The Darkness Inside

“Once you let the darkness inside…it never comes out.” ~Helena (and later Laurel)

 Interesting idea.  It seems to me that Helena is unable to recognize that the dark and the light go together.  She has no sidekicks (Oliver was not ready to help her when he tried before and she rejected the idea of sidekicks) so she became lost in the darkness.  All she sees is her purpose.  And then at the end of this episode, when her purpose is gone, she feels alone and hopeless.  What she doesn’t realize (and hopefully will now begin to see) is that it only takes a little light to negate the darkness. It may feel like the darkness/loss/despair will never leave but one spark can start a huge fire and one lit candle (although the room may still be dark) allows you to begin to see.  I think that is what is happening to Helena at the end when Oliver comes to talk with her.  Oliver, this time, now that he is beginning the hero state, is bringing a small bit of light into the darkness.  Yes, Helena is right in that the past will never change…the darkness/dark memories/things she has done wrong will always be with her (never come out)…but with light she can become something more. 

Maybe this is the hope for those who have entered the Villain stage.  That they will lose their purpose because with the loss of their purpose there is opportunity for light to get in.

I also thought it was interesting that Laurel repeats this quote…what does that say about her?


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.

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. 


Roy – “You’re…?!”

Oliver – “Yeah…Yeah.”

Roy – “Last year you saved my life, and I don’t mean from the guy who kidnapped me…I mean you saved me.  You gave me purpose.”

Oliver – “We’re just getting started.”

 Roy is pointing out here, once again, that saving a life, weather from a trauma or a series of rough experiences, is about giving the person purpose.  Arrow gave Roy purpose, a reason to change, fight back, be something more.  A reason to rise up out of his situation, and now, in this episode, Oliver is giving Roy the power of love.  With these two, purpose and love, they really are “just getting started.”  What a powerful combination.

(for more on helping others through rough times: Failure Redeemed

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.