NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Arrow are present in this review
Oliver may have been able to get Ray on his side after last week, but that amounted to little in this week’s episode, “Public Enemy.” At this point, Ra’s Al Ghul has managed to successfully turn the entirety of Starling City on Oliver and his crew, and particularly Captain Lance, who finally meets Ra’s Al Ghul himself this episode, and learns an earth-shattering truth about the man he thought he knew.
Granted, last week’s dual storylines in “Suicidal Tendencies” didn’t perfectly gel, but this week, “Public Enemy” presented a cleaner and more satisfying helping of both action and drama, making for a stronger episode overall. The show has had a bit of trouble bringing together the grand scale of the League of Assassins as antagonists, but finally, it seems like things are starting to flow and make sense, finally presenting something that could stand alongside the outstanding Deathstroke endgame of Season Two.
The episode picks up after last week’s cliffhanger, which sees Felicity pulled to safety by Ray, who takes the arrow that Maseo had pointed at her. Critically injured, Ray is hospitalized, with Felicity at his side, just in time for Felicity’s mother, Donna to return to town. Honestly, Donna added little to the episode, as much as Charlotte Ross has proven to be an enjoyable guest star for Arrow, and her presence probably wasn’t necessary in a Ray/Felicity conflict that stood well enough on its own.
Apparently, Ray’s treatment has discovered a blood clot that has formed, which may kill him, and further attempts to treat it may result in brain damage. Starling City’s ICU appears to have their hands tied, though Ray suggests an experimental nanomachine formula that could destroy the clot. Given that experimental procedures are illegal, the hospital refuses to try Ray’s science, with Felicity wondering if she should inject Ray herself and risk going to jail.
Felicity is forced to deliberate this as the entirety of the SCPD more or less has begun a manhunt for The Arrow. As Oliver, Roy and Laurel pursue Maseo, with Diggle providing overwatch, they’re eventually caught in a trap by the police, whom they must evade. This leads to a great extended action sequence (where Oliver hilariously abandons Roy a second time), and eventually has the group successfully make it back to the Arrow Cave.
Strangely, the episode doesn’t appear to address Diggle announcing to Lyla that he’s leaving Team Arrow at the end of last week’s episode, indicating that he’s either already changing his mind, or is putting it off until the business with the League of Assassins is done. Either way, it seems strange that an otherwise great episode would sweep that big development under the rug, even if Diggle is inevitably not going to stick to that decision, at least not without a major cast shake-up that Arrow really wouldn’t benefit from at this point.
Regardless, another big development took its place, as Captain Lance ends up having an audience with Ra’s Al Ghul himself. Ra’s captures Lance not to neutralize him, but to tell him one thing; Oliver Queen is The Arrow. Yes, this echoes the moment of Deathstroke revealing Oliver’s identity to Laurel in Season Two, so it’s a good thing that we have villains that can spell out the obvious to the Lance family at any given point.
With Captain Lance corroborating the truth with Laurel, who attempts to bring him to his senses, Captain Lance merely strengthens his resolve to arrest Oliver. Feeling like he’s been left with no choice, Oliver then turns himself in, so that the rest of the team doesn’t have to suffer on his account. On this note, the tense police reaction to Oliver even holding his hands up is pretty priceless. It goes to show exactly how intimidating The Arrow has been for law enforcement, even without his mask and garb!
This is also the point where Felicity decides to go ahead and inject Ray, only to have Ray tell her that he loves her, and Felicity not say it back, after Ray’s miracle nanobots inevitably save him. Felicity confides in Donna about this, who claims that she loves Oliver, but has a choice to make. Seriously, this again? Hopefully this doesn’t drag down Felicity and Ray’s imminent side trip to Central City in a couple of weeks on The Flash…
Regardless, the episode ends with Oliver talking to Captain Lance in a prison transport, with Lance chewing him out for not being honest with him. Not only that, but Lance calls Oliver out as a villain who has only made the city worse, begging the question of whether this could put Oliver back on to the path of being the next Ra’s Al Ghul.
We don’t have time to wonder yet though, as the transport is stopped by another Arrow, who claims that the SCPD have the wrong man. The episode ends with the hood being pulled back, and Roy being underneath it. Oh dear.
This just leaves the flashbacks, which were a bit better this week, but still thrown awkwardly into the story with no real sense of cohesion. Oliver and Akio meet Shado’s twin sister, Mei (giving Celina Jade a clever chance to reprise her role), who takes them in for a bit, but demands the truth from Oliver about her missing father and sister. After an attack by A.R.G.U.S., which is eventually fended off by Maseo and Tatsu, Oliver tells Mei that Yao Fei and Shado are dead. Mei thanks Oliver, and tells him that the truth has set her free. I gather that truth is a big theme of this episode, but honestly, it felt like “Public Enemy” didn’t place too much emphasis on it. Not with more than enough high stakes to carry the story by themselves.
That’s what was really great about “Public Enemy” overall. It felt very exciting and very dramatically satisfying, and finally put the show on the path to realizing the potential of the Ra’s Al Ghul conflict. Oliver’s got a lot of big choices ahead of him, and when Arrow returns in two weeks, we’ll see where the path of shadows has brought him…
- Lots of high stakes and dramatic tension
- Captain Lance finally learned Oliver's secret
- Ray's brush with death
- Flashbacks still don't fit well into the story
- So, is Diggle not leaving then...?