What Do You Want To Be Called?

Oliver: The city still needs saving. But not by the Hood. Or some vigilante who’s just crossing names off a list. It needs something more.

Diggle: It needs a hero, Oliver.

Felicity: It’s too bad The Hoods kind of ruined your nickname.

Oliver: No, it’s good. I don’t want to be called The Hood anymore.

Diggle: Okay. So what do you want to be called?

Choosing a name, finding an identity, takes time.  A person doesn’t just turn from a playboy to a vigilante because he killed a bird and put some muscle on.  Yes, Oliver kills a chicken (and puts some muscle on), and he learns from these experiences…but Oliver also kills a person out of instinct (at the end of season 1), then Oliver kills out of desperation, fury, anger, and hatred, and he begins killing to survive. He is changing. That is the genius of this show…it shows the that the whole thing is a process, a change in body, mind, soul, focus…everything.    At first Oliver is just learning to survive…he sits on the life raft waiting for dad to solve the problem (that doesn’t work out), he kills a chicken for food and realizes that survival takes sacrifice, he learns to survive under authority (following Slade around), and then on the boat he has to begin stitching up his own wounds. 

Oliver’s process from surviving to vigilante is slow and intertangled with a lot of complicated events/memories.  The process of becoming a hero is even more complex and requires more than just one person, and, to become a superhero, everything has to come together with just the right balance of right and wrong, self-reliance and dependence, fight and flight, reality and dreams.  

What do you want to be called?  A survivor? A vigilante? A hero? A superhero?  You won’t get there over night…it’s a process that takes time, sacrifice, many changes in identity, and a lot of help from others.  It is not easy to go through but it is possible.



Diggle – I’ve never seen you spooked like this before.

Oliver – Well, that should tell you something.

 If you notice a change in someone…it means something.  When people are upset, frazzled, frustrated, angry, or “spooked,” as Diggle says here, then something is wrong.   It could be something from their past that is making them uncomfortable.  It could be an anticipation of harm to come.  It could be uncertainty.  But no matter what the cause, there is meaning behind it and I think most often this is linked to fear (more on fear).  Whether we agree with the persons fear or not we should take them seriously and treat them (and their anxiety, fear, frustration) respectfully, because it is real, a part of them, and it can tell us something.

Worse than Death

“It should have been me.” ~Oliver

Death is not a fear for Oliver…in fact (as Slade says in the end) Oliver would welcome death.  He wants a release.  He wanted it to be himself instead of Tommy.  He wakes up in the episode where his mom shot him and says “I guess I didn’t die…again.”  Oliver lives with things much worse than death (like being forced to choose who lives Sarah or Shadow…that is truly an impossible decision and one that Oliver will feel the effects of forever, even though he couldn’t have done anything differently.)  It’s interesting because Slade is aware of this.  He is out to destroy Oliver…not his life (death would be a release)…but his soul.  Not cool.  I think intentionally causing harm to someone’s soul is much worse then causing a death.

Secrets Have Weight

Felicity – Sarah Lance. Laurels sister.  The detective’s other daughter.  The one that you took on the Gambit with you even though you were dating Laurel at the time…which we never talk about…

Oliver – Felicity

Felicity – ah, ah…I’m sorry.  It’s just…isn’t she…isn’t she dead.  You told everyone that she died when the Gambit when down, that she drowned.

Diggle – You lied.

Oliver – …when the Gambit capsized…um…Sarah was pulled under.  It was so dark and cold and I thought she drowned…about a year later I saw her.

Diggle – You saw her where?  On the island, she drifted to the island too?

Oliver – Not exactly…

Felicity – Why didn’t you tell the Lances that she didn’t die on that boat? Laurel and Mr. Lance they blame you.

Oliver – It was my fault…what happened was my fault.

Diggle – Where has she been all these years Oliver!?

Oliver – I DON’T KNOW! Diggle, I swear to God.  I was sure she was dead.

Felicity – Do you have any happy stories?

