[This is a review for Arrow season 3, episode 18. There will be SPOILERS.]
Perhaps it is a testament to how far Arrow has come in nearly three seasons that the series can revisit a plot from season 1, and make the stakes feel completely different. The show has been down this road before, with Oliver Queen being outed as the Arrow, and in the clutches of a man who, though he represents the law, has reason to want to see Oliver punished and will do anything to make that happen. That puts Oliver and Captain Lance in a unique position, one that in many ways makes them one another’s archrivals, despite ostensibly fighting for the same thing.
After last week’s disjointed ‘Suicidal Tendencies,’ Arrow is back on track with a much more focused and straightforward episode. It is an hour that manages to blend the three primary threads simultaneously with the theme of how powerful the truth can be – even though the flashback with Shado’s sister Mei (Celina Jade) was perhaps a little too on-the-nose when it came time to incorporating that theme. Still, between Oliver running from the law (or, more precisely, an enraged Captain Lance), Ray’s near fatal run-in with Maseo’s arrow meant for Felicity, and the Hong Kong flashback, it felt more like an episode with potential consequences, and less like an hour of wheel-spinning.
Those consequences are, of course, related to Ra’s al Ghul blowing up Oliver’s secret identity as a means by which to make the vigilante assume the mantle he’s been chosen for. For what it’s worth, Ra’s’ move definitely works in terms of putting Oliver in an impossible situation, one where he’s faced with the choice of becoming the next leader of the League of Assassins (which still doesn’t sound like that bad of a gig, which makes you wonder: is this a deliberate move on behalf of the show, or a shortcoming of the narrative?) or spend the rest of his life in prison. But it also works by finally bringing poor, long-suffering Quentin Lance to the conclusion he should have arrived at on his own, the minute Oliver Queen and the Arrow both popped up in Starling City.
Nevertheless, it is more interesting what Lance does with the information of the Arrow’s secret identity than anything else. And so, when the SCPD captain announces who the Arrow is on live television, it seems like Oliver Queen’s world has been irrevocably changed. Or maybe it hasn’t, as Roy does what Diggle did in season 1 and assumes the Arrow mantle as a means to disprove the allegations against Oliver. The only difference is, this time, we are led to believe that Oliver already copped to being the Arrow in a plea bargain to ensure the rest of Team Arrow weren’t charged for any crimes.
Now while it’s stretch to believe that such a bargain would be struck (why would a crime-ridden burg such as Starling City only charge one person when it could charge four or five?), a serious discussion of the inner workings of Starling City’s police department can probably wait for when David Simon joins the Arrow writer’s room – i.e., when hell freezes over. So, it falls on the motivation of Oliver and Roy to ostensibly give themselves up to protect the ones they care about – and in Roy’s case, to atone for the guilt he feels over the death of the officer he killed while hopped up on Mirakuru.
The acts themselves seem self-destructive, but definitely in tune with how both characters have been portrayed. Seeing Oliver walk into the SCPD to turn himself in wasn’t much of a surprise, since he’s been prone to making those kinds of grand, sweeping gestures in the past. Roy, on the other hand hasn’t. But it still felt like an organic choice for the character, thanks in large part to the discussions he’s been having with Thea about his struggles with guilt. The admission that he felt relief at the prospect of being arrested was also a nice touch that may have telegraphed his final play, but still felt like the most likely course of action for someone who had been trained by a self-denying individual like Oliver.
The Ray Palmer thread and his declaration of love for Felicity were a more interesting examination of the truth’s power than the mostly superfluous flashback wherein Oliver told Mei that her father and sister were both dead. While it was intended to reinforce the episode’s central theme, it really only repeated it. Oliver’s belief in the power of the truth was already fairly well established, and by counterbalancing that with Ray’s feelings for Felicity that were not reciprocated, it made the idea of the truth feel more like a tightrope, rather than the distinct path Oliver had become certain was the right one to walk down. That distinction makes for a more compelling examination of the character’s choices that then reinforces the power of Roy’s lie at the episode’s end.
In addition to being a more concentrated and fast-moving episode, ‘Public Enemy’ also felt grander and more intense than even the explosive exploits of last week’s Deadshot-centric offering. The chase sequences were all well executed, and the stunt work during the fight sequences (especially Oliver vs. Maseo) was predictably top-notch. And while the season needs to find a way to better focus the Ra’s al Ghul vs. Oliver storyline, all in all, this felt like it put Arrow back on track to do just that.
Arrow continues on Wednesday, April 15 with ‘Broken Arrow’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: