Arrow S04E14 “Code Of Silence” REVIEW

Arrow S04E14 “Code Of Silence” REVIEW

Code of Silence

stars 4

Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Wendy Mericle, Oscar Balderrama
Director: James Bamford

 

Essential plot points:

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  • Oliver and Damien Darhk’s wife Ruvé Adams verbally spar at the theatre which is to host the Star City mayoral debate. After she leaves, Team Arrow follows her across the city to try and find out where Darhk is – but Oliver loses her car, before being ambushed by her HIVE bodyguards. The rest of the team drop in for the save, but Ruvé escapes.
  • Back at the lair, Oliver’s convinced Ruvé’s appearance into the political sphere means Darhk is stepping up his plans for Star City.
  • Darhk meets the rest of HIVE – including Merlyn, who express concern about whether Ruvé can win political office. After being challenged, Darhk kills one of HIVE bosses watching in Madrid with just a thought, then reveals he’s about to take care of Captain Lance.
  • Laurel visits her father, concerned that HIVE know Lance was a double agent, but he gets called out on a job. Laurel tags along, so she can spend time with her dad – and Donna.

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  • Donna, meanwhile, has been decorating Oliver and Felicity’s apartment ahead of their engagement party, in exactly the sort of style you might think. Thea rescues Oliver from pink fluffy balloon hell to tell him the opposition research team for the debate had dug up something – on him. A $1m cheque written by their mother to Samantha Clayton that was never cashed. Oliver tells her not to worry about it and brushes it off.
  • Lance attends the call, at a deserted old hotel, but it begins to collapse around him. Laurel drags him out to safety – just – as the building is flattened.

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  • After being patched up at the Lair, a beaten-up Lance meets Donna and tells her they can’t see each other for a while – lying by telling her he upset people he owes money to. But she sees through his story and tells him she’s breaking it off completely because he can’t tell her the truth.
  • Felicity traces the call that sent Lance to the hotel to a HIVE number. Team Arrow heads to where the call came from, and find three HIVE operatives, who pin the team down under fire then blow up the building. Thea manages to grab their laptop – which has been perforated with nails – before the factory collapses around them.
  • Diggle’s brother reveals the HIVE agents are called the Demolition Team – a trio of former agents from the GRU, Mossad and the IRA, who specialise in precision demolition. They need Felicity to get the data off the laptop determining their next target.
  • A tearful Donna tells Felicity about her break-up with Lance, and Felicity tries to convince her that Lance may have had a good reason to keep the truth from her.
  • During rehearsals for the debate, Thea reveals she’s done some more digging into the cheque and that she’s worked out Samantha’s son is Oliver’s. He tells her he can’t tell anyone about it, and Thea tells him he’s doing the right thing for his son.
  • Diggle and Oliver track down the only place in Star City that stocks the acid the Demolition Team use for their explosions, but when they get there they discover the security guards dead and the acid gone – enough for a massive target.

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  • Felicity asks a suddenly secretive Curtis to use the R&D mainframe to hack into the damaged laptop. He manages to find what building HIVE are going to take down… the one Oliver is in, for the debate. They want to kill everyone else, leaving Ruvé the sympathetic survivor of a tragedy and clearing the path for her to become mayor.
  • The team evacuates the building and hunts down the bombs, so Ruvé contacts the Demolition Team and tells them not to let Oliver leave the theatre alive.
  • The Demolition Team has booby-trapped the explosives around the building, and ambush Team Arrow. They manage to overcome the Demolition Team and neutralise the devices, allowing the debate to go ahead.

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  • Oliver is judged by the media afterwards to have won the debate, before the party gets underway at the apartment. Donna and Lance reconcile, while Curtis reveals his secret – he’s created a new chip that can be implanted into Felicity’s spine which will help her walk down the aisle.
  • At his new base, Darhk introduces his daughter to a new friend they’re looking after… Oliver’s son, William.
  • In flashbacks to Lian Yu, Oliver and Taiana are clearing a hole dug into the wall with the other island prisoners. They want to kill Oliver for killing Vlad, then tell Oliver to prove he wants to help them by killing Conklin.
  • Reiter tells Oliver he believes that destiny as brought them together – as the only way to find the treasure he seeks is with one who “has been granted passage by the gods”. He leaves Oliver and Conklin together and, after a brief struggle, Oliver kills Conklin, but not before he reveals Reiter is going to kill all the prisoners regardless.

