The secret-love-child plot is a divisive one. On the one hand, Oliver’s decision to hide the news from Felicity strained logic and credulity. (Why do Thea and Malcolm know, but not Felicity?) On the other hand, that choice, as contrived as it felt, led to some great scenes tonight — Emily Bett Rickards in particular turned out a fantastic performance — and I’m cautiously optimistic about how the show will handle the fallout from this point on.
“Taken” opens with Felicity learning that the spinal-implantation device Curtis developed to help her walk again is not working. A dispirited Felicity admits to Oliver that, even though it sounded like “science fiction,” she was still disappointed to learn the device didn’t take. As Oliver starts to comfort her, a loud, sarcastic clapping sound is heard offscreen: It’s Damien Darhk! And to make matters worse — like, much, much worse — Darhk reveals that he’s kidnapped William. “Who’s William?” Felicity innocently asks.
So, let’s go over that one more time. Immediately after Felicity finds out that she won’t be able to walk again, she’s confronted by the man who ordered her killed, and learns her fiancé has a secret kid. There is a lot happening in Felicity Smoak’s life right now. To top it all off, she puts aside her devastation and heartbreak to help Oliver find his son.
It would be tempting for any actress to overplay even one of those dramatic developments. Thankfully, Rickards opts for a more subtle approach, especially when it comes to dealing with Oliver’s betrayal. She purses her lips ever so slightly. Her eyes narrow just so. There’s no need for grand speeches throughout the episode to get across her disappointment in Oliver or to create tension. This is a couple, after all, built on subtext (season two’s “Unthinkable”) and repression (almost all of season three), so it makes sense that their disintegration would follow the same unspoken path.
The reason for that repression, of course, is that there’s vigilante work to be done, and there’s no time for a conversation at the moment. Oliver gathers Team Arrow to admit that he has a secret son and that, in exchange for his son, Darhk wants Oliver to drop out of the mayoral race. After being frustrated with Oliver for lying to Felicity for so long, I do get a certain satisfaction in watching Oliver put his tail between his legs and publicly admit his failings, which, by the way, includes sleeping with Samantha while he was with Laurel.
During the Team Arrow meeting, it’s revealed that Oliver’s secret love-child is not so secret after all. Thea, Barry, and Malcolm already knew about William. “Maybe it’d be easier to list the people who don’t know about your son,” Felicity deadpans. The awkwardness of this conversation could only be made worse if William’s mother, Samantha, were there. Oliver gets a text: Samantha is upstairs in the campaign office!
A freaked-out Samantha has arrived to find out what happened to William. (Barry, who was working the kidnapping crime scene in Central City, sent her to Oliver.) She wants to know what’s going on. After a few moments of hesitation, Oliver blurts out that he’s the Green Arrow. Things progress quickly from there as he takes Samantha down to the lair to meet Team Arrow and help plan a strategy for finding William. I wish the show hadn’t had Samantha apologize so profusely to Laurel for her behavior in sleeping with Oliver while he was with Laurel. Yes, Laurel quickly redirects the blame to Oliver, but I still feel like Oliver gets off pretty easy for his caddish behavior. Must be that whole missing-kid thing.
Team Arrow can’t come up with a viable plan against Darhk, whose magic routinely overpowers them, so Oliver suggests that they find their own magic. He calls in assistance from Mari McCabe (Megalyn Echikunwoke), an aspiring fashion designer from Detroit who fights crime under the name of Vixen. Using a magic necklace, Vixen can invoke the spirit of various animals. (Over the course of the episode, she’s a rhino, panther, eagle, and gorilla.) In Vixen, Echikunwoke creates a graceful yet fierce superhero. She’s also a good enough actress that when she sniffs a Flash action figure to trace William, I don’t burst out laughing.
Vixen thinks she’s found the hideout where William is being kept, but all she and the Arrow find is Darhk, who’s not too pleased with their surprise appearance. The Arrow and Darhk have a particularly terse standoff, which would have felt more high-stakes if I had not been so completely distracted by the fact that Darhk, who is standing a few feet away from the Arrow in a brightly lit room, cannot tell that the Arrow is Oliver Queen. Does Darhk need glasses? What kind of vision plan do you think H.I.V.E. offers? Remember when the Arrow used to confront people in dark office buildings, like he had a secret identity or something? Vixen tries to use her animal magic on Darhk, but it’s not enough to defeat him. He gets away, and there’s no sign of William.
Darhk didn’t take their attack too kindly. He orders Oliver to drop out of the mayoral race that night, and to endorse Lady MacDarhk for mayor. To save his son, Oliver complies. But after his concession speech, Oliver doesn’t hear from Darhk, so Team Arrow come up with a new plan to find William. According to Vixen, there are “lay lines” of magic, which she explains as being “Wi-Fi” for magic. She surmises that Darhk uses a totem, which acts as the “internet connection” for the lay line. (I loved this explanation.) Felicity works her own sort of internet “magic” and pinpoints the location of Darhk’s likely hideout.
