Last night episode was personally the best episode arrow has ever produced. This was a very deep character study of oliver queen. It tied perfectly to his time in the island, his state of mind when he came back to starling as the hood, and present day oliver. After all, they are the same man just in very different states of mind.
To understand this episode properly I think we must remember that for five years Oliver Queen was a slave of circumstances and others. For five years his entire existence was out of his control. He had no control over his circumstances, over his body, over how his body was shaped into a weapon and how his body was used as a means to an end. For five years Oliver Queen wasn’t treated as a human being but shaped into a weapon that you could use as you pleased to achieve whatever purpose you had.
That matters because all that contributed to how and why Oliver slowly but surely stopped seeing himself as a person as a human being. Instead for five years the darkest side of human nature were fostered and used and abused. He was constantly pushed into dark headspaces were he still had no control. Slowly he began to think of himself as a monster who carried great darkness with him. He began thinking he was irredeemable.
Talia confirmed that for him. She saw that monster and that darkness. And she provided him with a mask to channel that into action. Oliver bought into that. I think for him that was who he really was…he wasn’t someone he was something. something else. He was the weapon that was in the making for five years.
When Oliver came back to Starling city he really didn’t think himself as a person he thought of himself as something. Oliver Queen was just a vessel for the monster. He needed him because it gave him a form but really all he cared about was The Hood.
S1 Oliver probably did find pay off in killing and to an extent it did probably bring him a sort of enjoyment. Not in the sense that he wanted to kill just to kill but in the sense that he believed he was helping but also he was finally in control again. Killing gave him control. This is a man who for five years was used and abused and forced into a weapon. So yes, finally having control over your body and skills was probably exhilarating to him. S1 Oliver was darkness. He was a man who believed he was a monster and irredeemable but if he had to live he was going to be in control and try to do something good. That’s why he did. But at first he had no motivation to try to find another way because he had no concerns over his humanity simply because he didn’t believe he had one.
This is why s1 Oliver struggled so much with reconnecting with his family and friends. This is why s1 Oliver couldn’t trust his best friend, mother, and sister would love present day him because in his mind there was nothing left of that person. Now he was a weapon. He was darkness and a monster. He still loved them though. Oliver has always loved them. It doesn’t matter how people used him or how they destroyed his perception of himself the one thing he never lost was his ability to love his family and friends with everything he’s got. But even then he loved them in the best way he could and for him that was loving them by keeping them away from the monster he saw when he looked in the mirror. He wanted to let them believe he was still the man they loved and lost because that would help them. And he could give them that mask.
I think that changed slowly through Diggle & Felicity because Diggle & Felicity met Oliver at his lowest and darkest time. When he had given up on his humanity and his ability to be someone other than a weapon. Earning their trust and love changed him because they saw goodness in him. This was later extended to Tommy, Moira and Thea. Tommy finding out his secret and before he died telling him he wasn’t all those awful things. Moira telling him she knew and she was proud of him. Thea reacting with love, support, and pride when she found out about his secret. All these things scraped the rust that had formed over his perception of himself. So yes, he started to believe he is a hero and that made all the difference in his life. Oliver found a purpose in his mission of helping people.
Its a beautiful story because when Oliver told Prometheus his friends are his strength he wasn’t lying.
Oliver’s entire journey has been shaped by love. The love he has for his family and friends and the love they have for him. The love he has because at the end of the day he guarded this in the deepest part of his heart and never let anyone take that from him. He never stopped loving them. Their love for him because in a way it slowly began to rescue him. Their love prove to him that he was worth loving that he must have some light in him- even when he didn’t know what that was. He knew it was there.
Now the hardest part is that unfortunately that is all not enough. It is not enough if he can’t love himself. And at the end of the day that has always been Oliver’s biggest and hardest battle. The one within. Learning to love himself again. Learning to believe in himself again. Learning to see himself as someone who is human, flawed, but at the end of the day still good and worth it. This is all something Oliver has to do for himself. Felicity can’t do it for him. Thea can’t do it for him. Diggle can’t do it for him. It is something only Oliver Queen can do for himself.
I love Arrow and Oliver Queen because Oliver’s journey is one grounded on the resilience of the human soul and our ability to come back from the darkest of places and find goodness within ourselves. It is a journey about learning to love oneself despite our flaws and our darkest parts. It is about learning to harness the goodness and light without ignoring that most of us carry darkness within. It is about choosing to be good despite our losses, circumstances and flaws.
Oliver’s most courageous battle has always been the one to save himself.