With a show about a tortured man who saves the lives of those in his city and takes down the bad guys trying to poison it, there’s no question that Arrow is a television show about a superhero. If you need any other proof just look at the DC Comics archives and read up on Green Arrow.
But the fact of the matter is that Oliver Queen is far from perfect. He’s no saint. He’s not the happiest person. He’s no Barry Allen. He’s dark. He’s tortured. But he’s willing to do anything to protect those that he loves, as he’s proven on multiple occasions throughout the series.
And yet here I am preparing to defend him for the worthy hero that he is.
I don’t know why I feel the need to defend Oliver in this case. Actually, I do. I’m someone who has always defended Oliver despite the questionable choices he’s made. Sure, he’s pissed me off a few times and had me shaking my head as I think, Why? Why did you do that? The need to defend Oliver stemmed from the Arrow-Flash crossover event.
Back when the Arrow and Flash crossover event aired, I wondered why I was so upset when Harrison Wells and Joe west criticized Oliver’s tactics and reduced him to a blood-thirsty vigilante. Even Barry Allen questioned Oliver’s tactics in the beginning. But then I realized what had made me so angry. They weren’t giving Oliver the credit he deserves for being a self-sacrificial hero.
Yeah, he’s dark, tortured and won’t hold back when it comes to obtaining information that will save his city. You have to take into account his past, but also not let it inform your judgment of Oliver as a human being.
Oliver went through five years of hell on Lian Yu and Hong Kong (and God knows where else) and has continued to live as a broken man while trying to what good he can do in the only way he knows how. Oliver was trained to survive at whatever cost and uses that method when it comes to protecting Starling City and those he cares about. He’s given pieces of his soul in order to do so.
There are different kinds of heroes. The Arrow and The Flash are the perfect example of that. While Barry believes in doing things the right way, Oliver is willing to do whatever it takes even if that costs him pieces of himself. It’s also a great representation of the shows and the different cities they take place in. While Central City is alight with power-wielding metahumans, Starling City has blood-thirsty humans guided only by their need for power and revenge. The fact that the bad guys on Arrow are human and not metahumans gives the show – and it’s a hero – a darker tone.
Back when Wells/Joe told Barry that The Arrow is not someone that he should be looking to for guidance I was hurt, no, I was pissed. That whole discussion angered me. Central City was practically anti-Arrow apart from Team Flash. But if only Wells could see The Arrow – Oliver – now. How he sacrificed his life not only for his sister but for his city. When one of the most dangerous men in the world threatened the lives of millions, including those that he loves, he stepped up. Wells was wrong. Oliver Queen is exactly the kind of hero that Barry Allen should be looking up to.
Oliver Queen is a self-sacrificial hero. He’s proven as much since the show’s pilot. That theme has never held more true than in season three, where Oliver has struggled with his identity. Can I be Oliver Queen and The Arrow? And being the self-sacrificial hero that he is, Oliver has sacrificed his own happiness for the good of the city and those that he loves.
Oliver is someone that has watched people that he’s loved die – his father, his mother, Tommy and Sara. He’s someone that is reminded on a daily basis that the remaining people he cares about are most assuredly next. That’s why he snapped at Diggle in the premiere. That’s why he’s pushed Felicity away the entire season. He can’t lose anyone else. Because it’s not only the tough decisions he has to make as The Arrow that’s ripping pieces of his soul away, it’s losing those that are keeping those pieces of his soul intact, as well.
During Arrow’s midseason finale, Oliver made the ultimate sacrifice. He sacrificed his life for his sister during a trial-by-combat with Ra’s al Ghul. He took a blade through the chest and was kicked off a mountain. Now, we know he’s not dead dead, but for all intents and purposes, right now, Oliver Queen is dead.
Wearing a mask and a costume doesn’t make you a hero. Being able to kick ass doesn’t make you a hero. It’s having the strength to put others before yourself. It’s sacrificing your own happiness. It’s having to make difficult decisions that strip away pieces of yourself. It’s sacrificing your life for someone you love. Like Oliver was once told, “The essense of heroism is to die so that others can live.” That’s why Oliver Queen is a hero.