Arrow S05E14 “The Sin-Eater” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Oliver goes to the home of Amanda Westfield in Opal City, the woman they believe to be Prometheus’s mother. He asks her to help identify him and stop his reign of terror, but she refuses.
- China White, Cupid and Liza Warner stage a break-out while being transferred in a prison bus, heading for Star City.
- At the lair, Felicity begins to download data stolen from Westfield’s home during Oliver’s visit, in the hope it reveals more about Prometheus.
- Susan Williams visits Oliver in his office, and asks him outright if he’s the Green Arrow. He denies it. He then goes to the swearing in ceremony for Dinah. As he’s leaving that, he tells Thea about Susan’s questioning of his alter ego.
- Felicity gets a lead on where the three escapees are. Quentin, feeling responsible for Warner, goes to the location — a Chinese restaurant — with the Green Arrow only to find everyone there has been killed by the fugitives.
- The head of the police gets a tip off, sent from Opal City, that the Green Arrow killed Billy.
- Thea asks Felicity to help deal with Susan Williams. They hack her laptop and discover the Bratva evidence she’s been gathering on Oliver, so plant evidence she’s been plagiarising her stories on the computer.
- Wild Dog and Curtis find out from a gang member what the fugitives are after — the Amertek money that Tobias Church received earlier in the season, which has been stashed away.
- Oliver and Quentin track down one of the possible locations for the money and find the fugitives there. Warner tells Lance the reason she gave up on her rehabilitation was seeing his confession he was working with Damien Darhk. They try to stop them, but the Anti Crime Unit arrives to take down the Green Arrow in connection with Billy’s death, and the pair are forced to retreat.
- To get the Green Arrow off the hook with the ACU, Oliver, Quentin and Chase reveal to the police that the autopsy report over Billy’s death was covered up.
- Susan confronts Oliver in her office — she’s been fired from her job over the false plagiarism evidence, and knows it was because she’d asked him about being the Arrow. She reveals she knows about him being in Russia in the Bratva while the Arrow was operating there.
- Oliver confronts Felicity and Thea over planting the evidence, unhappy over how they dealt with it. He also asks the police to trust the Green Arrow, as they know what he’s done to protect the city and will have to live with his mistake.
- Felicity gives Dinah Laurel’s old mask, although she’s uncomfortable with the idea of replacing the Black Canary. Quentin says he’s given her his blessing.
- The fugitives have tracked down the location of the money, as Team Arrow arrive to confront them. They reveal they’re using the money to recruit the former Church gang members to work for them, so the trio can take over Star City’s underworld. As the gang start to overpower Team Arrow, the ACU arrive — and leave Oliver’s crew alone, in order to apprehend the fugitives.
- However, on the news later, it emerges that the cover-up of the autopsy has been leaked to the press — something that could cause Oliver to be impeached.
- In flashbacks to the hospital in Russia, Oliver and Anatoly plan how to take down Gregor, but realise they are being spied on. As Oliver tries to help Anatoly escape, they are confronted by Gregor’s men. Oliver gives himself up to save Anatoly, and takes out the gang, but Gregor finds Anatoly and puts a gun to his head
Increasingly, Malcolm Merlyn’s description of Oliver – “You’re very handsome but not especially bright” – is starting to look nailed on. The dumbing down of Oliver to the point of almost Curtis-levels of dumb naivety is starting to grate. And nowhere more than in this episode.
The relationship with Susan Williams, brought to a juddering halt after barely being built up properly feels now like a waste of time. With her so thoroughly discredited and the threat of her outing him as the Arrow gone, what was the point of all that? Unless this is building to somewhere for the back half of the season, it’s just been spinning wheels.
Part of the problem has been the thinness of that relationship. It was never especially clear if she was sleeping with Olly to get close to him for her investigation or if she was really attached to him and the investigation was causing her emotional conflict. There’s never been any consistency to that pairing, other than Thea not liking her because of the hatchet job earlier in the season.
