NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow” are present in this review
Arrow once again put aside the future in, “Past Sins”, an episode that served as something of a throwback to the show’s former focus on the past. As I’ve said before though, Arrow’s exploration of past drama is fairly played out by this point, and this approach does represent a bit of slowed momentum for the otherwise strong Season Seven. Thanks to an interesting subplot with the Suicide Squad however, this episode of Arrow still manages to be fairly entertaining, if rather implausible, even by Arrowverse standards.
Things begin with Oliver and Laurel doing a televised interview, wherein they talk about their past as vigilantes, and how they’ve since become public servants. Shortly after the interview however, the interviewer is kidnapped by a mysterious person, and nearly executed. At the same time, Laurel is apparently being stalked by someone from Earth-2, who constantly leaves her threatening notes, now that her D.A. approval ratings are remarkably high. This is a very interesting idea for a parallel villain storyline between Oliver and Laurel, but unfortunately, it’s better in concept than it is in execution. This is largely because the threats against both Oliver and Laurel don’t manage to ever feel truly credible or menacing, even if Laurel’s story arc does appear to foreshadow a more promising threat to come by the end.
At first, Oliver’s story arc presents an especially solid premise; Someone appears to be upset that Oliver is routinely failing to mention that his father killed his bodyguard before committing suicide in the life raft, shortly after the Queen’s Gambit first went down in 2007. This person happens to be the dead bodyguard’s son, who is out to discredit Oliver and get him fired from the SCPD, even if he has to take lives to do it. This is something that sounds very cool, and should be great, but the show really has to strain to get this character into a position where he could believably menace Oliver, let alone the entire SCPD. By the climax of the episode, this guy has a bullshit electrical device that can somehow electrify everything in the SCPD precinct (seriously?), and the very premise of his agenda is predicated on him being able to impossibly hack into secure D.A. servers, in order to access definitive proof from Slabside that the bodyguard was killed at all. A character like this may have worked on The Flash, where he could have easily been a metahuman, but Arrow is supposed to be more grounded and gritty, which unfortunately turns this promising antagonist into another disposable, unrealistic villain-of-the-week for the Arrowverse.
Laurel, disappointingly, doesn’t fare much better with her own threat in this episode. Again, the idea of Laurel having a stalker from Earth-2 is very cool, but right from the beginning, it just feels obvious that this story arc isn’t what it seems to be. How the hell would some random drunk from Earth-2 get over to Earth-1, for the sole purpose of intimidating Laurel? This doesn’t hold up to scrutiny at all, and inevitably, Laurel eventually finds out that the man in question is the Earth-1 doppelganger of the guy she thought he was (how did she never consider that possibility?), not the original guy that she supposedly killed on Earth-2, shortly after she got her Canary Cry powers in Central City. There are at least several great scenes shared between Laurel and Felicity throughout this episode, particularly when Laurel confesses that the man she believes to be stalking her is the drunk driver that killed her father on Earth-2, after she sent Quentin back out to get a birthday cake that he forgot when she was thirteen, but this great character dialogue deserved to be wrapped around a more credible, believable threat. The episode ending with Dinah now getting the same threatening notes that Laurel did is something to look forward to however. My money is on Stanley not taking kindly to Team Arrow trying to move on from their vigilante careers!
Like I said, the real highlight of the episode surrounds an all-new take on the Suicide Squad at A.R.G.U.S., after Diggle and Lyla try to re-assemble a new version of Task Force X, now loosely re-branded as the, “Ghost Initiative” (presumably to give A.R.G.U.S. brass some degree of easy deniability in-universe, and presumably to allow Arrow to use the Suicide Squad without breaking Warner Bros.’ assumed rule of not being able to identify them as the Suicide Squad in the real world), and headed up by Ricardo Diaz. Diaz becoming a member of the Suicide Squad was a great tease, and remains an interesting way to re-interpret one of the most stubborn and deadly villains to ever face Team Arrow. This tease only got better when China White, John Wilson and Carrie Cutter/Cupid were all enlisted to join the new Suicide Squad to boot! The episode doesn’t quite go as planned however, since, rather than successfully assemble the new Suicide Squad to go after the Longbow Hunters’ mysterious financier, Dante, Diaz ends up breaking loose, rallying the other villains, and attacking A.R.G.U.S. soldiers! Needless to say, this leads to one badass action scene, and it culminates with Diaz snapping Curtis’ neck as well! Holy shit, Curtis is dead?!
No, no. It turns out that the episode actually duped viewers twice, in a surprisingly inspired way. In reality, Diaz was hooked up to a virtual reality simulation the entire time, as an amended part of the Ghost Initiative program proposed by Curtis, which allowed Diaz to believe that he’d escaped A.R.G.U.S., thus spilling the information on where to find Dante during a fake phone call. It’s certainly a leap, but I suppose that the Arrowverse is no stranger to impossible technology at this point, so whatever. Either way, Diaz goes back to prison, and Curtis believes that he’s found a way to dismantle the, “Inhumane” Suicide Squad program for good… Only to have Diggle reject the idea once again, and claim that the Suicide Squad option must remain intact for A.R.G.U.S. This debate over the ethics of the Suicide Squad shared between Diggle and Curtis is very interesting, and Diggle refusing to abandon the Suicide Squad program is a great turn, as was Curtis rightfully pointing out that, even after Dante is captured, there will just be another villain that supposedly requires a Suicide Squad. Some may be disappointed that we didn’t get another proper Suicide Squad episode, especially with so many great legacy Arrow villains assembled together here. Personally though, I enjoyed this subversive take on the Suicide Squad, allowing A.R.G.U.S. to hang on to that idea, without presumably stepping on the toes of Warner Bros.’ and DC’s movie division, who are now properly planning another Suicide Squad movie for release in 2021.
Again, Arrow dredging up drama from the characters’ pasts is played out, and seven seasons in, it’s hard to sell the idea of digging into Oliver’s past especially for the umpteenth time. The interesting Suicide Squad subplot did help to elevate this episode a fair bit however, as did the great character drama shared between Felicity and Laurel. Dinah was left to be the voice of reason in Oliver’s case, which was also decent, though it would have worked a lot better if Dinah wasn’t just recycling the same old, “Don’t blame yourself” spiel to Oliver that I swear he must have heard a hundred times by now. It’s pretty evident that there have been many better episodes throughout the course of Arrow’s seventh season up to this point, but I suppose that, “Past Sins” isn’t truly a dud either. It just feels more forgettable than it should, especially considering its great villain ideas for Oliver and Laurel that disappointingly don’t end up delivering on their potential. Still, the promise of a new major villain coming to the show off of those threatening notes at least gives us something to look forward to in the coming weeks, especially now that Diaz has seemingly spent his last chance of escape from A.R.G.U.S.
- Effective new spin on the Suicide Squad, without betraying the classic hook
- Strong character work between Felicity and Laurel
- Laurel's 'stalker' seemingly being a new major threat to everyone
- Bodyguard's son is an unrealistic, unsatisfying villain-of-the-week
- Laurel somehow never considering that her harasser isn't from Earth-2
- Some may be disappointed at Cupid, China White and John Wilson all being part of a simulation