You have no idea how powerful the truth can be.
This sentence is repeated twice in tonight’s episode and is ironic given how often Arrow‘s characters lie not only to the people closest to them, but also to themselves. Nonetheless, “Public Enemies” tackles it head on as we watch Arrow explore how traumatizing it can be when the truth about your loved ones’ survival is withheld from you. This is most notable in the main story line, which finds Quentin ordering a manhunt on all of Team Arrow.
Quentin’s renewed vendetta against Team Arrow is a reaction to having been lied to by not only his daughter, but also by the Arrow himself, who he believed was an ally. In fact, tonight’s episode is reminiscent of “Over the Edge,” a Batman: The Animated Series episode. In “Over the Edge,” Barbara Gordon, who is Batgirl, is severely injured in a fight against Scarecrow, which leads to her father finding out about both her dual identity and Batman’s real one. (Gordon goes as far as hiring Bane to kill Batman, however it all turns out to be Barbara hallucinating from Scarecrow’s toxins). It’s a similar set-up to tonight’s episode, because Gordon feels just as betrayed by the Batman as does Quentin by the Arrow.
For Quentin, the truth provides clarity. Not only has the Arrow led to his daughter’s death, but also to so much mayhem and destruction: Merlyn, Slade, Brick, and a whole host of other masked crazies who have plagued Starling since the Arrow arrived on the scene. The show raises, but never firmly answers, the question: How responsible is Oliver Queen for all of this? Is the Arrow worth all the drama that comes with him?
PRESENT DAY — STARLING CITY
We pick up right where last week’s episode left off with Maseo, dressed as The Arrow, firing on the Mayor’s office. In the confusion, the Mayor is shot and dies right on the spot, another one of her aids is hit, and Ray takes an arrow to the chest for Felicity. While Ray is in surgery, Quentin holds his first of many press conferences in tonight’s episode to announce that an arrest warrant has been issued for the Arrow’s arrest, he’s reforming the Anti-Vigilante Task Force, and that all the police officers have been ordered to shoot on sight. Tonight, Team Arrow learns that there ain’t no love in the heart of the city.
With nowhere else to turn, Oliver seeks out Nyssa for help. At first, she’s reluctant to help him, but Oliver plays the “what would Sara want you to do?” card—which persuades Nyssa to give up the location of the League’s hideout. Team Arrow suits up and heads out. Maseo and the rest of the League are waiting for them when they arrive, and after a fight sequence in which the editing obscured some of the action and Roy and Laurel actually perform rather well, Oliver eventually pins Maseo. This impresses Ra’s al Ghul, who makes a dramatic entrance. He gives Oliver two choices: ascend to the calling of Ra’s al Ghul, or spend his life in a cell because Ra’s, not caring that snitches get stitches because he has his lazarus pit, tipped off the SCPD.
If one thing is clear, it’s that Quentin isn’t messing around this time. What seems to be the entire SCPD appears, guns blazing, and starts cornering Team Arrow. The ensuing chase sequence through the alleys and warehouses of Starling City is exceptionally staged and drives home the idea that Ra’s al Ghul has successfully turned Starling City, Oliver’s city, into a weapon against him. At every turn, Team Arrow find themselves nearly cornered. It’s a situation they never dreamed they’d find themselves in—or, at least, not so soon. The police have lights everywhere, so they’ve even lost shadows as their allies. Eventually, Quentin chases his daughter in to a corner and is about to arrest her, but Nyssa rescues her, most likely creating even more Laurel/Nyssa shippers.
While all of this is going on, Felicity is at Ray’s beside. He made it out of surgery, however, a clot has formed in his system, which puts Ray between a rock and hard place: performing more surgery on his already weak body could risk brain damage (at the very least), and if they wait, the clot could move and kill him. But, Ray has a solution: He wants the doctor to use the nano-technology he created to shrink the clot and remove it. Hospital policy prevents the doctor from performing any sort of experimental treatment. Donna Smoak surprises Felicity at the hospital, and eventually convinces her to inject Ray with the nano-tech. It works and he’s saved.
