Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Arrow 3x18 "Public Enemy" (The Blame Game)

"Public Enemy"
Original Airdate: April 1, 2015

“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

As human beings, we love our freedoms. We love our free will. We love being able to decide anything and everything. We love getting to choose: where to eat, who to marry, where to live, what to wear, what to say, how to behave. We love having options, too, because it gives us the illusion of control. The fact is... we're often not in total control. Sure, you chose what to wear today. But the choice wasn't entirely yours. I picked out my dress from a closet of clothes that I owned. I didn't have a choice to look elsewhere this morning. So I had a limited choice. And I had to choose a dress or a skirt or a nice pair of pants and a top because I work in a professional environment. So I didn't have the choice to wear a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt into the office. (How I wish I did, though.) And I didn't really get to choose the size of clothing I would wear because that's already been determined for me by my body.

So yes, while I chose to wear a cute dress to work today and a pair of heels, the choice wasn't actually entirely mine to begin with. A lot of the elements that factored into my decision were predetermined for me. Don't you hate when you're presented a choice that is really not optional? A friend of mine recently was offered a position in her company that she didn't want to take. And though the position was presented to her as a choice to move into a new position... it wasn't really a choice to begin with. It was a declaration, a predetermined outcome: she would take the position. They knew that it wasn't an actual option for her to not take it.

In Arrow this year, we've been examining a lot of different themes, chief among which is the theme of identity. In the pursuit of this theme, we've also been exploring a lot of tinier thematic threads -- the ideas of love and family and heroism and redemption have been featured strongly -- and one of those threads is this idea of choice. Do you get to choose who you become? And, if so, what factors into that choice? Oliver is presented with a choice in "The Offer" and it's the choice to become the next Ra's al Ghul. He could have power. He could have unlimited resources. He could have an entire obedient League of Assassains at his disposal and could do with them whatever he wanted. He could have the Lazarus Pit. All that could be his (and more) if the price is right. (I couldn't resist, sorry.)

But when Oliver turned Ra's down, Maseo warned him that Ra's' will WOULD be done. It would just be a matter of how it was accomplished. And in "Public Enemy," we're headed into uncharted territory with seemingly the entire city vs. The Arrow. We're also headed into a game that I like to call "The Blame Game." All the while, we are running for our lives in Starling City, so let's run quickly as we discuss this episode.

Team Arrow vs. Team Lance (+ Ra's)

Oliver has had to make a lot of choices in his life as both Oliver Queen and also The Arrow. One of my favorite lines, to date in this series (and also because I lean heavily into Oliver/Felicity) is the line he delivers to Felicity when she explains that she feels guilt for putting him in the position where he had to choose between breaking his no-kill vow and saving her life. Gently, he takes her hands and says: "Felicity, he had you and he was going to hurt you. There was no choice to make." I think a lot -- probably too much -- about what Oliver's decisions entail and his decision-making process in general. It's no secret that I've taken some issues with Oliver's choices this year. The problem, of course, is that Oliver likes to make choices by himself. On the island, he had to think about how to survive. That was the only thing he could think about. If he was distracted, mentally or emotionally or physically, he would die. And I think that a lot of Oliver's current behavior has to do with the fact that he was alone for so long and his survival instinct has been so prominent that he forgets he's a part of a team. He forgets, often times, that it is TEAM Arrow, not Team Oliver.

In season three, Oliver has been yanked back to reality after his near-death experience and the reality is that he's not the only person who can make decisions. Moreover, his decisions don't just affect him anymore. He cannot think only about himself. He has to think about other people. Oliver is good about that, to a point: the whole reason he dueled Ra's in the first place was because his focus was on saving Thea. Oliver's protective instinct stems directly from that survivalist mentality that I noted earlier. Oliver Queen will always -- ALWAYS -- protect his own. Those aren't where the problems originate. The problems originate when Oliver forgets that other people have free will, too. So while he wants to protect them -- these people he loves most in the world -- he also fails, often, to realize that protecting someone also means understanding. And understanding means listening, which is something Oliver isn't great at all the time, let's be honest.

When Maseo tells Oliver that the story has already unfolded, the latter doesn't listen. He naively believes that Ra's gave him a choice and that he can choose to walk away from that calling or he can choose to accept it. The thing about Ra's al Ghul is this: he's patient. He's calm, he's calculated, and he knows that the real way to wound a man is to strip him of everything he knows and loves until he's so desperate that he's begging you for the very thing you offered in the first place. Ra's knew that Oliver was stubborn. He knew that he wouldn't accept bribery or flattery. He knew that about Oliver. So Ra's decided that his next course of action was to convince Oliver. How do you convince a stubborn person? Exerting a small amount of force in the right pressure point. I used to horseback ride. I loved it. I absolutely wish that I had the money to still do it, because there's nothing as fun as riding through a field or jumping over a hurdle with your horse. Do you know what controls the horse? This massive, intelligent animal? A bit. A bit, if you really look at it, is small -- about five inches. But when a bit is placed in a horse's mouth and reigns are attached to it, it helps to steer and control the animal. It's your form of communication because it applies just enough pressure to direct and control the horse.

