Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Arrow 4x13 "Sins of the Father" (Daddy Issues)


"Sins of the Father"
Original Airdate: February 10, 2016

When I was in high school, I was really good friends with a girl who had a talent for photography. She loved taking pictures of anything she encountered — tress, sunsets, babies. And she was good. With time, I reasoned, she would only progress. As it approached graduation, I found out that this girl’s parents had talked her out of pursuing photography in college and study something “more sensible” instead. I was baffled when I heard that, and still am. When my parents heard I wanted to major in Creative Writing, they didn’t dissuade me. They had their reservations and knew it would be a rocky road for me trying to find a job in the economy I graduated in, but they were supportive. My mom and I have always been closer, but I love my dad. He’s my car mechanic. He’s my IT technician. I may be an adult, but he still helps me decipher my insurance plans and do my taxes. He’s always been there for me, and though we haven’t ever been as close as my mom and I are, he’s always been on my side.

This week’s Arrow episode “Sins of the Father” might as well have been called “Seriously, We All Have Daddy Issues.” Actually, I’m fairly certain that the only person in this show without a daddy issue is Diggle (that we know of). While Arrow has never shied away from tackling issues and topics surrounding family, this episode is one of the most on-the-nose in recent memory, and for me, did not work at all. Since we have quite a few daddies (and issues) to tackle, let’s get to it.

THIS WEEK IN DASTARDLY DADS...


Can Felicity and Thea have their own reality spin-off? Because the two women are practically family already which means that the Queen/Smoak clan is going to have to have an “evil off” soon. Will Thanksgiving dinner just be a battle across the table between The Calculator and The Dark Archer to get the last piece of pumpkin pie?

(I kind of hope so. I would dig that.)

I am glad that we get more Felicity backstory in this episode in the form of her father, even if I do not like the way it was handled, necessarily. I don’t personally have experience in fathers who abandoned me. For that, I count my blessings. But I know friends who have. I know people who have waited by windows for their fathers to come home. I know people who have shoved off the memories because they need to be strong for their families. I know people who have been hurt by lies and schemes and my heart aches and breaks for them. One of the most interesting things about Felicity Smoak — and one of the reasons that I am so drawn to her — is the fact that she manages to turn her pain into light.

Felicity may get hurt, but she’s rarely ever broken. That doesn’t make her perfect, but it does make her compelling and a beautiful foil to Oliver. Our hero packs up his pain like a cumbersome suitcase and carries it toward darkness. But Felicity tugs on his shirt and beckons him away, and into the sunlight where she can share his burden. So when Felicity meets her father, her initial biting remarks and bitterness? They’re to be expected. Remember, after all, the emotion with which she first talked about her father to Oliver. Losing a parent is not easy; losing a parent because they walked away willingly is just as (and sometimes more) painful.

It seems odd to me, I’ll admit, that Felicity does a few background checks on her father and is ready to begin believing that he’s not all evil villain. He feeds her a few nice lines about wanting a second chance with her, and she’s cooing to her mother. But Donna Smoak is a woman burned far too many times — and with the scars to prove it — to fall easily into her former love’s charms. After her mother’s tense words, the novelty of a life with a mother and a father in it begins to wear off for Felicity. The dream fades into smoke and she puts on her defenses once more. Felicity Smoak is smart. She’s a genius. But she is one of the most empathetic characters there is. So she plays a part — pretending to give her father a grand tour of Palmer Technologies. And her father? Well, dear old dad decides to place a device on the tour route able to pick up whatever technology is in the surrounding area. While it seems Mr. Calculator is thinking of only himself again, Felicity lets bitter tears and words escape in a conversation with Oliver.

It would be easy to say that all Felicity wishes for is normalcy, because that’s not true. She’s seen the suburbs and they’ve lost their appeal. Felicity wants, simply, happiness. And she wants to believe the best in people, which will ultimately eventually lead to her heartbreak when she discovers Oliver has a child. (More on this later!) So when it seems like Papa Smoak has turned on his beloved little hacker, Felicity has him arrested. I normally love Felicity and can justify the reasoning behind her actions. But this week, while I understand the emotions behind her actions, she acted on just those — emotions. And implied facts. I’m not here to determine whether or not The Calculator is still an evil villain just trying to manipulate his daughter in order to get what he wants.

