Friday, 19 February 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S04E14 - 'Code of Silence'

A few weeks ago, we had an episode that ended with Oliver Queen and Damian Darhk coming to something of a temporary agreement. After Oliver had saved his family from Lonnie Machin, Darhk had offered to give Oliver a few weeks of freedom to spend with his own family. It had seemed like a somewhat contrived moment, to be honest - like, for example, that it was a development more likely to be motivated by Neal McDonough simple being unavailable for a few weeks of filming. But, whatever the reasoning behind it, this episode makes it clear that Oliver's grace period is over as Damian Darhk makes his presence felt, once more.

While Damian Darhk may be back in action, though, it seems that, at least for now, he will be playing a supporting role to his wife, Ruvé Adams (Janet Kidder). After announcing her intention to run against Oliver Queen for the role of mayor of Star City, it was Ruvé who took the spot-light for much of this episode - with her managing to display some sense of the same calm menace that Darhk so often has throughout the season.

We still know very little about Damian Darhk himself, of course - but, the one thing that this episode does manage to draw attention to is the fact that we know even less about his wife. The small handful of previous moments we have seen between the two have seemed to suggest that it might be Ruvé, rather than Darhk, who is the true driving force behind whatever it is that they have planned for Star City - and, her questioning of Darhk's commitment, at one point in this episode, seems to support that. And, it seemed to be her, rather than Darhk, who was the driving force behind this episode's villains - a small group of mercenaries known as the Demolition Team. But, is she effectively immortal, like Darhk? Does she have her own array of, so far unrevealed, mystical powers? Is she actually the more dangerous of the two? These are all questions that I'm eager to have answered.

As with so many of the 'one-shot' weekly villains that have appeared, the Demolition Team aren't given very much in the way of background or motivation - though, in this case, that isn't quite the negative it might otherwise have been. The Demolition Team are clearly mercenaries, hired to do a job - and, within that simple context, we don't actually need to know much about them other than the fact that they are very good at what they do.

And, they do pose a very entertaining challenge. That first sequence, in which Laural and Detective Lance found themselves trapped in a building as it collapsed around them, would have to go down as one of the truly great moments of the series, as a whole. Then, later, the team proved to be a formidable physical challenge, too - with each member of the team proving more than capable of putting up a fight. As is often the case, the various moments of action in this episode were a clear high-light. Those two different confrontations between Diggle and a sledge-hammer wielding mercenary, in particular, would have to go down as the best of the episode - with each short, and very tense, sequence having a brutal quality to them that some of the, occasionally overly staged, action sequences of Arrow seem to lack.

While, once again, there wasn't a lot of progress made in this season's 'flash-back' story-line in this episode, we did get a rather important moment of character development for Oliver, at least - as he found himself pushed, by the other prisoners, toward killing Conklin (Ryan Robbins), the man who has heaped so much abuse on both Oliver, and the rest of the prisoners, over the course of the season. The idea that Taiana would also push Oliver toward killing Conklin, rather than trying to dissuade him, was a particularly interesting moment - as it seemed clearly intended as a defining moment for Oliver's attitude back in the first season. Her argument that it takes a monster to fight monsters clearly had a lasting impact on him.

On a more dramatic front, the theme of 'secrets' become very important as Oliver's upcoming political debate with Ruvé drew closer. I'm not entirely sure I understand how there could be any record of an uncashed cheque - but, having Thea uncover the million dollar cheque that Moira Queen once offered to the mother of Oliver's child was a good way to bring the existence of William back into focus (though, of course, the audience already knows that William will have a part to play, after Malcolm Merlyn revealed his existence to Darhk at the end of the last episode). It was also very interesting to see the obvious parallel between Oliver and Detective Lance, as each wrestled with their own secrets - with Quentin's efforts to keep his involvement with HIVE a secret threatening to derail his relationship with Donna Smoak while Oliver wrestles with the decision of whether to reveal William's existence to Felicity. I have never been all that invested in the existence of Oliver's son (the entire sequence of events which lead to Oliver needing to keep William's existence a secret felt much too melodramatic) - but, this episode does seem to suggest that there will be interesting developments regarding William in the future.

On a lighter note, we also had a great moment between Felicity, Oliver, and Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), where Curtis revealed that his intended wedding gift was a small chip which, when implanted, might allow Felicity to walk once more. It might feel like a cheap cop-out to offer up a cure for Felicity, so soon - but, on the other hand, this is a world where implausibly intelligent characters can build highly advanced technology in their spare time, so it might have felt more conspicuous not to have one of Felicity's super-genius friends work on a cure for her paralysis.

By bringing Ruvé Adams into the spot-light, this episode of Arrow added another interesting complication to an already fascinating conflict - she may not be quite as charismatic as her husband but, based on her appearance here, Ruvé could still grow into an equally formidable adversary for Oliver. Also, the role that Oliver's son, William, is intended to play throughout the rest of the season should also be very interesting - especially considering this episode's final moments. Overall, bringing Oliver's conflict with HIVE back into focus should, hopefully, result in some great developments over the next few weeks.

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