While Oliver Queen is a character who has been around a while in the comics, along with Green Arrow (pretty obviously based on Robin Hood…), we only know him from Arrow. As such, I wanted to explore some of the things we noticed in rewatching the show recently. For more on the character in general, there’s always the recent Death Battle:
There are a few attributes that really define him, two of which are pretty obvious – but the third only really showed up through binge rewatching. So join me as we explore the character Oliver Queen, from Arrow!
Strength Through Training
Such a large part of the show – and Oliver’s character – is tied up in the idea of how he’s been heavily trained, long term, to be doing what he’s doing. Five years on a not-so-deserted island, full of bad guys, arrows, and training.
However, while this is a pretty obvious thing when it comes to Oliver, it’s pervasive on the show. Over the seasons, more and more people are becoming vigilantes, and the show deals with the fact that at first, they don’t know what they’re doing. They get hurt. Badly. They lose. They make mistakes. And they get better over time, with practice and especially training.
Indeed, the fights in the show almost boil down to a situation where whoever has the most training wins – so it’s usually Oliver, until you get to the Big Bad. It’s become something of a joke with Malcolm Merlyn at this point, breaking into their HQ whenever he wants. Sometimes with ninjas.
Trust No One
Something else that comes from his time on the island, where he wasn’t ever really alone or safe, is that Oliver doesn’t trust people. This is a really explicit issue on the show, with there literally being episode plots and discussions and such around the fact that Oliver can’t trust anyone.
He’s been burned so many times that he never seems to move past this one, either. And then there’s the superhero’s sort of dilemma – any sort of peace or happiness he finds seems to inevitably be taken away. Indeed, the cliffhanger mid-season finale certainly left things feeling that way. So yeah, it’s hard to trust.
However – and maybe also because of the other two elements of Oliver’s character – there is one character feature that stood out to us most in the rewatching. Something that was so blatant it had us practically shouting at the screen at times.
Oliver Queen seems to always make the wrong decisions.
Now don’t get me wrong, he has lots of training, so in combat he tends to do the right things and, tactically, win the day. However, when he’s had time to think – when he’s been back to the Arrow Cave and mulled it over – he never fails to make the wrong decision.
Whether it’s failing to trust Diggle to have his back, deciding to do things on his own, deciding not to train people, then to train them, then that they shouldn’t date Thea (seriously… poor Roy)… His trust issues are a big part of it, his lack of faith in others and their lack of training, his over-reliance on his own training… these other elements of his character just keep pushing him in the wrong direction.
Sometimes Oliver is even convinced by the past, through the This One Time Five Years Ago flashbacks… sometimes convinced to make the wrong choice, and sometimes convinced to stop doing the wrong thing.
It just kept happening. Another character would suggest a plan of action, Oliver accepts it or rejects it or whatever, ultimately makes up his own mind, does the wrong thing, and then they end up having to do it another way – or face the consequences. There’s plenty of both in terms of results…
So all of his experiences are both a benefit and a liability, and he really needs people around him to help him make good choices – except he can’t trust those people or their decisions.
If he were the only reason to watch the show, it would be boring, because his character has gone through so much that he’s kind of set in his ways – he doesn’t have a huge amount of long-term character change. That’s already, tramatically, happened to him. So we get to see the character change anyway, thanks to the flashback sequences.
And then it’s the supporting cast that round out the show. Despite often not thinking he does, Oliver really needs friends, and he luckily has them.