When we first met Oliver Queen some four years ago he was a broken man returning from an excruciating five years on an “island,” where he experienced many unspeakable things that shaped him into the killer we knew him as in the beginning of his story. There was something visibly broken within him, and there were times throughout his four-year journey where he has questioned whether or not there is good inside of him.
But when John Diggle and Felicity Smoak joined his crusade in that first year, and they helped pull him out of that darkness that he was not only shrouded in but actively embraced. Before them he was accepting of condemning himself to that way of living – devoid of happiness and suffering in the brutality of darkness. But his team – his family – was able to save him before he was too far gone. That was a significant step in his hero’s journey as they helped shaped him into the hero that he is today.
But in a way Oliver has become too dependent on Diggle and Felicity when it comes to that light. While they’ve always been there to remind him of who he is and who he can be – which is someone that lives in the light – Oliver hasn’t been able to do that for himself. It’s something that’s been one of Oliver’s flaws for quite some time, and it’s far from an easy fix. But if Oliver is to truly be the hero we all know him to be he’s going to need to be able to harness that light inside of him all on his own. Because Diggle and Felicity won’t always be there to help him.
In the most recent episode (“Genesis”) Oliver took perhaps his most important step in embracing the light inside of himself. Most of the episode zeroed in on Oliver’s fear of giving into the darkness – to retreating to that man on the island like Felicity had pointed out when she broke things off with him.
When Oliver and Felicity traveled to Hub City in order to seek out a mystical solution to defeating Damien Darhk, Oliver found himself unable to fend of dark magic from a charming and helpful shaman. When faced with that darkness Oliver thought of all of the bad things that had happened in his life – the deaths of Tommy, his mother, his father, Laurel – and Felicity leaving him. Oliver took that failure as confirmation that he’s the darkness he’s always convinced himself he was.
But if Oliver is to truly be the hero we all know him to be he’s going to need to be able to harness that light inside of him all on his own. Because Diggle and Felicity won’t always be there to help him.
Luckily one of his lights – Felicity – was able to guide Oliver in the right direction. After Oliver confessed that he has become dependent in a way on her – “you’ve always been the light” – Felicity encouraged him that it’s possible for him to embrace that light on his own. That people are capable of change, including him.
After an hour ripe with struggle where Oliver appeared to have proven to himself that he’s still that man consumed in darkness, Oliver faced off against Damien Darhk, who nearly killed him with his dark magic. But then something happened. Oliver was able to deflect Darhk’s magic – much to Darhk’s surprise, as well as ours – and for the first time it appeared as if Darhk had lost his advantage.
When Oliver returned to the bunker he told Felicity that he was able to deflect Darhk’s magic by focusing on the voices inside of his head – Felicity’s reminding him of all the good things in his life, as well as Diggle, Thea, and Laurel’s reminding him to keep on fighting and to never lose hope.
That’s how Oliver was able to ward off Darhk. Instead of focusing on all of the bad things – the darkness – in his life like before, Oliver focused on all of the good things – the light – which was his key to fending off Darhk.
While Oliver isn’t entirely there yet when it comes to harnessing his light to its fullest extent, he took a significant, game-changing step to getting to that place that would make him the hero he was always destined to be. Now that Oliver has tried to harness his own light – and succeeded – he knows that it’s possible. One time doesn’t mean perfection. This is something that’s going to take some time and practice. But he’s going to get there. Now it’s going to be about Oliver choosing that light over darkness when faced with adversity. It’s going to be about his instinctual reaction during times of crisis – crawl into that hole of darkness or be that hero in the light of day. And more than ever it appears as if he’s going to step into the light.
Oliver Queen has endured an unspeakable amount of darkness in his lifetime, but it’s shaped him into the hero he is today. He’s flawed, of course, but that’s part of the grounded nature of superheroes. That even in their perfection they are still susceptible to weakness and flaws. It’s what makes the super relatable.
Now it’s going to be about Oliver choosing that light over darkness when faced with adversity. It’s going to be about his instinctual reaction during times of crisis – crawl into that hole of darkness or be that hero in the light of day.
For so long Oliver has been lost in the darkness or relying on others to help pull him out, but there’s going to come a time when they’re going to need the same in return. Oliver is going to need to embrace his light not only for himself but also for those that he loves.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.