“Code of Silence” was yet another plodding episode of Arrow, which has been more miss than hit this season. It might raise the personal stakes for Oliver —whose son William is now in the crosshairs of Damien Darhk (could it be William who lies in the grave?) — but stumbles in every other way. Of most concern is its magic solution to Felicity Smoak’s paralysis, which has yet to mean anything. Hopefully, the Arrow writers know what they’re doing.
The midseason finale last December, during which Damien Darhk put a hit on Oliver, set up Felicity in a bad place at a bad time, and she’s been confined to a wheelchair ever since. But in “Code of Silence,” Curtis Holt gives Felicity and Oliver an engagement gift: the cure to her paralysis. Yes, the cure to paralysis. Really. It’s a chip the size of a pea that — mixed with Ray Palmer’s cutting-edge energy tech — could allow Felicity to walk again. Happy engagement!
It works in a superhero fantasy like Arrow: Its characters can invent elixirs that heal the worst ailments. Superheroes are modern Greek gods, so if anyone can invent advanced science that’s indistinguishable from magic, it’s them. And Curtis Holt may become Mister Terrific — the writers of Gotham might as well have penned this line from Oliver: “Curtis, you’re terrific” — so it makes sense he’d do something huge like a “bio stimulant.” But, Jesus, an engagement gift? Maybe for Christmas someone could give Matt Murdock the cure for blindness, or Harrison Wells the cure for being an asshole.
We already know, based on previous flash-forwards, that Felicity regains her legs, but her paralysis was an opportunity to explore her complexity. She’s a person who opts to sit, a symbol of her independence that matters in group dynamics like the one in Team Arrow. But what happens if she’s robbed of that choice? That’s what her paralysis threatened her with — her stolen independence — and it’s a story deserving longevity.
I keep speculating that Felicity still feels useless in her role no matter how much it’s reinforced her hacker skills make her the head coach to Green Arrow’s quarterbacking. “A.W.O.L.” was one such episode, complete with the heavy-handed but ultimately satisfying visual metaphor of Felicity fighting with her past self. It’s a trope so abundant that even Power Rangers has done it. Why? Because it works. I enjoyed how Arrow used it to end her self-doubt and begin anew as Overwatch, but that journey has only begun. Why end it so soon?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Arrowverse waved off disabilities nonchalantly. In fact, when it happened in The Flash it should have been huge, and I was royally furious it was solved within some three commercial breaks.
But maybe Curtis’ invention won’t work. Arrow hasn’t exactly squandered the opportunity to keep exploring Felicity’s new self quite yet, perhaps this is only the next development in her arc than it is a wrap-up. What if it doesn’t work, but instead leads to something else massive like the creation of Mister Terrific, or Felicity’s eventual corporate dominance? I don’t know for sure, but I have a hunch the cure to paralysis would be pretty successful in the healthcare industry.
Whatever it is, I just hope it means something more than a wedding gift.