Just wanted to put this out there. Writing it softened the blow of tonight’s episode. Wow, what a ride.
When there is something that motivates a person, rather it be a cause or a person or a goal, something that drives you to make a difference not only in your own life but in the lives of an entire city, that motivation defines you, it makes you a better person, a better friend or lover, a better husband or wife, a better man or woman. It makes you a better hero.
Oliver recognized this the first time he stepped away from his father’s list and saw that the whole city needed saving. It wasn’t just about stock portfolios and bank accounts,(as Felicity pointed out to him) it was about giving the citizens of Starling City the comfort of going about their daily lives without the threat of harm or darkness.
On the island, Oliver was motivated solely by surviving. Every day was a challenge for him. He went from a person who always had everything given and explained and resolved for him, to someone that was completely thrown into chaos and violence and the uncertainty if he would live or die. Basics needs like food, water, shelter and rest—they were luxuries he felt would never be a part of his life again. He experienced real loss, perhaps for the first time, when his father killed himself. Because of the shock and grief from that act, Oliver could not have imagined then that Robert’s death would be the first in a long line of traumas ahead for him. Also, for the first time, Oliver was completely alone, with no skills to survive.
That first year on the island, Oliver reminded me of Moses wandering in the desert, stripped of his humanity and privilege and purpose. The island was Oliver’s perdition. He was any empty vessel searching for a reason to keep living.
He needed motivation.
In that first year, key people came into Oliver’s life—Yao Fe, Slade Wilson, Shadoe; and later, Anatoli the return of Sara.
Yao Fe taught Oliver the concepts of loyalty, of when and what was worth fighting and dying for. He taught Oliver about survival, the ultimate kind. Oliver took that lesson and began to teach himself how to survive in harsh conditions.
Slade Wilson taught him how to fight physically. He taught Oliver the idea of brotherhood and camaraderie, how to work together as a team. The irony of these lessons would come back to haunt Oliver a few yearslater , birthed by the Dr. Ivo events.
Shadoe taught him how to use a bow, the discipline and practice it takes him to aim and shoot straight (he slapped a lot of water to learn this.)
She also taught Oliver about love, the romantic kind. It was compassion and tenderness and heartfelt—all the more when experiencing it in a pond on tropical island.
Anatoli taught Oliver about perseverance and comradeship. He taught him gratitude and the price of favors and promises.
And Sara? Well, when they met up again, she had developed her own burgeoning survival skills. She taught Oliver that sometimes making hard choices can be impossible. The choice Oliver made in saving Sara instead of Shadoe was purely instinct. Or maybe he was just standing closer to Sara. When Ivo pulled the trigger and killed Shadoe, everything Oliver had been taught up to that moment died with her. I think it might have been the first time he thought to himself—what is the point of being strong, of being a fighter and a lover and a brother, if I can’t protect those close to me. A few years later, Felicity asked him what would be the point if he lost himself in the process? In that moment when Shadoe died, Oliver was already lost, not just in the process but in his life. The morality and personal growth and voice of conscious that Felicity was talking was a dead body lying at his feet.
But out of that tragedy, Oliver felt a new motivation.
Sidenote: For the life of me, I could not remember the names of Masao’s wife and son. I drew a completed blank. I didn’t have time to look them up. I apologize for this discrepancy.)
The next stage in Oliver’s search for motivation was Hong Kong. It was there he learned about the importance of family.
Masao and his wife and son were the fulcrum of this lesson. Amanda Waller and Argus furthered Oliver’s skills as a weapon by darkening his character with assassination and torture. Even though Masao worked for Waller, he was the first person in Oliver’s odyssey who started to believe in him. After Oliver shook off the trauma he went through on the island and started to get involved in the well-being of Masao’s family, Oliver learned another concept—having a purpose. We saw for the first time his attempt to not only save Masao and his family, but an entire city from the virus that dickhead General intended to unleash. Oliver risked his life for this purpose. But he also lost more of his humanity by torturing and killing dickhead.
After Masao’s son died, Oliver found another motivation.
It is still to be shown the final outcome of Oliver’s time in Russia and whatever motivation he may have found before he returned back to the island, and then home to Starling City. But when he did return, all those things he was taught, they bent and forged and shaped him into a newer purpose—to right his father’s wrongs. He was a lethal weapon with a signature goal, to eradicate the criminal element that was corrupting his city. Yes, in that first year back, Oliver was dark and scary, but he had learned that helping people, no matter if had to kill, maim or otherwise, brought him the satisfaction of accomplishment.
Oliver found the motivation for that purpose.
The final pieces to Oliver’s of chosen journey was John DIggle and Felicity Smoak.
They were the incarnation of those hard earned lessons Oliver learned while he was away. They were the finalization of those realities called brotherhood, camaraderie, team—and most importantly, love. They helped him to shape the angry, violent man born on Lian Yu into the compassionate, dedicated and focused person that instilled awe.
Oliver found in John a warrior, a hero and a lifelong brother. He found a morality that was at first alien to him, but became a compass he would steer by going forward. He found in John someone who would never lie or lead Oliver astray, someone who would provide truth, even if that truth is painful.
And in Felicity, Oliver found the kind of love that goes so deep, nothing could ever overpower it and take it from him. Her tech savvy, her charm and wit, her intelligence, her beauty and her great capacity to love completely—gave Oliver a look into the kind of man he could and would become. Felicity was the lesson Shadoe taught him about caring for someone—times infinity. Oliver might have to go hungry and thirsty again, he might not have shelter to protect him from harsh elements. He might even get so weary that not even rest would make a difference. But his love and trust and need for Felicity gives him the ability to survive. Like Thea told him—love, in spite of it all, is what makes life precious. Felicity is why he takes a breath. It’s why he opens his eyes each morning and appreciates being alive. She is his search for beauty and she is that beauty. She is the light in the dark and it will always lead him back home.
And that is Oliver’s lasting motivation.
So Oliver has come a long way on this journey. Sometimes he can get in his own way. He can still disappoint and hurt and even betray those he loves. He’s not perfect. But he can also bring happiness and strength and peace to those in his life who might sometimes lose their way. From the jagged path he started on to the light of survival and redemption and hope, Oliver Queen: the Man, the Mayor, the Green Arrow and the Hero; that is what motivates a whole city to be stronger and kinder and empathic, to have love for their fellow man/woman.
This is why he will survive Adrian Chase. This is why he will come back.
He is still motivated to make a difference.