Arrow: 4.15 Taken
is an animated spin-off of the Arrow-verse that was made available on The CW's online streaming platform, CW Seed over in the US. It featured the voice talents of Megalyn Echikunwoke as DC Comics superhero Mari McCabe / Vixen, a woman with a magical amulet giving her the power to mimic the abilities of any animal (think Phantom's power of ten tigers from 90's animated series Defenders Of The Earth). I've never seen it, but her inclusion into The CW's burgeoning superhero universe was made official with those six five-minute episodes and now it has really been made canon thanks to her appearance on Arrow.
Brought in to help Oliver fight Damien Darhk because John Constantine was apparently in 'Hell' (at least they acknowledged why they weren't re-using Matt Ryan's brilliant character for every magical solution), she made a great impact on the show and I hope we get to see more of her. Echikunwoke brought the right mix of strength and vulnerability to her role and seeing her flying around or conjuring up the strength of a gorilla was fun to watch. Taking on Darhk and (eventually) proving to be match enough for him to destroy the idol and depowering him, she was a wonderful badass character and a follow-up appearance on The Flash would be a great next step for on the live-action shows.
The only trouble was thanks to Stephen Amell's appearance voicing Oliver on Vixen I felt like I was missing something. As far as I am aware, most UK viewers won't have seen that web series (it's getting a second run this year) and it really felt as if I had missed an episode. Oliver and Mari had a great connection but as a viewer it was like I was listening in on a conversation only these two characters understood. Worse still, there was such a huge attempt to shoehorn Vixen into the live shows that the episode was filled with clunky dialogue like ""Without this necklace, I'm just a wannabe fashion designer who lives with her foster dad". It could have been a lot more subtly done.
And I think this episode really needed Vixen to help ground what could have easily been a lot of tearful melodrama. Darhk blackmailed Oliver into backing out the mayoral race by revealing he had his secret son William. Cue a lot of heartbreak from Felicity and the eventual break up. Personally I'm not buying it; yes she was upset that he kept William a secret from her but after all they have been through it seemed more like a plot contrivance for them to split up. Hey at least she got to walk out of the apartment thanks to Curtis's chip in what has to be one of the most ludicrous recoveries from crippling nerve damage in TV history.
I genuinely liked the scene with Laurel and Quentin though as she admitted she was upset that Oliver has cheated on her with Samantha years ago, even if she was past it now. I think the show doesn't do enough with Laurel and Oliver together, given their long history so I am glad it was acknowledged here.
In truth though, the secret child drama needed to go; Oliver is a much stronger person and it only served to rehash his old playboy lifestyle and add some personal stakes in the war against Darhk. And so while it was a little tragic that Oliver seemed to loose William for good as Samantha took him away to keep him safe, it will hopefully allow the show to get a bit more focused in the final weeks ahead. Because there were a lot of questions after this episode. Is Oliver truly backing out of running for mayor? Has Darhk lost his powers? It would be an interesting twist of he has, making me wonder if it is going to lead to something far worse. And we still have the big question of who is in the grave, which - judging by recent internet chatter from the US I have so far managed to avoid - might be coming sooner rather than later.
Of course, like every week, it would also be remiss of me not to review the flashback quota of Arrow. Did anything happen to Oliver this week on the island? Well he saw a ghost and went into a cave. Well to precise he stepped into the cave. We didn't actually get any decent footfall - presumably that's going to happen next week.
Taken teased some interesting developments in the show's future and successfully introduced Vixen to the live action Arrowverse, even if her back story was handled a little clunkily. My main concern now is that the largely serialised nature of season four is going to start feeling a little stale if something big doesn't happen soon. Just kill one of the main characters already!