Let’s talk about Captain America: Civil War.

But isn’t this a review of Arrow’s “Taken,” the last new episode before a month of reruns?

Yeah, I know. Stick with me. According to Empire Magazine, early test screening audiences loved Civil War, but they were evenly split between either agreeing with Steve Rogers or Tony Stark. In the comics, Civil War was when superheroes were forced to register by the government. Stark was all for it. Rogers, not so much. Fighting ensued. The film adaptation will be similar, but not the same. For starters, it won’t be nearly as cut and dry. In the comics, Stark was more or less presented as the villain. However, his viewpoint in the film version is apparently so understandable that those lucky few who’ve seen the movie couldn’t decide if they were #TeamStark or #TeamRogers.

captain-america-civil-warThat’s damn difficult to pull off. Give us two well-reasoned, but opposing viewpoints. Don’t turn anyone into the obvious villain. Don’t even make one of them a sympathetic villain whose viewpoint we understand but whose end goal we ultimately can’t support. Nope. Simply lay down the ethical battle lines, and ask us to choose which line to walk behind.

Is that what Arrow just tried to do with Oliver and Felicity? It’s an odd comparison, I admit. Oliver and Felicity aren’t literally fighting, and their separation wasn’t forced on them by a societal force larger than both of them. However, Felicity did just give back Oliver’s engagement ring, say that she needed space before walking away thanks to the most conveniently timed cure of paralysis in the history of TV. We are supposed to understand both Felicity and Oliver’s points of view and decide who we agree with.

Felicity says that Oliver still doesn’t know how to lean on his partner when things get complicated. She’s fully aware that William’s mother put Oliver into an impossible situation. However, honesty means everything to her, no doubt tied to her issues with her lying, conman of a father. As Emily Bett Rickards told TVLine, “I think we all know Felicity’s heart pretty well, and we know that she tries to be as honest as possible all of the time. I feel like that’s something she respect in her friends and in the people she surrounds herself with.” Regardless of the circumstances, Oliver broke that trust. Ouch. Then Felicity discovers him again making a huge life decision (i.e., cutting William out of his life to protect him) without even talking to her about it.

The specifics of this, of course, are completely insane. It’s hard for an audience to really relate to a couple fighting over the truly convoluted soap opera which played out here. However, it’s easy to relate to the underlying concept of a couple fighting over trust and honesty. Oliver has progressed so much as a character this season, but after all of this it’s like Felicity felt that she could only trust him maybe 90% of the time, which isn’t good enough for her.

Arrow Taken3Yet, at the same time, what the hell else was Oliver supposed to do? What more could Felicity have realistically expected from him? Samantha more or less forced him to choose between his girlfriend and his son, and he picked his son. Sure, he could have told Felicity and asked her to keep it a secret, but…well, then there’s no story line here, is there?

No one’s supposed to be the bad guy here. The Oliver Samantha knew was a garbage human being, and his mother coldly tried to buy her off. She’s naturally going to feel protective of her son and extra cautious of Oliver. However, that placed Oliver into a no-win scenario, and he made what he felt was the best choice available. He hated himself for it, but he thought that if he played by Samantha’s rules she’d eventually recognize how much he’d changed as a person and relent on her restrictive conditions.

Arrow Taken 2Felicity understands all of that. This episode even went as far as having Samantha directly telling her not to blame Oliver. However, given the insane lives they lead together she needs to be able to trust Oliver completely. After this, she doesn’t know if she can.

“Oh, they’re being so unreasonable….although I do see their point of view,” is supposed to be our reaction to a lot of it. Whether or not it actually is, though, well, that’s up for debate.

There is still a sense of narrative whiplash that Oliver and Felicity have gone from being one of the healthiest, most open and supportive couples in superhero TV history this season to her calling off the engagement and walking away in the span of a single episode. Felicity’s emotional reactions have often been whiplash-inducing (e..g., immediately breaking up with Oliver in the erased timeline, instantly scolding and rejecting him after his return from Nanda Parbat last season), and such scenes are not always Rickards’ strong suit.