 

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Review:

Arrow has, over the last few years, done a reasonable job of taking some decidedly crap villains from the DC Universe and turning them into credible threats for Team Arrow. Usually they’ve been drawn from the Batman comics, admittedly, but they’ve also dipped into some of the weirder fringes of DC to dig up some new foes for Star City’s Rogues Gallery.

Dragging the Demolition Team out is definitely hitting those fringes. And, just like the comics version, they’re a great visual who turn out to be a bit crap and easily beaten. Kudos to the Arrow producers for doing a ticking clock sequence that not only doesn’t end with just one or two seconds to go, but in fact gets wrapped up with a full TEN MINUTES on the countdown. It’s a quirky and surprisingly effective moment – underlining just how competent Team Arrow are at taking down B-list villains after four years practice.

In fact, the Demolition Team almost feels like the B-plot in an episode that’s largely dealing with the relationships of the team. We’ve seen the constant building-up of the Olicity relationship in the eyes of everyone else as being perfect – both Lance and Donna remark on it – which feels like them getting set up for a fall. And given we’ve already seen in the crossover episode this season how Felicity reacts to the news of Oliver’s secret lovechild, the cliffhanger ending feels like it’s setting the pieces up on the board for that to pay off again very soon.

Actually, that double cliffhanger lands perfectly, showing the happy couple’s joy that we know is about to come crashing down. The only thing that feels off is, again, this idea that everyone’s working to cure Felicity’s paralysis. We spent a whole episode dealing with her dealing – and coming to terms – with her injuries, and this rush to get her out the chair again, especially coming in a show that has usually such a strongly inclusive message, feels weird.

Last year, at MCM Expo in Manchester, Katrina Law – who plays Nyssa in Arrow – talked about how proud she was that her character was seen as a positive role model for the LGBT community. One would imagine that having a brilliant, positive, constantly day-saving heroic figure who just happens to be in a wheelchair would be a similarly strong role model for fans of the show dealing with disability or serious injury. Bringing Barbara Gordon out the wheelchair to be Batgirl was something DC took a long time to do with the New 52 relaunch a few years ago, and writer Gail Simone took time in the books to deal with the ramifications of it in an interesting and believable way.

Nobody’s saying the show should keep Felicity in the wheelchair just for the sake of ticking diversity boxes. But equally, having Curtis create something to stick in Felicity’s back and hey she’s up doing Riverdance again after just three episodes – that doesn’t feel earned, either by the plot or by the show.

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But anyway, off our hobby horse for a while, because there was a ton of things to like in “Code OfSilence” otherwise.

Janet Kidder’s increasingly nasty Lady Macbeth turn as Ruvé is great, a nice balance to Neal McDonough’s at times borderline arch performance as Darhk. The pair compliment each other well, to the point that – while dramatically it makes sense to keep them apart as much as possible – you want to see them on screen together more often.

Kudos too to Charlotte Ross, who has taken what risked being a hugely two-dimensional character in Donna and injected her with real pathos. The subtle things they’ve done with the character this year, after pairing her up with Captain Lance, has been rewarded by some lovely performances from her that completely paid off here.

After making such an impact with his first episode behind the camera, it’s great to see James Bamford take the reigns again and continue to impress. Coming from a stunt background has given him a fresh take on staging Arrow’s big action sequences, and while a couple of them don’t land as they perhaps should this week (see below), the two key fights – one in flashback, the other staged across the confines of a theatre – absolutely do.

