Synopsis of 4×14: Before their first mayoral debate, Ruvé Adams unleashes the Demolition Team to target Team Arrow and clean up Damien’s loose ends. Damien kidnaps William and brings him to Starling City.
So many of the best dramas of the last 15 years have been about the actions those in power make and the consequences those without power suffer. Walter White tears his family apart so he can have one moment of control after a lifetime of self-ascribed persecution. Don Draper lies through his teeth to the people who love and trust him and encourages them to do the same so he can hold onto a false self-image. Tony Soprano kills, corrupts and ruins lives because he can, leaving everyone around him to clean up the damage he leaves in his wake.
Despite not trying to be prestige TV, Arrow, more than any of the other superhero shows on the air today, wants to use those same tropes and storytelling techniques but consistently is mired in its own style and format.
“Code of Silence” wants to be about consequences, about characters bunkering down as they realize the dangers they’ve increasingly put themselves and ones they love in. It’s a storyline that’s now played out in every season of Arrow as the characters get closer and closer to the finale. Much like last week, it’s another example of how the show’s incremental, largely illusory sense of change is holding back the show.
That same sense of trotting old territory falls on the William story as well. William, who still, inexplicably and mind bogglingly isn’t actually named Connor, is just another secret Oliver is having to keep from the people he loves, one that the show is already setting up to be revealed at the most inopportune time.
It’s just rote at this point. If anything, the show has tried to make it seem like Oliver has left the idea of holding onto secrets behind him, particularly as he’s seen the damage it did on his relationships with his mother, Thea, and Felicity in the past.
Instead, the show’s steadily ratcheting up the action. If anything, the biggest success of the fourth season of Arrow has been the focus on action and kineticism, recognizing that some of the greatest strengths of the cast is in their athleticism and the crew’s often impressive choreography. There’s a lot of that on display here.
Laurel and Quentin’s escape from a collapsing hotel has a sickening and intense sense of movement and the team’s first battle against the Demolition Team uses wide shots to put Team Arrow in a place and location where the battle still has a sense of impact and intensity without sacrificing scope. In an episode that focuses on well-worn stories and emotional beats, having those jolts of adrenaline definitely elevate the proceedings.
“Code of Silence” is almost notable for what it doesn’t include though. It’s so focused on action and repeating character beats that it doesn’t take the time to explore the new dynamics its tried so hard to establish, like actually presenting Oliver as a political force, Felicity’s still evolving place within the team and the continued attempt to make her as close to Barbara Gordon as legally possible or Damien’s somewhat contemptuous relationship between HIVE’s leaders and his wife.
It’s disappointing to see the show consistently add small, incremental bits of characterization only to jettison them as quickly as it piles them on all in favor of hitting beats and character moments it’s already covered exhaustively.