Relief though it’s been to have Arrow out from under Legends of Tomorrow setup, it’s hard to feel the same kind of excitement these days that permeates story arcs like The Flash’s trip to Earth-2, and I couldn’t help entering into “Code of Silence” with that blasé mindset. One item working in its favor, and far-less advertised than the previous outing, was that longtime stunt coordinator James Bamford took another turn in the director’s chair, this time with far more polish balancing inventive action with story beats, elevating “Code of Silence” all the more.

The stuntwork is of course still the focus, between multiple single-take and multi-level fight sequences and an overall emphasis on practical effects, and it’s easy to forget how well those moments tend to work in Arrow’s favor. Scenes like Laurel and Quentin’s escape from a collapsing building, or the well-coordinate brawls between varying members of DC’s Demolition Team* offer a nice counterpoint to the awe-factor of CG-heavy Flash sequences. Even the earliest of scenes, as Team Arrow coordinated across different vehicles to follow Damien Darhk’s wife Ruvé offered a solid reminder of how differently this show can operate, pun intended, with less Flash.

*Arrow has a troubled history with one-off DC villains, but this particular iteration of the Demolition Team fit very well within the universe, their particular gimmick never straining credulity. That said, shame on us press, for not announcing X-Men’s erstwhile Colossus, Daniel Cudmore among their members.

"Was it me, or did he have more of a Russian accent here than three 'X-Men' movies?

Apart from his keen visual eye, Bamford is surprisingly good at balancing the emotional undercurrents between action sequences, and “Code of Silence” had plenty of meat for typically supporting characters like Quentin and Donna; the former bonding with Oliver over secret-keeping in manner far beyond the Batman/Gordon analogue their relationship began as, and the latter adding much more depth and fire to Donna Smoak than her bubbly demeanor normally allows.

However dubious Malcolm’s betrayal*, the indiscretion of Oliver’s son also returned to the forefront this week, albeit to some mixed results. On the one hand, it was smart to have Thea unravel her brother’s deception organically through the campaign trail, even if it was decidedly odd to land on her brother’s side as an effort to keep his loved ones safe. I get that “Code of Silence” wanted to connect the idea to Quentin’s choice to keep Donna in the dark for protection (which itself plays far better in context between two parental figures), but Oliver’s deception** in particular still makes little sense. He wants to protect his son (a moot point now anyway), but why on Earth couldn’t he tell his loved ones, and simply ask them to play along for Samantha’s sake? It isn’t as if they know her.

*Nice as it was to go a bit more in-depth with HIVE’s command structure, Star Wars choking and all, why on Earth is Malcolm making a play to destroy Oliver without revealing him as the Green Arrow? Not that Oliver has been making any effort to hide it, between his taunts to Ruvé tonight, but they still haven’t technically made the connection.

"You could see there was Darhk coming out of her eyes. Darhk coming out of her ... wherever."

**The camera-work in particular seems to present tonight’s hour at least somewhat through Oliver’s gaze, both literally and figuratively, which could well accommodate some of his more self-involved decisions.

This was a pleasantly surprising hour overall, between strong action and some heavy emotional threads, even if Arrow still has a bit of trouble balancing its brooding side with the light shining through this season. Little moments like Oliver getting a face-full of glitter from Donna’s wedding invitations work extremely well, as did Felicity recalling her first task for Oliver recovering a shot-up hard drive, but the the approach still feels jarringly scattershot now and again, even before the disparate “Code of Silence.”

It’s especially weird that they’re already walking back (no pun intended) Felicity’s injury with a spinal implant (the dude straight-up cured paralysis, that needs to be a bigger deal!), and my only real concern lies with Arrow’s uncertainty over keeping characters rational, downtrodden and optimistic at the same time. It was great to have Damien Darhk back in the spotlight, but we’re still reeling for lack of immediate focus.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Insinuating that Ruvé will eventually land a husband, even in jest – casual sexism isn’t a great look on you, Ollie.
  • One of these days, I’ll find space to discuss the flashbacks within the main body. They’re getting better! If a little quickly paced.
  • Some awkward covers, expositing why neither Andy nor Alex put in actual appearances tonight.
  • Charlotte Ross was spectacular adding layers to Donna this week, which of course makes me think she’ll be the one to end up in the grave. Until next week!
  • I don’t care if Team Arrow neutralized the immediate threat, you DO NOT HOLD A PUBLIC DEBATE in a building still wired with explosives.
  • Seriously, Curtis straight-up cured paralysis!

Arrow Season 4 will return February 24 with “Taken”, airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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