A small amount of force in the right area can allow you to control a horse, so why wouldn't it work on Oliver Queen? Ra's has tried asking politely. He's been rebuffed, so he's now attempting to gain Oliver's attention in more serious manners -- by forcing his own hand and his plan for Oliver to be his successor and... it's working. A small amount of force, applied in the correct area (see: Felicity, Lance, the city) can destroy everything Oliver has worked years to achieve and -- more importantly -- draw him closer into the only alternative left: becoming Ra's.

In "Public Enemy," Ra's applies direct force and pressure in the form of Quentin Lance. Quentin used to be on The Arrow's side. But ever since discovering that the vigilante-turned-hero knew about Sara's death, he's become bitter and calloused and cold and, quite frankly, angry that The Arrow would know something so crucial and yet not tell him. Quentin is mad at Laurel, too, and he's mad at the world for taking away his baby girl. Do you know what happens to people who get irrationally angry? They seek out someone to blame for their anger -- someone to place it on. In "Public Enemy," we deal a lot with the topic of blame, so let's talk about that for a moment and our lovely participants: 

The Blame Game, starring:

  1. Quentin Lance: As I noted above, Quentin blames Oliver for a lot of things once he realizes that he's The Arrow (we all exhaled and said "finally," right?) The thing about Quentin in "Public Enemy" is that he's calloused and he's hardened but he's not necessarily a villain. He's just unfairly placing blame for things that were outside of Oliver's control on Oliver himself. At the precinct, when Quentin reveals to Laurel that he knows who The Arrow is, he tells her that all of the pain and heartache that they've suffered can be traced back to Oliver. He lied about Sara being on the island with him. He's the one who dragged her onto that boat in the first place. So really, everything that happened is HIS fault. Quentin is right in some tiny regard but wrong in a lot more. See, he's finding it easier to place the blame on The Arrow or Oliver rather than come to terms with the fact that Sara was a grown woman who made a decision that eventually caused her demise. Sara was an adult who made her own choices. She chose to accompany Oliver onto that boat. And she managed to survive on the island because of the League. Quentin cannot bring himself to see that though because the thing about grief and about love is that it often blinds us to the faults of others and the flaws. We CHOOSE to remember the ones we love a certain way and Quentin finds it easier to deal with his grief by blaming other people than by accepting that his daughter made her own choices. I don't like that Quentin is doing this, but I understand why he is. Don't forget: Quentin is an addict. Yes, he may be sober now but he still thinks like an addict sometime. Addicts don't take blame for their actions. They PLACE blame. Everyone else and everything else is the reason that they are the way they are. So Quentin finds it easy to target The Arrow -- easy to throw himself into a crusade so that he can process his anger over losing Sara and his anger over Laurel's decisions. Because just like Sara, Laurel is a woman who is making her own choices and he's finding it easier to yell at her than to deal with that fact. Do I think Quentin is right to want to pin so much pain and blame on one person? No. But I get it.
  2. Oliver Queen: Remember above how I noted that Oliver is so used to making choices for other people rather than with them? How he's so used to operating by himself? "Public Enemy" is another prime example of this and such a lovely one at that. When Oliver turns himself in, Dig and Roy and Felicity are stunned. They're shocked. And they think that it's the stupidest move he could ever possibly make. But Oliver doesn't see it that way. He sees it the way he constantly sees everything -- as a way to protect the people he cares about while carrying the burden of guilt and blame around by himself. When will Oliver learn that he doesn't have to carry the weight of the world alone? I'm not sure, but I'm confident that it'll still be a while before he recognizes that in full. Oliver turned himself in with a deal: the three of them would get immunity. And instead of being grateful, Dig and Felicity and Roy are absolutely furious. They're upset that Oliver would consider taking all of the blame and the guilt and the punishment and letting them walk away free. They couldn't live with themselves knowing he was suffering instead of them. But Oliver snaps, claiming that they will all have to learn to live with it because that was his decision. And... he still doesn't get it. Oliver Queen blames himself for everything: he blames himself for deaths and for suffering and for the city imploding. And when he blames himself, the punishment falls squarely on his shoulders and no one else's. He's a self-deprecating hero, really, and it's so painful to watch scenes like these in "Public Enemy," where the team is pleading with him to realize that they are a TEAM. He's not alone. They are in this together. Oliver doesn't see it that way and from the Hong Kong flashbacks, it's clear that it's been years and years since he's been able to allow anyone else to take responsibility for things he was a part of. When Quentin confronts Oliver in the transport vehicle, it's literally Oliver coming face-to-face with the things he believes to be true about himself. It was all of that guilt and self-blame personified in the form of Quentin Lance and it hurt him (physically because of that slap). But I think a part of Oliver was... relieved in that vehicle. I think he wants to be reminded that he isn't a hero and that he's messed up. I think that because he still believes he has to be alone. Until Oliver stops playing that self-blame game and until he realizes that being a part of a team means sharing everything and letting people come alongside you, lifting your arms up so you don't have to carry the weight of the world by yourself, I think Oliver will be miserable and guilt-ridden.
  3. Roy Harper: Our final participant in The Blame Game is Roy. Roy... is a broken little bird. I absolutely love him because he tells Oliver that his life was saved. In the promo for next week, Roy tells Oliver that since Oliver saved his life, this is his opportunity to save Oliver's life in return. But Roy is teetering along the same trajectory that Oliver is: he's the kind of person who wants to suffer so that others don't have to. A self-deprecating hero, if you will. Roy feels like what he deserves isn't what he's getting. He feels like he deserves to be in jail for all he's done: for the cop he killed the year prior and the way he shot at the officers in tonight's episode. He turns himself in at the end of "Public Enemy" in order to save Oliver. Because the truth is that sacrifice and blame are pretty closely linked: because Roy blames himself and feels like he deserves to be sitting in jail, not Oliver, it's easier for him to make the sacrifice. And by making this sacrifice, Roy is clearly telling Oliver that he's not -- nor will he ever be -- alone.

