‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 15: ‘Taken’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week’s “Taken” does not feature Liam Neeson, as the title would imply, but it does involve Team Arrow using a special set of skills to join forces with none other than CW Seed’s very own Vixen to save a child in danger. Also: Relationship drama! Gregory Smith directed the episode, with a story by Marc Guggenheim and a script by Keto Shimizu and Brian Ford Sullivan.
Chris: Okay, man, so I have to get this out of the way before we start, because otherwise I’m not going to be able to focus on what’s happening and all of my responses will just be seething with saltiness. Everyone’s sodium levels will be way too high after reading this if I don’t try to get this out of my system.
I absolutely hated this episode. Not only that, this episode really made me hate the characters, the people on the show, the people who make the show, and the people who have allowed this show to happen.
Matt: We’re going full heel right off the bat! Can you pinpoint anything in particular that cheesed you off?
Chris: I’m glad you asked! I don’t know if I’ve ever been angrier at an episode of a television show.
Look, I know some of you may think I just give this show a hard time to be funny, or that I’ve given this show a hard time in the past (and if you think I’m just salty all the time, go read the Agent Carter reviews, I’m an absolute bundle of sunshine over there), but this episode was beyond the pale for me. It was just too much. We’re not allowed to use the kind of language I was throwing around the living room at this show. A TV show about a character I like shouldn’t be able to invoke those kinds of feelings out of me.
To answer your original question, you could name almost any aspect of this week’s episode and it would probably be partially responsible for making me hate this show. I guess my biggest problem ultimately comes down to the script though. Things started out really well with the scene of Felicity in physical therapy with Curtis’ husband. I wanted the implant to work, so I thought, “Maybe I’m warming up to Felicity,” but by the end of the episode I absolutely loathed her. This script was disgustingly insulting to the characters, the actors who were forced to perform it, and the audience that had to watch it.
Matt: Let me guess: You were not enthralled by the notion of Felicity --- who was enduring great hardship re-learning how to walk after getting Curtis’ magic walking chip implanted --- suddenly having the strength to effortlessly get up and walk out using the motivational power of hurt feelings.
Chris: Oh, that’s the least of it. (But yes, I hated that.) If I were any of the actors on this show I would have asked the writers or show-runners if the script they were given was some kind of prank. And when they told me that it wasn’t a prank, I would have been furious and tried to organize the rest of the cast into a strike until it was rewritten.
Honestly, I’m so mad about how terrible this was that I’m starting to have a hard time keeping my thoughts organized. It’s not just the things in the script, both plot points and lines of dialogue, that were so trite and predictable that they caused groans and eyerolls from a mile away. It’s not just how dumb Team Arrow’s plans were. It’s not just how shoehorned in and awful Vixen was. It’s not just how so many things didn’t make sense.
The thing that really, really gets under my skin is how no one on this show responds or reacts to things like real people. To the point that if I were Emily Bett Rickards, I would have refused this script flat out and told them to come back with something less sexist. Pretty much all of the women in this episode should have been pissed about it. The guys don’t fare much better, but this episode makes Felicity seem so childish and unreasonable that Ollie should be glad to see her go.
Actually, you know what, getting this out of my system is really making me feel so bad for the actors on this show that I take back what I said about hating them. I think they are trying their best with the awful material they are given, and I want better for all of them now.
Matt: I’m finding all this really fascinating, because while I found this episode mostly very dumb --- as dumb as any episode we’ve seen --- I also didn’t totally hate it, and that is largely because of the acting performances.
For one, I thought Megalyn Echikunwoke did a really nice job as Vixen. She was pretty convincing as a live-action version of a cartoon superhero (she’s the voice of the CW Seed cartoon version of Vixen), and I even dug the little nod to her previous meetings with Ollie and Laurel on the animated show. (“We had an animated encounter last year.”)
Chris: I wanted to punch my TV when he said that. It’s all just so lazy. That was the laziest possible line to make that nod. I feel like they’re writing this show at gunpoint or in the car on the way to school because they forgot it was due today.
Matt: I initially had mixed feelings about it, but it was maybe the one line I ended up really liking. It’s so on-the-nose it comes back around to clever.
Chris: I disagree completely, but the one thing I like about this show is I like getting to talk with you about it, so I will abide your opinions even when they are occasionally wrong.
Matt: You are a true friend. Anyway, my enjoyment of Vixen was in spite of the fact that the CGI for her powers was pretty patently awful, and her whole line of reasoning about how abandoning her was the best thing her parents could have done for her was 1,000 percent ludicrous. It was all her performance.
Chris: I actually liked the way they showed her powers! I mean, I can’t think of a better way to visually imply her powers, so I was like, “Sure, that works.” Her having to touch that necklace every time she wanted to change though was pretty dumb.
Also pretty dumb, that their first plan that made facing Darhk “different” this time was her just flying in and pushing him against a table and asking where the kid was. Also really, really dumb, that Darhk doesn’t realize Ollie is Green Arrow. Also really, really, really dumb, that Darhk didn’t just kill him with his magic powers in the garage when he had him frozen. Or just freeze him and shoot him. Or just shoot him. You walked up and caught him completely off guard, out in the open, and he had no way to defend himself!
