Monday, September 14, 2015

#CountdownToArrow: In Memoriam (Gone, But Not Forgotten)

We're continuing our #CountdownToArrow series by discussing some of the best and most notable characters that we've lost throughout the last three years. Since, of course, this IS Arrow... we've got a pretty high body count (most of them including people like Thug 1 or Guy in Alleyway). Because nothing says moving forward like looking back and remembering all that has happened, we thought we would spotlight some of our favorite now-deceased (or, in one case now-deceased-but-not-for-long) characters and talk about why we miss them so much. Prepare for a lot of feelings beneath the cut. (We won't judge if you go in the freezer to grab some ice cream.)

And be sure to keep coming back for all of our special #CountdownToArrow posts in the coming weeks, too!

In memory of... Moira Queen
By: Lynnie


With a word the complex relationship between Moira and Oliver Queen began to unfurl.  It was clear with a look that Moira had once been a guiding light for Oliver, the person he could depend upon to listen, to love above all else, and to provide solutions when he saw nothing but darkness. She was connected to a simpler time, a past where he loved and lived without being damaged or scarred by tragedy. By the end of the pilot episode, however, it was clear that Moira was not the woman Oliver believed her to be. Her dedication to him came with a propensity for lies, doing things for her “children’s own good,” and using questionable ethics to protect not only her children but her children’s perception of Robert Queen and the family.

At the beginning of the series, Moira Queen was a woman trapped by her husband’s past misdeeds and her profound love for her children by Malcolm Merlyn. By all rights she was as much as a villain as Malcolm for her decision to follow the lie instead of face the truth, but her arc, like many in the Arrow-verse, was one of falling over the edge so that she could crawl back out of the hole. She looked for absolution, but the habit of lies ran deep within her, even after she found a cleansing of her sins in prison. Moira is a classic example of still waters running deep, and there was never a question of if she had a secret, but to what lengths she would go to preserve it.

Thanks to the masterful acting of Susanna Thompson and the layering of the writers, Moira never felt like a caricature of a woman. She was flawed, a little bit evil, incredibly intelligent, emotionally wise, and, above all things, a mother. There was never any doubt that she loved Oliver and Thea. She would have gotten into a cage with a lion if she thought it could save them from a moment’s pain. And, in a way, she did just that with Malcolm. She stood strong even when her lies caught up to her; she risked everything to stand up to Malcolm and to Slade. She was just the sort of character that serves as a good foil to both the villains and the heroes, which is never an easy thing to pull off.

I don’t agree with the choice to kill off her character, but there is no question as to whether or not she showed her true colors in “Seeing Red.” In that one episode you see two very different sides of her. She hides Oliver’s child from him to “give him his future,” and then stands up to Slade, knowing full well what he has planned, and boldly offers her life for Thea’s. She dies in defense of her children, and there is no doubt in my mind that Moira would have had it any other way.


One word, so simple, but it was Moira’s everything.

In memory of... the "love fern" and foundry
By: Maddie

We have had some amazing characters taken away from us far too soon on Arrow, but we all know which loss was really the most traumatizing, right? I’m, of course, talking about the love fern. The fern was a representation of the pure joy in act one of the last season's premiere, “The Calm.” Felicity wanted to make the foundry physically more like a home since it was one for her and the rest of the team, emotionally. That was a wonderful moment that brought an idiotically large grin on my face. Fans of the show, myself included, accepted Oliver and Felicity's "love fern" with open arms, and enjoyed spotting it in episodes with the same zeal as Pixar enthusiasts looking for the Pizza Planet truck. The plant was laden with symbolism -- a beacon of hope for the joy and love our favorite characters could eventually have even in a darkened sea of angst. And then everything went to crap.