Diggle – Alright, so just to make sure I understand this correctly, after not drowning when the Gambit went down, Sarah didn’t exactly make it to the island with you, where you would see her die yet again.  Feel free to fill in the blanks!

Oliver – Not right now.

Diggle – You mean not ever, don’t you Oliver

Felicity – Don’t you think her family had a right to know she made it to the island too?

Oliver – THESE WERE FIVE YEARS!  Five years!…where nothing good happened!  And they were better off not knowing.

Diggle – Do they deserve to know now?

Oliver – I need to take care of some business at the office.

…  …

Diggle – You know Oliver, somebody once told me that secrets have weight. The more you keep the harder it is to keep moving.

Oliver – You see how hard I work out.

I really like this scene because it shows how incredibly complicated the whole situation is.  I mean really, what is Oliver supposed to do…just start telling stories.  No way.  Not only are the stories too hard for him to tell but they are too complicated as well.  Without him adding a whole bunch of “rabbit-hole” stories how could he possibly explain the whole situation.  Knowing what we know with The God Perspective (about how Sarah was picked up by the boat and forced into a certain role and about how Oliver thought she was dead, went through a year of hell on the island, killed someone for the first time, lost his only two friends, only to be captured and find out that Sarah was alive and working with the people who captured him)…it is very, very complicated.  I don’t think it would be possible for him to explain all this in a way that made sense to others, even if, like Felicity and Diggle are, they were ready for what they would hear from Oliver if he told the whole story.

However, from Diggle’s perspective it is all very frustrating because nothing Oliver is saying makes any sense…in fact it is pretty comical.  I love how he says, “Alright, so just to make sure I understand this correctly, after not drowning when the Gambit went down, Sarah didn’t exactly make it to the island with you, where you would see her die yet again.  Feel free to fill in the blanks!”  It’s funny…because he states all the facts he knows…but when looking at it from his perspective it makes zero sense. The little bit that Oliver is able to get out is so full of holes that it might as well be nothing at all.  And Oliver can’t explain anymore…I think because he is too exhausted from what he has already tried to explain.  His only response is…”not right now.”

It’s interesting because this scene takes almost the same route that a Harry Potter scene I really like (see essay Romanticizing Adversity).  Oliver starts by trying to explain…but he gets practically nothing out in words.  Others join in trying to understand but Oliver can’t say any more.  And then when pushed he just explodes.  With the basic underlying meaning of, “You don’t, and can’t possibly, understand.”  They respond again but completely off topic from where he is (they want to tell/help Laurel’s family…Oliver is still thinking about the island), to which Oliver just changes the topic.  This is a totally exhausting process for him. 

Diggle’s comment in the end is also really great.  I like the interchange about the secrets Oliver carries because Diggle is able to point out that they exist and that they are incredibly difficult to carry…but he doesn’t see/know what Oliver points out earlier in that the Lances are “better off not knowing.”  They are not yet ready for the whole story.  And Oliver points out that he knows he is carrying a lot of weight…he knows these secrets take so much of his time/energy/strength and that they are exhausting him. And he believes that it is worth the cost.  He is holding the secrets inside for a reason.  Take for example the beginning of this scene when Diggle tells him that he lied.  In Oliver’s mind he wasn’t really lying…he was telling the whole story…from what he understood Sarah died.  What did it matter how?  He knew it would be easier for people (and for him) to just think that she drowned and not have to go into all the details.

What Oliver doesn’t see, and isn’t able to do (yet), is that secrets can be delivered in parts.  He doesn’t have to tell the whole story to begin letting go of some of the secrets.  This is what he realizes later when he offers to talk to Diggle in the next episode.  And what he begins to see when Sarah reveals herself to her dad…but not to Laurel and without telling the whole story.  Oliver is learning in these two episodes that the story can be told in parts…and that is ok…and maybe even helpful.  He is learning to separate specific events from the entire experience.  What a huge thing to learn if he is dealing with flashbacks, emotions, positive and horrific memories.

This Is Real

Oliver – You were right to ask if I knew more than I was letting on.  I’ve seen men with abilities like that before.

Felicity – You have!? Where?

