Arrow's Oliver Queen Is More Dexter Than Superman (and That's a Good Thing!)
No one on Arrow is more terrifying than Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). After five years stranded on an island, the so-called hero has returned to civilization a changed man. The once frivolous playboy is now a vengeful assassin with the morals of fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan and the eyes of a taxidermied wolf. This is supposed to be Starling City's savior?
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Unlike squeaky-clean Superman, Oliver and his alter ego The Hood never hesitate when it comes to killing in the line of duty. Each week we see Oliver slay and torture his way to his latest victim, leaving body bags full of the villain's lower-class lackies and guards in his wake. Yet oddly, Oliver leaves the rich, criminal masterminds alive. (Apparently, serving some jail time and losing a chunk of cash is enough punishment for the bourgeoisie, but their employees deserve a quick and fatal demise.)
This quiver-happy habit doesn't make Oliver look like Starling's beacon of hope. It makes him look like a selfish jerk — and that's because he is! Ollie is remarkably unaware of how his actions affect those around him and when it comes to his mission, Oliver's tunnel vision leads to more than a few causalities. Regrettably, this class warfare makes it hard to put Oliver on the moral pedestal he imagines himself on.
But even worse than Ollie's subconscious war against the poor: his unrelenting gaze.
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If eyes are the window to the soul, then nobody is home inside Oliver. His speech and actions might imply he does in fact feel human emotions, but we simply have to take his word for it since Oliver only ever demonstrates the serene gaze of a bonafide serial killer. Whether talking to his best friend or a target, Ollie's blank stare says nothing reassuring (though it whispers, "If you cross me, I'll use your skin to line my suit jacket"). And unfortunately for him, the few instances where Oliver does attempt to emote, it comes off as more of a Patrick Bateman-esque parody than a genuine display of feeling.
I'm not the only person to recognize the sociopath hidden inside Starling City's new superhero. Last week, those around Oliver finally started to speak up regarding his icy demeanor. After being saved by The Hood during a prison riot, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) rejects the faith she had just invested in the vigilante. "I looked in his eyes. It's as though he has no remorse," Laurel says in horror. Her rebuff of The Hood is bad news for the lovesick Oliver, but if he wants a reunion he'll have to find a way to woo Laurel despite this handicap.
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Like a good merlot and gouda, Ollie's dead eyes pair perfectly with his twisted persona. Instead of Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, Oliver takes his cues from Dexter's titular character and only kills those who "deserve" it. From what we've seen, this warped moral code consists solely of targeting people on The List (and, unfortunately, anyone who happens to be near the target at the time of Ollie's visit). But last week, Ollie took his villainy to a whole new level when he actually tied someone to a train track! (Sadly, he did not have a mustache to twirl ominously throughout the ordeal.)
In Starling, anything goes. Murder, extortion, torture — it's all fair game. Why should Ollie make the same mistakes Superman did and let his enemies live only so they can come back and fight him another day? As Oliver's island mentor taught him, the name of the game is "survive" and that's exactly what he plans on doing.
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Arrow owes a huge part of its success to the unnerving nature of its hero. While watching, I feel at any moment Ollie could snap and kill someone — an enemy, a friend, a family member, even me! This slight discomfort with Oliver heightens the drama of watching and is my favorite part of the show. When I turn on Arrow I never know how I'll feel about Oliver's latest methods of crimefighting. The Hood makes me think, makes me worry (and makes me want to sleep with the lights on).
But unfortunately, we might be seeing the end of ol' Dead Eyes sometime soon. When Diggle (David Ramsey) agrees to join Ollie in his quest to save Starling City, he warns the hero: "You have no idea what [war] does to you. How it scrapes off little pieces of your soul. You need someone to remind you who you are, not this thing you're becoming."
It's easy to understand where Diggs is coming from, but still — c'mon! Arrow shouldn't take away the one aspect that separates it from the parade of comic book fodder currently in the media. So Ollie might be a soulless monster. Who cares? He gets the job done and he keeps viewers on our toes. Personally, I'm hoping Oliver never strays too far from the eerily detached murderer of my nightmares. What about you?
Do you like Arrow's dark take on Oliver Queen?