[This is a review of Arrow season 4, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]
There is a great deal of relationship talk throughout ‘Code of Silence.’ The episode is tasked with handling a number of things, like Oliver’s debate with Damien Darhk’s wife, Ruvé Adams (Janet Kidder), a candidate who has basically come out of nowhere to challenge the only guy crazy enough to run for mayor in a city that’s as unpredictable and unforgiving to it political leaders as Star City. Now, for an episode of Arrow to be concerned with a political debate is one thing, but it would be remarkably out of character for the series to actually commit itself to watching two characters have an actual debate about the future of a fictional city. And while the idea of seeing Oliver Queen – former reckless billionaire playboy and island castaway – engage in a debate with someone the show has yet to define beyond her connection to the season’s antagonist is appealing, on the grounds of it having a high potential for disaster, the hour smartly steers clear of any actual debating, and instead drives right into the more familiar territory of how lies affect relationships.
The series is, if nothing else, an expert in wading around such soupy drama for tasty little morsels it can build stories around. Here, though, the episode’s wading produces a potentially heftier-than-usual find, as it brings Oliver’s son William – or at least the potential risk he presents – back into the foreground of the season’s narrative. The idea works on paper, as it affords Darhk considerable leverage over Oliver, while also giving Malcolm something to do in the wake of losing the title of Ra’s al Ghul and, well, you know… his hand. It also poses a significant threat to the stability of Oliver and Felicity’s relationship – which the hour continually underlines by having a group of construction-themed H.I.V.E. villains run around demolishing buildings.
At this point in their relationship, Oliver and Felicity have faced a number of obstacles and gone through some pretty dark times. Even when things have seemed at their darkest, the couple has emerged with their feelings for one another intact. Earlier in the season, when Oliver took personal time away from Team Arrow’s hunting of Vandal Savage to meet with the mother of his child and agree to her ultimatum that William never know the truth about his father and that Oliver never tell another living soul about the boy, the end result was the termination of his and Felicity’s relationship – before some Barry time-travel shenanigans put the genie back into the bottle. Arrow was clearly sending viewers a message with the hasty collapse of a seemingly sound relationship and the even hastier retraction of that breakdown, meaning the truth would eventually prove once again to be Oliver’s greatest enemy.
The potential drama that William represents, then, also presents a kind of tricky situation for the show, making it inclined to fall back on some familiar superhero logic. It’s a clunky plotline to be sure, one that could potentially put Felicity in a poor light if not handled properly, so ‘Code of Silence’ goes out of its way to position the issue around the idea of how much damage a lie can do. This is also where Arrow re-introduces the old superhero reasoning that lies are usually told in order to protect other people – often at the expense of things like a happy relationship or, more to the point, a potential, sure-to-be-screwed-up wedding that Felicity’s mother is entirely too excited to help plan.
The idea of the lie, then, becomes the focal point, as the one told by Capt. Lance about why he and Donna need to take a break leads to – surprise! – the dissolution of their relationship before he finally comes clean and admits to being a patsy for Darhk and H.I.V.E. on account of needing to protect someone he loves. And of course, the healing power of the truth results in Donna and Quentin reconciling near a romantic fireplace, while “terrific” guy Curtis presents Felicity with the most “terrific” gift imaginable – a device that will presumably grant her the ability to walk again. The gift is so nice that Oliver can only muster up the word “terrific” to thank the man who has conceivably eradicated the plight of spinal cord injuries the world over, in part becaue he didn’t want to show up to a party empty-handed.
Like most of what transpires during ‘Code of Silence,’ Curtis’ terrific, life-altering gift (and the apparent birth of his superhero alter ego codename) feels a little shoehorned in to what is essentially an episode built around reminding the audience that Damien Darhk and H.I.V.E. have a plan for Star City and that Oliver has a kid whose middle name might as well be “plot device.” While the hour saves much of what Darhk has planned by limiting him to just one act of murder via Skype and then introducing William to the Darhk family, there’s still plenty of time for Thea to corner her brother about a mysterious un-cashed one million dollar check their mother wrote to a woman Oliver used to know.
Oddly, Thea and Oliver’s discussion about William and the reasons for keeping the boy a secret wind up being one of the better moments of the hour. Arrow is very good at creating and managing familial drama, and while the existence of Ollie’s child hasn’t quite found its way into that fold just yet, the conversation between siblings manages to speak volumes about their relationship – even though the actual text is an attempt to justify Oliver keeping Felicity in the dark about a child he only just found out he had. In other words, ‘Code of Silence’ manages to find a few positive notes in a storyline that still seems to be searching for its place amongst the various other plot threads running through this season.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Taken’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: