By Josh Melo
‘Arrow’ Review – S4 Ep.13 (Sins of the Father)
Yet another disjointed effort from Team Arrow. Picking up with Nyssa’s surprising ultimatum, Oliver must decide how far he is willing to push his boundaries in order to keep Thea alive. Caught between two opposing factions of assassins, Oliver and company (I never get tired of writing that) must figure out a way to satisfy both parties or compromise the morals they hold so dear.
Instead of mishandling a thousand different storylines at once, Sins of the Father drops the ball with only two. Nyssa’s play for the leadership of the League takes center stage but fails to provide any impact. Her reasons for withholding the cure for Thea are completely selfish and her ultimatum to Oliver ultimately seemed unnecessary. But before diving into that, let’s be positive.
Sins of the Father primarily deals with the concept of change. Can a person, no matter how good or evil, change at their core. This is the question posed to every main player this week, and for the most part it’s answered satisfactorily. Both the flashbacks and current timeline have been playing with this concept when it comes to Oliver’s psyche, as he changed from playboy millionaire to deadly assassin, can he successfully maintain the change back? The back and forth Oliver feels is expertly conveyed through Amell’s nuanced performance, it’s clear he has gotten a hold of this character after all of these years and it shows in how easily he can shift between Oliver’s myriad emotions.
The only thing about Oliver’s journey this week that left me wanting was his turn in the flashbacks. When we first saw him on Arrow he was a ruthless murderer seeking justice. The flashbacks are meant to carry us through his transformation into that character, so why is he already trying to go through some type of reform? It worked in the sense that it ties into this week’s theme, but overall, it doesn’t jive with continuity. Also, what the hell is going on on that island? I’ve been asking for 13 episodes now and I still have no clue.
Nyssa and Merlyn, on the other hand, are more of a mixed bag. The League storyline has largely taken a back seat this season, with Nyssa only appearing in a couple of episodes while Merlyn only showing up in a few more. It makes sense for Nyssa to want to escape from the shadow of the League after how poorly she’s been treated while under it’s “care”, but the way she goes about jockeying for power makes very little sense. In the beginning, she comes to Oliver to avoid facing Merlyn herself. But when she is challenged to a one on one dual, she accepts no problem. Why put Oliver through the ringer if you had no problem fighting Merlyn in the first place? Secondly, for someone placing so much emphasis on her marriage to Oliver, why not just appeal to him by offering the Lotus cure and than asking him nicely to help win the League’s favor?
Merlyn has always been a complex character, but his allegiances here are a complete mystery. He says he loves Thea, but every action he performs goes against that sentiment. He has the opportunity to save his daughter without unwarranted violence, yet he instigates a civil war. He claims he loves Oliver like a son, yet he swears vengeance upon him for stealing the power he vied after for so long. Having Oliver choose to wound Merlyn (read: chop his hand off) instead of killing him was a clever way of solving this predicament without anyone dying, which was heavily implied throughout the entire episode) but it also makes you question why any of this nonsense had to happen at all.
If all you needed to be considered Ra’s Al Ghul was that dumb ring, why not just steal it from him in the first place? And while we’re on the topic, the action sequences surrounding Merlyn and the League were terribly underwhelming. The final duel between Oliver and Ra’s was built up to be this monumental throw down, only, the choreography was choppy and both actors seemed uninterested. The lack of enthusiasm in the fights spread to the group scuffles as well. With every action scene featuring large groups of fighters, the battles turned into unintelligible messes of punches and kicks; the one exception being the sequence involving the slaughter of innocents. It was very interesting to watch Team Arrow caught in between the opposing League forces and failing to protect the civilians from getting hit by the crossfire. It added a weight to the proceedings that all of the attempts at emotional poignancy failed to provide.
Paralleling the chaos that was Nyssa and Merlyn’s civil feud was Felicity’s reunion with her father, the calculator. It was fun to see Felicity engage in more serious material, but I find it hard to believe that she actually thought her psychopath father was capable of turning a new leaf. I mean, he literally just threatened to murder eight thousand people… yesterday! Why are you giving him a second chance?
Fortunately, at the end of this up and down episode, some of the most compelling material came forth. Merlyn losing his hand and pull with the League has sparked a new fire between him and Oliver. Some of the best narrative was derived from their longtime rivalry, and to see that once again come to a head was a pleasant surprise. Merlyn immediately going to Damien Dahrk was also a great move. HIVE has been forced to the sidelines for far too long, and with new intel on Oliver’s son, Dahrk is sure to pose more of a threat than ever before (while also adding another name to the list of potential bodies in that grave, namely William).
The League of Assassins has disbanded, Merlyn loses his power (and his hand) and Thea is back to full health. Thematically the episode worked, but the poor action and wishy-washy motivations and decision making by Nyssa ended up spoiling what was otherwise a solid episode. But with the way things were left off, the road ahead looks precarious (which is fantastic for viewers, maybe not the characters).
Overall, Sins of the Father gets a 6.5/10.