But what I will say is that while Felicity is right to be hesitant about her father’s intentions, I’m not sure jumping from “we can be a family again” to “get my father to confess and watch people arrest him” is the kind of thing that should happen in the course of one episode, much less one jam-packed with other daddy issues. I think that the problem is that Felicity allowed everything that was happening around her to drive a wedge of anger and bitterness into her character that is not usually present. This might be a perfect set-up for the woman we see in the flash-forwards (who is certainly full of the kind of rigidity and anger that develops from the infliction of extreme pain), but it’s rather jarring to see this development over the course of one episode. At the end, Felicity feels remorse (again, something tells me her dad might have been telling the truth, or else Tom Amandes is so charming and endearing that even I believed The Calculator to be innocent of SOMETHING), as does Oliver.

While I loved the moments in this episode in which Emily Bett Rickards showcased her dramatic chops (and perfectly-acted tears), I couldn’t help but feel like there was something very off about the way Felicity was written.

But you know what? Speaking of Oliver...

CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A DARK ARCHER


Let me first say that John Barrowman is absolutely the MVP of this episode. Without question, he delivered the best performance and the most compelling one. And though “Sins of the Father” ended with me hating Malcolm once more, at least I felt something toward him.

In this episode, everyone (edit: yes, it was brought to my attention that even Laurel wanted Malcolm dead) wants Oliver to kill Malcolm. Nyssa, apparently, can stay — they like her. But Felicity and Dig both encourage Oliver to — if the choice is down to Nyssa and Malcolm — kill Thea’s father. And for what seems like forever, I actually agree with a choice Oliver made and am glad he didn’t listen to Dig or Felicity. It strikes me as extremely odd that the people who constantly champion the “there’s another way!” and “do things in the light — in a new and different way!” were pretty quick to send a kill-order to Oliver. It makes sense that their first gut-punch reaction (all of them) is to want him dead. But the more they let the idea percolate, the more I had hoped Dig and Felicity would offer their services to help Oliver find secret option #3. The fact that they did not and that they were actually MORE vocal than Laurel about killing Malcolm without trying to find a way to save Thea and not, you know, murder someone to do so... it just strikes me as odd. Our OTA felt off, to me.

And by the way: in no way do I think Malcolm deserves to live. But in no way, either, do I think that Oliver (or Felicity or Dig) gets to determine if he does so or not. I understand that Felicity’s own father situation might lead her, in this episode, to believe that human depravity is inevitable and that people never change. And while she sits kissing Oliver — a former murderer and once horrible human being, btdubs — in the final scene, talking wedding, she encourages Oliver to take someone’s life mere hours earlier, citing the reasoning that people cannot change.

Can you trust Malcolm Merlyn? No, probably not. But what exactly would killing him solve? One problem, with another fifteen hundred to go.

AND FYI, FELICITY WAXED POETIC A FEW EPISODES AGO ABOUT DEFEATING DARHK BECAUSE THEY ARE HEROES AND HERE SHE OPENLY CONDONES MURDERING MALCOLM?

Again: I say none of this to necessarily condone Malcolm’s actions (especially at the end of the episode), because he’s a pretty deplorable human being who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Occasionally, he cries and sometimes spins nice stories about the day he first saw Thea. But more often than not, he’s a villain and out for his own interests. Still, it seems extremely out-of-character for Diggle (THE MORAL COMPASS OF THIS SHOW, REMEMBER?) and Felicity to just say: “Oh, you know what? Let’s just kill him. That’s going to solve our problems.”

Meanwhile, it’s extremely rage-inducing to me that Felicity tells Oliver what a great job of finding a third option instead of killing Malcolm that he did. YEAH, NO THANKS TO YOU OR DIGGLE FOR THAT ONE. For the first time in a long time, I am really proud of Oliver for the way that he handled (ha, ha) the Malcolm situation. It doesn’t mean his actions won’t have repercussions, though.

And before you say: “Killing Malcolm would have prevented William from being a target in the first place,” let me correct you. What would have kept William from being a target in the first place? OLIVER NOT LYING TO THE PEOPLE HE LOVED ABOUT HIS LONG-LOST CHILD. THAT IS WHAT WOULD HAVE SAVED HIM.

... Sorry, Oliver. You made some good choices in this episode, but I’m going to have to take away that toy bow and arrow for a while. You can get it back after nap time.

SELF-IMPOSED PRISONS


One of the only highlights of this episode was the relationship between Laurel and Nyssa (and Nyssa in general because I find her to be fascinating). Apart from the fact that she constantly referred to Oliver as “husband” in an array of forms, Nyssa is a complex and engaging character because of the abuse she suffered under the reign of Ra’s.

I wish that Arrow explored: a) more of Nyssa’s path toward healing from her prisons and scars, and b) more of Laurel and Nyssa’s relationship. These two damaged women work in such a way that I would not have expected. And Laurel’s speech to Nyssa about being free was rather beautiful and not over-the-top. Nyssa has spent so much time living under her father’s thumb — being held in his prison. Abuse is really difficult to tackle and to tackle with the kind of tact that is deserved of such a sensitive and personal subject matter. And I, for one, am glad that Arrow didn’t decide to dip its toe into a “very special episode” moment with Laurel and Nyssa.

Laurel’s concern and her comment are enough to strike something real and powerful within Nyssa. The framing of the moment, too — with Nyssa in a physical cell and Laurel talking about how Ra’s’ death has opened that locked cell door and she doesn’t have to remain a prisoner anymore — was pretty great. There is something about Laurel and Nyssa’s relationship that has a kind of realism to it that isn’t too manufactured or unbelievable. Nyssa doesn’t change who she is (stubborn, vindictive, tough) and Laurel doesn’t change who she is (stubborn, insistent, and more stubborn). Whenever these two are in scenes together, they often clash. And that’s great. I love seeing Nyssa usually gain the upper hand on a na├»ve Laurel. And I love Laurel caring about Nyssa enough to pretend she’s capable of tackling League members on her own. I love that both women are stubborn and often unmoving, but that they genuinely care about one another. Laurel wants to see Nyssa happy and free; Nyssa obviously cares about Laurel enough to listen to her.

More of this relationship please, Arrow?

Though “Sins of the Father” was a pretty big misstep, in my personal opinion, it did leave me feeling like I should probably text my dad and thank him for not being a manipulative evil villain. I guess that’s something?

Observations & favorite moments:
  • John Barrowman was by far the MVP. Just watch how he delivers his scene beside Thea in the lair. SO GOOD. So, so good. I may hate Malcolm Merlyn but I love me some Barrowman.
  • Grave Predictions: I’m fairly certain it could be William in the grave, and Malcolm is the person Oliver vows to kill in the flash-forwards. At this point, who knows though, right?
  • I’ve actually gotten to the point where I mute the flashbacks. Anything important, I can glean from Jenny’s recaps.
  • Charlotte Ross returned! Even in her brief appearance, she did an amazing job of transitioning Donna from the fun-loving and free-wheeling character we’ve grown to love to this bitter, serious woman. All credit goes to Charlotte Ross for shifting her emotions (and even the register in her voice) so well.
  • This episode felt a lot like season three. And that’s never a compliment.
  • I’m glad finally Oliver remembered he had a best friend named Tommy and Laurel remembered some guy who died was “someone special.”
  • “You’re very handsome, but not especially bright.”
  • “People don’t change. Even if you want them to.”
  • “Just because you’ve changed doesn’t mean everyone else has.” I don’t know if Laurel has been more relatable than she is in this moment. Also, I know she constantly talks about how she would love to see Malcolm dead, but Katie Cassidy’s choice on the roof when Malcolm is seemingly about to be murdered to have Laurel want to avert her gaze is a really good choice. Diggle and Felicity (again, seemingly out-of-character) look on with (apparent) readiness and stoicism. Everything about this story felt off, apart from Laurel. ... Which made the episode feel REALLY off. A world where Laurel is more level-headed than Diggle and Felicity is not a world I’m used to living in.
  • I’m confused — can Felicity not hear what happens in other parts of the lair even if it’s on video? That seems odd.
  • RAISA GETS A MENTION!
  • Malcolm knows about William. That moment was the most animated I was all episode. My tweets prove it.
  • Oh, right. Option three? Cut off Malcolm’s hand and give Nyssa the ring from his finger. Yeah, it’s gross. And totally didn’t send Malcolm into a rage spiral. Not at all.
  • “What was so wrong with me that you would leave?” Ouch.
  • I don’t know, Nyssa — I get the sentiment behind disbanding the thing your dad used to manipulate and kill people but randomly letting a bunch of brainwashed assassins loose into the world doesn’t seem like it could have ANY bad repercussions, right? 
  • “Why are we waiting?” Oliver asks Felicity about their nuptials. “Because it’s not sweeps yet,” I say at my television screen.
  • DAMIEN DARHK SHOWED UP. And he looked positively gleeful at the news that William is Oliver’s son. Thanks, Malcolm, for being the tattle-tale on that one.
Did you like “Sins of the Father”? Who might be in the grave? Hit up the comments below and let me know, or tweet me your thoughts!

