'Arrow' Season 8: Oliver Queen learns to accept his fate as the latest episode teaches him how to say goodbye
Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is stuck in a time loop, that sees him trying to save the life of Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), only that’s not what the Monitor wants him to do.
“The only way to win is to accept the inevitable,” says Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson). Oliver Queen has been fighting against the fate laid out for him by the Monitor right from the start, but isn’t that what heroes do?
Superhero stories endure not just because of the costumes, the ridiculously complicated plotlines and pseudoscience, but because superheroes do what no one else can - they fight against the impossible. A man in a green hood and a bow believes he can stop a cosmic god from destroying an entire multiverse. Trapped in a time loop where all circumstances conspire to kill Quentin Lance, Oliver Queen is going to go through as many loops as possible to change the rules of this alternate reality himself. It’s impossible, and he knows it - but it’s not the first time that Arrow has faced impossible odds and beaten them.
"It doesn’t matter how many times it takes,” he yells, and it wouldn’t have - if not for Quentin himself.
With all he’s seen, Quentin accepts the fact that he’s trapped in a time loop pretty quickly. He also comes to accept the idea that in the prime reality, he’s dead. It’s another thing that makes superhero shows so special - it’s not many genres that give you a scene that has a character talk about making peace with their own death after the fact. Quentin, who’s cheated death many a time, talks about the event that finally did him in. “That felt different. Like I was finally at the end,” he tells Oliver.
It’s a hard-hitting speech, performed brilliantly by Blackthorne. Making peace with an end seems to be a theme not just of the episode, but of this final season of Arrow as a whole. Where Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) had to view about a billion timelines to accept his fate in 'The Flash', for Oliver, it is something a lot more personal. It’s not something easy to accept - if Oliver was the kind of person who gave up easily, he never would have gotten as far as he had?
It’s hard to know when something is truly coming to an end, or when it’s something you can continue fighting for, but learning to recognize it is vital. Even for a superhero, there are some things that are inevitable, and that seems to be something the Monitor has been trying to get Oliver to realize. It doesn’t happen easily, but the message gets through, and it brings Oliver the peace that superheroes rarely get to have.
There aren’t a lot of stories about superhero retirement. Some, yes, but the overwhelming majority of superheroes just do not know when to give up, and that comes at a cost. Fighting the impossible leads to inspiring deeds, but it means that the superhero in question can never know a moment’s true peace, just fleeting glimpses of it. In accepting his fate, and the end that’s coming for him, the final season of ‘Arrow’ gives him a peace that’s long eluded him. As Quentin Lance has shown us, there’s no better way to say goodbye.