UK TV recap: Arrow Season 4, Episode 13 (Sins of the Father)
Matthew Turner | On 26, Mar 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
Nicely teed up by last week’s cliff-hanger, Episode 13 of Arrow Season 4 is a relatively streamlined affair, in which Oliver wrestles with Nyssa’s ultimatum and Felicity works through some daddy issues. As the episode’s title clearly spells out, the sins-of-the-father topic is front and centre, with Arrow putting on a particularly strong show of thematic coherence, even if the narrative feels a little disjointed in the process.
To briefly recap from last week, Nyssa has obtained the Lotus Elixir, which is capable of ridding Thea of her Lazarus Pit-induced bloodlust issues and restoring her to humanity. In return, Nyssa asks only one thing: that Oliver kill Malcolm Merlyn, so that she may take her rightful place as Ra’s al-Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins.
Of course, Oliver naively assumes that no blood will need to be shed and that Malcolm will gladly give up the position of Ra’s al-Ghul if it means saving the life of his precious daughter. Needless to say, he’s wrong, and Malcolm double-crosses Oliver, leading to yet another climactic confrontation on a rooftop.
It’s difficult to get too involved in the whole League of Assassins thing, largely because even though they were the subject of most of the previous season, we still have no real idea what difference it makes whether Malcolm or Nyssa is Ra’s al-Ghul, so it’s hard to care about the outcome of their struggle. Malcolm hints that Nyssa being in charge would be a very bad thing, but we get no sense of why that might be the case. Frankly, we’re all bored of the League at this point, so let’s hope they’re not saving some big League-related plot development for an upcoming season, because that would be a Terrible Idea, show.
In the event, Oliver comes up with a novel solution to the problem. What Nyssa actually requires is that Malcolm gives up the ring that symbolises his position as head of the League. Malcolm refuses, so rather than kill him, Oliver simply chops off the hand with the ring on it and gives it to her. Nyssa, in turn, immediately disbands the League of Assassins, so hopefully we’ve seen the last of them for a while. (Frankly, as ninjas go, they are currently being seriously out-classed by the ninjas on Daredevil, so perhaps it’s best all round for them to go quietly into the night at this point).
On the plus side, at least Oliver was able to reach a solution without agonising over what he should do, even with various members of Team Arrow pretty much suggesting that maybe murdering Malcolm wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. (He did kill Sara and destroy large chunks of Star City with an earthquake machine, after all – let’s not forget that.)
On the other hand (pun intended), this could all backfire horribly, as the episode ends with a humiliated and vengeful Malcolm meeting up with Damien Darhk and telling him that the person Oliver cares about most in the world is his son, William. So I’m guessing Damien Darhk will be officially out of the plot cupboard next week. Boo, Malcolm, booooo! That does generate a couple of interesting points, though. Firstly, it puts either Samantha or William squarely in the frame for the Who’s-In-The-Coffin mystery the show has been playing with all season. And secondly, it raises the possibility that the “him” of “You have to kill him” (as Felicity says to Oliver at the cemetery) is in fact Malcolm and not Damien, making Malcolm this season’s Big Bad after all.
As for Felicity, she has her hands full this week with her father, tech-genius bad guy The Calculator, making him aware that she knows who he really is. Deciding to test The Calculator before she can trust him, she gives him access to Palmer Tech’s R&D files and sure enough, he attempts to steal information from her, so she immediately severs all ties. Sins of the father, you see?
The main problem here is that as we’ve only seen The Calculator for a total of two episodes, his betrayal of Felicity doesn’t have much emotional impact, even after Donna Smoak is wheeled on for a reaction (a nice use of the character, whose ditzy front temporarily drops, revealing the lasting emotional damage Papa Smoak inflicted on their marriage). It also feels like The Calculator was dealt with way too quickly, considering all the build-up they gave the character with hints and comments dropped in previous episodes. No doubt he’ll be back, but hopefully they’ve got much bigger plans for the character than what we’ve seen so far.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, Oliver and Taiana (that’s her name, apparently) worked out their issues after Oliver’s confession that he killed her brother and he even got in some thematically relevant musing about his own father. The flashbacks remain a problem, however, as there’s no clear objective for Oliver to achieve, short of stopping Baron Reiter and he doesn’t seem in any particular hurry to do that. Basically, we have no idea what the stakes are and it’s getting exceedingly tedious.
Effectively then, all the various plots explored relationships with fathers this week (aside from Malcolm, The Calculator and Oliver’s father, we also had Oliver himself – who still hasn’t told Felicity about William – and Nyssa’s inherited situation from her own father, Ra’s al-Ghul), specifically relating to ideas of redemption and whether it’s possible to change. Conclusions: yes, it is (Oliver) and no, it isn’t (everyone else).
Still, with Malcolm throwing in with Damien, the stage is now well and truly set for the back end of the series and it’ll be interesting to see Merlyn as a proper villain again. In the meantime, this season is 23 episodes long, so shall we place bets on when we find out Who’s In The Box? Our money’s on Episode 21.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.