testament to her character. Her smackdown of Malcolm in which she finally remembered that she was raised by Robert Queen for twelve years of her life was a long time coming, and Willa Holland owned the scene from start to finish.
Thankfully, Felicity at no point in the episode took any crap from anyone. She pointed out all of the reasons why Oliver keeping his secret was dumb, she refused to absolve Oliver of making the choice to lie, and she didn’t try to make excuses for him. In fact, in her refusal to enable him or compromise herself, she proved why she has been the healthiest romantic match for the hero of the series. Felicity unfortunately didn’t get the chance to vocalize her point-of-view a la Thea with her smackdown of Malcolm or Laurel with her chat with Quentin, but Emily Bett Rickards did instill a sense of simmering frustration into Felicity’s actions, and her nuance earns her the MVP for “Taken.”
Mari McCabe as Vixen was a great addition to Team Arrow for the episode. Arrow hasn’t always been successful at incorporating big comic characters without marginalizing Oliver’s skills or taking over the story, but Mari’s magical powers certainly warranted bringing her into the narrative. She brought something to Team Arrow that was more than just extra muscle, and so she meshed well. Plus, she totally gave Oliver the best advice about what to do with William. There’s no way that Oliver could have kept William safe if he were to publicly acknowledge the boy as his son and have him in his life, and Mari deserves the credit for talking Oliver down from doing another something dumb.
William preferring the Green Arrow to the Flash after his ordeal was as good a way to close out the baby mama arc as could be managed, and it is nice to see that Joe over on The Flash is wrong that nobody would want a Green Arrow action figure.
The flashbacks continue to be pretty awful when compared to flashbacks of earlier seasons, but they’re actually kind of fabulous when compared an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The adventures of Oliver, Reiter, and Ambiguously Accented Woman that are bad for serious primetime television are hysterical for an improv comedy show. No disbelief suspension required!
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. Stay tuned to Examiner for a look at what didn’t work in “Taken.”