Arrow 4.13: “Sins of the Father” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Arrow” are present in this review



Oliver and Felicity were both faced with impossible predicaments this week, in an episode of Arrow that shared the common theme of fatherhood and redemption. On one side, Nyssa Al Ghul prepares to go to war against Malcolm Merlyn, with the struggle over leadership of the League of Assassins being perpetuated by a duel for Thea’s life, while on the other, Felicity quickly learns that her father is the very same super-hacker that blackmailed Roy last week, and struggles with the likelihood that her father will never change from being a criminal.

This is an intense setup for the latest episode of Arrow, though disappointingly, the episode turned out a tad uneven. Several of the plots were sadly dragged down by disappointing, anti-climactic resolutions, even if the ending moments of the episode at least set up strong twists to come. Likewise, it felt like the ensuing war for the League of Assassins is a holdover plot from Season Three, which is just worming its way into Season Four to finish wrapping up the League of Assassins storyline, creating the aftertaste of, “Sins of the Father” sadly feeling more like a filler episode than it should.

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Nonetheless, both the beginning and ending of the episode served as its highlight portions, as did Oliver’s deliberation of how to proceed. Seeing Oliver debate a scenario with no good options, where the civil war that’s unfolding within the League of Assassins suddenly starts claiming the lives of Star City citizens as collateral damage, is dramatic and powerful, though the forced stakes of the League duking it out in Star City feels rather contrived. Why in the world would the entire League of Assassins go all the way to Star City to fight each other?! Isn’t the whole point of the League that they’re supposed to be secret? They’re clearly doing away with that at this point, since a full-scale battle on open streets by a bunch of black-hooded bow-wielders, surrounded by civilians that are killed in the crossfire, would obviously draw tons of attention from both onlookers and the media. Despite a pretty great action scene with Team Arrow trying to save people and drive back the League on the streets at one point, this entire storyline feels stupid, since it blatantly goes against how the League of Assassins is supposed to operate!

The tense negotiations for Thea’s life would have sufficed on their own, frankly, especially when Oliver tries his best to negotiate a peaceful, diplomatic transfer of power, though as to be expected, Malcolm Merlyn is a treacherous bastard. This forces Oliver into a gradually tighter corner, where he’s eventually forced to enact a desperate plan, having Nyssa and Merlyn duke it out on a rooftop. Again, not at all conspicuous for a secret society of killers, but whatever. Oliver surprises everyone however by pledging to fight on Nyssa’s behalf, allowing Oliver and Merlyn to finish the battle that they’ve been fighting ever since the Season One finale!… Or, that’s the idea. Sadly, this is a very anti-climactic duel, with Oliver easily besting Merlyn in a minute or two, which, frankly, is complete bullshit, given how much trouble Oliver has had fighting Merlyn in the past. What, was Merlyn just having an off day?

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At least the final set of twists that follow from here are actually pretty great, and stop being head-slappingly idiotic. Oliver cuts off Merlyn’s hand to forcibly take the Ra’s Al Ghul ring from him, then knocks him out, rather than killing him. This allows him to get The Lotus that will cure Thea, and save his sister’s life, even at the cost of giving Nyssa power over the League of Assassins. Fortunately though, Nyssa is not her father, and after calling Oliver and Merlyn to a secret audience, she destroys the Ra’s Al Ghul ring before their eyes, and announces that she has disbanded the League. This was a shocking, but ultimately satisfying twist, considering that the League of Assassins storyline has started to overstay its welcome, and the renewed animosity between Oliver and Merlyn surely sets up promising things to come, especially after Merlyn ends the episode by tipping off Damien Darhk to the existence of Oliver’s secret son, William. Oh dear!

As for Felicity’s subplot, it had some decent moments, but was ultimately pretty disappointing. Felicity listening to a stark serious Donna telling her all about how her father won’t change, and screwed over both her and Felicity in the past on several occasions, was a solid moment, though this just ends with Felicity giving her father a tour of the Palmer Technologies R&D division, finding a doohickey that appears to prove that her father is stealing data from the company, and then Felicity just hands him off to the police. That’s it. That’s the whole storyline. It felt like this subplot with Felicity didn’t fit with the rest of the episode well, and was far too hasty and ill-developed, though Oliver’s warning to Felicity about her struggles with her father, however transparent it was, did nicely foreshadow the return of an extra vengeful Calculator in the future.

Once again, the flashback sequences also didn’t feel like they went anywhere interesting this week. Oliver tries to explain himself to Diana, even showing her the magic stone that he got from his vision of Shado, somehow, only to have Diana call over Reiter and try to trade the stone for freedom. Where exactly would she go? She’s stuck on Lian Yu! Reiter just takes the stone and leaves Diana in jail, with Diana eventually just shrugging off the anger from Oliver killing her brother, and telling him to save everyone. That’s it. Seriously? This just felt like a contrived excuse to get the stone in Reiter’s hands, and set the next phase of his plans of the past into motion. Why even bother giving Oliver the stone in the first place then? Reiter might as well have just found it between his couch cushions!

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“Sins of the Father” at least had the strength of setting up promising episodes to come, though sadly, the bulk of its duration ended up being quite disappointing. Considering the amazing high point that Arrow hit with, “Unchained” last week, it was a bummer to see the series come to a screeching halt for most of this week’s episode, simply because it had to start setting up more story turns for later, and wrap up the League of Assassins arc once and for all. At least Thea’s alive, and Nanda Parbat can stop nosing in to Team Arrow’s affairs for the foreseeable future, but it’s too bad that an otherwise strong season of Arrow seems to be developing a weird sense of pacing issues since 2016 started.

Arrow's latest episode sadly came off as a disappointment, despite setting up strong story turns for later, as the League of Assassins storyline reaches its climax, and Felicity has to deal with the sudden return of her villainous father.
Oliver finding the best option in an impossible situation
Nyssa disbanding the League of Assassins
Fresh animosity between Oliver and Merlyn by the end
The League fighting their war in Star City is dumb
Merlyn goes down far too easily in his duel with Oliver
Felicity turning her father in so quickly