This scene was the final nail in the proverbial coffin of Arrow’s Feels Fiesta in their 100th episode. After the gut wrenching scenes between Oliver and his family and Oliver’s brave and selfless decision to leave this fantasy world where he was a regular guy. A world where he was not crippled by emotional trauma (and physical one too, come to think of it) or where he carried physical representation of the horrors he’s had to endure for a decade.
Just before he leaves back for “the real world” Oliver turns around and sees projections? Hallucinations? Holograms? of the people he loves most. Granted it’s not a complete cast of people because 3 other people Oliver loves dearly just left through the portal. He doesn’t need a reminder of Thea, John and Sara because he got them back within this bizarro world.
But the rest of them? The people Oliver sees in front of him in that gif? - They are people he can’t get back. His parents, Tommy, and Laurel are dead. Roy and Felicity are unattainable to him in the way that he needs them. Roy can’t be by his side, can’t be his friend and brother anymore because Roy chose to save Oliver’s life at the expense of his own and had to run. Felicity is in Oliver’s life but not in the way Oliver would like - she’s his friend and partner, yes, but that’s not enough. It probably never will.
So it makes sense that Oliver would see these people at such a pivotal moment of his life. A moment where he embraces who he is. All of who he is, and a moment which is undoubtedly one of the most painful things he’s ever had to do, because he has to let his family go. And while it wouldn’t be the first time he’s lost them, it’ll most certainly be the first time Oliver chose to leave them.
Remember Oliver’s words to Barry in the previous part of the crossover (The Flash 3x08)? - “I had no choice” / “I was helpless”. Because all these losses (even in part, the loss of Felicity) were beyond Oliver’s control. Someone else decided to take these people away from Oliver and he had no say in the matter: Robert killed himself, Dahrk killed Laurel, Roy, Felicity and Diggle faked Roy’s death and helped him flee, Slade murdered Moira, Malcolm’s Undertaking killed Tommy, and Felicity was the one who decided to break things off.
So in many ways this scene is about Oliver letting them go. It’s about Oliver accepting that loss and making a conscious decision to move on. One that broke his heart, but one that needed to be done nevertheless.
And yet… It’s not exactly that. Because there is someone in that group of people that doesn’t fit the “people Oliver has lost” category. That person is Felicity. She is very much in Oliver’s life. She’s maybe not his girlfriend or fiancee anymore, but she is his partner and his friend. She is in Oliver’s life in ways that the rest of the charaters in this group aren’t. Another thing that distinguishes Felicity from the rest of them is her placement.
Moira, Tommy, Laurel, Roy and Robert are all standing at the bottom of the stairs. On the ground at an eye level with Oliver. Felicity is the only one who towers several steps above them all. Practically speaking? - There’s no reason for this. There’s plenty of space where the rest of the characters are. They would have only needed to have Moira take 2-3 steps to the left to accomodate Felicity. I’ll admit I haven’t quite figured out what the meaning of this positiong is because I am still wrapping my head around this maginificent masterpiece of an episode. And before you say, “she’s the love of his life” (which she undoubtedly is) I think there’s more to it than simply that. The argument of “she’s the most important woman in his life” doesn’t work for me either. Because there are several women who take top priority on Oliver Queen’s list and those are Moira, Thea and Felicity. I’d even go as far as to include Sara in this list (less so Laurel) beacuse of how intricately linked Oliver and Sara’s journey’s are and how the characters mirror each other in so many ways.
To quote Olivanders though, it only gets “curioser and curioser” as this scene continues. Because these characters get to “speak” and we get to have a closer look at
their horrible cgi effects them. I have stared at this gif for the longest time trying to figure out the order these characters have been placed in. They weren’t going for symmetry or the boy/girl thing. They weren’t going for a chronological order of Oliver’s losses. And really, there’s nothing that makes sense while you look at the six of them as a group. But once you break them down to two groups of men / women things suddenly clear up.
We start with Moira. It makes sense that she’ll be the first. For one, Arrow started with this very same image - Oliver’s mother. Oliver’s mother and their love for one another. There are very few things in this world that are more precious and more revered than a mother’s love for her child. And regardless of all the questionable, bad choices Moira has done in her life, she loved her children fiercely. Her words to Oliver are a combination of several seasons. The first and last words she ever said to him: “You’ll never be without me, my beautiful boy.” and “there is nothing else to be said, except I could not be more proud”.
Then we move straight to Felicity. We hear her before we see her. She continues right where Moira left off and just like Moira her words to Oliver echo several seasons. Season 4′s “you’ve become something else. You’ve become someone else” which in itself is an idea so deeply rooted into Oliver’s own mind. That somehow he is two people and those two people cannot live in the same body. Then she echoes her words that gave Oliver hope when there was none to be had. She says “You honour the dead by fighting and you are not done fighting” which is especially poignant given the context of the scene it’s in. Oliver surrounded by his dead loved ones. People he loved, lost and wants to so desperately do right by. Even in their death.
Felicity’s words are a schism. She is simultaneously Oliver’s self doubt and Oliver’s hope. And maybe that’s why she’s standing above everyone else. Because while Robert, Moira, Tommy, Roy and Laurel are reminders of what and who Oliver has lost, Felicity is a reminder of what he has gained. Of what he can look forward to. Of his mission and desire to do good which are not solely fueled by his father’s words anymore. And frankly, there is no one more fitting to represent that growth for Oliver. Especially since she is the one who prompted and inspired him to help people outside his list.