The funny thing about The Blame Game is that it doesn't matter who's playing it or why they are. It's powerful and it's a weapon. Ra's al Ghul takes Starling City -- the thing Oliver loves and defends and protects -- and uses it as a weapon against the young man. And unless Oliver chooses to stand together with those he loves and listen to them rather than continue to blame himself for everything... he will fall. Every single time.

Ray/Felicity (+ Mama Smoak, Oliver/Felicity)

There's this thing that happens, I've noticed, when you come from a broken home. I'm from a really functional family but I've been around enough dysfunction to know that people who come from broken homes usually experience one thing from their parents: an unwavering desire for their children to be happy, in spite of the dysfunction. That is Donna Smoak in a nutshell: she knows that Felicity's childhood was rough. She knew that their home was broken. So her desire -- her sole desire -- is to see her daughter be happy and successful. So Donna pushes her toward that. And sometimes her methods come across as... well, controlling. Or demanding. Or imposing. And sometimes she expresses the wrong sentiment at the wrong time (like with her boyfriend comment). But Donna NEEDS to know that Felicity is happy. She needs to know that her and her husband's failure to maintain a stable home for Felicity didn't cause her to become damaged. She needs to believe that Felicity can still come from that dysfunction and manage to secure happiness. And that's really all Donna has ever wanted for Felicity: the same thing that Oliver has, really. Both just want to see the woman they love happy and bright and successful.

Caring about people is rough. It's not easy. And it requires doing things you never thought you would do. When Ray throws himself in front of Felicity to protect her from an arrow, he takes one directly to the chest and develops a blood clot. Thankfully, he invented technology to save himself (look, I barely pay attention when Ray speaks so something about tiny robots in his bloodstream yadda yadda). Unfortunately for him, Starling General won't allow any experimental procedures at the hospital. Never fear, though, because Felicity Smoak comes to the rescue and injects Ray with the experimental treatment in order to save his life. Why does she do this? Well, because she cares. She doesn't want him to die. He saved her, after all. She owes him that. She owes him bravery -- she owes him the same bravery that he showed her. That's really what this is about. Felicity feels compelled and obligated to do for Ray what he would do for her.

... The problem is the reason WHY Ray is doing all of this for Felicity. He loves her. And he tells her. And Felicity does the polite version of a "thank you" and promptly exits the room. Felicity cares about Ray. Don't mistake anything I said above: she really does care about him. If she didn't, she would have convinced him to wait for surgery or not utilize the experimental treatment. Caring about people requires bravery, as Donna Smoak tells Felicity earlier in the episode. But love... love requires sacrifice. It requires commitment. And when Felicity confesses to her mother that Ray professed his love and she couldn't return the favor, Donna Smoak accurately pinpoints the problem: she's not in love with Ray; she's in love with Oliver.

There's this beautiful moment where Felicity, incredulous, tells Donna that she only "met him for ten seconds." And Donna -- witty and perceptive as ever -- says: "I knew it in five." Sometimes I think we underestimate people who don't possess conventional intellect. I watch Scorpion (which, by the way, is actually a pretty delightful series so I suggest you all watch it on CBS) which is a series about a bunch of geniuses and one normal woman. The normal woman, Paige, possesses something in spades that the geniuses don't: emotional intellect. Paige understands human emotion. She knows WHY people feel the way they do. Felicity is a hacker and she's extremely bright. It's clear from "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" that all of that comes from her father. But what Donna Smoak has that is beautiful and wonderful and necessary? She has the ability to read people. She has the ability to understand and empathize and see things clearer than you could see with any sort of x-ray technology (*cough RAY cough*). 

She may not have as high of an IQ as Ray or a doctorate, but Donna Smoak understands love. She understands what it means to feel and to feel deeply. She understands the pain of being in love and of losing that love. And that is just as valuable as any technical skill or ability to hack a computer. So when Donna tells Felicity that she could see it in the way Felicity lit up like Christmas around Oliver, could see how in love she was, she also offers a piece of advice: she needs to decide what she wants. It's more complicated than that, I think, at this point in Arrow and Felicity knows that. Her relationship with Oliver isn't as easy as a "check yes or no if you like me" box. It's like... it's like the inevitable reality that all women face when they pull four necklaces from their jewelry boxes that are tangled together, impossibly.

The only way to separate those knots is through patience and time and precision. You have to decide what you want and how to get it. A lot of Oliver and Felicity's relationship has hinged on Oliver, with good reason: he's been stubborn and stupid and has pushed Felicity away (and pushes everyone away, really) because he doesn't believe she deserves a life with someone like him. (Self-deprecating hero, for the win.) But I think what Donna is suggesting, here, is that Felicity stop walking away and to keep fighting. If she wants Ray? Fight for Ray. If she wants Oliver? Fight for Oliver. But the beauty and the pain in life is that she gets to decide.