“Broken Arrow” is the episode where all of our favorites on the team are put through the ringer (and it is also the episode where everything hurts). Oliver loses the identity of The Arrow, and Team Arrow loses the home they had built for themselves in the foundry. Their whole world is in free fall. The devastation and sense of helplessness is evident on the faces of all of Team Arrow during the police raid of the foundry. However, nothing demonstrates the pain of seeing their world collapsing around them as when we pan to Felicity watching our dear pal, the love fern, fall to its untimely demise.

In this moment, any hope for the happiness that had been contained within the first twenty minutes of the season seemed to evaporate, and the decimation of the love fern communicated that the audience needed to brace itself for more pain.

This was the end of an era -- the end of a place that Oliver had set up from nothing but an empty warehouse, and Felicity had then built from the rubble of The Undertaking and created a place of safety and home. Each additional member of Team Arrow was brought into the fold and became a part of something greater there. The foundry had been the place in which they spent countless hours. They had planned and strategized there. They had saved their city there. They had become a family there -- lived, laughed, and cried. And, in Oliver and Felicity’s case, they had fallen in love there. There were the late nights of Big Belly Burger, salmon ladder Wednesdays, and more. The foundry had been their home and then... it was gone.

Moreover, Felicity buying that fern was the first instance of her building a home with Oliver. Even when they weren’t together, romantically, all they had was the quiet dreams they kept to themselves, represented in the fern. Plus, those two are sentimental dorks. Oliver carried around the hosen he gave to Thea for years, and Felicity has a Robin Hood poster in her apartment. The fern meant something to both of them, and the destruction of the physical manifestation of the happier time they shared months ago was another stark reminder of the dark and dire straits they were in.

Believe me, I felt the same way watching the episode. This moment was literally painful. I actually shouted “NOOOOOO!” at my television (along with some expletives directed at Lance and his goons). The sound of that clay pot shattering echoed the shattering of my heart.

Finally, Hey Detective Captain Quentin Lance, I just have this to say to you.

In memory of... Tommy Merlyn
By: Jen

More than any other character in Arrow, it is Tommy Merlyn's death that reverberates the loudest. While Robert Queen's death and Oliver's experiences on the island molded him into the vigilante determined to save a city, Tommy molded Oliver into something more. A hero. Someone who doesn't simply save a city, but one who could inspire it.

When we first met Tommy Merlyn, he was Oliver's best friend, but a party boy -- someone who liked to have a good time and thought little of responsibility or consequence. Someone very similar to the person Oliver was before the island. This is what we, the audience, were told. Except... this was never the Tommy that we saw. Almost from the get-go, Tommy was intent on changing himself. He wanted to become more. He wanted to become someone Laurel could be proud to be with, someone his father would learn to respect, someone who he could actually face when looking in the mirror.

Through the course of the first season, we watched as Tommy launched a successful business and became the perfect boyfriend. He was funny, often to the point of self-deprecating, but was so much more than comedic relief on Arrow. He was devoted, loyal, caring, kind and selfless. Tommy loved unconditionally and forgave without hesitation. Even in the moments he was angry or jealous, he held himself accountable. He became a hard worker and self sufficient. It gave him the courage and confidence to stand up to his father numerous times.

Yet, when it came to Laurel and Oliver, Tommy always felt he was never going to be "the guy" -- that he was never going to be the man Laurel chose. So, when Tommy discovers Oliver is the crime-fighting vigilante, he ends things with Laurel because he's convinced he is less than Oliver is and that if Laurel knew who Oliver was, she would choose him. (A fact that his father, Malcolm Merlyn, drove home to him nearly every day of his life. A fact Tommy himself eventually began to believe.) No matter what he did, Tommy believed he would never be enough.

