Kill Them First

“Now you face people who want to kill you.  To prevent that you must kill them first.” ~ Merlin

Spoken like someone who is controlled by fear.  I’ve been thinking more about how someone in the Vigilante stage becomes “Island Bound” meaning the identity they reconstruct IS their island rather than learning to use their island to help others.  They can’t seem to manage to put together a new vision of who they are so they become “island bound.”  Merlin is a good example of this.  His wife’s death broke him and he learned to survive this tragedy, but instead of using his experiences to help others he has become trapped in this identity.  I wonder what it would take for him to be free again?

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Between Grief and Guilt

“The line between grief and guilt is a thin one.  Sometimes death is preferable to the agony of life.” ~Tatsu

True.  This quote speaks to many different stages all at once and we have to be careful to recognize what she is really saying here.  This is not a promotion of suicide but rather a statement of fact regrading the difficulty of life and an identity that has not reformed.  Maseo is stuck.  He is fluctuating continuously between Broken, Surviving and Vigilante and making no progress to move forward.  Although he has the experience and training to be a hero he is not because he as no reason to live (stuck in Broken), a purpose that is not his own (stuck in Surviving), and no sidekicks (stuck in Vigilante).  He has become stuck because he has developed an identity that IS his trauma.   The reconstruction of an identity is very important to growth and moving through the stages.  With an identity that is “island bound,” he is unable to use the broken part of his past as a tool. He doesn’t know who he is apart from the horrific event.  He is still capable of amazingly good acts, and intensely gruesome undertakings.  For those in similar states this is dangerous ground and very similar to becoming a villain. (for more on this subject check out Failure Redeemed)

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.

I Know Two Things

“I honestly don’t know if I’m a killer anymore…but I do know two things.” ~ Oliver

This, and the statements that follow are identity statements.  Oliver is (for one of the first times) able to make “I am” statements, statements about himself and how he defines himself.  This is a key part of our lives.  We all have parts of us that we choose as our identity.  These parts are the hardest to let go of when we are broken and the most difficult to rebuild as we become heroes, but when we do find these components of ourselves and are able to make “I am ___” statements it says a lot.  At this point Oliver chooses his Brotherhood to Thea and his love for Felicity as parts of his identity, parts of what makes him who he is.  What “I am ___” statements do you make?  What defines you?

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.

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. 

Arrow and Oliver

“One of these days it’s going to be me. This life I’ve chosen, it only ends one way.” ~Oliver

This is true for “The Arrow.” Live by the sword die by the sword.  That is why Oliver has got to find a balance between himself and Arrow, the same theme we found in the first episode.  As he moves into superhero status he must find a way to be a hero in more than one area of his life and to do this he has to find balance. (for more on stages in becoming a superhero as observed through Arrow, click here).