At the hideout, Team Arrow fights off ghosts while Vixen breaks into the main house and steals the totem right from under Darhk’s nose. While Vixen tries to destroy the totem by conjuring up her animal magic, Darhk uses his magic to choke the Arrow, Speedy, and Black Canary. It takes a few tries, but Vixen finally breaks the totem, and Darhk’s powers are gone. The Arrow quickly takes Darhk down with a series of punches, but not before William sees the Green Arrow saving the day.
So William is safe, but where does that leave Oliver, as his father? Dig advises him earlier in the episode that the most important thing a father can do is be near his children. Vixen, however, has a different perspective. She thinks that it’s not fair to ask William to handle that kind of news when he’s just a child. (I understand the logic in Vixen’s position, but, coming in an episode that’s centered around the fallout of a huge lie, her suggestion is harder to swallow. Plus, Dig’s advice batting-average is pretty solid.)
The performances and direction in the final scene really won this episode over for me. The scene begins with Oliver alone, talking to a computer screen. You can’t see the screen, but it becomes clear soon enough that he’s talking to William. Oliver reveals that he’s both William’s father and the Green Arrow. As he talks about the dangers of being the Green Arrow, the conversation begins to feel more weighty and emotional. Turns out, William and Samantha have already moved to an unknown town, and Oliver didn’t want to know where, as a way to protect them. So it’s not a live Skype or FaceTime conversation, but a video message for William to play when he turns 18. Stephen Amell’s performance confuses me, in that I am starting to well up during Oliver’s speech, even though I am super happy that the show is abandoning this subplot. What kind of sorcery, Amell?
Oliver thinks he’s recording this message in private, but it’s revealed that Felicity has been listening in. With William safe, she’s ready to talk about the lie. Felicity doesn’t start the conversation with words, however. She simply removes her engagement ring and sets it on the table. Despite the “impossible” nature of the position he was in, Felicity says, he should have told her the truth. She also points out that Oliver didn’t even let her in on his decision to send Samantha and William away. “I’m trying,” is all Oliver can offer.
As Felicity’s anger starts to rise, there’s a noticeable tap of a foot. Felicity looks down at her little blue boots. Her legs — they’re moving! The implanted device is starting to work. She looks at Oliver in disbelief and pulls herself to standing. In a daze, she starts to walk, and, without looking back, she heads straight for the door and out of Oliver’s life.
I didn’t think it was possible to love Felicity Smoak more. I was wrong.
Reiter needs Oliver’s magical tattoo to get past a Zombie Conklin, who’s blocking the entrance to a magical cave. In other news, I miss Maseo and Tatsu.
- Oliver’s peacoat. Seriously, never get rid of it, Arrow. Do they give Emmy’s for peacoats?
- Smart move, from a story perspective, to send Samantha and the kid packing.
- I wish there had been maybe 30 more seconds of Oliver and Felicity’s final confrontation scene.
- “Don’t you dare tell Barry,” Vixen to Oliver, before she sniffs the Flash action figure.
- I liked the brief moment between Laurel and Quentin over Laurel’s unexpected pain at hearing about Oliver cheating on with Samantha.
- “Crazy world we live in, huh? Metahumans … magic … Oliver Queen, father.” I love a good Dig dig.
- Felicity’s line to Oliver about thinking the truth is complicated is the same one she said to him in the other timeline where she found out about William.
- The Vixen animal animation was subtle and nicely done.
- Thea’s upside-down arrow shot while riding a motorcycle.
- I love that Oliver’s special thinking spot is his quiver stand.
- John Barrowman’s haircut!
MISSING THE MARK
- I don’t buy that Dig would be okay with Oliver’s choice to lie, and I also don’t believe that Dig would not even acknowledge the effect or hurt that choice had on Felicity. It’s a “tough spot” for Oliver to be in, but what about the spot that puts Felicity in? My Delicity feels are at an all-time low.
- Vigilantes don’t need umbrellas?
- The Arrow’s Spider-Man-esque CGI leap. If I wanted CGI, I’d watch The Flash. Arrow stunt team 4-eva!
- “We had an animated encounter,” Oliver, in a nod to the animated series Vixen. If I groan at a pun, that’s a bad sign.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 1/4 (Pretty sure that ancient tattoo translates as “Flashback scene? Again?”)
Arrow is on hiatus, returning March 23. In the meantime, come find me on Twitter and tell me whether Darhk should go for contacts or glasses.