Even by Arrow standards, there’s a lot going on in “Public Enemy.” Normally, this would be cause for concern, as this usually means that more interesting plotlines are given less focus in favor of servicing the duller (yet necessary) portions of the overall story—read Laurel’s subplots and the Thea/Roy relationship. In a nice change of pace, however, everything really clicks into place this time around. While not without its missteps here and there, “Public Enemy” has the kind of dynamic propulsion and laser focus that has, unfortunately, been a bit rarer this season.
The story picks up in the wake of Maseo’s surprise attack on the Mayor. Ray Palmer saves Felicity from the assassin’s arrow but ends up critically injured in the process. This further incentivizes Quentin Lance to bring The Arrow down. The manhunt gets even more personal after Ra’s al-Ghul abducts Quentin and reveals that Oliver Queen is The Arrow.
So, it’s official—after nearly three seasons, every major character now knows about Oliver’s nighttime activities. Bout time.
Ra’s’ actions prove to be a nightmare come true for our hero. Suddenly, he finds his hangouts being raided and his friends being investigated. In an attempt to save his allies from suffering because of him, Oliver offers to give himself up in exchange for immunity for the rest of Team Arrow. His valiant attempts are quickly foiled when Roy pulls a “I am Spartacus,” and claims to be The Arrow.
Roy’s surrender to the police proves to be a great payoff to what was easily one of the most problematic subplots of this season. The revelation in “Guilty” that he killed a cop while under the influence of Mirakuru seemed designed to give the character some needed depth and shading. Instead, it became an entry that really called into question the ethics of Team Arrow in that they jumped all over him for possibly killing Sara, but were perfectly willing to forgive him for murdering an innocent policeman. Luckily, the episode established that this event is far from forgotten. The guilt of this murder continues to haunt Roy and, as a result, he sees the police’s pursuit of Team Arrow as karma coming back to bite him. It makes definite sense then, that he would see sacrificing his freedom for Oliver’s as penance for past sins.
Meanwhile, while the manhunt rages, Felicity attempts to find a solution to Ray’s dire condition. If left untreated, he will die but, if he risks surgery, he runs the chance of ending up brain damaged. Ray’s nanotech technology is his golden ticket, but the hospital cannot legally approve such an experimental procedure. And so, after some much-needed encouragement from her mother, Felicity takes it upon herself to break the rules and inject Ray with the serum. Things get complicated, however, when a cured Ray proclaims his love for her afterwards,and she finds herself flustered and unable to requite the feeling. It then falls upon her mother to point out the obvious—she’s still in love with Oliver.
On first blush, this plotline seems like the big outlier of the episode, as it has no real connection with much else happening in the main plotline. Then again, if you have to have an insular storyline in the midst of an epic event entry, it helps to have actors as eminently charming and watchable as Emily Bett Rickards and Brandon Routh. With so much of the rest of the episode defined by Oliver evading the authorities, the hospital scenes provide some much-needed levity, even if the antics of Donna Smoak veer dangerously close to multi-cam sitcom material.
Finally, there’s the Hong Kong flashback, where we get the somewhat mild answer that the Shado lookalike that Oliver ran into two weeks ago is her twin sister, Mei. Yep, Oliver just happens to run into the twin sister of his former love in one of the most populated cities in the world. I accept this while still acknowledging its wildly ridiculous, even by the standards of a superhero show.
Mei offers both Oliver and Akio shelter, but quickly becomes suspicious of Oliver after seeing her sister’s tattoo plastered on his back. She calls the cops and Amanda Waller’s men soon begin a full-fledged assault on her apartment. The three are only saved via the last-minute appearance of Maseo and Tatsu.
The flashbacks this time around benefit from having Celina Jade back. Though she’s obviously not playing the same character, the dynamic between her and Stephen Amell remains vibrant in a way that many of his other Hong Kong relationships are not. However, I really hope this doesn’t mean that Oliver and Mei will begin hooking up, because that would mean Oliver has slept with two pairs of sister. Sorry, don’t care how noble and good-looking you are—that’s just a douchebag move.
In the end, “Public Enemy” emerges as one of the strongest installments of the season. It’s the exact type of episode needed at this late stage in the year, as Arrow goes a long way towards really ramping up the stakes and effectively demolishing the status quo.