Arrow S04E13 “Sins Of The Father” REVIEW

Arrow S04E13 “Sins Of The Father” REVIEW


stars 3

Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Ben Sokolowski and Keto Shimizu
Director: Gordon Verheul


Essential plot points:

  • We pick up where we left off last week, with Nyssa Al Ghul appearing to her “husband” Oliver by a stricken Thea’s bedside, to offer him a deal: kill Malcolm Merlyn and she’ll give an elixir that will cure Thea’s condition. But Oliver is reluctant to get involved in the war over the League of Assassins.
  • Felicity and her father Noah have an awkward coffee date. Noah reveals he had investigated who Overwatch was after Felicity foiled his plans last week. Before she can storm out, he asks if his crimes are any different to her cyber-vigilantism. He wants to prove he’s not a bad guy – and hands over a record of his previous hacks as evidence.
  • Laurel and Diggle tell Oliver they don’t see the problem with killing Malcolm, but Oliver wants to find a diplomatic approach rather than offing Thea’s father, by getting Malcolm to surrender control of the League to her.
  • Malcolm is unconvinced by Nyssa’s potion claim, but Laurel manages to sell Nyssa on Oliver’s plan – with the proviso that if Malcolm doesn’t agree, the League will stage a war on the streets of Star City.
  • Felicity reveals to the team her father is the Calculator, and that she wants to believe he’s reformed. Oliver thinks he has a way of testing if that’s true, and getting Merlyn to agree to the deal too.
  • He goes to see Nyssa, asking for proof of the Lotus elixir’s potency. She provides a sample which will temporarily aid Thea, but warns someone will die.


  • Oliver has Thea transferred to the lair, and administers the elixir sample, which revives the injured girl. After witnessing her recovery, Merlyn asks what the terms are, and when he can meet with Nyssa.
  • Felicity tells her mother that Noah has returned. She’s not impressed, and tells Felicity there’s no way her ex does not have an ulterior motive over making contact.
  • At the League’s base, Malcolm double-crosses Nyssa, revealing he has brought his own forces with him in an ambush. Outnumbered, Nyssa and her team retreat, and Oliver, Diggle and Laurel stop Malcolm from giving chase.
  • Oliver decides the only way stop a civil war in the League without any bloodshed by taking out Nyssa and Malcolm.
  • Unfortunately, on the streets the League is openly fighting. Diggle warns a reluctant Oliver he may need to break his vow not to kill when it comes to Malcolm.
  • Felicity gives Noah a tour of Curtis’s R&D lab, and baby steps towards a second chance.
  • Laurel finds Nyssa, but Malcolm’s troops have also found them, leading to a desperate pitched battle in the street, with Team Arrow forced to side with Nyssa’s forces to protect her. Diggle tranquillises her and they lock her in a cell in the lair, until she gives up the Lotus. Laurel tries to appeal to her better nature to give up the elixir.
  • A very disappointed Felicity reveals Noah tried to hack Palmer Tech’s R&D lab and steal all the secrets during his visit. She also tells Oliver that, if it saves Thea, he should kill Merlyn, but he remains conflicted. Finally they track down Malcolm – he’s with Thea in the lair, and wants to be by her bedside before she dies.
  • Oliver confronts him, but Malcolm doesn’t want to give up control of the League to Nyssa. He asks Oliver what he would do if Damien Darhk told him to lay down his bow and let Darhk finish his plans for Star City if it would save his own son William’s life. Oliver urges Malcolm to face Nyssa in trial by combat to resolve their feud.
  • On a rooftop, Nyssa and Malcolm face each other for a duel to the death, but Oliver intervenes, and announces that as he’s married to Nyssa he will fight on her behalf. Reluctantly she hands over the sword, and they fight.
  • Oliver easily bests Merlyn, but rather than kill him, he chops off Malcolm’s hand and removes the ring from the severed limb.


  • Nyssa hands over the elixir in exchange for Ra’s Al-Ghul’s ring, then disbands the League of Assassins and melts the ring to prevent anyone else having it.
  • After being given the Lotus, Thea is back to normal, and cured of her blood lust.
  • Noah visits Felicity at work, and tells her he thought he was doing the right thing by running away to protect her from the police. However, she’s already called them, and Noah’s led away in handcuffs…
  • Malcolm threatens Oliver, then meets Damien Darhk, looking to form an alliance – and revealing Oliver’s weakness to him… his son William.
  • In flashbacks to Lian Yu, Taiana tries to bargain with Reiter over her release for the pebble Oliver received in his dream last week, but Reiter snatches it and warns her she must care for Oliver or face death. She tells Oliver he must recover if he is to protect them both.




“People don’t change,” Felicity’s mother Donna says in this episode “even if you want them to.”

Arrow’s always had an unfortunate habit of being a bit on the nose, but the sledgehammer subtlety of “Sins Of The Father” is as blunt as that line of dialogue, to the point where it would be little surprise to find it appeared in the script in bold. And red ink. And underlined. And capitals. With a picture of Eric Idle tapping his nose placed directly afterwards.

