To Be More

Slade – Where am I?

Oliver – As far away from the world as I could get you.  Where you can’t hurt anyone ever again.

Slade – That’s your weakness kid.  You don’t have the guts to kill me.

Oliver – No, I have the strength to let you live.

Slade – Oh, you’re a killer. I know.  I created you.  You’ve killed plenty

Oliver – Yes, I have.  You helped turn me into a killer when I needed to be one.  And I’m alive today because of you.  I made it home because of you.  And I got to see my family again.  But over the past year I’ve needed to be more.  And I faltered.  But then I stopped you, without killing.  You helped me become a hero, Slade.  Thank you.

Slade – You don’t think I can get out of here.  You don’t think I’ll come after you.

Oliver – No, because you’re in purgatory.

 This was a good speech from Oliver.  It not only really shows how far he has come but it shows how necessary each of the steps he went through to get to this point were.  Being broken, learning the skills he has now to survive, even being a killer were necessary phases for him to go through.  Just as these steps are necessary for Oliver, I think they are necessary for us as well.  Not that we need to become killers, but we do need to work through the stages of becoming a hero.  Those in a stage that is not favorably looked upon by general society (such as Surviving, or Vigilante) should not be discounted.  They are in a place of transformation towards heroism just as Oliver was.  And now, he is now on his way to becoming a superhero. 

Secondly, the last line  is a great play on words too.  Obviously because Slade is actually on Lian Yu (the island named purgatory) but also because Slade has a choice right now.  He can change.  The drug is out of his system and if he wants he can become something else.  He probably won’t, because he is so far lost in villain hood…but he could.  This is his time of paying for his choices, and, his time to consider something new.

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Start By Letting People Help You

Oliver – I don’t know what to do.  He’s too far ahead.  I mean, he’s spent years planning this.  He knows everything about me.  I can’t, I……I don’t know how to stop him. 

Sarah – Well, you start by letting people help you.

Oliver – But, he’s gonna come after you.  You’re alive…because Shadow isn’t.

Sarah – And when he does do you think it’ll make a difference whether or not we’re together?  Let him come.  I’m not the girl he knew on the island.  I’m not that easy to kill. — Together?

Oliver – Together.

 Ok, so I know it’s really, really girly of me to say this but I was thinking a few episodes ago that one thing they really needed to do with Oliver next was have him show some emotion.  In this scene they pretty much do.  Hum…It’s a great scene because what I see happening is that Oliver is thrust back into survival mode and he’s barely making it…but this time he is tethered to the light.  He is lost in darkness again but he is not floundering…he is attached to Sarah, Diggle, Felicity, and Roy…and because he is attached/tethered to them they can pull him back out of survival mode, into the light, onward toward being a hero again.  Without them Oliver would have to learn to survive again, find a purpose (which is dangerous for him because his purpose right now is really to “get rid of Slade” a purpose that could easily cause him to become vengeful and perhaps even a villain).  However, being tethered to the light Sarah can pull him back up.  She offers him help and he accepts.  This, I think, thrusts him back up to hero status.  He’s not doing it alone.  He is even willing to give up his purpose to work as a team.  

In real life this is all very hard to do.  Asking for help, recognizing when things are out of our control, giving up our own agenda, and allowing others to fight some of our battle are things I would like to do better.

Branded With Your Crimes

“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.

I Need This To Stop

Sarah – It’s just me.  What’s going on Olli?  Hey!  Talk to me.

Oliver – Now is not the time.

Sarah – Then when is the time?  The Bratva Olli? You’re losing your grip. Ok, Slade is getting in your head.

Oliver – I need this to stop!  And for it to stop, I need to find him!

Sarah – Yeah, and until then how long do you think you can keep this up for?  You’re not eating, you’re barely sleeping and when you do you have nightmares.  They’re about her, aren’t they. Hey, look at me.  You did what you had to do, ok?  Ivo was going to shoot Shadow, or me, or both of us.  It was an impossible choice.

Oliver –I made it anyway.

Sarah – But if you had chosen differently it would be me haunting you at night.

Oliver – It still could be Sarah. (great voice change!) That’s why we have to stop.

Sarah – What are you saying?

Oliver – He’s going to use you to hurt me. Or he’s going to hurt you… (another voice change) Stay away from me.

This conversation is interesting to me because Oliver is speaking more honestly with Sarah than any “superhero” ever does with his girl…however, he is being more dishonest with himself then he has been in a long time.  I think it’s really cool how the writers of this episode have Oliver (and Diggle) say and do everything we as the audience want them to do…and yet it doesn’t resolve all the problems.  In superhero movies there is always the plot line of “I can’t tell her because if she knew she’d be in danger” and “I can’t do that because I care too much.”  This episode shows how these plot lines do not have to be followed to keep the show interesting and suspenseful. There doesn’t have to be that “if they only knew” factor.   Diggle rescues Deadshot and stays with his ex-wife but things are complicated…his wife wasn’t making very good choices and Deadshot is going to have another bomb put into his head.  Oliver (especially in this scene) is telling Sarah how much he cares and how hard the situation with Slade is for him…and he is telling her point blank that he can’t handle her being in danger.  I really appreciate that about this show.

Also,  you can see in this scene how Oliver is still in survival mode (his body stance, not making eye contact, fear, fight and flight) but he is trying to force himself into Vigilante mode (putting himself in danger (i.e. with the Bratva, trying to face fear), forcing a purpose upon himself).  He has forced the purpose upon himself to “get rid of Slade” and he can’t do it.  Slade is too far ahead of him.

