TV Review: Arrow – “Sins of the Father”

Sins of the Father
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of the previous episode of Arrow here.
I have so many mixed feelings about “Sins of the Father”. It had a lot of great elements and very strong developments, but the episode as a whole was really messy.
The biggest thing I was hoping for this week was consequences. I praised the decision to have Thea dying last week, but Nyssa showing up with a deus ex machina that would save her life had me worried—until she delivered her ultimatum, asking Oliver to kill Malcolm. This added a heavy price to the possibility of saving Thea.
NyssaAnd more than anything, I didn’t want this episode to back out of that price. It was apparent that neither Malcolm or Thea were going to die, and that Oliver would have to find an alternative. But what was important to me was for there to be some sort of repercussion regardless. I didn’t want Oliver to work out a solution that made everyone happy and didn’t have any lasting effects.
Luckily, the episode delivered on that front. Oliver’s maneuvering led to a major shake-up, as the League of Assassins was disbanded, and more importantly, Oliver and Malcolm became enemies again. Both of those developments are good decisions for the long-term future of the show. The League of Assassins was awesome when it was first introduced, but now it’s been diluted significantly. Disbanding them means doing away with the tedious League politics and meaningless skirmishes with interchangeable ninjas.
As for Malcolm, well, he’s Oliver’s arch-enemy, his first major villain. Having them allied for the past season and a half was a decent way of keeping John Barrowman around, but they work so much better as deadly enemies, and I’d been hoping for a return to that dynamic for a long time. If Malcolm wasn’t going to be a main villain—if not the very last “Big Bad”—why bother bringing him back to begin with? And the twist at the end of the episode, in which Malcolm alerted Damien Darhk to the existence of Oliver’s son, reminded us just how evil and dangerous Merlyn can be. And it brought Darhk back into the show after a short absence, which is also great.
So really, what I loved about the episode was the way it moved all of the pieces exactly where they needed to be. Nyssa free, the League disbanded, Thea alive but not without a price, and Malcolm an enemy yet again.
The CalculatorThe only problem is, in order to do so much and maneuver these characters and story threads into their proper place, the episode had a lot of work to do, and the execution wasn’t up to par. A lot of elements were convoluted, most notably the trial by combat between Nyssa/Oliver and Malcolm, in which you could practically see the writers pulling the strings in order for everything to end up exactly where they wanted. This robbed what should have been an epic confrontation between Oliver and Malcolm (“Three years!”) of its impact.
Many scenes were rushed too, like the Oliver/Malcolm duel itself, a pale shade of their fight at the end of Season 1. Another rushed element was the war between the League factions as they took to the streets of Star City. The one scene dedicated to showing it was excellent, as Oliver and Team Arrow joined the battle while civilians died. It really upped the urgency and raised the stakes, but sadly it was only one brief scene.
The episode was bogged down a bit by the requisite “Oliver ponders his decision” scenes. I know that for a lot of fans, it really would have made sense for Oliver to just kill Malcolm. But I don’t feel that was the best choice for the story or for his character. Oliver has renounced killing, and plus, Thea did prefer dying over committing murder, so I agree with Oliver’s rationale. Unfortunately the episode was slowed doing by him having to explain himself a few times too many.
The only subplot this week involved Felicity discovering and dealing with the Calculator being her father. It was a juicy setup but it felt out of place with everything else that was going on, and it suffered because of it. It ended being pretty choppy. In fact, I’m surprised how quickly it was wrapped up, so much so that I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Calculator. One small bit I liked was Donna’s reaction to his return, dropping her usual cheerfulness and temporarily becoming a much more serious character.
Overall, convoluted storytelling and counterintuitive character behaviour damaged “Sins of the Father”, but it was a small price to pay for moving all of the chess pieces to exactly where they needed to be.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

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