Meanwhile, Maseo kidnaps Quentin and brings him to Ra’s al Ghul. Quentin responds to meeting Ra’s with a scoff. and it’s brilliant. Ra’s brushes it off and, in their conversation, reveals not only was Sara on Lian Yu with Oliver, but that Oliver Queen is the Arrow. Finding out Oliver Queen is the Arrow clears so much up for Quentin, but also further stokes his anger toward him. “It’s funny how things come full circle, right?” says Quentin noting how he blamed Oliver for Sara’s death before and now he’s back there.
NEXT: Coming clean
Because it’s not official without a press conference, Quentin reveals the Arrow’s identity to the entire city. He sends police to the Queen mansion, Thea’s apartment, and the club. His police rudely interrupt a tender moment between Thea, Roy, and Oliver at Verdant. Roy’s still struggling with the guilt he feels from killing the cop last year and reveals that part of him was relieved while being chased because he was finally going to prison. Oliver apologizes for Roy having to go through all of this; when he gave him the mask, he thought he was just giving him the means to help his city. But, that’ll wait later because now Oliver has to run for his life.
With nowhere else to turn, Oliver seeks refuge in Diggle’s apartment. Eventually, the rest of the team shows up and try to motivate him to come up with a brilliant escape plan. Oliver doesn’t have any. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability because he doesn’t even have his city to fall back on for protection. Ra’s al Ghul has left Oliver one option and it’s something he, and most characters on this show, run away from like the plague: the truth.
Oliver turns himself into Quentin Lance and strikes a deal. In return for a full confession, the DA’s office offers Felicity, Roy, Diggle, and Laurel full immunity. Yes, it’s a noble gesture, but it’s also another moment of Oliver’s dictatorial rule of his team. In assuming he knows what’s best for all of them, he takes away their agency. Also, haven’t all of Arrow‘s characters seen the consequences of not giving someone the right to make up their own mind once they have all the information? This unilateral decision reveals Oliver still hasn’t quite wrapped his head completely around just how much his crusade has become their own, that they are fully aware of and accept the consequences.
The SCPD wastes no time in transporting Oliver to prison, and Quentin joins him in the prison transport van for a little chat. And, boy, Quentin doesn’t hold anything back. It’s a devastating scene as Paul Blackthorn continues to do a good job of driving home how much pain Quentin feels as a father. Oliver tries to explain that he was only trying to help the people of Starling, but Quentin rejects this. Listing everyone who has died, Quentin argues that all Oliver has done is bring misery and tragedy to Starling and turned the city and those closest to him into liars and victims. “You, Mr. Queen, are not a hero. You’re a villain.”
When has Team Arrow just sat back and let Oliver handle things on his own? Never, and they aren’t about to start now. Dressed as the Arrow, Roy attacks the transport and falsely confesses to being the real Arrow. He’s getting his wish and going to jail.
FLASHBACK: HONG KONG
You remember that woman Oliver and Akio ran into running from Waller’s men who looked like Shado? Well, turns out that’s her twin sister Mei. I feel like this is the first time we’re hearing about her, but who cares. Mei provides Oliver and Akio with shelter.
Back at her apartment, she asks Oliver if he knows what happened to Shado and Yao Fei, but Oliver, as he is wont to do, lies. Unfortunately, she figures out he’s lying when she sees that he has the same tattoo as Shado. Mei calls the police, but Waller’s men show up instead and storm the apartment guns blazing. Thankfully, Maseo and Tatsu show up right in time to help them.
Once the bodies are cleaned up, Oliver tells Mei the truth about her family. Yes, she’s upset, but she’s also relieved because the truth can be a powerful thing. For Mei, uncertainty was far more painful than the truth, and now that she knows, she can start to heal. With that, Oliver leaves with Maseo and Tatsu.
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