Nothing good comes from having Malcolm around. If nothing until now has proven that to be true, the Wednesday, Feb. 10 episode of “Arrow,” 4×13, “Sins of the Father,” certainly does. Oh, and the stage is set for Oliver’s secret to come out in a spectacularly disastrous way.
Rather than repeat what has already been said in previous “Arrow” recaps about the flashbacks (annoying, time-consuming, etc.) let’s boil them down to a couple of sentences: Oliver shows the woman the rock he has that Reiter wants. She takes it and offers it up to try to get her freedom, and he turns her down, instead tying her fate to Oliver’s. The two then decide to team up and save everyone. And Reiter is going to be digging for something beneath their feet.
Now that that’s out of the way, the action of the hour comes as a result of Nyssa’s demand that Oliver kill Malcolm in exchange for the Lotus, the elixir that will save Thea. As true as it is that Ra’s is the one who stabbed Thea, putting her in her current predicament, it all goes back to Malcolm, who brainwashed his daughter into killing Sara and everything unfolded from there. But for all the times that Nyssa mentions her and Oliver’s marriage, that doesn’t stop her from being the one holding her sister-in-law’s life in her hands and refusing to cure her without Oliver agreeing to her demand.
Even with everyone encouraging him to kill Malcolm to save his sister, Oliver still refuses, arguing that he’s still Thea’s father. But for all that Malcolm insists that he’d do anything to save his daughter and everything he does is for her, that doesn’t stop him from refusing the new deal that Oliver proposes: the ring and control of the League for the Lotus, once they test it and see it works. And once again, the innocent residents of Star City end up in the crosshairs of a fight they have no part in, this time between Malcolm’s army and Nyssa’s.
Malcolm does try to offer an explanation for his refusal to hand over the ring to Nyssa; the League is a “force of change,” one that has been manipulating global events for hundreds of years, and he refuses to put that kind of power in her hands. He’s just making the same choice that Oliver himself would make if it were Damien Darhk’s plan and William’s life, Malcolm argues, but Oliver tells him that he’d look for a third option. That “third option” comes in the form of a Trial by Combat, one between Oliver (stepping in for his wife Nyssa) and Malcolm.
“Malcolm’s killed hundreds of people. He killed Tommy. He killed Sara. Thea is dying right now because of events he set in motion. I have never hated anyone the way that I hate him,” he tells Diggle at one point, but all that hate doesn’t change the fact that when it comes down to it, he still can’t deliver the final blow. Instead, when he has Malcolm on his knees, telling him he has to kill him to end this, he chooses to instead cut off his hand and deliver the ring to Nyssa for the Lotus. Thea is cured. However, Nyssa makes the decision to disband the League and set its members free.
Malcolm’s reaction to this? To warn Oliver that he’s letting him live because death would be a mercy for the debt he now owes him and to go to Damien Darhk to let him know about the person Oliver cares about more than anyone. No, not his fiancée whom Darhk already did a number on, but his son. This leads to the question of how long Malcolm has known about William. He says he knows everything because he’s Ra’s al Ghul at the time he reveals to Oliver that he knows, but did he find out because of the trips Oliver has been making back and forth to Central City? The lying to Felicity aside (which has to stop especially given the decision they make at the end of the episode and the fact that the list of people who know about William is growing; it makes no sense for Oliver to keep to that condition of Samantha’s if more and more people are just going to tell Oliver they know), if that’s the case, it shows that Oliver going to see his son after what happened to his fiancée was irresponsible because Damien could have easily found out on his own without Malcolm telling him. Unless he’s found a way to make himself invisible on these trips, someone is likely to see him somewhere along the way.
Meanwhile, Felicity has coffee with her father after he showed up at Palmer Tech, and though, as she later tells Oliver, she wants to believe that he’s not an entirely bad guy, she’s not ready to welcome him with open arms. When he comments that it’s strange to see her drinking coffee, she points out it’s been 18 years since he saw her. When he brings up his criminal past, she assumes it was petty stuff because “anything else requires commitment.” When she asks why he chose now to return to her life, he explains that he was doing a job for someone and ran into an adversary with exceptional skills, revealing that he knows she’s Overwatch. They’re the same, he tries to argue, calling his threat to the city an “empty” one and offering up proof of his hacks over the years for her to verify as the first step to earning her trust back.
When Felicity tells her mother that her father’s back, Donna immediately shoots down any possibility of him not being the man they’ve thought him to be. She’s been through this over and over, and it always ends the same way. “People don’t change, even if you want them to,” Donna insists. And when Felicity tests her father, bringing him to Palmer Tech, he proves his ex right. He left behind a piece of tech that would suck the data out of the room, and she doesn’t know why she’s surprised he failed her test, she tells Oliver, but he knows she was just hoping he’d be the parent she always wanted him to be, the parent she deserves. But now, she’s come around to her mother’s way of thinking, that some people don’t change. (Anyone else thinking that may come up when Felicity finds out about Oliver’s son?)
And so when her father stops by her office with a portable ramp for her, it’s not the start of them getting to know each other like he hoped. Instead, she tells him that after he left, she hated herself, thought she was broken and no one could or would love her. She thought there was something wrong with her that made him leave. And now, she doesn’t believe that he left for them because the FBI was after him. What she does know is that he’s a wanted man, and so she called the police, and as Lance arrests him, she leaves.
With everything going on with Malcolm, Nyssa and saving Thea, it’s unfortunate that Felicity’s father’s return sort of takes a backseat (which does make sense, especially given it’s at the point in the season where so much is happening that some plot lines are prioritized over others; that’s when the flashbacks are even more painful to watch). That means that while Felicity does tell the others her father’s back and is the Calculator, every conversation she has with Oliver about him goes right back to Malcolm. (She wishes she could test that he’s telling the truth; Oliver decides to test the Lotus to prove to Malcolm it works. She doesn’t think people can change after her father failed her test; he thought there was hope that Malcolm could. She feels she’s going to be haunted by the look on her father’s face when she turned him over to the police; Oliver is punishing himself for betraying Malcolm of all people.) But maybe there is hope for that to be fixed in the future, since Oliver does tell her that “this thing with [her] father [isn’t] over” because “closure does not come that easily.”
Even after everything Malcolm has done, Oliver admits to Felicity that he still feels bad about betraying him, which, yes, is insane, she agrees, but also part of why she loves him. It was the best way out of an impossible situation. (Again, will this come up when she finds out about William?) Oliver then asks her to marry him (again), but this time, he means now. Thea’s better, Andy’s better, things are quiet, and after everything they’ve been through, he doesn’t know why they’re waiting. Well, they’re not waiting any longer, as Felicity says she’s in. (And as sweet as it is that Oliver apparently can’t wait to marry Felicity, maybe telling her about his son would’ve been the smarter move at that moment.)
Finally, it seems like “Sins of the Father” has set Malcolm up to be the “him” in the flashforwards that Oliver has said he needs to kill and Felicity has told him to kill. Not only has Felicity shown that kind of anger and hatred towards him in the past (and agreed that Oliver should kill Malcolm in this episode), but Diggle also tells Oliver, “you have to kill Malcolm Merlyn.” And with Malcolm telling Damien about William, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the kid is in the grave (would Felicity be as upset as she is?), but perhaps it puts in motion the series of events that lead to someone else’s death.
“Arrow” season 4 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 13 “Sins of the Father”?