It didn’t help, admittedly, that the chemistry between the pair was less sparky than a box of wet matches. Are we meant to be sympathetic to Susan? To Oliver? Or are they just trying to show us that, post Felicity, Oliver’s doomed to be unlucky in love.
Because of all this nonsense, the return of China White, Liza Warner and Cupid is basically relegated to a B-plot, their role little more than to stir up trouble and give the police a dilemma over whether to go after them or the Arrow.
It’s ironic really, in what’s a very female-focused episode (and, notably, one both written and directed by women) that the interesting female villains are sidelined.
That said, the villainy, to an extent, falls elsewhere, with Thea and Felicity conspiring to take down Oliver’s girlfriend with a surreptitious bout of hacking to discredit her. It’s a weird storyline — after so much build-up over the season to show Williams’ investigating Oliver’s ties to the Bratva and gathering evidence that he’s the Arrow to have it dismissed quite so quickly and virtually offscreen.
But it also undermines a fundamental problem with the storyline, which has been positioned as jealous Thea v nosy Susan. Thea and Felicity justify it by saying they’re protecting Oliver, but given their own ties to Team Arrow (which, frankly, if Susan can work it out, anyone can) had they said, “We’re protecting the whole team and ourselves as much as you,” then it’d have been hard to argue with them.
Instead we get the pair being surprised it costs Williams her job and Oliver likening Thea to the Machiavellian behaviour of their mother. Instead of, you know, his chief of staff doing her job to protect his administration — something he’s doing a magnificent job of sabotaging all by himself, as the final scene shows.
Kudos though to Willa Holland, who’s performance turns on a dime from angry and spiteful to sad in a heartbeat. One of the great things about Arrow is the depth of decent acting talent it has on the field at any one time — ensuring that the show’s never more than a scene away from having a moment of emotional connection with the audience.
Which is what makes the Warner/Lance storyline feel like it’s so thrown away. The idea of someone’s redemption being stopped because their inspiration has gone bad feels like a suitably appropriate arc for Arrow to play out long term, yet it’s brushed away – despite a couple of suitably strong scenes from Paul Blackthorne and Rutina Wesley – within an episode.
“The Sin-Eater” feels like a tossed-off episode, something put together to take is from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. In a full US tv season you get those kind of episodes — they’re a necessity with such long episodic runs — but it’s a shame, in this case, that we had to sift through some unnecessary collateral damage to some interesting characters to get there.
- That little scene between Lance and Thea, both pretty weary of their sins, was lovely. Their respective absences from this season have been noted.
- The two big action sequence at the end, and especially the second – taking place out in the open, without the usual warehouse location, and with at least a vague sense of peril about the team – were really nicely staged.
- The shot of the three fugitives walking out, synchronised, from the mausoleum with the loot is beautifully done.
- Individually Cupid and Warner had been two of the more interesting antagonists in Arrow’s history, while China White – while hardly an engaging character – was always portrayed as a formidable foe. The idea of the three of them teaming up could have been a couple of episodes worth of Harley and Ivy-esque bonding and badness. But Warner aside, they could have been any generic villains here. Disappointing
- Forgive my lack of knowledge of US law enforcement procedures, but do new police officers normally get sworn in, individually, by the Mayor in front of the media in a big ceremony? And given that Dinah is also a vigilante – new mask or not – wouldn’t she want it to be as low-key as possible to reduce the amount of people who could recognise her?
And the Random:
- Making her debut in the Arrowverse directing chair is Mary Lambert, who has a remarkable career dating back three decades. She was Madonna’s go-to director during the ’80s, doing the videos for “Like A Virgin”, “Like A Prayer” and “Material Girl”, along with the likes of Janet Jackson, Eurythmics and the B-52s. She also directed the Stephen King adaptation of Pet Sematary, and – in the ultimate example of going from the sublime to the ridiculous – helmed Mega Python v Gatoroid.
- Curtis’ new coat, with its white flashes and red trim, takes him even closer to the look of the Mister Terrific from the comics. How long until the spheres get busted out?
Review by Iain Hepburn