The Daddy Issues were on full display on tonight’s episode of The CW’s Arrow. To be fair, the fathers on this show are some of the worst, most-twisted individuals in the story, and even if they’re not always on screen, their sins have already done their share of damage to our well-meaning heroes. “Sins of the Father” served to expose just how much the show’s female characters’ arcs are built around daddy issues, but even Oliver himself got caught up in the drama this time around.
If you remember all the way back to season one, you’ll recall that Oliver’s whole reason for becoming a vigilante was to eliminate the people noted in his father’s journal. Though Robert Queen sacrificed himself to allow his son to live – an event that Oliver reminded viewers of during tonight’s flashbacks – his sins in life caused many of the troubles plaguing Star City today. Essentially, Robert Queen is both directly and indirectly responsible for the creation of the Green Arrow of the present, and the events of Oliver’s past that put him on that path.
In tonight’s flashbacks, Oliver used his time feeling under-the-weather and imprisoned in a cage on Lian Yu as an opportunity to tell his cellmate Taiana a bit about his father, just enough to convince her that he’s suffered his fair share of heartache, too. She’s pretty upset with him for killing her brother and being forced to treat his illness by her captives, so it’s easy to understand why Taiana planned to use Oliver’s glyph-carved stone as a bargaining chip with Reiter. Too bad Reiter can just literally take the stone from her hand as she remains his prisoner. It’s the last piece of the puzzle he needs to find his McGuffin. All that’s left now is for Taiana and Oliver to dig, baby, dig!
While Oliver had the briefest of brushes with daddy issues tonight, Felicity dealt with hers directly in the episode’s side plot. Last week, Felicity aka Overwatch defeated an elite hacker calling himself The Calculator, a conflict which led the villainous computer expert to track down whoever had managed to defeat him. Lo and behold, it was his own daughter, Felicity! While Ms. Smoak is understandably reluctant to trust anything her career criminal father says after abandoning the family years ago, he does make a good point that they’ve both done their share of hack-tivism and vigilantism. But acting on Mama Smoak’s warnings that people never change, Felicity catches her dad trying to steal information from Palmer Technologies’ R&D facility. Though she feels guilty about it, Felicity then turns her scheming father in to the authorities, with the rarely seen Quentin Lance showing up to take him into custody. This was a strange little B plot that served only to keep The Calculator squarely on the villainous side of things and to give Felicity a sense of closure. The real surprise here was Charlotte Ross’ portrayal of a more serious and concerned Mama Smoak, which was fantastic.
The meat of tonight’s daddy issues centered around the dueling League of Assassins members, Nyssa al Ghul and the reigning Ra’s al Ghul, Malcolm Merlyn. Nyssa’s own problems with her father – the former Ra’s al Ghul as played by Matt Nable – already played out on screen last season, so this episode is about her attempts to emerge from within the shadow of his legacy and right his many wrongs. Her heart’s in the right place, but her plan is most definitely full of comic book-level craziness.
Essentially, the plot of “Sins of the Father” boils down to this: Thea’s bloodlust curse is starting to consume her life force, but Nyssa has a cure – an elixir known as the Lotus. She’ll use it to save Thea’s life if Oliver, her League Husband (which is kind of like a Workplace Husband) agrees to kill Malcolm so that she can become Ra’s al Ghul. Malcolm, meanwhile, refuses to yield either his power atop the League or his undying devotion to his daughter. Despite Oliver’s many attempts to find a peaceful, diplomatic resolution, the conflict ultimately ends in bloodshed.
If you’re a fan of swordplay and archery fights, then you must have loved this episode. There were some great moments where Nyssa (Katrina Law) got to show off her swordsmanship and an even better scene in which the rival archer factions took their war to the streets of Star City. We rarely see an all-out battle in full view of the public where innocent bystanders are taken down, but that’s exactly what we got in tonight’s episode. The team manages to take Nyssa prisoner in an attempt to make her see the error of her ways and agree to hand over the Lotus if Malcolm hands over the ring of Ra’s al Ghul. Oliver’s own attempts to reason with Malcolm result in the Dark Archer revealing his knowledge of Oliver’s son, comparing their shared refusal to sacrifice a greater good for a solitary soul.
When cooler heads don’t prevail, Malcolm is forced to challenge Nyssa to trial by combat. In a twist, however, Oliver steps in as Nyssa’s husband and fights Malcolm himself. If his teammates/fiancée find this odd or dangerous, they don’t appear to show it. Despite previous conflicts between Oliver and Malcolm that ended in a stalemate, Oliver quickly gets the upper hand over his foe. But rather than strike the killing blow, he cripples Merlyn by severing his left hand and knocking him out. Having done so, he takes Ra’s al Ghul’s ring and gifts it to Nyssa.
This was a pretty shocking turn of events, but one that was only built up to within this very episode, so the ultimate resolution of it felt a little flat. The more interesting moment was when Nyssa, back in her stronghold of Nanda Parbat, melted the ring as a symbolic atonement for her father’s sins, having also disbanded the League of Assassins and released them from their bonds. Malcolm is understandably pissed, not only at Oliver’s betrayal (which he plans to repay with a fate worse than death) but at the dissolution of an incredibly ancient and powerful group of assassins who literally sway the course of events on a global scale. With terrorist groups like Shadowspire and H.I.V.E./Ghosts loose in the world, one might have thought that Nyssa would have used her own group as a force for good, but I guess Team Arrow is on their own in this fight.
Nyssa does, however, make good on her promise to give Oliver the Lotus, which restores Thea’s health and presumably removes her bloodlust. The team doesn’t tell her about her father’s injury, but the wound to Malcolm’s pride runs far deeper than any physical ailment. It’s revealed at episode’s end that he’s sharing intel with Damien Darhk, intel about the identity of the person most precious to Oliver Queen: his son.
Despite the somewhat repetitive plot elements in this episode (the League waging war in Star City, a power struggle for control of it, Oliver vs Merlyn/Ra’s al Ghul), “Sins of the Father” freshened things up a bit with the fight sequences. Unfortunately, those weren’t enough to offset the rather rushed, uneven, and uninteresting story that factored into the hour. Arrow continues to move its main plots incrementally forward each week in entertaining fashion, but it’s more marginal episodes like this that suggest that the show is fast becoming a victim of its own success … even when a major character loses a hand.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Nyssa: “Thea is dying as a result of what her father did. I am only following events to their inevitable conclusion.”
Noah: “Short-term legal mischief for long-term societal gain.”
Malcolm: “There’s a magic potion that can cure Thea’s bloodlust that we’ve never heard of, but Nyssa apparently has. I’ve been holding off telling you this for years, Oliver … You’re very handsome, not especially bright.”
I love how Nanda Parbat is just around the corner. You don’t even need a passport.
Donna: “Oh no, you have Mr. Square Bear face.”
Oliver: “No one else dies tonight. Especially Thea.”
Taiana: “The same hammer that shatters glass forges steel.”
Felicity: “In an extremely ironic role reversal, my mother was smarter than me. She said, ‘People don’t change, no matter how much you want them to.'”
Felicity: “This is one of your crazier ideas, and that is a competitive field.”
Malcolm: “In deference to good taste, we will forego the removal of shirts.”
Oliver: “You told me yourself you couldn’t defeat Merlyn. If I am forced to choose between your life and his, I will see justice done.”
Oliver: “You are Ra’s al Ghul.” Nyssa: “Thank you, husband.”
Are we going to see another Arrow wedding sometime soon this season?
Malcolm: “Death would be a mercy compared to the debt I now owe you.” Oliver: “Don’t you dare threaten me, Malcolm.”