Code of Silence review – Show, don’t tell

Code of Silence was yet another episode of Arrow that did little else other than just be there. Nothing spectacular was on display, and nothing particularly awful was present in the storytelling. Much like the three episodes directly after Christmas, it was a totally fine episode, and while that isn’t necessarily a great thing, particularly as we enter the final run of episodes for the season, I’ll take that over the alternative.

That in mind, the one major problem that I had with this episode is the considerable amount of foreshadowing and attempts at subtle winks towards the idea of Oliver’s major secret – his son – and the presumed impending collapse of he and Felicity’s relationship as a result of that secret being revealed. Maybe it’s me misremembering in hope, but Arrow used to be able to do foreshadowing quite well, and now it seems to have lost this ability.

What we saw in Code of Silence amounted to the equivalent of me being beaten over the head with a lot of references – to Oliver and Felicity not lying to each other and that Oliver will be a great father and that Oliver isn’t keeping secrets anymore – to the point where I feel like there is now a permanent dent in the back of my skull. Arrow might as well have had Oliver break the fourth wall by turning directly to the camera and saying “Me and Felicity are going to break up next week when my secret is revealed so try now to think of all the ways in which people can describe us that make us seem like the best couple ever so that you’ll never see it coming.” Instead, what we saw was cheesy and forced and dull, amounting to a considerable amount of screentime wasted in a pathetic attempt to prop up what will happen next week. And that might have been fine, if not for the laughable way in which Arrow has sidestepped all of the potential opportunities for Oliver to come clean or that this whole scenario is horribly contrived in the first place. I’ve had no interest in watching the fuse be lit. Let’s hope that the explosion is worth it.

The penultimate scene with Oliver and Felicity’s engagement party was a demonstration not only on why Arrow shouldn’t even attempt to do a sensitive and potentially hard-hitting story arc, but proof that they haven’t the slightest clue what to do with Felicity. After four episodes of her in a wheelchair, Curtis now has this miracle biostimulant that will enable Felicity to walk again. And herein lies the problem. Much like Laurel’s addiction problem in the early-to-middle stages of season two, this was a real chance for Arrow to show some maturity and treat a storyline that is affective to many in the world with some respect and present it in a very real and sophisticated way. But we get none of that. Only in A.W.O.L. did we see even the slightest hint that the show would be taking this seriously and investing time into making it an actual arc for her, but now that’s been undone in the most pathetic of ways. It’s obvious that the show is baffled with what purpose Felicity now serves, and so giving her the occasional storyline that they’re willing to throw away for no good reason other than ‘we want her to be able to do this‘ is the best they can do. With a storyline as important as this, that simply isn’t good enough.

Code of Silence also caused problems with Thea’s characterisation, as it seems that the episode completely forgets that the reason she is in this position today stems back to the end of season two. Where she left Starling City because people were lying to her. So what does she do here? Upon learning of Oliver’s secret son, she encourages her brother to continue to withhold the truth from Felicity, despite her knowing first-hand the effect of what this can do. Perhaps I should applaud her for seemingly having an ulterior motive to break up Oliver and Felicity. Instead, I’m angry that Thea, who has had some excellent development over the past two seasons, has now become yet another character to act unreasonably based on what we know of her in an effort to prop up whatever narrative the writers want to tell. This secret child storyline has gone on far too long, to the point where it’s now undoing good work previously done. It needs to end.

Aside from that, however, there wasn’t too much to complain about. The Demolition Team presented an interesting threat to Team Arrow, even if it does step on the toes of something they’ve done before (a little too similar to the earthquake device, perhaps?), and the fact that their only scenes involved them blowing up buildings with us learning nothing about them whatsoever is a tad frustrating, but considering some of the abysmal villains-of-the-week that we’ve had in past seasons, this group aren’t all bad. Plus, they tied in with Damien’s schemes, which is far more than I can say for throwaway villains we’ve had in the past.

Speaking of Mr. Darhk, he began to put more of his plan into motion, and Malcolm Merlyn was there to provide an assisting voice in his decision-making. Oliver really should have killed him last week. The latest element of Damien’s plans involved putting wife Ruvé in the mayoral office, a story that began back in Unchained, by method of eliminating Oliver at the political debate using The Demolition Team so that she could run unopposed. Someone really should have taught him how to play fair. Good for him and HIVE, however, that he didn’t, because Oliver came out of the debate superior. Ruvé must be terrible at politics if Oliver can beat her. And, it seems that Tomas (Darhk’s associate in Madrid) was correct in doubting her political acumen. It’s a shame that Damien was too busy condemning him to a Darth Vader style death to pay any attention.

It wasn’t just his wife’s political career that Damien attempted to further with The Demolition Team. No, he was very interested in removing Quentin Lance from the equation, after learning beyond all reasonable doubt that he was working with the Green Arrow. Much of the interesting story that came from this was tied too closely to Oliver’s supposed lack of secrets, but I still found the whole thing to be pretty effective, given that the shoe was now on the other foot and Quentin was put in the same position that Oliver so often was early in the show’s run. Some more development in the Quentin-Donna relationship was also a bonus, even if I’m still reluctant to accept their relationship as anything more than a fun thing not to be taken too seriously.

James Bamford directed the hour, his second stint in the chair both on Arrow and in his career, and it showed once again as he brought his differing visual style to the table. Lots of appeared one-shots, particularly in the fight sequences, though one early scene in the Arrow lair also looked fantastic. On a weekly basis, Arrow rarely deviates from its very standard and uninspiring visuals, but Bamford’s two episodes thus far have taken a nice detour from that, giving some much needed variation in an otherwise mundane area.

On the island, Oliver is encouraged by his fellow prisoners to kill Conklin, and he does so. This is the most I’ve enjoyed the flashbacks since Constantine appeared, and even these weren’t great. Some direction here, particularly given that we only have nine episodes left, would be fantastic.

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