Arrow – Season 4 Episode 14
“Code of Silence”
Arrow brings back Damien Darhk as his wife faces off against Oliver in the race to be Star City’s mayor while Oliver’s secret starts to become more of a problem..
Having a handful of episodes where Damien Darhk is completely off the board was a good idea as it allowed the show to deal with other villains and expand the overall scope of the series. Damien Darhk is a great villain but it can start to feel claustrophobic if he is all Team Arrow are dealing with.
It was a nice touch to have him return this week but sit in the background while his wife takes the focus. It keeps him part of events but suggests that he has other priorities that need his attention. This was the first episode in a while to remind us that H.I.V.E. is an organisation and has other people in positions of power besides Damien Darhk. He is unquestionably the boss but there are others he deal with who presumable run operations in other places. I’d like to see how H.I.V.E. operates outside Damien Darhk but that could be a story for another season once the immediate threat has been dealt with.
Malcolm seems to be firmly in Damien Darhk’s camp and offering information on Green Arrow in exchange for –I assume- protection from his growing list of enemies. I’m a bit confused as to why Malcolm hasn’t told Darhk the real names of Team Arrow but it could be that Malcolm wants to keep some information to himself to use as a potential bargaining chip later. Knowledge is power and knowing things is about all that Malcolm has left.
Damien Darhk’s appearances are limited in this episode but he remains as charismatic as ever. There’s such a casual simplicity to his villainy that always comes across really well but when he needs to be sinister the change is instantaneous and believable. His Darth Vader moment when he killed someone he was video conferencing with was well done and now that he has William in his house the personal stakes are really high for Oliver.
Speaking of William, the existence of this character represents a problem for the show as a whole. The main issue is that the handling of this has been clumsy up to this point. A large portion of the crossover was spent on Oliver finding a way to be in his son’s life which is only allowed if he agrees never to tell anyone. I’ve said before that it’s an unreasonable ultimatum and not at all realistic but that’s a separate issue at this point. Samantha’s demands come from a very emotional place and would only really work if Oliver was still pretending he was an irresponsible playboy who used women. He dropped that disguise long ago and is visibly a better person than that. His campaign for Mayor has been built on integrity and honesty so it should be obvious to Samantha that he is at least trying to change.
I could understand if she made him keep William a secret from the public as she doesn’t want media prying into her private life. That’s practical and understandable but making him keep it a secret from Felicity, Thea and the rest of the people close to him only works as a drama heightening device. Felicity found out the truth in the timeline that was erased and her reaction was massively overdramatic. She wasn’t hurt because Oliver has a son; she was hurt that he wasn’t immediately honest about it. I don’t agree with the fact that she was upset for not being told immediately as Oliver should be allowed some time to contextualise the whole thing and figure out exactly what it all means.
It has been a while since Oliver found out so Felicity’s reaction would make more sense at this point. Oliver has been wilfully lying to her and everyone else ever since he found out so Felicity being upset by that wouldn’t seem entirely unreasonable.
William’s existence is handled poorly because of the way that the characters in the show are treating it. Oliver is trying to keep it a secret as instructed but it’s all collapsing around him. Thea easily finds out through some complicated audit based machinations and confronts him about it almost immediately. She sides with him on the issue and validates his reason for doing it. I enjoyed this scene as it was really well acted by both Stephen Amell and Willa Holland but it felt off as Thea wasn’t really acting like herself. She became a mouthpiece for the needs of the plot, giving Oliver validation to keep this secret until the point where it is revealed and –presumably- tears his relationship with Felicity apart.
I was most bothered by the fact that neither of them were able to mention the obvious issue with this being kept secret. If Thea could so easily figure it out then Felicity surely will learn the truth within a minute of learning about William’s existence. It’s a very real problem and the character should be smart enough to know that this won’t be kept secret from Felicity for long. Now that Damien Darhk is essentially holding William hostage the revelation is definitely coming soon.
The overall theme of the episode was honesty but it was very clumsily handled. I could see that the episode was going for trying to present valid arguments for and against keeping secrets. In general the message is that there are occasions where keeping secrets is a good idea as long as it’s done for the right reasons. It doesn’t really work as the episode doesn’t give a strong enough sense of what the characters think the right reasons are. It should be a good debate that the characters can have but it comes across as a series of half formed opinions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Quentin becomes something of a case study for why keeping secrets is bad. He lies to Donna about the attempt on his life and she sees through it immediately which briefly ends their relationship. Felicity insists that Quentin has a good reason for his dishonesty which comes from a position of knowing the truth behind it but Donna doesn’t accept it. I like that her life experiences have coloured her viewpoint so much that she won’t accept dishonesty in any form but the point isn’t really made strongly enough and she backs down by the end of the episode anyway.
I was really irritated by Donna and Quentin constantly holding Oliver up as this paragon of honesty when this definitely isn’t the case. He keeps things to himself all the time which has been a direct issue for the other members of Team Arrow in the past and the whole William issue only serves to remind us that Oliver doesn’t really deserve the praise he gets as being an honest man. I will be interested to see how Donna will react once the truth comes out.
The main villains of this episode were in the form of the Demolition Team. Their main purpose was to serve as an obstacle that gives Team Arrow an excuse to suit up. None of the members of the team were even named but they did work as an antagonistic force. The three pronged fight as Team Arrow worked to disarm the charges towards the end of the episode was really well put together and gave the episode a welcome action beat. Team Arrow’s pursuit of Ruvé Darhk (Janet Kidder) was really cool as well.
It was disappointing that the episode spent a lot of time building up to the debate between Oliver and Ruvé Darhk -or Adams- but not actually show the event itself. There was a news report detailing that Oliver was the clear winner but without actually seeing why he won it feels somewhat empty. The Mayoral campaign should be an important part of the season but it comes across as something of an afterthought.
Ruvé Darhk seems like a good opponent for Oliver on an intellectual level and Janet Kidder does a really good job of adding subtext to her performance. Oliver’s knowing banter with her is something that makes me wonder as it seems to point to him knowing a little bit too much which obviously easily makes the connection to Green Arrow.
It looks life Felicity will be up and about again in the near future judging by the implant that Curtis has invented to help her do that. Interestingly Barbara Gordon was able to walk again using a similar device so the comparisons between Barbara and Felicity continue. Curtis giving Felicity her gift was a really touching scene that worked really well despite Oliver’s cheesy line about him being “terrific”. Hopefully we will see Curtis become Mr. Terrific fairly soon.
As usual the flashbacks seem less and less relevant. A lack of focus and screen time leads to a lack of investment. It seems that Oliver is no longer going through a redemptive arc on the island and is moving into his cold blooded killer phase. I think it’s too late for the flashbacks to become compelling this season and they will continue to be a weekly nuisance.
An uneven episode that doesn’t really know how to handle the lingering William situation and clumsily beats the audience over the head with the theme of honesty without exploring it with any sophistication. There was some really good acting from the main cast and the action beats were fairly exciting but I don’t like that the characters are acting as the plot needs them to rather than how they would really act.
• Damien Darhk’s return and his Darth Vader moment
• the solid action beats
• strong performances from the main cast
• characters behaving strangely to suit the needs of the plot
• the clumsy handling of the main theme