Summary: Mari learns just about everything she needs to know in the penultimate episode of the series.
The mysterious woman commands Mari to give her the totem. Mari says she actually doesn’t care about it, but is unable to remove it as it has been bound to her. The woman says she’ll have to behead Mari, who tries to escape, but is shot before she can. She awakens in Zambesi, a destroyed village in Africa. The woman, Kuasa, reveals that she is Mari’s sister, the original person tasked with being protector of the village and owner of the totem. However, her village was destroyed and burned by warlords, and her mother escaped with only the totem and a baby Mari — not Kuasa. She still believes herself to be the protector of the Zambesi, and says she has a responsibility for the dead, and will unfortunately have to take the totem from Mari at any cost. She grabs a spider, Anansi’s true form, and has it bite Mari, which she says will release the totem. Mari escapes with the strength of a rhino, but not after already being bitten. She soon passes out in the desert, and Kuasa finds her and takes the totem.
With the mini Vixen series wrapping up, we’re finally getting to the meat of the story in episode 5. And, of course, it’s disappointing to realize there are only about five minutes left.
Again, the fundamental flaw of Vixen is its length. Much as I try to assess its merits on what it is and what we have, it’s still hard to ignore that any problems are because its rich mythology and dense material are packed in such a brief runtime. To the writers’ credit, Vixen‘s plot has been refreshingly straightfoward, with enough twists to keep things moving and decent pacing throughout. They didn’t get too overambitious, even with the unfettered potential of animation, and that’s commendable.
Well, for the most part anyway. Much as the Arrow and Flash appearances were fun, they might have done more harm than good in their appearances; quite simply, they took time away from the rich mythology and background for the titular character. While it might be setting up Arrow and Flash rescuing Mari in Africa, it seems like they only appeared to make sure Vixen is fundamentally cemented in the DCwU, and so it could be marketed as such.
In any case, while the actual plot fits this series well, the story is much bigger than can fit. There’s a major difference between the two; plot is the actual events, the story is what consists of the whole theme and where the characters fall into place. The plot of Vixen is that Mari McCabe finds a mystical totem, runs from people, and learns about her powers. The story is something more along the lines of a young woman coming to terms with her complex family history and magical legacy. And as much as this series has used Mari’s search for family as a motivation, there isn’t much time being spent on the actual finding of that family. The big reveal of her sister is relegated to the last ten minutes, and while it’s understandable that it was kept secret for suspense, it doesn’t work terribly well for that story.
That’s disappointing, because it’s incredibly interesting. This episode establishes our main antagonist as Kuasa (named in the credits, but not in the episode that I could tell), Mari’s sister. Kuasa provides a tragic backstory, one of legend and legacy, and the most interesting twist being that she was destined to carry the totem, not Mari. That’s immediately a complex relationship, where the lines between blood and duty are blurred. Kuasa is a clear foil to Mari; the former willing to due whatever it takes to meet what she perceives is her destiny, while the latter doesn’t even care about the necklace. Mari’s incredibly funny reactions to her situation hammers in the kind of her she is — the reluctant one, as I described before, a stark contrast from the Arrow and Flash. Mari really comes into her own in this episode, and Megalyn Echikunwoke nails the witty, fast-paced line delivery.
Kuasa also represents that problem of story, though; she’s too interesting for this brief runtime. She quickly mentions that she’s made deals throughout her life that have made her even more responsible to Zambesi, and we have no idea what actually happened to her after her mother left her behind. Whether she was abducted and kept by the warlords or was left to fend for herself in the desert, there’s surely a torturous backstory. And it’s one we only hear about in a spill of exposition. Sure, there’s always room for mystery, but there’s a wealth of potential emotional complexity there simply isn’t time to explore. The hope is that this is a mere taste, and we’ll see more Vixen in the future. But it still seems like a missed opportunity that we couldn’t get a stronger introduction to these characters.
As the writing and plot get more interesting — and really, the last three episodes have been on an upward swing — it becomes more apparent that Vixen really ought to be a bigger series. Vixen has turned out to be competently produced and tons of fun, and as such I’ll be sad to see it go (and hope we see more.) But it’s also apparent that, perhaps, a webseries ought to be better devoted to characters already know having side-adventures. Vixen, and the rich, intriguing, and complex mythology it’s steadily presented, needs much more time to flourish. Episode 6 has the potential to provide a satisfying conclusion, but there’s only so much that can be accomplished in five minutes.
Odds & Ends
- The music cue for Kuasa at the beginning of the episode is great. Blake Neely and Nathaniel Blume have done a quality job scoring the series.
- I love the artistic choice to have Mari blackout briefly before the rhino spirit lights up the screen from the blackness.
- “Hey…crazy lunatic lady.”
- “You kidnapped me all the way to Africa?!”
- “You understand.”
“Nope, not at all, bye!”