And finally the Lian Yu stuff feels like it’s going somewhere again. After a few weeks of treading water, and the weird cameo by Shado and her magic pebble, the flashbacks feel like they’re picking up some momentum. We know a bit more of Reiter’s plan – he’s looking for some treasure protected in some mystical way – and, after weeks of them vanishing, what happened to the rest of the prisoners on the island.

At times the Lian Yu stuff this season – Constantine aside – has looked great and had some kind of surface impact, only to go back to reset mode by the rest of the episode. “Code Of Silence” progresses things significantly, and also disposes of Conklin, a character so eternally put-upon he makes that YouTube cut–up of all the times Worf got shut down on TNG look like a motivational video.

Once again it feels like Arrow starting to power through the gears, accelerating towards an important point in the HIVE storyline after being in cruise control the last couple of weeks.

 

The Good:

  • The invitations joke. And especially Dig’s deadpan, off-screen, “You should totally have seen that coming.”

Code of Silence

  • Rosie from the Demolition Team uses a nail gun rather than a regular weapon – a nod to the fact she takes her name from iconic poster image Rosie the Riveter.

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  • I know I say this every time, but Neal McDonough’s just perfect in this show. His “Ladies and gentlemen, I am giddy to report…” is so camply brilliant it’s almost Bond-villainesque.
  • The knife fight in the flashback is fantastically done – short, brutal and perfectly staged, and vaguely reminiscent of the opening of Casino Royale, of all things. You can even forgive the obvious stunt double for Ryan Robins (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Demolition Team member Oliver fights in the theatre, in fact). Director James Bamford, who used to be a part of the Arrow stunt team, has brought a real freshness to the approach of shooting fight sequences in his two episodes so far.
  • Hooray for the slow cooker callback. That’s one to make sure everyone’s been paying attention this season.

 

The Bad:

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  • Okay, a little story. Back in the dim and distant, an old boss of mine told me that Street Hawk – one of my favourite dumb action series from the ’80s – was rubbish. Not for the plots, or the acting, but because they were using low-powered, rubbish bikes dressed up as better vehicles. He was a bit of a bike nut, and used to despair of action shows where folk were driving about on dirt bikes as if they were superbikes. Point of the story? Watch what Olly and Thea are driving at the start. Couldn’t they get better motorbikes? It looks like they’re auditioning for Junior Kickstart (Google it, kids).

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  • The collapsing hotel. It’s a brilliant idea, but the execution is done in such a way as to make it look exactly like a video game level. Imagine a couple of health bars on the screen and see what I mean. Thea’s escape suffers in the same way – it’s like watching a side-scrolling cut scene. Calling it bad’s perhaps unfair – it’s creative and bold, but the effects just don’t quite match the ambition.
  • We really needed to see the Oliver Queen v Ruvé Adams debate. Even a highlight of it. Nobody’s expecting a rerun of Vinick v Santos, but while merely telling us Olly won it obviously progresses the plot with a minimum of fuss, it’s a missed opportunity to sell how Oliver’s developed as a person in the eyes of a city where he was basically seen as a cast member of Made In Chelsea – a moneyed posho, papped falling out nightclubs at 4AM, winching some drunk intern. Seeing him actually win the debate, even in highlights, would have sold the idea the city’s embracing a bankrupt playboy who went missing for five years as their mayor.

 

And the Random:

  • As well as regularly writing for the main shows, this episode’s co-writer Wendy Mericle is usually Arrow production team’s go-to person for spin-offs, having helped write animated series Vixen (more on that next week) and Blood Rush, the weird web series done to plug Bose’s sound products. Hope she got a nice new stereo for that.

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  • The Demolition Team that appeared in the DC comics were, traditionally, a bunch of construction-themed villains, led by Rosie and created by Len Wein and the legendary Dave Gibbons during their time on Green Lantern in the 1980s. The HIVE version in Arrow are a bit more badass.
  • Oliver tells Curtis he’s terrific for coming up with the implant for Felicity. He is, of course, since he’s based on the comics character Michael Holt, better known as the second Mr Terrific.

 

Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com


Read our other Arrow season four reviews

 

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