After spending time exploring a few villain-of-the-week plots (Shadowspire, the Calculator) and tying up loose Nanda Parbat ends, Arrow is finally back, with an episode centered on season four’s big bad: Damien Darhk. Although, by the end of “Code of Silence,” Oliver is looking pretty bad himself.
With Thea healed and Malcolm injured, Oliver is focused on his mayoral campaign — specifically, his debate with Lady MacDarhk (a.k.a. Ruvé Adams). There’s an icy confrontation between the two at a debate dress rehearsal. (The way she instantly sizes him up makes me think, at first, that Ruvé knows Oliver is the Green Arrow, but it quickly becomes clear that her showmanship is simply politics.) Team Arrow uses Ruvé’s appearance at debate prep to try to track her to Damien Darhk’s whereabouts, but she’s smarter than that and instead lures them to a shoot-out with H.I.V.E. ghosts.
Fake-outs and lies abound this week. While Laurel is visiting Quentin at the police station, he gets a call to check on a possible breaking-and-entering at an abandoned building. As Quentin inspects the scene, parts of the building start to collapse, and pieces of plywood and concrete fly through the air. Quentin is injured, but Laurel, who’s tagged along on the call, is there to help rescue him. The two make their way through a demolition labyrinth of sorts, until they’re safe outside. On the street, they watch as the entire building collapses. “It’s like the building was attacking me, or something,” Quentin says. The building, sure, Quentin, but also H.I.V.E., who now know Quentin is playing for the other team. Later, Team Arrow confirms that H.I.V.E. faked the call to Quentin and has its own demolition team (called, unfortunately, the “Demolition Team”).
Arrow’s stunt coordinator, James Bamford, directed “Code of Silence,” and it shows. The episode’s stunts were creative (a slick slide under a table) and daring (an Evel Knievel–like giant motorcycle leap over an intersection). There was also an impressive variety of stunts. There were not only scenes with hand-to-hand combat and knife fights, but also threatening mallet-and-nail-gun attacks. The Demolition Team story line also allowed Bamford to play around with falling boulders and collapsing walls, which created a claustrophobic fun-house atmosphere at times. (Thankfully, Bamford relied less on shaky camerawork this time around.)
With Quentin’s double-agent status exposed, he decides to put things on hold with Mama Smoak for a few weeks in order to prevent her from becoming a target. But rather than tell her about Darhk, he makes up a flimsy excuse about a gambling debt. Mama Smoak is onto Quentin’s lie, though: “Either you respect me enough to tell me the truth, or you don’t.” When Quentin fails to come clean, she breaks things off.
While I’m sad for Quentin, I’m happy for me because the breakup means a Felicity/Mama Smoak heart-to-heart! At the loft, Mama Smoak opens up to Felicity about her disappointment in Quentin but, in the same breath, notes her pride in seeing Felicity and Oliver heading for the altar. Charlotte Ross and Emily Bett Rickards have a natural chemistry together, and the writers have done an excellent job at building up the relationship between these two over the past year. Ross in particular shines in these more vulnerable Mama Smoak moments. When their conversation turns to whether Oliver would ever lie to Felicity or whether Lance’s lie was justified in some way, it’s a little on-the-nose for where the episode is headed, but in the moment, I am basking in the glory that is the Felicity–Mama Smoak forehead-to-forehead tap.
So this episode’s mini-drama with Quentin and Mama Smoak serves as an obvious parallel to the issues Felicity and Oliver will face when Felicity ultimately finds out he’s been lying about his son, William. In “Code of Silence,” Oliver is finally forced to face his deceitful behavior somewhat, when Thea confronts him about the $1 million check their mom wrote to Samantha, William’s mother. (The check was discovered as part of Oliver’s political background check.). At first, he lies to Thea and claims he’s never heard of this Samantha woman and knows nothing about the check. Later in the episode, Thea presses him on the issue and, based on her own research, guesses that Oliver is the father of Samantha’s son. Oliver confesses to Thea and explains that Samantha has demanded that he not tell anyone about William.
After taking in the news, Thea almost immediately defends Oliver’s choice to lie. This is dubious for a few reasons, including the fact that, of all people, Thea would not be onboard with more lies. (She even glosses over the fact that Oliver lied to her earlier about the check.) Thea’s also too quick to defend Samantha’s shaky reasoning — that Samantha doesn’t want William to have a father who was once a famous playboy — and shows little concern for how the lie will affect the one good thing her brother has in his life (i.e., Felicity). I more easily buy the logic that the lie is somewhat justified because Oliver’s status as the Green Arrow will make William a target, but then again, isn’t that undermined by the fact that Thea now knows? What’s the harm in letting Felicity in on the secret as well? Despite the logic headache this scene gave me, from an acting standpoint, Willa Holland and Stephen Amell knocked it out of the park. (Ol’ Teary-Eyed Amell actually made me feel bad for Oliver and this lie subplot.)
