The Arrow has some issues. Seriously. The dude’s been tortured, beat, starved, nearly drowned, stabbed, and a whole host of other nasties that most of us folks never have to deal with. That alone is enough to seriously damage a person, but if that weren’t enough he’s also been mentally and emotionally coerced to do unpleasant things against his will, giving him a guilt complex the size of Starling City. Suffice it to say, he’s got some baggage to deal with.
We’ve seen some interesting character progression from Oliver/The Arrow, partially driven by this dark history. When Oliver first returned to Starling City, he became The Arrow in an effort to redeem his father, by eliminating the threats on his father’s “list.” This was driven by a sense of justice, yes, but also by a sense of guilt at his father’s death. His dad told him point-blank that there wasn’t enough food for them both, right before shooting himself. That’s pretty heavy.
In the beginning, Arrow murdered the people in his father’s book. Sure, they may have been “bad guys,” but that doesn’t make serving as judge, jury, and executioner any less sadistic. In fact, one of the more chilling aspects of The Arrow is his sadistic tendencies. We find out later that Oliver was forced to torture people to obtain information for Argus, which, I’m sure, is part of where The Arrow gets his sadistic streak. Even when he stops killing people, The Arrow still performs a lot of “advanced interrogations” on people, which The Flash calls attention to in their crossover episode.
Oliver says every time he tortures or kills someone, a part of his humanity dies with it. I’m sure The Arrow persona helps to shield him a bit from this damage, but it’s still something that will seriously eat away at a person. Over three seasons of the show, we’ve seen this damage become more and more evident, which has coincided with The Arrow slowly trying to grow out of these tendencies.
Part of The Arrow’s growth has come from the growth of his own team. One by one they’ve each brought their own little bit of sanity with them, and caused Oliver to see something in himself. Diggle brings the calm, cool head of professional military training, as well as coping mechanisms from his own experiences. In a lot of ways, he’s almost a “big brother” to Oliver, and a counselor to The Arrow. Felicity may be the brains of the team in some respects, but she’s also the heart, and the most human of Team Arrow. She, above all, reminds Oliver of his own humanity, and his need to bring decency to The Arrow’s sense of justice.
Roy reminds The Arrow of his own past with Slade and the Mirakuru, and his own redemption helps Oliver let some of his guilt for that incident go. Finally, Laurel rounds things up by coming in later in The Arrow’s growth, and reminding him of how he started out. Seeing your own guilt and escapist tendencies laid out as another person (The Canary) can really spell things out for you. One by one, each of The Arrow’s compatriots have helped to bring back a piece of himself that he lost in the five years that he was lost to the world.
If you are truly trying to become The Arrow, then I encourage you to become who The Arrow is also striving to be, not just who he is. There is a lot of guilt, hurt, and anger that still drives Oliver in his quest, and in a lot of ways he puts on the mask to exorcise his own demons, as much as to protect his city and the ones he loves.
If you find yourself driven by guilt as well, you have to learn to let it go. Guilt is a poison that will destroy you from the inside if you let it, and allowing your personal guilt to drive you won’t do anything to redeem yourself in the end. Do your actions for yourself, not as a misguided attempts to clear your own past transgressions. if you’ve wronged someone and feel responsible for it, the best possible thing to do is to live your life in a manner which prevents you from doing it again.
Oliver is now living to protect his family and his city, instead of to atone for his or his father’s past. He’s become a more whole, complete, and healthy person in doing so. Find your own crusade, your own cause. Own it, make it yours, and don’t allow your own guilt or hurt to stand in your way. Live your life according to the present, and the opportunities it presents you, not according to the mistakes you have made in the past. Damage causes scars, but scar tissue can either limit us, or protect us. Choose what you let your scars do for you.
That’s it for The Arrow! We’ll head back into video game land next week! In the meantime, I’ll see you again on Saturday with our regular video post! Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace