After last week’s gun control-centric flashback to the “very special episodes” of TV past, Arrow got back to business as usual in “The Sin-Eater,” setting a trio of formerly incarnated female villains (China White, Cupid, Liza Warner) loose on Star City. Somewhat surprisingly, though, that turned out to be little more than background noise to Oliver ongoing efforts to be more present as mayor and pay more attention to his sister, especially after she did what he couldn’t in discrediting Susan Williams before she had to release her mountain of “Oliver is the Green Arrow” evidence. For those wanting more Thea, this was your episode.
The bigger question of the moment might be exactly how many people are still watching the show. According to Deadline, “The Sin-Eater” set a series low in overnight ratings after holding steady at its previous low ever since it returned from winter break. And, yes, I know – overnight ratings don’t mean nearly as much as they used to. Plus, there’s no telling how many people have or will eventually watch “Sin-Eater” for free on The CW app, and there’s little reason to worry too much since CW already renewed Arrow for a sixth season. Perhaps a dip should have been expected after the show turned political last week, though not nearly as political as some might have expected.
Either way, “Sin-Eater” currently ranks as the least-watched episode in Arrow history, a distinction it doesn’t quite deserve. I’ve seen far worse than “Sin-Eater.” However, I’ve also seen far better. More than anything else, the episode was just disappointing for the way it squandered its own inherent potential for a Batman: The Animated Series-style story about three women coming close to taking down the hero. That could have been a lot of fun, borrowing a page from Legends of Tomorrow’s recent Legion of Doom-centric hour and focusing on the leadership structure and combative personalities within the new triad laying claim to the city. For example:
Who put Liza in charge? Do Liza and China White both think Cupid is a little crazy? If so, how do they manipulate her crazy to their purposes? Or do Liza and Cupid, both former cops, have an inherent distrust of China, a career criminal? If so, does she call them out on their hypocrisy. What are their goals beyond basic power and money, and is there any difference of opinion about those goals? Does the new Black Canary have any strange feelings about going up against them since she too was a cop who went a bit off the reservation before finding her way back to the force (and Team Arrow)?
Save all of that for Gotham City Sirens, apparently, because “Sin-Eater” wasn’t really about its guest stars. Instead, the purpose was clearly to advance several ongoing storylines, not just the long-lingering Susan Williams bombshell but also the question of Prometheus’ identity (his momma ain’t helping, so get lost Ollie) and fallout from that silly little thing where Oliver killed Felicity’s cop boyfriend a while back. As an added bonus, we also witnessed Oliver continuing to be just the worst when it comes to keeping his secret, feebly hoping his charm could stop Susan from going public with the news and accidentally repeating one too many phrases as both mayor and Green Arrow in front of the Chief of Police.
The ultimate centerpiece of the episode was Oliver’s much-hyped confrontation with Thea, which co-showrunner Wendy Mericle described as being one of her favorites on the show in a recent TV Guide interview. Oliver couldn’t get it done with Susan. So, Thea stepped to the plate and discredited the shit out of her, with an assist from Felicity. The episode was structured in such a way that we were meant to suspect Felicity was responsible for the hit job on Susan since such an overstep would fall right in line with Felicity’s continued boundary-pushing as she pursues her renewed hacktivism in secret. This would then naturally lead Oliver to finally have it out with Felicity over little she listened to his plea for her to better than him and not give into the darkness, so to speak.
But what’s this you say? Felicity barely had anything to do with it. In fact, it was all Thea. Speedy? Only appearing in 14 episodes this season, Speedy? Her?
Actually, it’s not overly astonishing to see her go to that place since, as the episode spelled out for us, she is Moira Queen’s daughter. What was more confounding was watching “Sin-Eater” attempt to place this transgression on some kind of continuum of misdeeds and immoral calculations which Thea has had to adopt in the mayor’s office. The episode ended with Oliver claiming to be concerned about what’s becoming of his little sister, but this felt either like a rehash of the bloodlust talks from last season or simply a repurposed version of what he should be saying to Felicity right now. Frankly, Thea has not been around enough this season to establish any kind of arc wherein this act of self-preservation on her part would signal some kind of pivot point. It’s just something new she did, and now Oliver’s worried if she’s okay, too self-righteous to realize just how screwed they all were before Thea fixed the problem (albeit by going a tad too far).
But, hey, it beats being away at some mysterious conference for three weeks.
- “The Sin-Eater” was both directed and written by women, Mary Lambert for the former, Barbara Bloom and Jenny Lynn for the latter. I don’t know if that makes this the first Arrow episode to neither be directed or written by a man, but it’s definitely the first time I’ve noticed it happening.
- For a season which is supposed to feel like the culmination of everything that came before, season 5 has an oddly selective memory when it comes to the show’s history. First, there was the whole “wait, hasn’t there already been a Dinah Drake?” thing. Now, I keep waiting for someone, first Susan, now I guess the chief, to at least acknowledge the fact that the entire city was once told that Oliver was the Arrow. Roy Harper’s ensuing sacrifice notwithstanding, certainly that would have to factor into any case being built up against Oliver. At least a “Yeah, I know he was exonerated of those charges, but what if that was a ruse? Or what if the experience inspired him to become the Green Arrow?”
- Are we really supposed to worry about Oliver’s Russian buddy having a gun held to his head as a flashback cliffhanger when we already know he makes it out fine, what with having appeared in present day storylines two times now?
- Who’s getting impeached first, Queen or Trump?
- Was it just me, or were the large scale fight scenes a bit more hectic than usual, with people just popping in and out of nowhere?
- Oh, Arrow, you adorably silly comic book show. Of course no one who ever gets close to the Green Arrow recognizes that he’s clearly Oliver nor would anyone on the Star City PD be able to recognize their newest officer out in the field as Black Canary because, lookie, she has a mask.
- So, the cops were just totally cool with Quentin being out there with a gun like he was still on the force? [Re-reads #6] Oh, yeah. Silly comic book show.