16 comments:

  1. I am not surprised that Felicity wants Oliver to kill Malcolm... she has always hated him (more than anyone else). We got to see Oliver think for himself which to me is a good thing even with Diggle and Felicity telling him the opposite. I wonder if they were both trying to make Oliver think for himself and came with this scheme. I mean if it does not work... the world has rid itself of Malcolm but if it does, Oliver has done some evolving. I am also not unhappy with the way Felicity went from wanting a father to getting him arrested... I think the rosy tinted glasses had worn off and she realised her father for what he is... a criminal. Their mission has always been justice so I am ok with Felicity arresting her father... he was going to kill 8,000 people and Felicity has always wanted to help save the city. Sorry this is so long <3

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    1. I agree that Felicity has always hated Malcolm, but two episodes ago, she talked about defeating Darhk not out of vengeance or retribution, but because they're heroes. So... idk. It feels weird that she's suddenly aboard the "let's murder another villain" train?

      Again: not that Malcolm is innocence, but I don't think it was in-character for Felicity to use a "people never change" excuse to justify killing Malcolm.

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    2. I agree. With Malcolm nothing about Felicity or Diggle's feelings are sudden. This episode was weirdly devoid of urgency in its pace (probably because they were cramming too much in again) but Thea was dying. By sun up was it? So there was an urgency that wasn't felt. And Malcolm had the choice and chose to keep his power. He made that choice.

      I'm glad that Oliver found a third option, but I don't think the option of killing Merlyn instead of just pissing him off really fucking good, is OOC for Felicity or Digg, even with what she's said about Darhk. It's two different situations. 3 years of chances and so many personal losses at Malcolm's hands...mileage varies, tho.

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  2. I am not opposed to burning the episode in the fires of hell. We'll see if my opinion improves on a second viewing.

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  3. This was the worst episode of Arrow this season. I hated it. Even the Olicity scenes were tainted. The arrow writers could have taken this story line to better place but they decided to go the "boy, comic book" route. The Felicity dad storyline was a cop-out. I will never get that hour back. It was terrible.

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    1. I think that they shouldn't have tried to shove a first meeting, "can't trust him," resolution story with Felicity's dad into one episode. Let alone shoehorning that story into an already waaaaaaaay too crowded episode to begin with. In the end, both stories suffered.

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  4. I'm confused why you think LL didn't want Oliver to kill MM because she did. LL definitely wanted him to kill MM too. She was actually the first one on board. Oliver was the only one against it really. LL went along with Oliver's plan like everyone else did but she definitely told him to kill MM for Thea too at least at first. She kind of changed her mind but in the beginning she was all for it. So yeah good review but you got a key fact wrong.

    Also they did rush some with Felicity's father's storyline but I don't think it was all that weird she acted like she did.

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    1. Was she? I think I was blinded by rage throughout the rest of the episode that I forgot. ;) I definitely think it's within her character to want that, which is why it surprised me that Felicity and Dig were very vocally on board.

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    2. Yeah the first scene in the lair, she and Diggle were both trying to convince him to just kill MM, her more so than Diggle really, Diggle wasn't as on board until later. I guess she got more on board with Oliver's diplomacy plan later but originally she saw killing MM as the only choice.