Oliver – The island.  My second year marooned there we…I came across the remains of a Japanese World War II military project.  It was a serum designed to create human weapons.

Diggle – Human weapons!  My God what’s next, aliens?

Oliver – This is real, Diggle.  Those five years I was away I came across things that just defy explanation.  

It’s interesting, as a metaphor, to note that the things Oliver tells Felicity and Diggle in this scene seem “ridiculous.”  I think a lot of things we run into in life seem ridiculous and far fetched.  That’s why other people’s life stories are so interesting…they are all different, fascinating, and full of experiences that we have not had.  This can be a good thing because it encourages us to stop and listen to someone else’s story…but at the same time we have to be careful that we do not romanticize what they have been through.  Looking at Oliver it is easy to think, “Wow!  His experiences are amazing!” but would we actually want to experience them?  As they say in Harry Potter…”Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was.”

(Check out this essay for more on the subject of Romanticizing Adversity)

From Vigilante to Hero

Tommy –  “Get up Oliver.”

Oliver – “Tommy? Tommy I’m sorry.  I let you die.”

Tommy – “You didn’t let me die Oliver.  You fought to save me because that’s what you do, what you have always done.  You fight to survive.  I know I called you a murderer but you are not.  You are a hero.  You beat the island.  You beat my father.  So fight Oliver.  Get up and fight back.” 

In this episode the three ghosts that appear to Oliver are saying some very interesting things. Shadow appears to Oliver essentially saying “stop trying”, Slade “you’ve failed”, and Tommy “fight on/back”.  There really is a lot of symbolism here. 

First off…these responses are accurate to how Oliver lost each of these characters.  Shadow was taken from him in a situation where he could do absolutely nothing.  Trying harder wouldn’t have helped.  “Saving” Slade was a failure (to Oliver).  It turned Slade into something else and the loss of Shadow permanently traumatized Slade (which of course Oliver sees has his fault…another failure).  And Tommy was lost when Oliver was trying, trying very hard to save the city, the glades, his friends. 

The whole episode is a really cool transition in the show. I mean during the pilot episode Oliver was this broken person back from the island who just killed to try to avenge…something.  Along the way Diggle began to teach him and try to get him to open up.  His flashbacks slowly began to turn to memories…and then he lost Tommy.  So what does he do?  He returns to the island.  He has to be drug back out of that place and given a new focus.  So he starts adapting to the new focus of justice without killing.  This doesn’t always work out but he is trying, and, he is starting to open up.  He tells Diggle and Felicity about Sarah.  He talks to Diggle about what really happened on the island. And now in this episode we find him actually referring to people he knew on the island (and he refers to them as friends).  His memories are muddling into flashbacks/hallucinations again but I think that is natural…it’s part of the transition.  And this episode is the first time Olive is focused on as a “hero” instead of a “vigilante” or “crazy” or whatever else.  It is stated multiple times that he is a hero.  It is the beginning of the transition from Oliver the vigilante to Oliver the hero…then eventually/hopefully they will work their way toward Oliver the superhero. 

This quote from Tommy, and much of the episode, is planting a new identity for Oliver.  Oliver is a survivor, a fighter, not a murderer, not a vigilante…he is a hero.  Tommy calls him to fight back, and not for his own survival…for the survival of others.  It’s other focused.  The first step in being a hero.

Hit Me

Roy – Thea you’re angry….at your mother, the D.A, yourself maybe. But that anger is going to chew up your insides if you don’t let it out.

Thea – I’m not going to hit you Roy.

Roy – Try

 I actually think Roy is right here.  He talks about how the anger inside of Thea needs to get out somehow or it’s going to burn her up.  I think he is not only right in this but I also think it is admirable of him to let her punch him.  Why?  For a two reasons…First, because Thea will not punch Roy to hurt Roy.  She will not get addicted to punching this way because she will always hold something back.  She has a way to let out some intense anger in a safe way.  Secondly because it allows Thea the arms she will need to collapse into when she has exhausted her anger.  Roy is right there for her…when she’s mad and when she falls apart.  Good job Roy.