Blood on Your Hands

“The bomber was Kat Su Chang but make no mistake this blood is on your hands.”

There is some really skillful abuse and manipulation going on in this scene.  Look closely at how things play out.  First, Oliver is asked to torture the guy to find out where the bomb is.  He can’t do it.  The bomb goes off and kills a bunch of people.  Oliver feels terrible about it and the ARGUS lady tells him that IT IS HIS FAULT, therefore reinforcing his feelings of uncertainty and guilt.  Then she “give him another chance” and trains him to think that torture is the best option.  Oliver, of course, doesn’t want to feel responsible for the loss of more lives, so he complies.  Then extending things to the present day torture becomes part of his instincts, one of his immediate reactions, part of his survival skills.

It is easy to understand how Oliver would fall into this trap because he feels so bad about the bomb going off and wishes he could do something.  The person training him at the time, the ARGUS lady, says he can do something (get information out of people through torture), so he does.  The key here is that he believes, and is told to believe, that it is his fault and the deaths are on his hands.  But were these deaths really HIS fault?  Certainly not any more than they were her fault and much less than the person who planted the bomb. This is a classic misplacement of blame that often happens in abuse and bad training.  It shows the importance of who we receive our training from because what they teach us often becomes ingrained very deeply.

Nothing Left but “The Arrow”

Oliver – To do what I do Berry, it takes conviction, but more often than not it’s the will to do what’s ugly.  Every time I do that I’m…I’m trading away little pieces of myself. So you asked what’s wrong with me…that’s what’s wrong.  The part that I’m trading away is Oliver Queen.  And lately I’ve been feeling like there’s nothing left except The Arrow.

Barry – I think you’re full of crap.  Look you’ve convinced yourself that everything you went through took away your humanity, but I think it’s because of your humanity that you made it through.  You wouldn’t have survived, much less come out the other end a hero, somebody who wants to do good, if you didn’t have a light inside of you.

 I like this quote and I think they are both right.  Oliver is giving away pieces of himself when he “has the will to do what’s ugly.”  And that is most certainly how it feels to him. If he continues on this path for too long and without people to ground him (like Diggle) he would end up as purely “The Arrow.”  This is what he has been cautioned about all through this season (that he will die alone, that he bottles things up (like Sara’s death), that he doesn’t allow himself to be a blend of Oliver and Arrow).  Pushing the “Oliver” part of him out will not do him any good…but neither will pushing the “Arrow” part out.  

Barry is also right though.  Arrow/Oliver has convinced himself that he “has become something else” in a bad way.  He hasn’t found the balance.  He hasn’t realized that it is the Oliver part of him that has offered light all these years and the “Arrow” part that has helped him make it through.  Oliver is not gone…the playboy is…but Oliver Queen the hero is the light that is pushing him to become something more.  Finding balance is key in becoming a Hero.

Quiet Your Mind

“You saw something but your head is too busy.  You need to quite it.” ~ Japanese (wife) girl

This seems to be very applicable to our society today.  We all seem to have way to much going on most of the time…we can’t quite our bodies/minds/thoughts.  I think it is interesting that they put this “quieting of the mind” as part of Oliver’s survival training.  It’s a good metaphor for the “controlling your thoughts” idea, being able to focus your mind and not just run about frantically in survival mode (which is so instinctual).

How to Teach You

“See before you were swinging at your sister’s killer. Don’t train for that, it’s a target you’re never going to hit. Alright, train for yourself.  See, now I know how to teach you.” ~ Laurel’s Coach

When we have a context for what someone is going through it is a lot easier to know how to guide them.  We know this in minor terms in life such as the teacher knowing that what happened at a child’s home affects how their school day will go, or a person sitting in the hospital waiting room is probably on edge…but we seem to forget it in the sense of daily life and in the sense that every person, and every life, is affected by millions of influences.

This quote from the boxing teacher is a good reminder that we don’t know everything about others and we have to be careful about what we say.  It is also a good reminder that the person transitioning into the survival stage is relying heavily on instinctual reactions (Laurel is the perfect example of this instinctual/reactive behavior in this episode and in the one where she attacks the boyfriend of the girl from the AA meeting) AND the person in the survival stage needs training. If they expect to get good training they have to let the trainer in.  Oliver let Slade in, Thea let Malcom in.  It can be hard to trust someone when you are broken and just beginning to learn to survive, however the better our teachers/trainers/guides know us the more they can cater our training.

Refusing to be Broken

Boyfriend: All I’m doing is unleashing the true potential of what you made.
Felicity: Why, this isn’t who you are.
Boyfriend: 5 years for the NSA, you learn a lot about how the world works. How we can’t be saved or salvaged.  How it is every man for himself.  You also learn that when a city bank goes under a, say, significant cyber attack, the mayor will reach out to the treasury department.

