The television show Arrow has often been called a revenge or redemption story for Oliver Queen throughout the first two seasons. The angle many columnists have taken is that Oliver Queen is making up for the sins of his family by shutting down the crime in the city. This list Oliver used was the showrunners’s template for how Oliver would grow throughout the series. The flashbacks also represent this angle by showing the audience choices Oliver made in the past that directly relate to a contrasting decision he has just made. While revenge and redemption are intriguing larger themes that guide the audience on Oliver’s evolution, identity is a much smaller more subtle theme that keeps viewers tuning in week after week.
Oliver spends most of the episodes of Arrow putting people on the right path. Nothing is wrong with this. The problem is that in being so selfless he is sacrificing his own identity. Oliver helping people comes at a cost. He has no time or ability to be his own person or confront his own demons unless the plot demands he do so.
Evidence of Oliver’s struggle with identity is evident in episodes 15 and 16 of the current season. The idea that Oliver to act as the wakeup call for Laurel’s alcohol and drug issues is consistent with his affection for her. The actions he takes to help her leave him little time to examine things about himself he wants to confront or change. The other major plotline that stunts Oliver’s growth as a character is his growing contempt for his mother Moira. Oliver’s work to discover his mother’s secrets has coincided with a new struggle to keep his family intact.
The biggest question for this series is whether or not Oliver’s lack of identity is a problem. The answer for now is yes. The reason for this being that Oliver is still adapting to being part of people’s lives. We know why he made the choices he has but he so involved in what others are dealing with it also leaves little time for the show to deal with his issues in present day.
Oliver still has so much to learn about the people he left behind and the ramifications of moving in and out of people’s lives. Oliver is still learning what it takes to be the responsible person he never was growing up. While that’s partial identity creation audiences have yet to see Oliver become the Green Arrow who deals with all the issues that occurred. Audiences need to see Arrow working to give Oliver Queen a personal identity as opposed to another persona he has to use. Just don’t expect him not to make multiple mistakes along the way to becoming even more humane than he is now.
– Chike Coleman