‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 13: ‘Sins of the Father’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
In this week’s episode, “Sins of the Father,” the League of Assassins finds itself embroiled in a civil war while Thea’s life hangs in the balance. Also, Felicity has coffee with her dad. The episode was directed by Gordon Verheul and written by Ben Sokolowski and Keto Shimizu.
Matt: I guess the place to start with this one is the big development of the episode: Bye-bye, League of Assassins. You were unceremoniously disbanded just about as quickly as you showed up out of nowhere to explain why Sara was still alive.
How weird did you think it was that Nyssa just gave up on them as soon as she got the Ra’s ring, Chris?
Chris: Well, before we can even start to get into that let me ask the question that I think the show tried to sort of answer through clunky expository dialogue here and there: Who is Nyssa and what is her deal on this show?
Matt: So... it’s complicated.
Nyssa is the original Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. He’s dead now, and Malcolm Merlyn has adopted the title of Ra’s al Ghul. Somehow, her last name is al Ghul, even though that’s a title bestowed by a fancy ring and not a name.
When Sara was in the League, she was Nyssa’s lover. So they have a history. Laurel became friends with Nyssa after Sara died the second time.
Nyssa is also technically married to Ollie. Last season, the old Ra’s wanted Ollie to be his successor, and as such he wanted to marry Nyssa off to Ollie to keep it in the family. Ollie was undercover the whole time --- he had no interest in being Ra’s --- but he had to play along, so the wedding happened. Then, Ra’s died, and as part of a deal they had worked out, Ollie handed over the Ra’s ring to Malcolm.
Does that help? The more I type, the more complicated it seems.
Chris: Yeah, that clears some things up, though I think it raises some different questions. An unrelated question I have though is, who is this “Tommy” that Malcolm killed that they kept mentioning this week as though he were important, but that I've never heard them mention previously?
Matt: Tommy was Ollie’s best friend and Malcolm’s son. Malcolm only indirectly killed him, by causing an earthquake that also killed like 4,000 other people. He was only in the first season, much like another character mentioned in this episode: Raisa.
To explain, Chris; Raisa was the vaguely racist maid character who was in the pilot and then never showed up again. I cannot believe they mentioned her again. Bringing her up is the most villainous thing Malcolm Merlyn has done since the first season.
Chris: So John Barrowman has been on this show from the start?
Matt: Pretty much. He showed up in...maybe the fourth episode? At first, he was just Tommy’s dad, but as the season went on he was revealed to be the guy dressing up in Dark Arrow gear with a plan to destroy The Glades.
Chris: Do I even want to know?
Matt: Nah. But he’s back to full villain status now, because he blames Ollie for taking the League away from him. In doing so, he does that cool, “I’d kill you, but that’d be too good for you” thing that only happens in stuff where you can’t kill off a lead character. That and the, “We’re not so different” speech Felicity’s dad gave her nearly filled up my villain cliche bingo card.
Chris: What were you missing to get the bingo?
Matt: Nobody put anyone in a death trap and then left the room. That was it. But there was a huge villain vs. villain fight in which everyone just gets away and nobody gets hurt. On a different card, that would have put me over.
So yeah, no more League of Assassins. You think this is one of those things where DC TV had to scrub something so it can be used in a movie? That was apparently why Amanda Waller and Deadshot were killed off.
Chris: Has that been confirmed or is that just internet scuttlebutt? Also, when can we start a new weekly column called “Internet Scuttlebutt” where we just talk about various rumors and whether we buy them or not?
Matt: That’d mean we’d have to keep up with rumors, which is more than I’m really willing to do.
Chris: I figured we’d just make stuff up and see what shakes out.
Matt: Made-up stuff like the blue liquid called “lotus” (which is already the name of a flower) that can reverse the growth of a wound that you already recovered from, but which is coming back because you’re not killing enough people?
Chris: Whoa there, Matt, are you trying to say this show is kind of ridiculous sometimes?
Matt: I know, I’m going way out there on this one! But really, Arrow is usually described as the more grounded of these DC shows, but this storyline is just as crazy as anything on The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow, just a lot darker.