Now that Oliver’s conscience is clear, he can return his focus to the debate. Before the debate is about to begin, Team Arrow learns from a stolen laptop that Team Demolition’s next target is none other than the theater where the debate is taking place! Blueprints show a series of charges set throughout the theater. Thea pulls a fire alarm to evacuate the crowd to safety, an act that also enables Oliver & Co. to change into their vigilante gear unnoticed. Speedy, Black Canary, and Spartan head to the basement, where they fend off a mallet-and-nail-gun H.I.V.E. duo trying to set off the bombs. Green Arrow, meanwhile, is battling his foe high up in the theater’s mezzanine. (The mezzanine fight must have been challenging to choreograph and shoot, given the height and angle.) Although they’re beat-up and bruised, Team Arrow prevails, and the bombs are disabled. We never see the actual debate, but we learn from a news report that pundits have deemed Oliver the winner. (Oliver is really great at assassinating people and everything, and is smart enough to love Felicity, but I cannot buy that he would out-debate Lady MacDarhk on civic policy.).
Everything’s coming up Oliver! He won the debate … His sister has given him permission to continue deceiving his fiancée … and now he’s having a swank engagement party at the loft. Thankfully, there’s no sign of Mama Smoak’s threatened “Pin the Junk on the Hunk” game. However, Mama Smoak’s own hunk — Quentin — shows up at the party. He pulls her aside and confesses the real reason for wanting to take a break: He was in danger because of his association with Darhk and wanted to protect Mama Smoak from any fallout. She forgives him and they sweetly kiss.
Meanwhile, Curtis and his husband arrive at the party with a special engagement gift Curtis has been working on for Felicity. It’s an implantable bio-stimulant that might, when implanted in Felicity’s spine, enable her to walk again. The joy that fills Felicity and Oliver’s eyes in absorbing this news makes me mad because I want this joy for them always, and I know the angst is around the corner.
Or, more accurate, the angst is at Damien Darhk’s house. Darhk’s daughter is playing when Darhk arrives home with a friend for her to play with: It’s William!
Oliver proves his loyalty to prisoners we’ve never seen before by killing Conklin. Also, “she” kisses Oliver on the cheek.
- “The envelope is very pink.” This episode had quite a few of those rare, funny deadpan Oliver lines.
- “The first time we met, the first thing you asked me to do was pull data off a damaged laptop. It’s kind of romantic.” Felicity cutely reminiscing after Oliver asks her to pull data off a Demolition Team laptop. (Extra bonus points for Laurel not getting offscreen fast enough.)
- Thea pulling the fire alarm before Felicity has the chance to hack into the alarm system.
- I love that Oliver quickly checks in with Felicity to make sure she’s okay before Team Arrow abruptly exits to follow Ruvé. I love even more that all Felicity needs to protect herself is “great wi-fi.”
- It’s a brief mention, but Lyla is the new head of A.R.G.U.S.!
- Felicity to Quentin, who wants to know why Felicity assumes he’s the one who’s done something wrong to her mother: “Because you’re a man.”
- So did Dig’s suit repel that mallet?
- “Dr. Queen”!
- The pause Oliver takes when Taiana asks if he’s killed anyone before other than her brother. A new one, folks: funny flashback Oliver!
- Felicity’s hair and make-up at the engagement party.
- Typically, the fourteenth episode of a season is heavy on flashback (e.g., “The Odyssey”), but I’m pleased they didn’t go that route for this particular season.
- After this episode, I feel like Quentin is almost too obvious as a choice in the grave.
- “In my bones.” SOB. Already mourning these two knuckleheads.
MISSING THE MARK
- Laurel in full Black Canary gear standing in front of the theater marquee, for all of Star City to see. “I’m out of roof.” Then go find another one, Laurel. Preferably not one in front of a bright sign. Also, while fleeing a building that’s collapsing, don’t keep pointing your flashlight back towards the destruction behind you. You don’t need to see it. You should run away from it.
- “You don’t lie to each other, ever.” Except that time that Felicity spent the whole summer secretly helping Diggle, Thea, and Laurel fight crime, without telling Oliver.
- Malcolm joining team H.I.V.E. is very Malcolm, but I doubt that Darhk would trust Malcolm enough yet to let him in on strategy meetings.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (Well, at least we got Suit Oliver.)
Come find me on Twitter and tell me if you think Oliver’s lie is justified.