Arrow – Season 4 Episode 15
Arrow tackles the lingering issues of Oliver’s son William in an attempt to resolve it in a way that lets the show move onto other things.
Before I start I will register my disappointment that there is an episode of Arrow called “Taken” that doesn’t feature Oliver Queen going full Liam Neeson on the criminal underworld to save his son. I’m joking here but it would have been really entertaining to see.
William isn’t really a character. He is a physical presence played by the young actor Jack Moore but has no personality whatsoever. William represents a lot of things to different people. He is Oliver’s son, a barrier to his happiness with Felicity and an innocent life for Damien Darhk to use against Team Arrow. His role in the show is well established but without knowing much about him it’s very difficult to get invested in the stakes caused by him being around.
After months of keeping William a secret from everyone around him, Damien Darhk forces Oliver’s hand in telling everyone the truth. Unfortunately Felicity’s reaction is something we’ve seen before in a deleted timeline but is a little more subdued this time as she is forced to focus on the immediate crisis and save William from Darhk.
On a surface level Oliver’s justification for keeping it a secret seemed fairly reasonable. He told he about Samantha’s ultimatum and Felicity does question why she would make such an unreasonable demand. Oliver doesn’t have an answer but also wanted to see his son. His situation was untenable and now he has to deal with the consequences.
Felicity finding out the truth reminded me of Iris finding out that Barry is the Flash towards the end of the first season of that show. The realisation that this secret is known by Thea, Damien Darhk and Barry hits her hard as she feels that she should have been trusted with that. None of those were through Oliver telling them but still it’s a difficult one for her to take.
The complete honesty from Oliver to the rest of his team is a refreshing thing to see as there’s usually so much secrecy among the group. Having Oliver’s secret son be common knowledge stirs up a lot of feelings that Laurel thought were long forgotten. She can’t explain why but knowing that Oliver cheated on her and fathered a son in the process is very difficult for her to hear. Oliver’s infidelity was well known but still not easy to have confirmed. Quentin understands where Laurel is coming from and is supportive of her when she needs him. It’s a great scene between father and daughter and ties into an overall theme of parenthood that fills the episode.
This theme continues through Diggle’s advice on being a father. He advises Oliver that fatherhood means being completely devoted to your child and knowing where they are at all times. Ensuring their safety is top priority. As far as Diggle is concerned it is worth finding a way to figure out how to be there for his son and keep him safe.
It’s a really complex issue as Oliver lives a very dangerous life that risks putting those he cares about in danger. The show has walked this line with Thea before but it’s less of an issue now that she can defend herself. William is completely incapable of protecting himself and will automatically become a target should a villain learn Oliver’s identity and find out that he has a son. It’s clearly not difficult information to come by so it’s a very real problem that he will have to deal with consistently.
In this case, William isn’t even being threatened because of Oliver’s role as the Green Arrow. Darhk is specifically going after Oliver Queen as he doesn’t know that his two enemies are one in the same. I find it difficult to believe that he hasn’t figured this out yet but this particular blind spot has no bearing on the fact that Oliver being a target puts William in danger. Darhk has absolutely no problem putting a young child in mortal danger to get what he wants.
On the other side of the parental argument is Mari McCabe aka Vixen (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who makes her live action debut after having her origin told in an animated web series. Her perspective is as someone who has been orphaned so strongly feels that a parent letting a child grow up without them can sometimes be the right thing to do. She understands why her mother did it to her and appreciates the relative safety granted by that sacrifice. That realisation came to her later in life but it is a very important lesson that she learned.
Ultimately this is the advice Oliver follows and lets William and his mother go from his life so that he can’t be involved. He records a message for him to see on his 18th birthday so that he can understand why growing up without a father was necessary. It’s a really well acted scene by Stephen Amell and I’m hopeful that the William arc is closed off now. It hasn’t reached the dramatic heights that it really needed to but did manage to come to a mostly satisfying conclusion.
Vixen was used well in the episode and Megalyn Echikunwoke is a rare choice who works as a great vocal performance as well as a physical performance. If you haven’t seen her animated origin then don’t worry as there is plenty of clunky exposition to catch you up. It is worth watching though and I would heartily recommend it.
Her skills are of use because her abilities are magic based so serves as a useful ally to have against Damien Darhk. John Constantine is busy being in Hell for reasons that aren’t disclosed so can’t help. I do wonder how Oliver knows where John is given how inaccessible it is.
I was really impressed by the visual effects that brought Vixen’s powers to life on the show and it was good that Damien Darhk was more than a match for her as I was worried that she would come in and easily defeat him. She isn’t much use in combat at all other than giving him another target. There is apparently another animated instalment of Vixen to come but I wonder if the character has more of a future than that. She certainly had enough presence to feel like a legitimate guest star who could carry her own show. Maybe she’ll be on the team in a hypothetical second season of Legends of Tomorrow.
Vixen’s presence gave an important clue by suggesting that Darhk’s powers could be tied to an object like her necklace. This turns out to be true and it’s destroyed which leaves Darhk powerless and he’s arrested. At least I assume he is as we never really see it happen. I hope this isn’t the end for him as it’s a cheap end to such a great villain. I suspect he will have some other tricks up his sleeve that will get him back in a position of power. After all, his Genesis Project still needs to be dealt with. Not to mention the fact that his wife is now running unopposed as Mayor of Star City. Even in defeat he still manages to win.
Samantha plays into the story heavily as her son has gone missing so she wants to find out why. She initially uses this as a way to justify her being right about Oliver’s involvement in William’s life being a mistake. It’s the central argument of the episode so I appreciate that it is made but Samantha changes her mind on this fairly quickly so it doesn’t become as tense an argument as it should have.
Oliver revealing his secret to her makes sense as it helps put her mind at ease about her son’s safety and shows her that Oliver is capable of actually doing something to get him back. Having her around Team Arrow also supplies an opportunity for her to justify her way of thinking to Felicity. She admits that the ultimatum was perhaps harsh but also stands by that decision and makes it very clear that it was all her doing. Oliver isn’t lying to Felicity because he wants to; he’s only doing so because Samantha gave him no other choice.
Despite this Felicity still decides that she can’t trust Oliver and leaves him. Whether this will be permanent or not is anyone’s guess but her decision is understandable as nobody should be in a relationship where they feel they can’t trust their partner. The scene was far too melodramatic for my liking but having her regain the ability to walk just in time to walk out on Oliver instead of walking down the aisle on her wedding day was quietly powerful.
Malcolm’s duplicity comes to light when it revealed that he was the one who kidnapped William. This causes Thea to tell him to get out of her life which provokes a violent reaction from Malcolm. He reminds her that she would be long dead if it weren’t for him and is visibly enraged at her for not appreciating it. Malcolm still acts as if he has her best interests at heart and I actually believe he does in a really twisted way. He presents the appearance of a man who would rather be dead but I feel like he’s biding his time before becoming the central antagonist for next season. He seems to hate Oliver just enough and I think Thea is a strong candidate for being the person in the grave at Malcolm’s hand.
There isn’t much movement on the island this week. A cave is discovered that has some mystical energy and Oliver’s tattoo protects him from some kind of mystical horror. I continue to be uninterested in this story.
A solid episode that doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights that it needs to but it does give the William arc some decent closure. Vixen’s appearance in the episode works really well and provides a seamless transition from animation to live action. Damien Darhk’s defeat lacks a sense of closure so hopefully that won’t be the end of that.
No more Arrow for a little while, join me for more reviews when it returns on March 23rd.
• powerful acting from the entire cast
• a strong theme
• some overly melodramatic scenes
• a lack of closure to Damien Darhk’s defeat