I know what I want from the Oliver/Felicity relationship and it's funny because it has nothing to do with their relationship and everything to do with their individual characters. I want Oliver to stop trying to do life on his own. I want him to stop blaming himself and start thinking of life and relationships as teamwork. I want him to want Felicity as a partner in every sense of the word. I want him to treat her like one, not handle her with kid gloves or keep her at a distance. I want Felicity to tell Oliver how she feels about him and then I want her to stubbornly declare war: he must fight for her back if they have any hope of having a relationship. But I need Felicity to tell Oliver how she feels because right now, he doesn't really know. And she doesn't really know. All they're doing is pushing against one another until they're further and further apart.

Neither of them deserve that. But both of them deserve more right now than what the other is willing to give.

So where does that leave us in "Public Enemy"? After the dust settles from the blame game and we examine our relationships, we're left with this inevitable truth: we can sit and blame ourselves for the things that have happened to us. Or we can fight to change our destinies. We can fight to secure our own happy endings. The only lingering question is... how do you fight against someone who seems to be pulling all of your strings?

Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP for this episode is Paul Blackthorne. I don't often give enough credit to Paul for his portrayal of Captain Lance but I seriously loved and appreciated all the work he did in this episode. It was so great to see Lance acting out of anger and vengeance, but I think the most powerful moments for me were the quieter, more emotional ones. The scene between Lance and Laurel at the precinct was so powerful and you could just see every emotion swimming in Lance's eyes as he thought about Sara. There was so much palpable pain in that moment and the moment in the transport vehicle with Lance and Oliver. Seriously, Paul Blackthorne absolutely was stunning in that scene and so moving. Bravo.
  • I missed Charlotte Ross as Donna Smoak so much. Like, so much. Can't we just have her on this show permanently as another Smoak-y burst of sunshine? She just livens up the entire scene and we desperately need that as careen down some dark, twisted paths.
  • Laurel checking to make sure Felicity was okay? Perfect. #LadiesSupportingLadies
  • "I am the biggest idiot in the world for breaking up with you."
  • Do we REALLY need to flash back to Hong Kong? Also, of course Shado has an identical twin sister because WHY WOULDN'T SHE?
  • "You have a  not so good look on your face."
  • "Hey... at least you finally have a boyfriend." "Mom!"
  • "How did you find this out?" "I am the daughter of the Demon."
  • I love that Ra's always calls Oliver "boy." It's such an underrated little consistency in the dialogue but it's wonderful because it clearly exemplifies how Ra's views Oliver: as a child, not a threat.
  • SYNCHRONIZED LEAPING OFF OF BUILDINGS! That stunt sequence (which was a really long sequence considering it lasted from a commercial break to another commercial break) was really impressive. All the stunts and fight sequences on this show are stellar.
  • "I've underestimated Ra's." OH REALLY, OLIVER? YA THINK?
  • "He wouldn't even look at me. Have you seen this dress? Hello!"
  • It's taken three years for everyone to discover Oliver's secret identity on Arrow. It's not even the season one finale of The Flash and almost every single main character (save for Iris) knows Barry's secret identity.
  • "All these masks? It started with him."
  • "It's funny how things come full circle, right?"
  • "Why are the police shooting?" "BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT THE POLICE."
  • "How's Ray?" "So much better than you right now."
  • "Please tell me that you have a brilliant plan." "I don't even have a regular plan."
  • Deb and I discussed this on Twitter, but couldn't you guys phone some friends in... oh, I don't know... CENTRAL CITY? Barry would be over in like, two seconds and could literally run you all out of town. What's the point in having friends with superpowers if you can't call them up for favors?
  • "Wow. That's a really nice thing to hear." Felicity's response to being told Ray loves her? Priceless.
  • "I always wanted to have hospital sex." "Oh, WAY TMI."
  • "You met him for ten seconds." "I knew it in five."
  • "What were you thinking? WERE you thinking?"
  • "You have no idea how powerful the truth is." That's probably because NO ONE ON THIS SHOW EVER TELLS THE TRUTH.
  • "You've made us criminals. You've made us liars and victims."
  • I half-expected this episode to end with everyone donning Arrow suits and in a very "I am Sparta"-esque way, confessing that they were all The Arrow.
Okay, WHEW. Did you all enjoy "Public Enemy"? Any predictions as we round out the final few episodes of the season? Arrow is on hiatus again until April 15th, so hit up the comments and let me know your thoughts. Until then. :)


  1. There was several moments, particularly on twitter, where I think the fandom collectively groaned (especially over the flashback right after Willa's question and Ra's exposing of Oliver to Lance), but this felt a bit like an episode setting up for the grand finale that will actually be grand crossover awesomeness. This felt like a necessary step.

    As to the Felicity issue in the room, it was so nice that they let her be real. She really likes Ray, but her love is Oliver's, if either of them can deal with it or not.

    Great. Review.

    1. Hi again, Matt! :) I think everyone collectively groans now whenever we flash to Hong Kong. Hilariously, they always make Amell stare off into the distance. It's a bit too on-the-nose for me, but whatevs. I think I'm okay with Quentin finding out about Oliver this way? Mostly because he tells Laurel that he feels like he's always known. I can buy that. I wouldn't have bought complete and utter shock, because you're A DETECTIVE, LANCE.

      Yes, you're exactly right when it comes to Felicity! Allowing her to be a real, breathing, fleshed-out character is just what she needs. I've heard people whine about how Felicity's arc this year has been all about romance, but it really hasn't. It's been about her making actual decisions that affect her life. It's been about her looking out for HERSELF and trying to figure out what she wants from life. She's come so far from telling Oliver: "I want so much more of [my life] than this" in 3x02.

      Thanks for the comments as always, dude. :D

  2. I found this episode very stressful. But my husband always jokes that I take fiction way too much to heart. For some reason stories about betrayal and suspicion always make me feel very anxious (which is why I really can't handle thrillers or spy stories generally) and there is so much misunderstanding between people who should be on the same side this year that I was feeling stressed. Last year around this time I was skipping whole episodes because I was getting anxious and I didn't watch them in their entirety until weeks after their original airdate. Yes, I'm a big chicken but I managed to get through this episode without too much cringing.

    In addition to the regular end-of-season stress I found myself frustrated with quite a few characters but not in the bad way. When it comes to fictional characters I classify two types of frustration. The bad kind is when I am frustrated because a character is either written badly, inconsistently or doesn't seem to ever learn anything. The better, second kind is what I was feeling: when characters are frustrating me because their natural flaws and hang ups and humanity are leading them to hurt themselves or others. In the second kind, I can certainly understand where they are coming from but I still want to shake them and tell them to knock it off. I figure this is a good kind of frustration because it means I want to treat them like real people that I care about.

    I was super frustrated with Capn Lance this week. He was so full of anger and blame (understandable feelings but still destructive) that I had a hard time watching him. To quote a mental health professor I like: “Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain.” (A cute video examining part of her talk here: ) Lance is so full of pain that he seeks to alleviate it by placing blame on others, specifically on the Arrow/Oliver, rather than solving an actual problem. And boy does he place blame. I think you nailed that theme right on the head. How perfect did it fit for him when R'as told him that the Arrow was Oliver Queen? Not only has it been somewhat obvious but it makes so much emotional sense to Lance that he doesn't even hesitate to take what R'as is saying at total face value. Everything that has been painful or horrible in his life he can trace back to Oliver Queen now. He traces back some sequence of events (not an accurate sequence by any means) to show that everything bad that has happened in the last 7 or 8 years is all because of Oliver Queen. He lists every big bad for the last few seasons and every painful loss that he can think of to bash over Oliver's head in that van so that he can discharge some of his own pain. But, of course, his logic is deeply flawed.

    1. Becca! I always get excited when I see your comments roll in. Hello again, Jenny from the block. ;)

      I found this episode very stressful.

      I think my friend Laura said it best on Twitter when she noted that even though this episode was a bit confusing, it was also the most engaged I've ever been. 20 minutes of the episode (I looked at the clock) was straight-up action. And really there wasn't much dialogue or plot to be had in the episode, even with all of the reveals. It was a lot of running and leaping and fighting which left me leaning forward toward the TV a bit more than usual. I mean, there was an entire action sequence that stretched from commercial break (the team on the roof) to commercial break (Lance realizing the van with Arrow in it got away from them). Nothing but running and explosions during that entire sequence. So yeah, I can totally understand the anxiety of watching people betrayal and suspicion.

      When it comes to fictional characters I classify two types of frustration. The bad kind is when I am frustrated because a character is either written badly, inconsistently or doesn't seem to ever learn anything. The better, second kind is what I was feeling: when characters are frustrating me because their natural flaws and hang ups and humanity are leading them to hurt themselves or others.

      This is a perfect description of how it's okay to be frustrated with characters. There's definitely a difference between understanding why a character is the way they are (Oliver, for example) and being frustrated and just being frustrated with a really badly written or portrayed character (Ray, for example).

      Oh, Lancey-poo. Lance, Lance, Lance. It seems that irrational anger runs in the family and so does destructive behavior. He was SO full of anger and blame and grief that he hasn't even dealt with (grief from Sara AND Laurel).

      Lance is so full of pain that he seeks to alleviate it by placing blame on others, specifically on the Arrow/Oliver, rather than solving an actual problem. And boy does he place blame.

      This, a million times. If he has a target for his grief, it makes it easier, in his mind, to deal with. He can associate a face and a person with all of his problems and blame them on HIM.

  3. And part of my frustration is that as a cop and as an addict he should have a better understanding of what people are actually responsible for. AA does a pretty good job of making it clear to addicts that there is a big difference between the things we can control and the things we can't. But Lance wants to make Oliver the sole active decider or agent in this long series of events so that everything is clearly his fault. First off, no way was Malcolm Merlyn Oliver's fault. If Oliver hadn't been in the city to follow the list and stop Malcolm huge parts of the city would have been destroyed. And Tommy's death was Malcolm's fault. Malcolm placed the devices and wanted the destruction; all those deaths lie at his feet. Slade certainly came to Starling because Oliver was there but Slade wanted someone to blame just like Lance does and was crazy on top of that. And his list goes on and I could refute every one but that would make this even longer. The whole vigilante thing started before the Arrow as we know because we met Ted Grant. And the pain of living in Starling is actually so much more complex than Lance is trying to make it. Oliver has actually killed people but none of the names that Lance lists are Oliver's responsibility. The big one of course was Sara. But you made a very good point. All of Lance's blaming makes it sound like Oliver is the only one who has made any decisions, like he is some powerful “original cause” and everyone else was just passive billiard balls knocking around with no decision-making abilities of their own. Sara CHOSE to get on the Queen's Gambit and betray her sister for complex reasons of her own. She chose to work for Ivo for awhile, she chose to join the League after meeting Nyssa and she chose to go back to the League in return for help against Slade. Lance watched her walk onto that boat of her own free will. She actually said that to him when she said goodbye in 2x23 “Dad, she's not making me do anything. I chose this. Tell (mom) that for the first time in my life I am deciding my own fate.” But Lance can't see his own daughters' agency in their own lives, bringing both the joy and the pain, so he lays it all on Oliver. He lays his own decisions on Oliver too. He claims that the Arrow has been making him into a fool all year because he sided with him. The Arrow didn't make him do anything. Lance is responsible for that decision but wants to make every lie told or decision made by others into Oliver's fault “You made us victims.” which is total hogwash. And Oliver takes it all because he believes he deserves it.