First, this is very classic abusive, trying to turn the ill-will and actions of yourself off onto the other person as if they are responsible. Obviously not a good guy at heart.

Secondly, what phase is he in?  Playboy? Broken?  I don’t think he is surviving.  He isn’t really trained.  Looking more closely I’d say he is still in the playboy phase and is refusing to be broken, kinda like Laurel was in the beginning of season 2.  He is totally unaware of so much (what he is up against, who can stop him, or even that Felicity’s mother has a watch with wifi), he can’t do anything on his own (I mean he has to kidnap Felicity), even his goal is very small, uncreative, and has little heart or passion behind it.  It’s like he was immediately removed from jail to work for the NSA and so he never had to face the reality of what he did.  He never broke…but he is resentful and now he is more of a puppet.  A true villain like Slade) could use him as a pawn but on his own he is kinda pitiful (even Felicity could take him out).  This is the danger of not allowing yourself to be broken.  Laurel was there (with the alcohol and pain killers) but she eventually allowed herself to feel, it broke her…but now it has allowed her to move into survival, and hopefully on to much more.  Noone likes to be broken but if we avoid this phase we can never move past it.  The extent to which we are broken is the extent of a hero we can become.

Two Names

“You can’t live by two names” ~ Chinese Man (Oliver’s Handler)

The first episode of Arrow season three is quite different than many of the previous episodes.  So much of this episode is peaceful…everything the viewer has been waiting for is happening, the characters are happy, Oliver and Felicity are dating, the bad guy is quickly caught…it really is “The Calm”.  

With this in mind, there was one quote in this episode that I found especially interesting.  On first glance, “You can’t live by two names,” seems to be a proverb that everyone would smile and nod along with it but with some deeper reflection this quote is in fact the theme of the episode (and possibly this season).  It is reflecting on the conflict between Oliver and Arrow, between normal life and complexity, between what is would be like to be a typical person verses the complexity of heroism.

So what does “You can’t live by two names” really mean…I think it can mean many different things…

  1. For Island/Hong Kong Oliver – it means you don’t have a choice.
  2. For Arrow/Oliver facing his fear – it means he recognizes that conflict within himself. His greatest fear is himself (That is a really fascinating greatest fear by the way).  Oliver/Arrow doesn’t know how to be two people.  He is scared of what he could become, what he could do, what he could lose, what he might choose.  He is scared of the two people he is and doesn’t know how to blend them together.  In this case the quote means that in order to truly understand yourself you must understand yourself as a whole…not as two separate entities.
  3. For Arrow being recognized by Officer Lance – He is recognized but still in disguise…this means it’s all romanticized. Would people really accept him if they knew who the Arrow was? It means you can’t be two people, and if you are others are offended that you were hiding things from them, no matter how little they know you.
  4. For Arrow and Felicity – Oliver has lived mostly as The Arrow with Felicity. He wants to be a normal person but that doesn’t blend well with The Arrow.  He will either have to learn to balance his two identities, or, choose one.  It means you can’t live as two separate people.  This is the same type of issue they explored in the new Batman films.  In batman’s case he was unable to balance Bruce Wane and Batman, and it tore him apart…hopefully it will be different for Arrow/Oliver
  5. For Diggle – He is a father now. What is truly going to take priority in his life?  He can go out risking his life every night and be a caring father as well. In this case it means we have to choose a priority.
  6. For Lance – He is transitioning to a new identity now…(Launce) “I’ve been a cop since before you and your sister were born. It’s all I know. If I’m not a cop…what am I?” (Laurel)“You’re my father…and I need you.”  Sometimes you can physically be two things.  In this case the quote means we have physical limitations. (as a side note I think it is cool that Laurel is helping him find a new identity…she is not letting him get lost or be without purpose)
  7. For Felicity – she can’t take the up and down and back and forth. She is either with Oliver or it is NEVER a possibility.  In this case the quote means the up and down, in and out, yes and then no…hurts.

Balance is a pretty interesting theme and certainly a necessary component in becoming a hero.  I look forward to seeing what more they do this season.

Words

The Reverend Prisoner – “Have faith my friend. God will Protect you.”

The Gambling Prisoner – “There is no God, and if there was, He’s not on this ship.”

 Good quote!  Oh, how I wish I could explain to people the damage they do when saying things like “God will protect you.”  You’ve got to be kidding me.  What is the Russian/gambling prisoner supposed to think about God in this circumstance…he is about to be tortured and if he was tortured, or if he had died, does that mean God didn’t protect him!?  If it does it would lead any logical person to conclude that God doesn’t care about them.  We really have to watch what is implied behind the “Christian words”  we speak and stop to consider what message we really intend to send the person and what message is communicated beneath the surface of our words.

(for more on this subject check out Room in the Church and Failure Redeemed)