Arrow: Code of Silence Review

Arrow muddles a funny, action-oriented episode with more convoluted secret son drama.

This Arrow review contains spoilers.

Arrow Season 4, Episode 14

After weeks avoiding the Damien Darhk storyline, Arrowreturned to the season’s big bad in “Code of Silence.” There was a lot to like about this episode. (James Bamford’s inventive direction. Felicity wearing a STAR Labs shirt. A Slade-Wilson-as-party-planner joke.) Unfortunately, some of it was overshadowed by Arrow trying to cram one not-so-convincing theme down our throats: “Sometimes a lie isn’t wrong if it’s for the good of someone you love.” This is one of those aphorisms that sounds simple and true until you start breaking it down in context…

The William secret is still incredibly convoluted.

It wouldn’t be an episode of Arrow if Oliver didn’t make a decision that prompts a face palm from us viewers. Tonight’s face palm came in the form of Oliver’s inital choice to straight-up lie to Thea when she asks about the million-dollar check Moira wrote to Samantha back in the day. The secret of Oliver’s son is obviously going to come out. Confiding in Thea about it is probably the least awkward way it could happen. Instead, Oliver keeps mum, part of his unfair promise to Samantha that he wouldn’t tell anyone about William’s existence. 

If there is one overdone trope in superhero stories that needs to die a slow, painful death, it is the idea that to keep the people you love safe, you must keep secrets from the people you love. Sometimes, the logic follows. However, if not done well, it just feels convoluted — a lazy way of creating tension between characters. Oliver’s insistence on keeping William a secret from his loved ones falls into the latter category. But, in the immortal words of Donna Smoak: “This is actually very simple: you either respect me enough to tell me the truth, or you don’t.”

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In tonight’s episode, Arrowbends over backwards trying to convince us that Oliver’s secret-keeping makes sense. It even co-opts Thea’s character for the effort. And the strain shows. Telling us again and again that Oliver has to do what Samantha says is not working. Yes, William connection to Oliver puts him in danger — this is proven in the episode’s final minutes. But Oliver telling his trusted loved ones about William has no effect on that degree of danger. It is just an excuse for Oliver not to live up to the choices of his past. And I don’t believe that Thea would let Oliver off the hook so easily. TELL FELICITY. Feel free to lie about it to Samantha after the fact. I have fewer moral qualms with that.

Mrs. Deceitful Darhk joins the mayoral race.

Elsewhere in tonight’s episode, we got to spend some time with Damien Darhk’s better half: Ruve Adams. She is running against Oliver in the mayoral race, and the two candidates spend much of the episode trading thinly-veilked barbs about their respective relationships to Damien.

Exhibit A, delivered after Team Arrow foils Team Darhk’s plan to demolition the debate building with Oliver inside: “Nice applause. It’s enough to bring the house down. Almost.” I almost would have been OK with this entire episode having been Oliver and Ruve seemingly debating health care, taxes, and business expenses, but really making in-the-know allusions to the larger Darhk v. Green Arrow fight for Star City. Or at least seeing part of the debate. But there was a lot packed into this episode, so I guess I’ll just have to go watch an episode of The West Wing instead.

HIVE is after Detective Lance.

Detective Lance doesn’t get nearly enough to do on this show, so it was nice to see him back in the fray — and the scene in which Laurel and he race to escape a collapsing building is one of the most tense Arrowhas been in a while. That being said, I wasn’t overjoyed with the Donna/Lance stuff. This relationshipo could work, but Arrowhasn’t put enough (or, you know, any) time into what this relationship actually looks like to make me believe that they are in love. I care about these characters, but Arrowhasn’t done the necessary work to make me care about them as a couple.

This is what made their obvious parallel to the Olicity relationship that much more frustrating — because if Detective Lance can tell Donna the truth about his former work for HIVE, then Oliver can tell Felicity the truth about his long lost son. I think, on some level, Arrowknows this, too. There’s such a thing as too much dramatic irony/foreshadowing, and peppering the episode with lines like this “You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep.” and “You and Oliver are one of those couples that everyone believes in. You don’t lie to each other ever.” was too much.

More Arrow action should look like this.

Stunt coordinator James Bamford directed the episode, and — as with his directorial debut in “Brotherhood” earlier this season — his distinct visual style shone through in the best possible ways. His fight choreography skills obviously translate well when it comes to choreographing camerawork, giving his work a cinema verite aesthetic that makes us feel like we are in the action. This is true for both action sequences — like the visually terrifying building-collapse sequences featured in this episode — and the more character-driven moments.

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There was one long, dancing shot in a Lair Check-in Scene that was totally fluid, connecting these characters and their conversations in graceful ways. Bamford’s direction was a delight to watch, and was well-paired with the introduction of the Demolition Team. Sadly, we didn’t get nearly enough of the villain-group. Hopefully, they will be back to cause more havoc and terror in Star City in future episodes.

Damien stole William.

Speaking of Oliver’s secret son, he got some face time in the final moments of the episode. Reveal: Damien Darhk has seemingly kidnapped him. To be honest, William looked not-at-all concerned about the situation, which makes me wonder how Darhk went about retrieving Oliver’s son. It seems possible that Darhk has already offed Samantha, but maybe Darhk has somehow charmed his way into temporary possession of William. Either way, Oliver’s secret is definitely about to see some air. And guess what? Keeping William’s existence a secret from Felicity did nothing to keep William safe. 

Is William’s kidnapping Phase Five? Probably not given that it supposedly revolves around Ruve’s political aspirations, not to mention that HIVE’s plans must surely be bigger than Oliver Queen’s downfall. Whatever the case, it is probably worth noting that HIVE has a shiny new lair, complete with old white men with accents and Darhk’s demonstration of magical choking ability via teleconference call. He’s like a Darth Vader for the 21st century. (Sorry, Kylo Ren.)

Felicity might be able to walk again.

Well, that was easy. It seems like Felicity’s use of a wheelchair may be coming to an end, as Curtis gifts Felicity with a biostimulant chip (or something) that will eventually enable her to walk again. OK? I feel like this entire storyline was a bit rushed — especially compared to a show like The 100where injuries, bruises, and scrapes — are given such consequence. Then again, Arrowhas always been a fast-paced camp-fest — and the Powers That Be have said again and again that Felicity isn’t Oracle. Still, this moment came out of nowhere. (Thanks though, Curtis.)

Meanwhile, on the island…

R.I.P., Conklin. I wish I could say that I am going to miss you, but I still don’t know what is going on with the flashbacks or why we should care, so I am just going to say: your final fight scene was pretty well-choreographed. Also, if this is any comfort, according to Ryder: “Everything has unfolded according to providence.” Conklin warns Oliver with his dying words that Ryder is going to kill everyone no matter what Oliver does, but Oliver believes in free will, so he’s probably not going to let this happen.

Arrow tried to instill some thematic meaning into the flashbacks this week with a deeper exploration of Ryder’s motives for his Lian Yu operation. He seems to be a very spiritual man, telling Oliver that he believes it is Oliver’s destiny to lead him to a device of untold power. I guess we’re getting somewhere now. Wake me up when they find the Ark of the Covenant. (Actually, don’t. I’m going to keep my eyes closed for that part.)

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3 out of 5