    1. And part of my frustration is that as a cop and as an addict he should have a better understanding of what people are actually responsible for. AA does a pretty good job of making it clear to addicts that there is a big difference between the things we can control and the things we can't.

      That's so interesting. And I really hadn't thought of Quentin's addict personality feeding into his behavior until I started writing this post. But it really directly ties to that.

      You're so right in that SO much of what Lance mentioned was not Oliver's fault. I talked about it above, but Oliver already places a lot of blame and unnecessary burdens of guilt on himself. To hear Lance try to tie every great loss back to him was hard, but it wasn't right. Even what he said about Sara wasn't. She followed Oliver onto that boat out of her own free will. He didn't force her on it. But for Lance it's easier to place the blame on someone else and say that it is someone else's fault than to look at his baby girl as someone who made her own choices and for Lance to have to live with them.

      Huge themes of control present in both Quentin and Oliver: Oliver controlling by choosing to work alone -- AGAIN, geez dude do you never learn?! -- and apart from the team and Quentin's addictions stem from control, or him feeling out of control.

  4. Lance isn't the only one drawing false cause-and-effect lines back to Oliver. Oliver feels responsible for everything that Lance is accusing him of because he's fairly messed up in his own way and he blames like crazy too (because he wants CONTROL, you nailed that!) It's also fairly understandable given his trauma and likely PTSD but it makes me want to shake him too. Oliver certainly underestimated R'as al Ghul and the lengths he would go to but I think R'as underestimated the depth of Oliver's guilt and self-hatred (maybe because R'as no longer feels guilt over much of anything? Part of me wishes that the mayor or some other innocent person R'as has killed had some badass surviving family member to seek justice from the League and give them a taste of their own medicine.) Oliver was willing to live in a cage which I don't think R'as was expecting, all because Oliver does believe he deserves to suffer. There are of course major problems with Oliver's self-sacrificing nature (which I don't think R'as has AT ALL) now that Roy (also full of guilt and self-hatred over something that wasn't his fault) has stepped in front of all those police officers in the outfit, claiming to be the Arrow. Without a clear confession what proof does Lance have to take Oliver to court: “He's the Arrow because the Demon's Head told me”?

    I think this was an elegant mess of blame and guilt that has been building for weeks and months. Oliver, Roy and Thea are all swimming in it and so are Laurel and her father and it raises massive questions about who is responsible for what in this story. And the irony is that Malcolm, who is really responsible for most of the death and destruction that Lance is angry about from the Queen's Gambit, to the Undertaking, to the League coming to Starling, to Sara's actual death, is sitting quietly in Oliver and Thea's flat with very few consequences for his choices. Everyone seems to have forgotten about him and are busy blaming and fighting each other rather than dealing with real justice and accountability. Argh! I'm frustrated.

    1. Oliver certainly underestimated R'as al Ghul and the lengths he would go to but I think R'as underestimated the depth of Oliver's guilt and self-hatred (maybe because R'as no longer feels guilt over much of anything? Part of me wishes that the mayor or some other innocent person R'as has killed had some badass surviving family member to seek justice from the League and give them a taste of their own medicine.)

      Oh, Oliver totally underestimated Ra's. But I think you bring up an interesting point: did Ra's underestimate how much Oliver would be willing to sacrifice for his city and the people he loved? He didn't come crawling back to Ra's to make all the attacks stop. He found -- as Felicity often says -- another way. I wonder if Ra's predicted that. I wonder if it baffles him, the reasons WHY Oliver is doing that.

      Without a clear confession what proof does Lance have to take Oliver to court: “He's the Arrow because the Demon's Head told me”?

      See... that's where I'm baffled. And shhhhhhh I think we're supposed to gloss over the fact that none of that really makes sense.

      I think this was an elegant mess of blame and guilt that has been building for weeks and months.

      Amen, sister friend. This whole season has been a swirling mess of guilt and isolation and blame and identity and it all culminated in this episode.

      Meanwhile, Malcolm is just chilling in the loft, watching TV. Did everyone just forget about him?... Who's making sure he doesn't leave and like, blow up the city or run out of town?

