What happens when a person you love becomes a person you don't know anymore?
I've had friends and relationships that have fallen out over the years because I've recognized the fact that the people I once knew changed -- morphed, really -- into different people. Circumstances change people. Experiences change people. Time often changes people. And it's hard to reconcile the idea of the person you once knew -- the memories of them, their personality, etc. -- with a new or different version of them. In Arrow, the theme of identity permeates nearly every crevice of every single episode. It's a series that, this year particularly, asks the question: "Who are you?" and then follows it up with: "Why are you?"
We focus a lot on the first question and it's important, don't get me wrong, to understand who you are. But there's the second question that we often overlook. When someone changes in personality or when a layer of them is unearthed that blindsides you, we often stand back, mouth agape and wonder who, exactly this person is. They're not our loving spouse anymore. They've morphed into someone bitter and calloused. They're not our best friend anymore. They turned around and betrayed us. They're not our sweet, innocent sister anymore. They've become jaded by the world and darkened by its influences. The question of identity isn't just contained to the "who," but extends to the "why." Knowing WHY someone is the way that they are is more important than understanding who they are. Because, in fact, you'll understand far more about the "who" once you understand the "why."
Is this deep enough and thought-provoking enough for you yet? No? Good, because we are just getting started. In Arrow's most recent episode titled "Al Sah-Him," Oliver Queen disappears, not just physically (getting a haircut and taking on a new wardrobe) but mentally and emotionally. Ra's essentially drugs Oliver (gee, I wonder where Malcolm acquired his magical herbs of doom to drug Thea) and brainwashes him in order to ensure that he's forgotten all about his past self and can fully embrace The Arrow and the League. And it's in this transition that we begin to wonder whether Oliver Queen is lost for good -- whether he's gone and unable to return -- or whether there's still hope, still some shred of Oliver left in Al Sah-Him.
(I'm not going to lie to you: it appears very bleak. VERY bleak.)