S020B-D02-ARW-110-18-691x394By comparison, this reaction was at least more well-measured and somewhat understandable, regardless of whether or not you agree with her.

Looking back at my review of the episode which first introduced this William arc, I was instantly cynical of the whole thing, jokingly suggesting Oliver might literally say aloud at one point, “I sure hope that Samantha doesn’t tell me that the only way I can be a part of my son’s life is if I keep it a total secret from everyone I know, almost as if she sensed I was in a committed, loving relationship which needed a somewhat artificial obstacle thrown at it because some force larger than us worried we were becoming boring.”

That’s still where I ultimately come down on all of this. William was but a plot device, one which was introduced rather poorly thus forcing this episode and last week’s to bend over backwards to better explain everything. Stephen Amell can try his best Grant Gustin with a heart-breaking speech at the end, but while the sacrifice is easy to understand it doesn’t mean as much as it could have since we only ever saw Oliver with his son that one time.

I admire the Civil War-esque nature of the romantic strife which has befallen the show’s central couple. Have at it with deciding who’s wrong, or maybe more wrong. I just wish that this hadn’t been triggered by something which felt so transparently concocted to add conflict to a TV couple which had become too happy. A third-act complication was inevitable; it didn’t have to be “I was forced to lie to you, but if I didn’t I would haven’t seen my son.”

THE OTHER STUFF THAT HAPPENED

Vixen-FirstLook_56a02b78848ca6.93835582

I could see Vixen joining the second season of Legends of Tomorrow

Serious wrap-up mode tonight. Darhk is defeated and neutralized. Oliver and Felicity are off-again. So are Malcolm and Thea. Oliver’s mayoral campaign is over. William and Samantha are gone, moving away to a town far, far away, and William won’t find out about his father until he’s 18. At this point, I don’t know what the rest of the season will bring other than Malcolm taking over whatever Damien’s plan was, Oliver and Felicity possibly reconciling and someone dying.

On top of that, Vixen made her live action debut. Hope you’ve watched her animated series on CW Seed because this episode accepted all of that as canon thus the reason Vixen already knew Oliver, Barry, Laurel and Felicity.

As Diggle pointed out, the increasingly elastic reality of the show is such that they partnered with an aspiring fashion designer from Detroit who has a magical pendant giving her the powers of various animals. Eh. It is what it is. The special effects perfectly recalled and updated the way Vixen’s powers were realized in both Justice League Unlimited and her own SEED series, and the performance seamlessly fit into the show’s style, with Megalyn Echikunwoke easily at her most interesting as she gave Oliver advice about his son.

Really, my comparison to Civil War also applies to “Taken”‘s treatment of Oliver’s decision about William. Diggle offers the point of view of a loving father, and Vixen counters with the point of view that while being cut out of her parents’ complicated lives hurts it also allowed her to have an actual childhood. “Taken” goes to great lengths to articulate both of the options available to Oliver. We decide who’s right.

Lastly, it was admirable that “Taken” paused for just a minute to let Laurel acknowledge how much it hurts to find out Oliver not only cheated on her but had a child with another woman while they were together. That’s not a scene I imagine making it into season 3 Arrow, but season 4 remembers that Laurel needs to have a response, however brief, in that situation. It’s a nice character moment for Laurel, but it also further beats home the notion that trust is a consistent issue for Oliver and the women in his life.

THE NOTES

1. Weekly Update from Pointless Island: John Constantine’s magic helped Oliver gain access past a spirit which threatened to kill them all. Now they’ve found a deep underground cavern. Good for them.

2. Favorite Line: Damien: [After Vixen jumped over his head and flew threw the roof his house] “So that just happened.” Runner-up would go to the interaction which ended with Oliver explaining that Constantine was literally in hell.

