Arrow: “Public Enemy” Season 3 Episode 18 Review

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Many of Arrow‘s best episodes aren’t the ones that introduce a cool new villain, they’re the ones where the main characters, villains or not, are in conflict with each other. So when Quentin Lance calls the unmasked and cuffed Oliver Queen a villain, it carries a tremendous amount of weight.

But “Public Enemies” was as action-packed as it was emotional. All of Oliver’s biggest fears came into fruition this week in breathtaking form.

After Nyssa helps Team Arrow track down Maseo, Ra’s al Ghul himself shows up to distract the heroes before the cops can show up. The fight that pits Arrow, Arsenal, and Black Canary against three League of Assassins members was surely a hint of bigger things to come. Around this time last year was when the fights against Deathstroke got a little bigger. It’s easy to forget how crazy and exciting the end of these Arrow seasons have been until your right back in one.

But there may not have ever been a bigger “oh, sh*t” moment on the series than when just about every cop in the city shows up at their location. The scene was absolute chaos. Oliver can’t contact Diggle, Roy seemingly gets trapped, and Laurel is forced to confront her father in costume. All these moving parts made for one of the tensest sequences the show has ever produced. It’s further proof that Arrow has transcended the realm of playful superheroism and created a world where we legitimately fear for these characters’ safety.

And this is all before Ra’s has Lance kidnapped and tells him that Oliver is the Arrow.

Katie Cassidy hasn’t always delivered the best work on this show, but the look on Laurel’s face when her father reveals he knows was perfect. I’m pretty sure it was the same look I had when he revealed it on live TV. There’s no point in running anymore, they’re screwed. Oliver knows that, begging his team to follow him one last time as he turns himself in.

The conversation in the van between Lance and Oliver felt like it had been coming since the pilot. Lance never knew how close to home the vigilante could be, but now all these layers have revealed themselves and things are more complicated than ever. It makes sense that he would see Oliver as the villain of this story. It’s a great representation of what the show has been doing all season as it examines just who the Arrow is to Starling City. This isn’t The Flash, the heroes and villains are far from black and white.

To end the episode, Roy shows up in Oliver’s costume, claiming to be the Arrow. Oliver’s team has never been good at listening to him, why start now? It was a bit of a come-down from the dramatic heights of Oliver Queen heading to prison, but we knew that wasn’t going to last anyway.

“Public Enemy” was another high point for Arrow. Delivering high-stakes drama and breathtaking action, it’s never been more clear how far this show has come over three years. Save for the unsatisfying ending, this is one of the series’ best. Grade: A-


Some Other Thought Bubbles:

– Aesthetically, Arrow and The Flash are very similar. Thematically, they are exploring very different sides of comic books equally well. I’m not naive enough to say this is the best superhero television is ever going to get (Daredevil next weekend!), but these two CW shows will likely forever be seen as the ones that lit the fire for great, modern superhero television, just as X-Men and Spider-Man did on the big screen all those years ago.

– Oh yeah, Ray got sick this week and then told Felicity he loves her. We also got to see Felicity’s mom again, which was just delightful. Decent enough side plot that was overshadowed by the gargantuan plot developments surrounding it.

– Less decent were the flashbacks with Shado’s twin. These were most of the reason the episode got an A- and not an A.

– I’ve been bringing up Batman: The Animated Series a lot in my Arrow and Flash reviews lately, but it just keeps seeming to be relevant. There’s a phenomenal episode of that series called “Over the Edge” where Scarecrow tricks Batgirl into thinking she’s dead, which led her to dream that Commissioner Gordon figured out who Batman was and tried to bring him to justice. There were a lot of similar plot points hit on Arrow tonight, so if you liked this episode as much as I did and are interested in some seminal animated superheroism, check out “Over the Edge.”


By Matt Dougherty


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