We get the point. All the key male protagonists in the story DON’T change in order to hammer home the point that Oliver has. Noah’s still a duplicitous liar. Merlyn’s still a devious sod. But in an episode where everyone – even his fiancee – tells Oliver he should take a life, despite his previous vow not to, the Green Arrow proves just how reformed a character he is. Two fathers behave evilly to prove that another one really is a good guy.

Fatherhood’s been a strong part of Arrow’s ongoing themes, right since day one and Oliver’s return to Star City. The parental connection between father and son, or more often father and daughter, has been the primary driver in many of the stories, from Shado and Yao Fei to Dig becoming a dad and Malcolm’s troubled relationship with his kids (killing one, brainwashing another).

So far Felicity’s been the only character to escape that, with the focus having been on Donna, but here that’s changed as the ramifications of the Calculator’s appearance last week brings the Smoak family to an awkward reunion. Oddly though, after spending so much time on the character last week, and setting his appearance up as part of the cliffhanger ending, it’s oddly relegated to the B plot this time out, dealt with increasingly in the background and as a series of expositional conversations as the episode’s focus shifts to Malcolm.

It’s been interesting to see the shift in perception of Barrowman. For a US audience, their main exposure to him was through the odd B-movie, soap or Broadway appearance before his elevation to a wider mainstream appeal through Doctor Who and then Torchwood. Over on this side, it’s a bit more complicated, as those acting roles are balanced against regular shiny-floor light entertainment gigs.

It’s interesting that he keeps getting cast in largely villainous roles. Witness his bad guy turn in Desperate Housewives, or his dodgy spook cameo in Zero Dark Thirty. And of course, the ongoing antagonist in Arrow. Without the baggage of panto with the Krankies or Tonight’s The Night, casting directors seem to see him for the niche he’s carved out – as a good, sinister villain. And that’s very much on display here. Over the last few years, he’s made Malcolm such a charismatic bastard that the threat of Oliver having to kill him seems genuine, even though you know there’s no way they’d toss that off mid-season.

The other blessed relief is that the episode hopefully means an end to the ongoing League of Assassins stuff. Arrow was always going to struggle to portray a global, clandestine army of ninjas threatening to destroy the city, let alone do so and escape the shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

In fact, as much as Arrow has been an especially serialised story this season, “Unchained” and “Sins Of The Father” work almost as a double episode in their own right. Viewed individually they feel, if not slight, then certainly less consequential than other big episodes in the season. But the tight ties between them mean that, when viewed together, there’s a huge amount of heft behind them.


It’s a shame, then, that “Sins Of The Father” feels slightly uneven. The fact the Noah story is, after so much build-up, rather dismissively dealt with is frustrating. We don’t even get a Donna and Noah confrontation, something the episode feels like it actually needs. If this is leading to something else down the line, fair enough, but for now it feels like we’ve missed out.

And it’s that unevenness that drags the episode down, unfortunately, making The Calculator little more than another villain-of-the-week, despite being someone who can find out Roy and Felicity’s secret identities just with his computer prowess.

Still, with some of the legacy decks cleared, it opens the way for the focus to switch back to Damien. His brief cameo, and Malcolm’s heel turn, at the end adds even more potency to his role as the big bad.


The Good:

  • “I’ve been holding off telling you this for years, Oliver. You’re very handsome, but not especially bright.” Somehow you get the feeling Barrowman enjoyed that line…
  • Felicity’s ever-escalating description of Oliver’s problems against her own is a fantastically done background gag. At first it just seems like a weirdly phrased comment but that she keeps doing it makes it even funnier.
  • The Big Fight In A Warehouse comes early on this week instead, with the climactic battle being a one-sided sword fight on a rooftop. A very well-executed fight, too. Big hand for the stunt coordinators (sorry).


The Bad:

  • Is it just me, or does the incidental music, especially during the big street scrap, sound very like the music from Spooks? Actually, the incidental music this season’s been odd a lot of the time.
  • Poor old Paul Blackthorn. Captain Lance gets two spit-and-cough appearances, one being to lead Noah away at the end, practically out of focus.
  • Star City Hospital must have needed its one room back if they’re somehow able to discharge a patient who, on the Glasgow Coma Scale, is practically dead, back into the care of a family member with no medical training or support.



And the Random:

  • Gordon Verhuel steps up to direct his first Arrow, but it’s not like he’s unfamiliar with the show, having been its director of photography for most of the first two seasons. Aside from directing two episodes of Andromeda, most of his work has been as DP on a bunch of shows – including Smallville.
  • Ben Sokolowski, who co-wrote the episode with fellow producer and former script editor Keto Shimizu, has contributed to every season of Arrow, along with writing the Arrow comic. The pair worked together on the series one Flash episode “Fallout”.
  • “Sins Of The Father” seems to be one of those obligatory titles every genre show has to use at some point. Arrow’s already used it for an (unrelated) comic book, for starters…
  • Given how long Captain Jack Harkness kept his old time travelling pal’s hand in a jar for, it’d be a lovely touch if Malcolm Merlyn ends up keeping his own severed limb, bobbing up and down in a glass container…

Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at

Read our other Arrow season four reviews



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