Warning: This contains spoilers.
Episode 15 of Arrow Season 4 features a guest appearance from D.C. superhero Vixen, making her live-action debut after starring in a series of animated shorts on CW Seed. Pleasingly, she’s played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, who also makes her live-action debut after voicing the character in the cartoons. But how does Arrow manage to shoe-horn Vixen into the action, given last week’s cliff-hanger, I hear you ask? Surprisingly well, as it turns out.
Having informed Oliver that he has kidnapped his secret son, William, Damien Darhk quickly issues his ultimatum, namely that Oliver should immediately pull out of the Mayoral race, or his son will die. (I say again, it’s ridiculous that Darhk still doesn’t know that Oliver is the Green Arrow and that lack of knowledge actively limits the dramatic potential here). Anyway, to his credit, Oliver doesn’t mess about and complies with Darhk’s request, leaving Darhk Wife as the sole remaining Mayoral candidate.
Oliver also comes to an important and frankly overdue realisation, which is that in order to defeat Darhk, they will have to fight magic with magic. To that end, he places a call to Mari McCabe, aka. Vixen in Detroit, explaining away this character we’ve never heard of before with the line “Mari and I had an animated encounter last year, and we’ve stayed in touch” – a cute, but rather clunky reference to the fact that Stephen Amell voiced an animated, guest-starring Green Arrow on Vixen (alongside Grant Gustin as The Flash).
It turns out that apart from being able to channel the powers of any animal she chooses through the possession of a mystical amulet, Vixen has mad, magic-related skills and immediately works out that Damien Darhk is drawing his power from a totem of some kind. That means that if Team Arrow can find that totem and destroy it, they can effectively strip Darhk of his powers, which would be a nice turn of events, given all the trouncings he’s been handing them all season.
In the event, that’s exactly what happens, although it’s actually Vixen herself who does all the totem-destroying, which is a cool thing for the show to do, indicating both generosity and respect for her character. So does this mean Darhk’s stint as this season’s Big Bad is officially over? Is Malcolm going to turn out to be responsible for the Body in the Box after all? Hopefully not, as Neal McDonough’s wonderful performance as Darhk has been one of the high-points of this season and it would be somewhat anti-climactic for it all to end here.
Needless to say, the kidnapping of William also means that the whole ‘Oliver’s secret son’ thing comes tumbling into the open, leading to the expected bust-up between Oliver and Felicity, who (quite rightly) takes Oliver to task for his bone-headed decision-making and calls time on their relationship. By remarkable coincidence, Curtis Holt’s bio-chip chooses this exact moment to kick in, allowing Felicity to regain the use of her legs just in time to literally walk out on Oliver. On the one hand, I’m annoyed that Felicity’s disability only lasted for a few episodes, because there’s a lot of dramatic and emotional potential in that storyline (not to say a strong point in the show’s favour, when it comes to positive on-screen representation of disabled characters), but on the other hand, that was a superb soap opera-style moment and Arrow is as much soap opera as superhero show.
Speaking of soap operatics, the show finally managed to find a solution to the William problem by having Oliver decide to ship him off to boarding school until he’s 18. This may seem narratively convenient, but let’s face it, did we really want a little kid popping into the Arrow Cave every few episodes? No, we did not. So it’s for the best. To be fair, Stephen Amell sells the hell out of the emotional video message Oliver records for William’s 18th birthday, giving the whole thing much more impact than it really deserves, given how little we’ve actually seen of the character. (Just try and describe William’s face right now. See what I mean?)
On a similar note to the show generously letting Vixen play such a big part in Darhk’s defeat, Oliver’s wrestling with the problem of what to do about William also allows the character to play an equally important role in the soapy side of things, as she advises effectively advises Oliver to let William go, using her own foster parent upbringing as a positive example. This is in direct contrast to the advice given by Diggle, and it’s interesting that Oliver sides with Vixen over his oldest friend, although admittedly, Diggle’s perspective is largely coloured by the fact that he has a kid waiting back home.
One other great thing to come out of the William storyline this week is a superb scene where Laurel admits to Quentin that, even though it happened years ago, she’s still a little upset by the revelation of Oliver’s infidelity, given that it happened while they were together. Quentin, in turn, reacts in supportive fashion, acknowledging that that’s a reasonable thing for Laurel to be feeling. This is a throwaway scene that doesn’t really contribute to the main plot (unless they’re setting up a Laurel-still-has-feelings-for-Oliver storyline that would bring their comics-mandated relationship back into play), but it goes a long way towards making the characters feel more realistic and plays as a lovely character moment for both Laurel and Quentin. Good work, show.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, Conklin is now a possessed zombie of some kind and Oliver and Taiana head to the magical cave, after Oliver’s mystical tattoo starts glowing again.
All in all, this is a solidly enjoyable episode that introduces a cool new character – here’s hoping Vixen pops up again, whether it’s here or in one of the other Arrowverse shows.
– Megalyn Echikunwoke is great value as Vixen and I like that the show sticks closely to her cartoon incarnation and isn’t afraid to give her a proper costume. The visual effects on her animal powers also draw heavily on the cartoons and work surprisingly well.
– Interestingly, the show doesn’t have Oliver re-entering the Mayoral race once William is saved and Darhk defeated. Will Darhk Wife become Mayor after all? Let’s not forget that she’s just as big a part of the still-undisclosed Genesis Project as her husband is.
– Blah, blah, Malcolm, blah. He shows up and has an argument with Thea and she cuts ties with him, again. Presumably this will free him up to do lots more evil things in the near future.
– Who’s In The Box? With Samantha and William seemingly out of harm’s way, it looks like the field is once again narrowed down to one of the series regulars. Apparently, we’re only three episodes away from a reveal on that score, so not long to wait now. Based on Oliver not looking all that devastated, I’m going to go ahead and assume that Thea and Diggle are safe. (My money’s still on Donna.)
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.