3. Nitpicks: Damien Darhk still hasn’t put it together that Green Arrow and Oliver Queen are the same person? Seriously? Also, once Thea and Malcolm both found out about William and the whole “keeping my son a secret” ship had clearly sailed, shouldn’t Oliver have told Felicity?

4. Update from the Mayor’s Office: The dream is dead.

Arrow -- "Beyond Redemption" -- Image AR405A_0180b.jpg -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Diyah Pera/ The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

RIP Oliver Queen’s Mayoral Campaign, 2015-2016

At least Star City won’t be subjected to a series of increasingly implausible excuses for why its mayor never seems to be there for important meetings, what with being a little busy moonlighting as the Green Arrow and everything.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

12 Comments

  1. Id like to bring up a small thing that occured earlier in the season., its not meant to provide a counter point to the Oliver lie (even If Im inclined to agree with why he did what he did).

    Oliver was drawn back to Star City because essentially of Felicity. She had for some time been masquerading as ‘deliriously’ happy travelling and living in the burbs with Oliver : Oliver who actually seemed quite content in his more or less domestic bliss free of the League, free of Nyssa and the choices of the league and free of having to hunt down bad people. He had left Star City in better hands with Diggle and co.

    Yet Felicity could not leave that life behind. I guess I ve known from Season 2 that Felicity does not like to be left out and that its in her personality to gravitate towards danger. Its like she has a part of her (and probably this is present in the Gothic version of herself) that needs the danger, and she might do her best work when she is feeling threatened.

    Felicity spent Months helping out the team back in Star City. All the while Oliver was unaware.. even if that lack of information caught up to him fairly quickly.

    She did state very quickly that the whole steamcooker part of Olivers suburbian life bored her, but she was in love with him so she went through with it. How long would that of lasted?

    While I wouldnt consider what she did a lie, it kinda felt like it still was her living perhaps not in denial but certainly not wanting to ruin things for Oliver by telling him what she really felt about the situation.

    Again in terms of secrets kept it dosnt really light a candle to the lie about the secret son, but I think it does put into context that the honesty that she has always expected from others, probably was not as present there.

    Personally while I quite like Damian Darkh as a character, Ive never liked HIVE. They are essentially Mercs? Ninjas? Im not sure what really. Cannon fodder normally it seems. They great plan of course involves Star City (because why does everything have to happen with the focal point of Star City?).

    So what comes next? Oliver apologising, Felicity leaving for a while? Everyone blaming Oliver ? (lets face it, Oliver has forever blamed himself for things going bad. Cue scene of himself being right in the blame for a change!)

    Reply

    1. That is an interesting character analysis for Felicity. I argued ub the review that the show tried very hard to make sure no one was really the bad guy here, and that you could understand their differing points of view. However, I’m ultimately more inclined to agree with Oliver over Felicity, and that’s before I’d even thought of what you pointed out, specifically that she hasn’t always help up her end of the bargain. Before thinking about any of that, though, I leaned Oliver’s way because I see this as boiling down to him having to decide between his son and his spouse, and his son should naturally take priority.

      I still sort of reject the entire premise of the conflict, but admittedly this entire arc with William went better than I had feared it would back when the mere idea of him was introduced in Moira’s last episode. I was picturing Angel Season 3-4 Connor, i.e., a new mopey teen character intruding and polluting the show. Instead, Arrow kept William more of an idea than a character. At least for now.

      I agree about Darkh. Very fun character and suitably big performance. But also kind of backed by a lame organization with ill-defined goals.

      The trailer certainly teased a return appearance from Cupid, and the notion that Malcolm will pick up where Darkh left off. However, this episode wrapped up so many things this season had been building toward that it’s left me pretty unclear on what happens next. In the immediate future, I imagine Team Arrow might be more divided over who to support in the Oliver/Felicity rift than simply having everyone team up against him. In the longer term, Oliver and Felicity will probably dance around each other, him apologizing, her refusing to listen. I really don’t know what they do beyond that (even with the spoilery photo Guggenheim released on Twitter this week). Is this just a speed bump for them? Or the beginning of the end? Moreover, what the heck was Malcolm talking about with all of his rhetoric about seeing the bigger picture and looking out for Thea? We’ll start finding out in a month.