Matt: I thought for sure Darhk did know that Ollie was Green Arrow, so when he started talking about them like they were two different people this episode, it really threw me off. Both Captain Lance and Malcolm have been in Darhk’s ear, telling them secrets, but they kept that one? Okay then.
Chris: Do you see what I mean?! Watching this show is like watching your house burn down around you, but no one else seems to notice or care. Use that on the next DVD cover, CW!
Matt: Oh, I’ve known this for three and a half years, Chris.
So this is pretty much the end for Damien Darhk, isn’t it? I mean, yeah, he did get one big thing he wanted by forcing Ollie to drop out of the mayoral race (that kinda ended with a whimper, didn’t it?), but aside from that, he’s pretty much finished.
He can’t do magic anymore because Vixen smashed his power-giving totem. He’s out of leverage because Team Arrow got Ollie’s son William back, and Ollie sent William away to never be seen again. He gets knocked out like a punk at the end of this episode. Aside from rooting his wife on to the mayor’s office, what’s left for this guy?
Chris: The one dumb thing from this episode I did like was that Vixen had to use all her animal powers to smash that thing on a log. That was so schlocky and hilarious that I loved it. The only thing I would have liked more was if she had been in the middle of that CGI enhanced tantrum and Dig just stopped her and was like, “Hey, step back, please” and then just shot it.
Matt: But she had to go gorilla to do it, Chris! This wasn’t any regular smashing!
Chris: Yeah, they also threw some big cats running around in there too, and I think I saw an ostrich at one point. They’re surprisingly ill-tempered and good at breaking things.
Couldn’t Ollie just call another press conference and be like, “I’m sorry I had to withdraw from the race. It was under coercion to save this life of this kidnapped 10 year old boy.” And then he could win in a landslide for being a hero, an out in the open hero no less, for being willing to do that.
Matt: The thing that kills me about all this is that Ollie caved and dropped out, but he absolutely knew that it wouldn’t get Darhk to release William. They had to go in and get him by force anyway. So he dropped out for absolutely nothing. It sort of feels like he just didn’t want to run for mayor anymore (or that the writers didn’t want to write about it anymore). After thirteen or so episodes of mayor race build, it just goes away.
Chris: Yeah, I was going to say I absolutely think the writers were just bored with mayor stuff. This show seems so rudderless. No plan. No greater arc they’ve planned out and are trying to build towards. Just treading water every week until they can hit that summer vacation.
Matt: To my earlier question, what can they do with Darhk now? Or is Ruve Adams the big bad of the season now?
Chris: Yeah, I don’t know. I’d think this would mean the end for both of them? Maybe? I was also really irritated by that hand waving explanation for pulling out of the race Ollie gave where he said, “The SCPD will take care of Darhk eventually”. Well great, Arrow. Why did you waste our time with all this election BS then?
Matt: I mean, Ollie did hand Adams the mayorship, so I guess that’s where things are going? She’s going to become mayor and be a bad mayor that does things that help HIVE?
Chris: I guess. I don’t know, man. I’d think they’d be able to find a way to tie her to Darhk now that he’s been… arrested, I guess? They made absolutely no mention of what happened to him after that one police car showed up.
Matt: So let’s talk about the flashbacks. Did you hate those? I thought they were as tedious as any others this season, but at least they’re getting weirder, with demon-like ghost Conklin and a straight-up Lost cave. You know, I used to joke about Flashback Island being the island from Lost, but they’re really just making that a reality now.
Chris: I liked how they made the wall of a building somehow lead into a giant underground cave.
Matt: A cave that Ollie deserves to enter because of his glow tattoo.
Chris: Sure. I mean, why not? I had basically forgotten about the flashback stuff. Did the flashbacks this week seem like they had even less to do with the main plot than usual? I mean, normally they’ll try to have some kind of thematic connection or something, but was there any reason for them this week other than to pad out the episode?
Matt: I assume they’re leading to some kind of tie-in, maybe to the magic totems people have. But they just smashed Darhk’s, so who knows.
What else we got? Ollie ended up recording a video for his son telling him he’s Green Arrow, but he isn’t supposed to see it until he’s 18. The odds of that getting into the wrong hands seem pretty high. The whole thing where Barry reversed Ollie telling Felicity about his son didn’t help much, did it?
Chris: Nope. I don’t get the feeling anything they do on this show helps much. I mean, honestly, have they accomplished anything?
Matt: We know there’s a dead person in a grave sometime in the future and Ollie’s sad about it. That’s about it.
Chris: Oh, yeah, sure, I mean, they’re great at getting people hurt or killed. This show is a great argument against vigilantism.
Matt: Well, don’t fear, because we get a break for the next few weeks. Then we’ve got the return of a character that pretty much embodies “terrible vigilante,” Cupid! Get excited!