Oliver is struggling with a fluctuation in the level he is at (surviving/vigilante) and the level he wants to be at (hero).  He is also struggling with guilt (from Shadow’s death), fear (of losing Sara and others he loves), and pride (wanting to fix it on his own), not to mention the actual threat itself.  This is a lot to take on alone…to make it through he’s going to have to accept help.

What Is Happening!?

Slade – “What is happening to me?

Oliver – “I don’t know, but I’m not going to let you go through it on your own.”

It’s really hard to recognize that things are changing within you and not know what is going on or what to do about it.  Oliver’s response is perfect.  What Slade needs is not some long, biochemical, or physical explanation for the changes that are happening, but rather someone who will stick with him through the changes and through the fear.  I wish we could say/do this for each other more often in real life.  Practically, however, it is a very difficult thing to do.  Maybe attempting to stick with Slade was part of Oliver’s strength building that was required for him to become a hero.

Worth It

Oliver – “It was the look in Roy’s eyes.  It was…Slade all over again.”

Diggle – “Oliver, what happened with Slade?”

Oliver – “Me. Someone killed Shadow.  Slade loved Shadow and it was my fault.  I wanted to tell him because it would have been better coming from me but I didn’t…

Felicity – “And he found out another way.”

Oliver – “If I had just told him the truth, I could have gotten through to him.”

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.”

There is a lot going on in this scene.   The first thing I noticed is that for the first time Oliver is answering Diggle’s question completely, honestly, and in a way that makes sense.  Oliver has really changed a lot in how he is able to approach his memories of the island.  I think Diggle and Felicity are helping him see how these memories can actually be useful if he can find a way to communicate them.  Diggle and Felicity are exceptional characters because they are giving Oliver the time and support he needs to learn to use and access these memories.

The second thing I noticed is how focused Oliver is on his role/guilt in the situation.  His answer to “what happened” is “Me.”  I think this is a good response and although it may be a little extreme I don’t think it is wrong.  Other people often try to convince us that it was not our fault, however owning up to your role in any situation is part of being a hero.  His admission of what he could have done differently, and how his actions affected Slade, are healthy.  He points out that someone else killed Shadow (he’s not owning this) but that he did have a role in how Slade understood the situation.  His acknowledgement of fault remind us that we are all guilty to some extent and that only God is qualified to judge or forgive.

Thirdly this quote points out an essential component to recovering from trauma.  A book I read a while ago (Trauma: The Pain That Stays) said that people were more likely to recover from a traumatic event if they could find a reason or purpose for it.  That is what Diggle and Oliver are pointing out here.  The island was a nightmare but if it can be used to help others then perhaps it was worth it.  Identifying a purpose to what he went though is part of his recovery.

I also think it is interesting to point out that the big question in this passage is when to reveal who you really are.  Oliver didn’t know how to reveal to Slade what had really happened or how this affected him and now he is unsure when/how to tell Roy the truth.  Knowing when to tell the truth and when to withhold information is very complex.

Finally, I think that in this episode, and you can even see it in this quote, Oliver has finally transitioned completely from a vigilante to a hero.  He is telling his story (to those he trusts) honestly and completely, he saved a man from Roy’s lack of control, and he is pointing out how he can use his pain to reach others.  He has found a way to use the worst parts of his life as a tool…not something that he runs from but something he is strong enough to embrace and start using.  

Will everything he went through on the island be “worth it?”  I don’t think Oliver will ever say he is glad he was shipwrecked there or glad for everything he lost/gained as a result.  However, I do think it is possible, and that Oliver now understands, how even though these horrific experiences will always be a part of him they can be used in a positive way and hopefully that will give him resolve. 

Your Secret

Diggle – She has a point Oliver. Roy’s a loose cannon.  Now he knows your secret.

Oliver – You’re right, and I wasn’t thinking about the consequences.  I only knew that…I need his strength.  His power.  On the island Sarah told me that love is the most powerful emotion.  Well, the Arrow couldn’t get Roy to think about Thea.  But I could.

 It’s really neat how they use love in this episode as a (super) power.  Love changes people. Oliver has been trying to transform the city through his persona of Arrow.  He is cleaver, dedicated, and willing to fight for others but he has not used the power of love to reach them…until he tries to help Roy.  Helping Roy to focus on love, Oliver gives him the ability to use his strengths for good.  To make a difference, help the city, change lives they must use their physical powers in combination with love.

Oliver has done this in the past.  Slade reprimanded him on the island for caring about people too much and how dangerous that was…but even at that time Oliver declared his love for others as a strength, and it is.  His ability genuinely care about others is what keeps him from being overtaken by his vigilante persona.  Love keeps him grounded.

The disguise, although strong, inspirational, and empowering is incomplete.  Arrow has limits. He changes things through force and fear…the costume is not able to reach others on a level of love…but Oliver can.  For Arrow, everything is anonymous.  He is not known by those he cares about and is willing to protect…Oliver is.  When he sees Roy full of strength but detached from love he recognizes that the cover of Arrow will not be able to complete this disconnection, and so he reveals his secret…he is not just Arrow he is Oliver Queen, a person who understands loss, defense, and love.

His secret, our secret, is that our true identity can connect with others on the level of love.