  5. My only smiles and satisfaction came from the interaction between Felicity and Donna. Palmer was kind of a non-entity in this episode for me and I'm very happy with that. That story line really revolved around the risks Felicity was willing to take and the choices she has before her. Being arrested for getting the nano-tech into the hospital wasn't her real fear (she risks that plenty for other things) but endangering Palmer's life hits a soft spot for her which is not surprising considering Sara's death and Oliver's supposed death. But her mum really pushes the issue which I do love her for. Donna may well say loads of inappropriate things (the whole bit about hospital sex made me laugh out loud) and not really get most of her daughter's life but she is right on about her daughter's feelings and choices in this situation. She immediate saw how Felicity felt because even if they are so different she KNOWS her daughter and all her expressions. She sees what is frightening Felicity and she is right on that Felicity has a choice to make. Now Palmer's declaration of love (which even he must admit was pretty fast since they've only been dating for a few weeks, and that is coming from me who knew I was going to marry my husband after our second date) has made Felicity face up to some things and she does have a choice to make. To keep dating Palmer would be hurtful and dishonest if that is the way she really feels. She can't exactly choose to start seeing Oliver because that decision kinda needs two people to agree on it but facing up to her feelings and making that clear is important now and Donna got to the heart of that problem pretty quick. In addition to that there were little bits of info about Felicity's father (he would be arrested if he were around?) and there was a lovely moment where both mother and daughter groaned after Felicity told her mum she didn't say Love you back. It was small but delightful and the chemistry between Emily and Charlotte Ross is great. I can totally believe them as family.

    Thank you for pointing out the line about telling the truth. Deeply ironic for Oliver to say it and we are back to him repeating something he heard from another person in his flashbacks. The truth is certainly sharp and powerful as a sword and it can certainly be painful but it will also set us free.

    So yeah, great set up for the rest of the season although there are loads of things that aren't clear yet. When/how does Lance find the Arrow cave, what brings everybody to Nanda Parbat and what gets Oliver into his new costume that we've seen in trailers? I am both afraid and excited to see what will happen next.

    1. Thank GOODNESS for Mama Smoak this episode. Jen at Vulture noted that she brought in levity to an otherwise really dark episode. She was both the figurative and literal bright spot in this episode.

      She immediate saw how Felicity felt because even if they are so different she KNOWS her daughter and all her expressions.

      This is what's so refreshing about their relationship. She doesn't get a lot about Felicity -- who she is and what she does and her intellect -- but she loves and supports her SO much and knows more about Felicity than even Felicity does. I loved their exchange because it was a total mother-daughter moment. She couldn't have had this conversation with anyone else.

      To keep dating Palmer would be hurtful and dishonest if that is the way she really feels. She can't exactly choose to start seeing Oliver because that decision kinda needs two people to agree on it but facing up to her feelings and making that clear is important now and Donna got to the heart of that problem pretty quick.

      I'm fairly certain that The Flash episode where she and Ray head to CC may be the end for her. Amell said that his favorite Olicity scene and favorite scene of the season takes place in 3x20, which makes me think that Ray and Felicity have to be broken up by then. I'm holding out for a confession. Even if it doesn't change what Oliver does, I think she needs to tell him how he feels because he doesn't know she's in love with him because it's taken her so long to realize she actually IS. So yeah, this will be interesting to watch play out. And good job, Donna Smoak, for clearing away eighteen episodes of angst in one swoop. ;)

      Oh, the irony in that truth-telling line was SO strong. So so strong. I'm definitely excited for the last few episodes this season. I'm headed to a con next weekend in Orlando with David Ramsey so I'm looking forward to a hopeful hint about where the rest of the episodes are headed. ;)

      I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE TRAILERS WITH OLIVER (and Barry and Ronnie) BUT I AM SO EXCITED. As always, Becca, your comments are fantastic. :)

  6. You know the way shows tend to make a perfect arc for a character just to kill him after?? Well I think that´s what Arrow is doing with Roy….
    I started the episode totally convinced the character who dies next week is Lance…. Too much playing with fire (and with Ra´s). But then every five minutes the idea of Roy getting back with Thea… being happy somehow….. and being the hero who saves the hero….. made me realize both, Roy and Lance, have a lot of lottery tickets to win the prize!
    There was a moment I thought the one who dies will be Thea…. But then Oliver will die of pain….. too much death in his family. But think for a moment: if Lance dies… Laurel will be the one losing two family members in 19 episodes!! (so back to Roy… see what is happening to me?). Although…. With the mirakuru… can they really kill him?? (maybe they do and next season they say he had a twin brother….. (cheap, arrow, cheap, if Shado was taken by a plane to Lazarus Pit it would have been much more realistic…)
    Back to the episode. I loved it! Mama Smoak was great! Although…. My poor Ray… he´s so lovely! He saved Felicity, she returned the favour of course, and then he told her he loves her! And it was great because he said it after saying one of Felicity´s charms is the way she always says something that sounds inappropriate or that you can find some other meaning to! So I felt sad for a moment when Felicity freaked out and left…. But again a great scene with her telling her mother: he looks like a Disney prince, he knows the dialogue of most of the 34 seasons of doctor who (show I don´t watch, but the fact he´s a freak of a show makes him adorable for me, like Abed from Community)... but mama Smoak is right! And Felicity has to fight for Oliver, because as she told her mother, the situation it´s kind of in stand by…. And I don´t know how it can move forward (well now I know because I just saw what´s going to happen the rest of the season and I´m freaking out in a good way sooooooo much most of the words I write are Spanish and I have to delete and think and write again in english… )
    And normally I don´t write with order, because I have so much ideas in my head, and so much to say about them, but today it´s even more impossible so, sorry for the mess.
    And I agree with Lance, not in the ways, but he´s hurting and this is his way of taking it out, and he´s kind of the villain of this episode, but without being a villain you know? So, I think it was great Lance had his moment (and he will keep having them), because Lance rocks! But he´s not one of the main characters so we don´t have an opportunity like this every episode.
    Well, I already said Shado´s twin sister appearing was the worst, but also the flashbacks…… I don´t see them having any importance…. Maybe in the next episodes we learn something necessary to understand something else……. But for now… they make no sense! (bring back Deadshot flashbacks!! )
    I´m sure I´m forgetting something… various something actually… but that´s all the time I have today. Lovely to read you as always!!!!!!

