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“Taken” was a solid Arrow episode from a character perspective. There were a number of wonderful moments strewn throughout the episode that gave us greater insight into our main characters, and the writers weren’t afraid to take Oliver Queen to task for his pretty awful and insular behavior throughout the last several seasons. However, as the latest step in the great Damien Darhk arc, it left a lot to be desired.
Let’s start with the disappointing part: the reveal of Damien Darhk’s powers. Or, rather, the reveal that Darhk has been using a totem of some sort to amp up his magical abilities. I’m absolutely fine with a magical totem being the source of his power, since that works within the confines of what we know about magic in the Arrowverse. But what drove me a bit nuts about the whole thing was that Team Arrow discovered the totem and immediately destroyed it. We don’t know how it works, we don’t know where it came from (although I have a sneaking suspicion that reveal will be somehow linked to the awful flashbacks this season- since that is the only way they will make any amount of sense to the overall arc), and we don’t know why Darhk would be so careless to just leave it out in the open like that and not in his handy carrying case. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Darhk and his powers, he has proven himself to be pretty darn stupid so far.
And, now that Darhk has lost his mojo, what happens? He’s clearly easily beaten without his magic. I can’t imagine the Ghosts are going to remain under his sway without it. And his Genesis project only works with control over Starling City. Without his powers, there is nothing preventing Oliver from jumping back into the race for mayor and messing things up- although that would probably be a bit too easy of a solution to things. No matter what happens, Darhk is now vulnerable and easily vanquished, so I’m hard pressed to understand how Darhk can kill someone Oliver loves at this stage without help from another villain. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
But aside from the less than stellar developments with Damien Darhk, “Taken” allowed for some really nice character beats from our main gang. While I have been slow to warm up to the character of Laurel Lance, I have to give major credit to the writers for crafting her reaction to the news of William. It was completely believable that Laurel, who really was completely screwed over by party boy Oliver Queen back in the day, would still feel some hurt over the things that happened so long ago. It’s not easy to come face-to-face with evidence that someone you loved didn’t feel the same- even if you realize that you are definitely over the betrayal and relationship itself. Excellent work from Katie Cassidy throughout the episode.
The episode’s best character work came from the (long overdue) reveal to Felicity that Oliver just can’t seem to help keeping secrets from those he loves. Now, I can certainly understand Samantha’s reasons for telling Oliver to keep William a secret. I get it. But as I said way back when this was first broached in “Legends of Yesterday,” when it was so glaringly obvious that the William situation was created solely to provide a major roadblock for the happiness of Oliver and Felicity, all the storyline can do is make the audience feel manipulated. The writers could have had Darhk capture any number of characters. Heck, you know who Oliver loves even more than William? Thea. Felicity. Even Diggle. The fact that William and Samantha have now been shipped off into the great beyond (likely to never be heard from again) only strengthens the argument that they were never meant to be more than one-dimensional plot points for the show- pawns to be moved into place to make Felicity walk away from Oliver.
Even if I’m still extremely disappointed in how William and Samantha were used within the story, I’m perfectly ok with the final result of their existence. Felicity and Oliver needed to have that chat about his inability to fully trust those around him. Yes, the topic has been broached more than once this season, but it’s an important one. Oliver has had plenty of time to get over his need to keep secrets. He has been presented with copious evidence that Team Arrow can be trusted completely. And he should know by now that Felicity is perhaps the most trustworthy of them all. Yet he still seems incapable of making that final leap and letting people in. Felicity walking out (although I have to assume it will only be a short break for the pair) could be the best thing to happen to Oliver. He needs that final push to start being honest with those who willingly put their life in his hands. It’s only fair.
— As I don’t watch the Vixen series on CW Seed, I’ll admit to being a bit lost regarding the relationship between Oliver, Barry, and Vixen. But once I simply assumed she had fought with the duo at some point on her series, it lessened the confusion. The writers did a pretty good job explaining her character, and it was pretty handy that Team Arrow could get someone used to using a totem to take down Darhk’s totem.
— Glad to see that Thea was able to realize how shady Malcolm really is. Although, it appears that even without his hand, Malcolm is still a force to be reckoned with, seeing as he kidnapped William.
— I assume Oliver and Felicity will be back together before season’s end. Which means that the big, mysterious death needs to happen sooner rather than later.
— Loved the line about Constantine being unavailable because he was in hell. Less successful? Darhk’s “Well that happened!” after his totem was taken. Not sure I would be so glib if the source of my magical powers was stolen.