Wednesday, April 1, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Captain Lance Relentlessly Pursues the Arrow & Ray's Life is in Felicity's Hands in 'Public Enemy'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.18 "Public Enemy"

During an attack on the mayor's office, Ray is critically injured. Felicity is pleasantly surprised when her mother shows up at the hospital to offer her support. With the SCPD out in full force looking for the assailant, Oliver and his team work hard to stay one step ahead of the police to find the man responsible. However, things come to a head when Ra's al Ghul kidnaps Captain Lance.

Secret identities have been a part of the superhero genre almost since its beginning. It's better to have the hero seen as an extraordinary person instead of simply one man in a costume fighting crime. Three seasons into its run, Arrow has largely revealed that Oliver is the Arrow to nearly everyone amongst the regular cast - as well as some recurring players and the principles on The Flash. The only regular Arrow character who didn't know Oliver's secret was Captain Lance - who's job is to pick up on those clues and put them together. It strained credibility to have the detective as the lone character out of the loop. Knowing the truth drastically helps open storytelling avenues though. Keeping things a secret is fun and necessary for a little while. However, it can't be the sole source of tension. Arrow picked up on that right away and established a slew of characters around Oliver who knew the truth and stood by him and the mission he stood for in protecting the city.

And now, the last holdout has finally learned the truth about Oliver and the Arrow. Ra's al Ghul kidnaps Captain Lance and is happy to share the details of Oliver's secret in the hopes that it will get Oliver to join the League as his heir to the throne. It's a pretty effective strategy that Ra's has implemented. Oliver's biggest goal is to protect his city. He has saved Starling City three times already from terrorist attacks. He has been revered as a hero responsible for cleaning up the streets of criminal activity. Sure, that prosperity didn't last long. The city quickly turned on him when it appeared that he had started killing people again. It's a drastic shift for the show and the community around Team Arrow. And yet, it's not without cause either. Lance is hurting because of the personal betrayals he experienced from the way Oliver and Laurel handled Sara's death. He is a man of the law and is taking the law back into his hands after it has grown too chaotic in his city. Too many vigilantes and terrorists have popped up. The way he sees it, he allowed all of this to happen. That's a powerful drive that fuels him and his actions in "Public Enemy."

Captain Lance needs to arrest the Arrow and bring him to justice for all the recent murders he has committed. The audience knows that these crimes aren't Oliver's doing. They were done by members of the League of Assassins. Oliver and his friends have gotten themselves tangled in this major mess. The only way out that Oliver can see is by actually turning himself in. He doesn't want to replace Ra's as the head of the League. He battled Ra's in order to protect his family. Sure, Malcolm didn't really deserve that protection but Oliver offered it nevertheless. That quality has impressed Ra's. When Team Arrow goes up against the League again, it is an awesome fight sequence but it further drives home that Ra's wants Oliver as his heir. Ra's is a man who you don't say no to. Oliver has refused the offer and is now dealing with the consequences. Ra's is a very influential man. He's a smart and calculating character. He is just using Captain Lance and Starling City to get what he truly wants. It is demented - and who knows if the other members of the League are willing to follow Oliver just because Ra's tells them to. And yet, it is propelling the core set of characters to act in ways that shift the basic foundation of the show.

Oliver's secret identity is exposed to the whole city. That is a big move to make. He's not able to hide anywhere because the police force can find him in his usual hiding spots. And yet, Oliver is ready to make that big grand sacrifice because it means Ra's doesn't get what he wants. It's a devastating personal blow to Team Arrow. They simply don't know how to react to Oliver turning himself in to guarantee their survival. Diggle, Roy, Felicity and Laurel all started this work because of Oliver but they had the opportunity to think about why they are still doing it earlier this season. They are all committed to the cause because they believe in it. The Arrow is the public face of it though. His accomplices are allowed to go free. Captain Lance is probably too okay with that. But it's okay because he finally has his man. He knows that Oliver is the Arrow and there's no denying it any longer. Their conversation in the police transport vehicle is the most meaningful interaction those two characters have ever had. So many of Lance's problems have stemmed from Oliver Queen. Oliver doesn't enjoy that but he does know the amount of pain he has put Lance's family through. He's willing to accept his fate.

And then, Roy attacks the vehicle mid-transport and claims to be the real man behind the Arrow hood. To Roy, he's protecting Oliver who would do the same thing if the situation were reversed. And yet, it's also a frustrating final development because it just feels like a one-note character getting in the way of potentially great storytelling. It's a stalling tactic. Oliver, Ra's and Lance all know the truth. But Roy stepping in to take the blame is a complication none of them expected or wanted. Oliver was doing a selfless act that Roy simply couldn't accept. He still blames himself for all the pain he has caused the police department. Apparently, he enjoys the thought of getting caught. That's what is exciting to him right now - which feels like rushed character development to make the final move make more sense. It's not something that I see having lasting repercussions for the show. The strategy Ra's has put in motion will only stop once Oliver has accepted the job or is behind bars. Roy's sacrifice just gets in the way of that endgame.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Public Enemy" was written by Marc Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle and directed by Dwight Little.
  • Ray is critically injured during the attack on the mayor's office from last week. And yet, he is saved by some revolutionary nano-technology he has created. I was never expecting him to die in such an anti-climatic and drawn out way. So this story lacked a sense of urgency.
  • Felicity's mother pops up again to support her daughter in this time of need with Ray and Oliver. And yet, I'm getting rather tried that the main thrust of Felicity's character arc this season is solely about her great love for Oliver. I like the two as a couple - certainly more than her and Ray. However, the show is just pushing it too hard for it to feel as natural as it once was.
  • You could kinda guess that things wouldn't end too happily for Roy given that he started the episode naked in bed with Thea.
  • Captain Lance knew going into this manhunt that Felicity, Laurel and Roy were the Arrow's accomplices. And yet, he didn't use any of them to put the pressure on the Arrow in order to trap him.
  • In flashbacks, the woman Oliver ran into in Hong Kong who looked like Shado is actually her twin sister which was the reveal I was always expecting. It wasn't a completely necessary story beat. The flashback story especially feels like it's being dragged out to fill the 23-episode season.
  • "You have no idea how powerful the truth can be." That is just a fantastic line.