    1. Hello again, darling Bri! Thank you always for your comments and for your input about the episode.

      1) UGH, I have the worst feeling that you're right when it comes to Roy. Like... you can't construct this beautiful redemptive arc and not have it end with sacrificing your life. It seems like it's just fated. The only hope I'm holding into now is that it seems SO likely that he'll die that maybe it's just a giant misdirect and he'll be fine and everyone will be happy. Right? ... Right?! *crickets*

      2) I mean, I kind of feel bad for Ray but not enough for me to even remotely like him again. Poor dude never stood a chance with Oliver in the picture. ;) And actually DANG, I didn't ever notice how much Brandon Routh really does resemble a Disney prince until she said that. She's not wrong at all. Mama Smoak was so wonderful and brilliant and RIGHT in that she gets to choose now what she does. That's the beauty of life and the thing she has to deal with. I honestly think that she's going to have to break up with Ray by the next episode because you can't stay with someone who loves you but who you don't love back, right?


      Also, I think it's majorly impressive that so many of you comment here and English isn't your first language. Everyone always apologizes for their English but I honestly think it's SO amazing that you guys can speak and write two languages and I can barely write one. So never apologize if you mess up a word or can't think of the English equivalent. Just know I think you all are amazing.

      And I agree with Lance, not in the ways, but he´s hurting and this is his way of taking it out, and he´s kind of the villain of this episode, but without being a villain you know?

      Yup, exactly this. He's hurting and he's grieving and he's not dealing with it properly but it doesn't make me hate him. It makes me... upset and frustrated, yeah. But I understand WHY he's doing what he's doing.

      Okay, Shado's got an identical twin sister? Really? I rolled my eyes pretty hard at that one. Also yes: this week's flashback was the weakest in a long time as it didn't really have a whole lot to do with the plot of the episode, minus Mei's words to Oliver being the very things he said in the present-day. (I seriously kept thinking: "Can't I just see Deadshot's flashbacks please?")

      Thank you as always for your comments, Bri! <3

  7. This episode had me on the edge of my seat as Oliver is caught between two incredibly difficult forces and at the moment, the whole situation feels really hopeless, there is no easy way out of this. It felt quite classic with the Police chasing The Arrow and that whole action sequence was really gripping. I thought Team Arrow had it tough end of last season, but this season has really upped the stakes in a completely different way.

    Oliver Queen has been keeping a low profile in the public eye, but this episode he was completely exposed, everything was stripped away to leave a man that has an incredibly difficult choice to make and as hard as that is to contemplate, the positive I'm taking from it is that now it seems he has nothing left to hide, so when he does come back from this, whether it be in the finale, or in the next season, I will be excited to see his evolution. While this season has been messy at times, there is one thing that has been consistent and building in a wonderful way and that is Oliver Queen. Amell has played him to perfection and I can't wait to see what happens next.

    On the lighter side, I love Mama Smoak, a few golden truth nuggets and bam! the Raylicity ship has sunk! While I did not mind the Ray scenes, he was quite upbeat despite his critical health, he didn't need to bring any levity, Mama Smoak's had that in spades and in a much more effortless way.

    Overall it felt like a nice build-up to what looks to be one of the most toughest challenges Oliver Queen has to face, and I thought it couldn't get any worst than being stabbed and thrown off a cliff.

    Sitara x

    1. Hi again, Sitara!

      This episode was SO action-packed that it kept me on the very edge of my seat, too. It was intense. And it felt very much like an action movie. Even though a lot happened, the plot wasn't tied to dialogue or exposition, really, which was nice because we just got the chance to actually watch everything unfold.

      ...the positive I'm taking from it is that now it seems he has nothing left to hide, so when he does come back from this, whether it be in the finale, or in the next season, I will be excited to see his evolution.

      This is a really good point, actually. Oliver has spent the last three years hiding -- under a mask, under a hood, in a cave, etc. -- and now he's totally exposed. He's got nothing left to hide and nowhere else to hide. So what happens when you're completely exposed like that? It has to change you. So like you, I'm really interested to see how this allows Oliver to develop throughout the remainder of the season and next year, too.

      MAMA SMOAK. She was such a literal and figurative bright spot in an otherwise really heavy episode. (And yeah, Ray is a bit over-the-top so I believed that he was really bubbly and energetic but only to a point. Dude, you're not immortal here.)

      The next few episodes are going to be insane, so I'm looking forward to how this set the precedent for what's to come. As always, thanks for your comments! :)