Lastly, there’s Laurel, quite possibly the most turbulent of Oliver’s relationships for reasons that are 95% Oliver’s own fault. In an episode where Laurel was the symbol of a “what if” and a “what could have been” in a way that was extremely reminiscent of those early days on the Island where Oliver used to stare at her photo and build her up as his perfect, unattainable love, Laurel’s words to Oliver in that moment are a stark contrast to it all. Beacuse “I know who you are in your bones, Oliver, and that person doesn’t give up” are the first words Laurel told him since Slade outed his identity to her. It’s the first time on the show that Laurel saw Oliver for who he is, instead of the man he used to be or the one Laurel thought he was.
They are especially important coming off the back of Oliver breaking Laurel’s heart again in this bizarro world by running off to go back home. Because Oliver of days past would have taken this opportunity to hate himself and be hard on himself and convince himself that he is underserving of forgiveness and incapable of growth. So hearing Laurel say this is not only an acknowledgement that he finally heard Laurel, but that he also understood what she was trying to tell him. Just as much as his acknowledgement that the Laurel he knew, the real Laurel would not hold this particular separation against him. And that she would have done the same thing in his shoes, because they both share that same pig-headed stubborness that doesn’t let them give up on anything.
Moving on to the gents.
We start with Tommy. The most important man in Oliver’s life. Oliver’s first brother (because Digg is his brother too. and so is Roy). Oliver’s oldest and closest friend and incidentally, one of Oliver’s biggest regrets. Not Tommy or their friendship, but rather the way Oliver handled it after his return home. Tommy’s words are a curious thing though. He’s the only character whose words haven’t actually been spoken by him on the show. Tommy’s “I know I called you a murder but you are not. You are a hero” are of the time Oliver hallucinated him while fighting Cyrus Gold. They are Oliver’s wish of what Tommy could have come to say one day if they ever got the chance to reconcile, had Tommy been alive. Tommy is an echo of Sara’s words to Laurel “some things you just can’t fix”. Tommy is to Oliver what Laurel is to Sara. Unfixable. One regret no amount of self acceptance and self care will ever cure. Tommy is a representation of that bone deep dull pain of losing someone you love, but learning to live with it. Tommy is the manifestation of the fact that even though Oliver learns to move on, the sting of the loss and its heaviness would always be there.
After Tommy follows Roy. Roy Harper. The first person Oliver took under his wing. Someone who put his life in Oliver’s hands and who Oliver feels he has failed. So Roy’s words of “You saved my life, you gave me purpose. It’s time we get to save you.” are a reminder to him that much like Digg, Felicity, Thea and Sara (and even Laurel) Roy makes and has made his own choices. That as much damage as Oliver thinks he’s done to this boy he’s also done an equal if not greater good to him. And in many ways, Roy learned the same lessons Oliver had to much quicker than Oliver did. And that just like Roy grew from this jaded, angry young man that Oliver saw so much of himself in, just as Roy learned to overcome his own fears and horrors, so can Oliver. So will Oliver. If throughout the first 3 season Oliver was Roy’s inspiration it is now Roy’s turn to inspire Oliver.
And lastly, Robert. Robert is the last person who speaks to Oliver which in so many ways brings Oliver and his journey full circle, because it was Robert who started Oliver on this quest to be better. On the quest to live. Robert’s words “This is your responsibility now” are more approving than demanding which again, is a very stark contrast to Robert’s last words to Oliver. His downright aggressive and insistent “Survive!” - not a plea, not a request, but an order. Oliver finally chose to accept this responsibility in 5.08 rather than have it thrust upon him by one person or the other. So Robert’s words are in many ways a parting blessing from a father to his son, but at the same time they are also a reminder that Oliver can now truly start to honour his father. Because not only will he be fulfilling Robert’s dying wish of cleaning their home of corruption and crime, but he will also be doing it the right way and for the right reasons. Oliver’s heart is finally in what he does.
In many ways each of these people represents a season of Arrow. Obviously, Robert is the representation of season 1 - so much of it revolved around Oliver’s promise to his father. About making sure his father’s sacrifice was worth it. That Robert’s judgement call was not for nothing.
Tommy and Moira represent Season 2 - the season which revolved around Oliver’s vow to Tommy that he will not kill anymore. That he will honour his best friend’s memory and their friendship in the only way he knows how. Then there’s Moira and how much her loss hurt. And yet, by the end of the season Oliver not only honoured Tommy, but his mother as well. Because he chose to be the bigger person, to take the high road, to show mercy instead of cruelty.
Then there’s Laurel and Roy - the manifestation of season 3. A season where they came to be into the heroes that they are. A season that was all about finding your identity and gritting your teeth and plowing through the pain to move forward. They are also two people who Oliver took under his wing and failed. Much like he failed himself in trying to be “two people”.
Season 4 - Felicity. How Oliver adopted a more optimistic and accepting outlook. How he finally dared to want and work for his future. How he opened up his heart and loved and lost and hurt And yet, how despite all that he is still there and still fighting and still growing. A testament to his personal growth because where he would have run from his troubles in the past in this season he looked them in the eye and said “not a chance”.
And finally, there’s Oliver, looking teary eyed at the manifestation of his journey so far. Looking at the last decade of his life and deciding to cherish it instead of having it as a burden. To see the growth and self-value it granted him instead of the pain and suffering. Oliver is the representation of season 5 in this scene. Because he is his own legacy just as much as these people are his legacy. His actions, his choices. They are what matters. They are what will be left of him after he is gone. That is what will be remembered.
And with all of that Oliver steps into the light and goes home.