Chris: Yeah, this show is just as goofy without any of the fun. On those shows you can let things like “logic” or “common sense” or “lazy writing” slide a little more, because the show will play fast and loose with things like that in the name of the plot being fun. So, you know, you’re able to turn the volume on that part of your brain down because people are smiling and you’re having a good time.
But with this it’s just… bleh... just joyless. It’s hard for me to imagine someone watching this and having a good time. I’m not knocking anyone who does have a good time watching it, we clearly just have very different enjoyment parameters.
Matt: I’d be lying if I didn’t spend a lot of this episode thinking about how we were slogging along through some anticlimactic League of Assassins civil war stuff while The Flash is off having a grand old time in an Earth 2 story.
Part of it, I think, is that Arrow seems determined to keep doing these strained family relationship stories that go nowhere. I have pretty much nothing to say about the Felicity and her dad plot. Like, did any of it matter? The only note I wrote down was “Felicity should give her mom more credit,” because it just seemed like some excuse to run one of the show’s best recurring characters down.
Chris: Yeah, I’d love to know what the point of all that was. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him, but we don’t even have to talk about if you don’t want to.
Matt: Maybe there’ll be something of greater value to talk about in the weeks to come. In part, it kinda just seemed like a way to make every story fit into the theme of crummy dads (the “Sins of the Father” title of the episode makes that abundantly clear, and also makes this a weird, de facto Spider-Man animated series tie-in, since like 20 episodes of that show had that title).
Except the flashback scenes had nothing to do with that. In those, Ollie admits to killing the brother of Taiana, the Russian lady. And then she ends up playing herself, giving up the only leverage she has to get out alive. That’s about it on that one, right? Am I forgetting something big?
Chris: I don’t even know. Everyone’s emotions are so melodramatic and turn on a dime on this show. She’s so quick to go from thinking of him as her savior to hating him back to caring about him, and everyone is like that. For example, what did Oliver do that was so bad that Malcolm had to give the whole “death is too good for you” speech. Ollie cut his hand off and didn’t kill him when he could have, and did it all to save his daughter’s life. What are you this mad about, Malcolm? What are you really upset about, Malcolm?
Matt: I wrote this note and this note alone when Ollie cut off Malcolm’s hand: “This really is a DC TV show!”
But I guess his big issue is with losing his position of power. He schemed all year last season to try to get it, even though all that really happened is that Ollie handed the title over to him. It was a pretty easy transfer of power. It’s also a betrayal, I suppose. Ollie promised to make Malcolm the new Ra’s.
Chris: Which he did. He just didn’t say for how long. And after all his “family is important” talk, Malcolm goes and tells Darhk about Ollie’s secret son… which shouldn’t matter anyway though since doesn’t Darhk have a code against messing with people’s children?
And also, I don’t think there’s any possible way that Ollie cares more about that kid than Felicity. I mean, he barely knows that kid. I guess they’re trying to give us another character to think might be in that future grave.
Matt: That’s exactly what I was thinking, though I suspect child death might be too dark even for this show. Oh, who am I kidding. They would do it. I bet they’ll do it.
Chris: It would explain why Felicity is there and upset, but not as upset. And finding out about the kid again and that he covered it up would probably explain the ring being gone, especially after the wedding talk this week.
Matt: It’d also pay off on all the timestream stuff from the Flash crossover. But wouldn’t William’s mom be there? Seems like she would be.
Chris: Well, I mean, no one is there. Ollie just hanging around by himself feeling guilty until Barry shows up. I imagine everyone else has already left and Ollie’s just still there brooding. Plus, how many people does a kid know? His whole class gonna come to the funeral?
I don’t want to advocate violence, but Matt, do you think this show could do with a good metaphorical ass-whuppin’ to get it to straighten up and fly right?
Matt: How do you do that to a TV show? Everyone agrees not to watch it for a week?
Chris: I don’t know, I was just thinking about how I’d like to punch this show sometimes. I guess that’s not really metaphorical though.
Matt: Maybe we can will it to happen, and then it’ll have to take some magic elixir to get better.
And that’s it for this week! Come back next week in which a building is in danger! Have you ever been more concerned?
Chris: NOT A BUILDING!