Arrow prides itself on being the dark, gritty and dangerous arm of the ever-growing DC TV Universe (a.k.a. Arrowverse, depending on your stomach for puns). Episode 14 of season 5, “Sin-Eater,” sought to revisit that darkness for a handful of the show’s core characters, only to inadvertently hang a lantern on the fact that far too many of them don’t have real sins to contend with at all.
The episode’s big ark had to do with the Green Arrow finally having to answer for his hand in the murder of Detective Billy Malone. The SCPD has had a big manhunt going on after it lost one of its own, and Oliver has been keeping the secret that season 5’s big bad, Prometheus, manipulated him into killing the young officer. “Sin-Eater” dedicated a lot of screen time to the hero trying to grapple with the guilt he feels, even going as far as to claim the detective’s death was his fault.
He sought the advice of Quentin Lance, who was dealing with his own guilt after three former villains (Carrie Cutter, Liza Warner, and China White) escaped prison. The last time he saw Warner, he convinced her to go straight, but she fell off the wagon as soon as she saw he was working with Damien Darhk last year. He also seeks the advice of Felicity, who has spent all year feeling guilty for stopping a mess of nuclear missiles with the exception of the one that hit Havenroc. It’s at this point that we have to acknowledge that the dark turmoil that the show makes its focal point far too often comes with an asterisk.
Yes, Oliver killed Malone, but other than introducing Bruce Wayne, there’s no one on Earth that wouldn’t have been fooled. Arrow does a lot with high-concept villains and city-ending plots that are very much responsible for its enduring fanbase. However, after five seasons, the showrunners have not gotten out of their funk of manufacturing emotional arcs out of past insanity. In the comic books, we can turn out back on villains of the week with ease. The show, however, makes us marinate with it for several episodes before there’s any catharsis (or we can move on to something better).
If that’s going to be the formula, showrunners need to stop building back doors to protect character’s integrity like Lance being forced to work for Darhk, Diggle being tricked by the government, or, yes, Oliver not actually being responsible for Malone’s death. Honestly, at times the only one making sense in this episode was Thea, which brings us to the biggest highlight of this week.
Thea was back in a big way for “Sin-Eater.” Fans have previously complained that, after just becoming interesting in the latter half of season 3, Thea took a big back seat in season 5. Many have had enough change to the core group with the loss of Laurel and the addition of numerous new characters. As a result, it was refreshing to see Thea play a key part. Additionally, her presence came with a big dose of the much-lacking sin this episode was supposed to be talking about.
Oliver has been dating Susan Williams, his least-shipped relationship to date. Not only is she just not Felicity, but she’s been actively investigating him only to finally discover that he is the Green Arrow and didn’t spend the full five years stranded on Lian Yu. She confronted him with that knowledge this episode, which was a very boring way for this massive bombshell that’s been building over the course of 14 episodes to come out, because he easily deflected the question.
However, that wasn’t enough for Thea, who decided to team up with Felicity and burn Williams’ career straight the hell to the ground. For those that aren’t in the know, a plagiarism claim to a journalist is like a track star losing his or her leg. Oliver is rightfully furious, a woman who he (liked?) had her life ruined after all. At the same time, fans weren’t into this relationship, and it wasn’t fun to see him so hard on Thea and Felicity for their involvement in the caper. What finally made the arc interesting was how relatively unapologetic Thea was.
It feels weird to review “Sin-Eater” without talking about the trio of evil, known to some as the Star City Sirens. The girls were the main McGuffin of the episode and they all did a terrific job in their villainous roles. It’s also fun to see returning villains rather than brand new ones. After all, you don’t build an extended universe to not use it.
Sadly, the ladies doing a good job by being onscreen was it for the night. Those hoping to get a dose of girl power were sadly left lacking. There was no element of bonding between the ladies, therefore making them incredibly less formidable compared to Team Arrow. As for their big plan, they just beat up three groups of thugs and found a stash of money left behind by Tobias Church… The end. Perhaps it’s a matter of expectations rather than delivery. With The Flash taking on a gorilla-packed two-episode ark this week, and Legends of Tomorrow bringing the Legion of Doom to life, maybe people expected more from the returning trio than a one-off story.
Then again, with Prometheus’ identity still a mystery, several characters getting limited airtime, and a big cliffhanger regarding Mayor Queen covering up the murder of Malone, Arrow has its hands full without a new big bad.