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.