So when CNRI collapses and Laurel is trapped, the audience expects Oliver, the vigilante, to save her. Except, it's not Oliver who gets there in time. It's Tommy. With almost inhuman strength, Tommy lifts the collapsed wall off of Laurel and frees her, but not before telling her that he loves her. In the end, the building collapses on Tommy and Oliver is too late to save his best friend. In their final moments together, Tommy apologizes to Oliver for being jealous and angry -- still believing he wasn't a good friend. Even after all his father has done, Tommy doesn't wish for Malcolm's death. When Oliver lies and tells Tommy he didn't kill Merlyn, Tommy is relieved. No matter what his father has done, Tommy still loves him. He thanks Oliver for his mercy. And then... he dies, leaving Oliver alone, sobbing over his body, begging the fates to turn back time because "it should have been him."

In the end, the one character who never believed he was enough was the hero of the story, not only in the way he died, but in the way he lived. Tommy showed Oliver that real change is possible. A man can rise above who he was and become something more. From that day on, Oliver vowed to become not just a hero like Tommy was, but a man worthy to call himself Tommy Merlyn's best friend. Without Tommy Merlyn, there is no Green Arrow. But perhaps, more importantly, without Tommy Merlyn there is no Oliver Queen.

In memory of... Sara Lance
By: Rae

With heart, charm, and bravery, Sara made me love her. I loved her so much that I even liked her with Oliver, romantically, and I am ride-or-die Olicity shipper. Sara is a character who imperfectly loves, but what love is really perfect? It’s true that she makes mistakes, but, again, who doesn’t? Sara has a good heart and a twisted soul, and she is relatable for anyone else who is doing the best they can with struggles of their own.

A huge reason that Sara Lance is so appealing is because of the warmth and charm of Caity Lotz. She took a character who could have just been a heartbreaker and troublemaker and turned her into a whole person who is loveable because of her flaws, not in spite of them.

I would watch a TV show entirely about Sara’s love life. (Nyssa! Oliver!), but it’s not just romance that makes Sara so appealing. Yes, she flirts with Felicity (which, by the way, is so cute that I could die), but Sara's presence was also was a real opportunity for female friendship with her — and not just with Felicity, but for Thea, Laurel, and Sin. When Felicity is feeling left out of the dream team of Oliver, Diggle, and Sara, Felicity tried to learn how to train and fight like they can. When Sara finds Felicity hitting a punching bag in the Arrow cave, she doesn’t judge her for wanting to become part of the team in that way. Sara supports her and offers her tips on how to become better at self-defense, and then she also does something that was even more important than that — she takes a moment to genuinely ask her new friend if she’s okay.

The way that Sara still manages to open her heart after going through so much pain is touching. Sara isn’t jealous, or cruel toward others; she is loving and kind, even when she has to make tough choices. She is far from perfect, but amidst mistakes and tragedy, she made the best of the life she had. And that makes her a hero, masked or otherwise.

In memory of... Shado
By: Hope

What would you do if you were stranded on an island whose name literally translates to “purgatory”? If you’re Shado, you don a green hood, arm yourself with a bow and arrow, and fight.
Shado was many things. She was the epitome of a strong, resilient, independent woman. When training with (pre-Mirakuru) Slade, she was an even match. She was a kind person and a patient teacher, and there was something inside Shado that was so quiet and steady. Her entire world was torn apart and she was fighting for her, her father’s, and her friends’ lives, but she maintained a level of composure and focus (something that Oliver lacked at that point). But what really stood out to me was her determination. She spent forever searching for her father, only to be kidnapped and taken to the same island he was. She never gave up on rescuing him, even when she doubted that he was the same person he used to be. She helped take down Fyers and fight Ivo. She never stopped fighting, and she never lost who she was or her humanity. She was a hero.

We didn’t get to know Shado as well as we did the other characters we’ve lost on Arrow. Regardless, Shado was such an important part of Oliver’s journey, and such a strong example for him to follow. She taught him how to shoot an arrow and actually hit a target. She made him slap water in a bowl over and over to build up his strength. Along with Slade, she became Oliver’s Island Family (albeit a family unit that was ripped away from him, which doubtlessly gave him some issues). Shado helped to bring a degree of normalcy to his time on the island, and probably helped to keep him from going too dark too early on. She helped him to become an archer, gave him an example of steady courage to follow, and helped him to hang onto his humanity.

