People You Love

“I don’t want to be a person that you love.” ~Felicity

This is the second time Felicity has rejected Oliver (the first time being when he kissed her) and I think this is a good lesson for Oliver (and for us).  What exactly do we usually define as “love.”  Felicity is calling Oliver out on this.  He claims to love others but is what he does and how he treats those he loves really love?  

Oliver has been stuck in the “Playboy” stage in the department of relationships for most of the show.  He always “gets the girl”…until now.  I think it’s good for Oliver to hear about the damage he is causing in his relationships department.  Felicity is right.  She is calling him out on his playboy attitude and Oliver has the experiential knowledge to know better.  He is acting like a playboy when he should know better.   He claimed to love Laurel…that sure didn’t go well.  Then he claimed to love Sarah but she takes off with no objection from him.  He says he loves Thea, and no one could say that taking her place with Ras-Al-Goul wasn’t a demonstration of love…but is he really doing that for Thea or is he doing it for the people of Starling city that would die if he didn’t, or is he doing it because he doesn’t want to get hurt and it is easier to die?  After all, at this point, he is lying to Thea every day.  And finally, he flippantly kisses Felicity in the beginning of the season and then says he loves her before going off to die at the hands of Ras.  This is inconsiderate of how his actions/words/death would affect Felicity.  Good for her in calling him out.  Maybe he can start transitioning toward hero in his relationships as well.

On a more practical note…I think this is really similar to what many of us do in real life.  We act like playboys (saying cliché phrases like…”there’s a plan for everything,” or “it’ll all be ok.”) when we know better.  Those who are NOT playboys should not act like they are…yet I think we do because it is easy, the playboy stage was the last time we “knew everything” and we are taught to speak like a playboy rather than use our experiences to step up, acknowledge the truth, and help others (bad training).  I wonder why we make ignorant unhelpful comments sometimes…why do we present ourselves as if we know it all (Playboys).  Personally I would rather be seen as Broken, Surviving or even a Vigilante than as an ignorant Playboy. (click here for the Stages in Becoming a Superhero)

A Fraction of what Happened

Oliver – “Why didn’t you tell me about any of this?”

Felicity – “Do we even know a fraction of what happened to you during the 5 years on that island?”

Woah, Touche!  Good Job Felicity…a good reminder of many things…

First off, That everyone opens up in their own time.

Secondly, WE don’t know what others have in their past and we may be better teachers and better role models as well as more willing to open up ourselves if we remember that others have scars too.

Thirdly, our scars are a part of us whether they are seen or not.  Oliver has scars all over his body…we don’t see them nearly as much anymore but they are still there (yes, that sentence is both literal and metaphorical), Felicity, Diggle, Laurel, all of the other characters have scars too…they may not be visible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Finally, this quote is a good reminder of “if we don’t ask, they won’t say.” (especially when talking about heroes).   I don’t think true heroes go around spouting off their experiences…most heroes have been through too much, lost too much, and seen too much to consider what they are/do to be heroic or even a good idea to talk about.  When someone stays quite, shuns recognition, it is probably a big sign that they are a hero or at the very least that they have been through something that has made them see the complexity of the world.

Felicity is right, they don’t know even a fraction of what Oliver went through on the island, and Oliver knows even less about Felicity’s past.  I think someone in Oliver’s situation, with Oliver’s experiences understands the impact of scars and experiences very deeply…so if even he can forget why someone wouldn’t open up and talk about them freely…how much more must we forget to think of others and what they are NOT saying.

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.

You Learn Not to Judge

Felicity: Turns out he is not as dead as I thought.
Oliver: I’ve had some experience with that. You learn not to judge.

This is something I’ve liked from the beginning about Oliver’s character. His experiences on the island and beyond humbled him and made him realize his own potential for good and evil and seemed to reconcile him with others’ as well. He doesn’t judge others readily.

They Shaped the Person You Are Today

“Felicity, I want you to know that whatever experiences you had to go through I’m glad that you did because they shaped the person you are today.  And you know how I feel about her.” ~ Oliver

At first glance this quote appears to be a little bit cheesy, however if you look beneath the obvious reminder of affection Oliver is saying something much bigger than the cheesy “I like who you are.” (which when recovering from hardship usually a helpful reminder) He is saying something about himself.  Do you remember last season when Oliver is insistent on helping Roy? Here is the quote in case you don’t…

Diggle – “And that’s why it’s so important to you to get through to Roy.”

Oliver – “I lived a five year nightmare, but if I learned something that can help me reach Roy now…It’ll be worth it.”

This quote has the same idea is less aware and more instinctually reactive.  the current episode, with the more recent quote, shows that Oliver is able now to recognize that his island experiences are an IMPORTANT part of him.  They don’t just make “Arrow,” amazing training, or the ability to dodge bullets…they make HIM.  And even more importantly, which I think he says subconsciously and doesn’t fully realize yet, He loves Felicity BECAUSE of her scars/past…just like we love Oliver BECAUSE of his scars.  These “shameful/damaging things from the past” are part of us and with the right kind of person they make us love the other more. 

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.

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.