      I thought they might end this episode with another flash-forward and reveal who’s in that grave, ala Flash’s reveal of Zoom at the end of its recent episode. Alas, we are no closer to discovering who dies. We do know that whoever does the killing, though, could be Malcolm, not Darkh.

      Reply

      1. They could have stretched it out sure, but maybe that was the expectation so they went against expectation. One thing that was like wham bam was the chip/paralysis almost .. gimmick. That came went and accomplished what?

      2. I’m actually relieved that they went against expectations with William. I just wish there could have been a way to do it where he and Samantha’s related ultimatum weren’t used as the tool to separate Oliver and Felicity.

        As for the chip/paralysis thing, I similarly sort of laugh at how little it accomplished. Here’s what Rickards told TVLine about how the paralysis storyline started:

        “I was excited for the challenge, I was excited for change. I’m so expressive with my body, as an actor, as Felicity, that I was worried about getting in a chair and then not being able to use her entire body. But I talked to a woman who had become paralyzed in her 20s in a snowboarding accident, and that conversation was really eye-opening. She was very generous and giving with all of her experience and information. It made me upset that we didn’t have more time to show what [the acclimation] would be like, because that’s not what our show is about. It made me feel apologetic [because] this takes over your life and we were only able to show that in a minute.”

        Here’s what she told EW about how the paralysis storyline ended:

        “We don’t really have the time to make it a long process on our show, especially because we’re coming up to the last five episodes or so of shooting. We hope it doesn’t seem like a shock to the audience, but we really did want her to be able to walk again and start a second new chapter.

        She takes on life now with a new goal, so she starts working on something else. She doesn’t necessarily want to be working at Palmer Tech in the day and giving her life to the team at night. She wants to make a difference in the world, which is what she’s always wanted. She seems to have maybe forgot that that’s why she started living this life in the first place. That reignites that for her. It’s like she made a New Year’s resolution with being able to walk again. It’s like a new year for her.”

      3. Kelly: Thats some of the most bizarre replies to story changes Ive ever heard. Ive generally found Emily’s replies to interview questions great (however I still think David Ramsay and Stephen Amells insights are clearer), but it seems a bizarre premise for a story to be so linked to a number of episodes in a season.

        Its like

        ‘Oh crap, we only have 6 episodes left this season to show Slade Wilson’s descent into madness and becoming Deathstroke and turning on Oliver on the Island. Lets just do it all in the next episode and then we can have 4 episodes of cool fight scenes!’

        Arrow never have any issues in the early seasons with playing out their storyline. Never. Slade’s trip to Mirakuru and beyond took more than a season. .

        Ill move on to ‘thats not what our show is about?’

        Isnt it? Arrow is… was all about a person who was rescued from an Island who had gone there a completely different person and came out .. well if not a Hero then something close. it was the story of that guy working to fix his city.. to fight for it. It was about Oliver overcoming adversity with his trials and tribulations and slowly building up friends to help him do so. Even now adversity still threatens star city and oliver is again there to fight against it.

        Isnt being Paralysed in a chair due to what the city can do back… a challenge and what the show is about in a way? Isnt it kinda a slap to the lady who had been paralysed Snowboarding? that she cant contribute to a process if she isnt up around and walking?

        Im actually more confused by the last paragraph you posted, because it really isnt saying much at all despite being quite long.

        So Felicity is still the CEO of Palmer Tech and I guess working as Overwatch at night. I understand that. She is making a difference in the world. The company just producing a battery powering the whole tower and she has helped defeat the Count, Ra’s , Deathstroke and the like.. (thus helping the world and making a difference). She has professed that she enjoyed being the boss at Palmer tech and helping out the team. Now.. what? Im utterly confused by the ‘living the life in the first place’. She lived it because she enjoyed the danger and fighting the bad guys.