This all made her loss even harder for Oliver, who felt responsible for the death of the person who helped him to live. It took him to a darker place, and Slade’s revenge took him to an even darker one. However, the consequences of Shado’s death – the Mirakuru army – forced Oliver to firmly step across that line between vigilante and hero. Shado’s death and Slade’s subsequent revenge did not amount to nothing. Even though Shado died before the present-day timeline of the show even started, her influence continually plays a vital role. Her death haunts Oliver, but he doesn’t push her memory into the past. Regardless of the changes to the Arrow suit, Shado’s (previously Yao Fei’s) green hood remains, as well as the arrows she taught him to use, and the example of what kind of hero and person to be.

In memory of... Oliver Queen and The Arrow
By: Jenn

I'm going to be way existential here (and yes, I just watched Clueless recently so I'm saying this in Cher Horowitz's voice), and talk about how important it was that we witnessed the death (both literally and metaphorically) of Oliver Queen during season three of Arrow. The entire season was one giant existential crisis for our hero, really, and the more the episodes evolved, the more convoluted Oliver's perception of himself and his identity became. We opened the season with Oliver accepting happiness -- with being able to embrace a life spent normally with Felicity during the daytime and post-crime-fighting nights. He finally, for the first time since before the island, felt like he was settling into a sense of normalcy. And then, as often happens in this show, everything was shot to crap when his date with Felicity literally got blown up. Every episode post "The Calm" was an exploration of the duality of Oliver/The Arrow. Every story was a question of who, exactly, Oliver was. Is he the masked vigilante-turned-hero who saves the city? Is he capable of a life that doesn't involve a constant threat of death? Is happiness even possible for someone like him? Arrow's third season was Oliver's journey through those questions. He constantly pushed Felicity and others away because he believed his arc was destined to only end one way: in death. In his friends standing over his body, weeping. And in a lot of ways, Oliver wasn't entirely wrong about that. I subscribe to the belief that true life can only be found through death. We all have to die to something to live -- our selfishness, our pride, our egos, our habits -- a full, true life.

What this season of Arrow showed us was that Oliver was looking at the question the wrong way. It's not an either/or question, as he believed. He doesn't have to choose to become Oliver Queen or become The Arrow. There is another option that he has never considered -- becoming something else entirely. Becoming the culmination of a hero and a human; becoming The Green Arrow. The only way that Oliver was able to do that this year (as we saw through that horrendous Al Sah-Him arc -- #sorrynotsorry because it was BAD) was to have both identities forcibly stripped from him. In the brilliant mid-season finale, "The Climb," Oliver Queen dies on the mountain at the hand of Ra's al Ghul. But that mountaintop duel was more than just a stunning example of how the Arrow stunt coordinators are robbed at the Emmys -- it was an example of the thing that needed to happen in order for Oliver to truly discover who he was. He took Thea's place on that mountain. And as he did, he looked death square in the eyes... and he eventually won. When The Arrow identity was stripped from him, Oliver spiraled into another miniature identity crisis. He had no idea who he was without the hood. If he couldn't be THAT person anymore and if he couldn't truly feel like Oliver Queen... who was he?

The answer, as answers oft do, was with Felicity Smoak. She told him that infamous opening credits line: that he had to become something else. He couldn't beat Ra's as himself. He couldn't beat him as The Arrow. The only way that he was going to beat him is if he became both, and yet neither. (Bless Felicity Smoak and her brilliance.) And so he did. In order to defeat Ra's, Oliver became the balance of humanity and heroism. This season of Arrow wasn't without pain and suffering and Oliver's literal and metaphorical deaths were an extremely crucial piece of the series' trajectory and a great way to set up season four.

So what do you think, folks? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts. Until then. :)


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