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    3. Thanks, anon! I amend then: it's not that LL didn't ever vocalize her want for Malcolm dead. I know she's all for that. But I guess I expected HER to be the most vocal. Felicity, the bringer of light and "another way" and Dig, our moral compass just... gave up and into killing him very easily without offering to help Oliver (poor, insistent Oiver) on finding that third option.

      I mean, good on Oliver for finding another way, but why was he the ONLY one in this episode? It seemed OOC for our OTA. :(

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  5. I think you are forgetting Thea's life was hanging in the balance with this thing. Otherwise none of them probably would've been on the kill MM boat. And they were all on that boat, I agree with that anon, LL told him to do it too. Right out of the gate she was like he made Thea kill Sara, just do it to save Thea, remember the first scene in the lair? Wanting to save Thea was clouding all their judgements except for once Oliver's. And then it got worse with the war in the city. It just felt like a hopeless situation where getting rid of a monster might be the only option. And Felicity was distracted by her father stuff so she wasn't in the best place for making decisions. But they all went there to just kill MM because he's awful. It's makes sense because why should Thea die while evil MM lives you know? And it was good for Oliver's development that he found another way and did it kind without help. You are interpreting this episode in a very weird way I feel like. I'm saying they were right to want to kill MM even though he deserves it but I just don't get the way you are seeing things here.

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    1. Oh, I understand that Thea's life was in the balance. And apologies if I've interpreted the scene as Laurel being aboard "no-kill-Malcolm." She definitely wants him dead just like everyone else. But it struck me that Dig and Felicity were super vocal about it when a few episodes ago, they were all about finding a new way of living -- living in the light and doing things the right way.

      It's makes sense because why should Thea die while evil MM lives you know? And it was good for Oliver's development that he found another way and did it kind without help.

      Agree 110%. But doesn't it strike you as odd that Oliver had to stand alone in this decision while everyone else -- the people who last season abhorred the fact that Oliver was all about doing whatever it takes -- didn't offer to help him find another way, at least? Felicity's storyline with her dad was FAR too rushed in this episode and needed time to percolate to be believable. Like I said, she went from zero to sixty FAST. And her story shouldn't have been shoehorned into the Malcolm drama.

      So what I really think is wrong is that Laurel had to be the one who showed the least amount of insistence on killing Malcolm while Dig and Felicity's viewpoints were emphasized later on. It seems off to me, no?

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  6. Sins of the Father is what I named Season 1 of Arrow because it was so fitting and Season 2 was Sins of the Son because of the Deathstroke Arc. As for this episode this is like a mix bag kind of like Season 3 but more good then bad.

    The Calculator stuff was odd. I mean this guy in the comics helped lead the Secret Soceity of Super Villians with Luthor. It feels like he got taken out like a chump. On the other hand though I think Felicity was in the right she turned over her crimminal father to the police that's perfectly natural. She gave him a chance he failed put him away before he hurts anymore people.

    I think Felicity is changing to be a bit more darker a bit more season 1 oliver. Damien Dhark attacking her and her dad coming back were catalysts. Something in her mind and maybe due to Season 3 even in Dig's mind is looking back at Season 1 Oliver and saying "maybe he was right"

    I am not entirely sure I am speculating and it could be bad writing or a subtle change of characters. Maybe the hallucinations of past Felicity were not just a one off thing but a harbinger of things to come.

    Also what you said about Laurel in this episode and if I`m right about some characters going dark. It may lead me to supporting a theory of mine for Season 5. As for Malcolm justice finally got its due although now this only pushes for the son being in the grave. Which will lead to the flash foward.

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  7. I certainly think this episode suffered from something that Arrow can easily fall into - putting a whole lot of plot into not enough time. I think the series is constantly on that edge. Sometimes it feels like they get it right and all the plot zooms along and the pace feels exciting. Sometimes it feels like overload and stuff zooms by without letting me really absorb or feel it. It's a tough balance.