      4. Sorry about my late reply. Been meaning to get back to you on this. I’ll start at the end:

        I don’t really know what the heck Rickards was really referring to in that final paragraph I included from her interview. As you pointed out, it doesn’t really seem to make much sense based on where Felicity is at this point in her journey as a character. My best guess is that it probably somehow relates to something along the lines of “We wanted Felicity to rediscover who she is without Oliver in her life, and be not so defined by a man” or some other standard line actors/producers/writers give in interviews. I don’t even know if that explanation would truly make sense in this case though.

        As for Felicity’s inconvenient, but temporary bout with paralysis, I almost think the whole storyline was cooked up because they wanted to end the three-quarter point of the season with an episode opening with Felicity telling Oliver she wants to regain the ability to walk so that she can walk down the aisle at their wedding and then closing with her standing up to walk away from him (as opposed towards him as she would be at their wedding). Other than that, it upped the personal stakes between Oliver and Damien, and it gave Felicity an episode of self-doubt and reflection. Beyond that, it was just kind of something they did.

        The actual realities and day-to-day heroism, little triumphs and moments of defeat, of being in a wheelchair was so not their focus, but I don’t know that it was ever going to be. As you said, there are many reasons for why this show, or at least what it used to be, should have taken it more seriously. They could have actually honored all the research Rickards apparently did by giving us a montage of a determined Felicity’s journey from her bed to her office every morning and all the new steps that trip would require post-paralysis. I actually would have been interested to see that.

        However, by this point I’ve mostly come to terms with what this show is versus what it used to be or could have been. When they have episodes of nighttime ninja fights in full view of well-lit office buildings or mayoral debates which occur entirely off-screen or a woman with a magical pendant which turns her into a female version of Manimal …

        Actually, I have no ending to that sentence. I just thought that listing some aspects of the recent plots would point out how we’re meant to regard this show as goofy fun. Even in that context, they did have Felicity encounter discrimination at work over her condition, and there were several lovely moments of Oliver supporting her and talking to her about treatment options. However, the extent to which they wanted to take this was to have Felicity joke in the Arrow cave that they’ll have to add ramps now; we were never going to see them build those ramps or witness how exactly Felicity managed to get out of bed, dress herself, drive over to Oliver’s campaign headquarters and take the secret elevator down to the Arrow cave. We just assume she had someone help her do all that because she’s a billionaire CEO (or something).

  2. So…why exactly couldn’t Oliver speak to Felicity and ask her to hide the fact that he did? Keeping the secret together instead of him lying to her?

    Reply

    1. THats a good question. Were I a scriptwriter I would say that the whole dont tell anyone line was designed purely to break up the relationship. Are Relationships notoriously hard to write for in general? (that would be an awesome topic for a group of writers) and breaking them up or putting them together just that much easier?

      ‘Dont tell anyone that the child is yours or you cannot see him’ is just the loaded gun provided for one target.

      Swanpride: I also get the feeling had Felicity known she would of gone out of the way to get Samantha to rescind that particular requirement. How exactly I dont know, but while Oliver can learn to accept that is the way things are, FElicity never can. Im sure she would attempt to do something to intervene.

      Reply

    2. I’d thought of that, too, and I ultimately agree with tyranthraxus: The situation was concocted to break these two up, if just temporarily. If they allowed Oliver to find a compromise, such as telling Felicity the truth but then asking her to keep it a secret, it wouldn’t have been the story line they wanted it to be. Tyran might also be right that Felicity wouldn’t have been able to leave it alone.

      Reply

  3. Quick note Laurel/BC was not in the animated series.

    Reply

    1. I’ll have to rewatch. I thought that when Vixen entered the Arrow lair she instantly embraced Laurel like they knew each other. Maybe I was thinking of Laurel’s greeting of Samantha.

      Reply

  4. […] Vixen (who was just introduced on Arrow) and Connor Hawke have both already been suggested as potential future additions to Legends […]

    Reply

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