“In Roman Times the criminal was branded to identify his crimes to the world and to forever remind him of what he’d done. Shadow wore this tattoo on her back and now you shall wear it for the rest of your life.” ~Slade
I thought it was really interesting how Oliver gets his first tattoo. I remember seeing that tattoo on Shadow’s back in the first season and I assumed that later Oliver would become part of Shadow’s gang/family or whatever. Slade tattooing it on Oliver as a forced reminder of failure is interesting and took me by surprise. It is a good metaphor for a lot of things.
First, we want others to feel our loss when we are hurt. Slade is trying to force Oliver to feel his pain.
Second, tragic events are with us forever…like tattoos. There are both sad and happy memories embedded in the ink and the image/memory may fade but the event itself, how it affects us and changes our life, will always be a part of us. Oliver’s just happens to be visible to the rest of us.
And Third, Oliver has yet another reminder of his failures. In this case however…unlike the arrow in his shoulder scar, the scars from being tortured, or scars from being shot and having to sew himself back together… Shadow’s death was not something that was solely thrust up on him. He had a role (all-be-it a very small one) in her death…and so he feels guilt as well. The other scars Oliver has (so far in the flashbacks) are not attached to guilt…this one is. It is a very difficult thing to have a constant reminder of your failures in your face. I look back now at the pilot episode where Oliver is looking at himself in the mirror and see even more how much he has to process though just in seeing his own reflection.