    I however wasn't as surprised by Felicity's actions this episode. That story did feel a bit rushed so it was harder for me to follow her path while keeping track of the rest of the plot. (I can only imagine that her father's "employer" for the job that brought him into contact with the team was HIVE. Who else currently has it in for the city? If that was the case I wish that had been emphasized a little more. Did Felicity dig into that?) But I felt her actions were justified. Her father ripped her apart this week. We just weren't given time to feel it. This is a very basic pain to her ENTIRE life and it been a part of her for so long I think we can glaze over it. Maybe it's because one of my closest friends has dealt with parental abandonment but I thought the characterization was pretty accurate. The writers nailed it on the head when Oliver said "You don't have to be funny for me." Such a classic defense mechanism and while people like that can be so entertaining (my friend is the same) they often use it to cover up a whole lot of pain and rage. Think about what her father basically said to her - he left with no explanation when she was seven and she hasn't heard a thing from him since then. Then he tells her he gets in contact again because he was impressed with her skills. That boils down to "You were never important enough for me to say a word to you for over 15 years but now that you are showing some talent you are worth my time." He made her hope that he cared about her, even a little. Then he crushed that hope by trying to steal from her- basically telling her that the real reason for coming back was to get something out of it, not for her at all. Felicity said she 'knew she did the right thing' and she is correct. The team would have put anyone else who did something similar away without a second thought. What hurt her and made her feel remorse was seeing the shock of betrayal on her father's face. She knows that pain and because she is a good person she feels badly about inflicting it but Noah Cutler deserves very little from her. Unless and until he shows differently by his actions all he has ever done is betray her trust. I think we underestimate how deeply Felicity's trust issues run and how her fears of abandonment are so easily deflected with wit. She wasn't joking when she said she used to hate herself and believe (and probably still does in her darker moments) that she is basically unlovable.

    We talk a lot about the parent-child relationships on this show but Felicity's is unique. Thea has a villain for a dad however she was really raised by Robert Queen. He was not her biological father but he stayed by her his whole life. He may not have been a good man all the time (see cheating on his wife and helping Malcolm) but he never abandoned his kids and gave his life to save Oliver. R'as was a pretty terrible person and he certainly treated Nyssa horribly (near the end at least, they seemed closer earlier in the story) but he was always a presence in her life. Malcolm Merlyn is awful but he shows some kind of desire to be in Thea's life (Tommy has a good case for basic abandonment though after his mom died). Felicity got nothing, no explanation, no contact, just emptiness from the time she was seven and that has defined her in many ways. And then her father returns and makes it horribly worse by his selfishness again.

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  8. I was honestly more surprised by Diggle's talk of Oliver finally accepting his hate and using that to end Merlyn. It seemed to be a fairly cold and odd thing for him to say. Whereas Felicity's anger at yet another selfish father who is putting his own desires ahead of his daughter seemed more in keeping with her character. I don't know but that all worked for me.

    While this episode certainly felt fragmented I was mostly left with a feeling of total disgust toward Malcolm Merlyn. Again. He can claim he loves his daughter all he likes. His real motivations were shown the moment the Demon's ring melted (Bravo Nyssa!). Had his real concern been keeping the League out of the "dangerous" hands of Nyssa al-Ghul he should have been satisfied. His daughter is alive and Nyssa wasn't going to do something terrible with the power. But he was simply filled with hate, enough that whatever connection he felt for Oliver was destroyed and he would go as far as to use another innocent child to harm Oliver. All because Oliver took away the one thing Malcolm wanted more than anything - power. What a vile coward. We know Damian will abandon whatever honorable principles he claims about not harming children that lead him to get rid of Anarchy at the beginning of the season. People like Damian and Malcolm show their true colours when push comes to shove and sacrifice any so called honour and any number of innocents to get what they want. How dare Malcolm compare his willingness to watch Thea die with Oliver's theoretical willingness to let William be hurt to save others?

    As much as Merlyn is a compelling character (and it is always fun to watch Barrowman) I am sick of this letting Malcolm go no matter his horrible deeds. Why does he get a pass when he has shown himself capable of killing thousands if not more? The whole "no prison could hold him" is flimsy and the damage he does in this world needs to be stopped. He shows so little remorse and so little desire to do any different. I believe people can change but I think they have to want to pretty badly to even begin and Merlyn has shown no desire to do anything of the kind. He may be pretty bright but he is disgusting.

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