Well, that didn’t take long. We’re two episodes into Arrow, and I have a Stephen Amell problem. There, I said it out loud. Now let me tell you why.
I get the pretty thing, and the ridiculously fit thing, and the voice, and the blue, blue eyes, but what’s hooked me is that he is very, very, very cleverly playing Oliver Queen as about six different people. That’s trickier than it looks, y’all. Let’s break it down.
Old Ollie was a Class A party boy. He had the money, the looks, and the girl. Two girls, actually. From the same family. So he was also kind of a dick. We haven’t seen actual flashbacks of his carefree days but the pieces are coming together for us in glimpses of what he was doing and where his head was when the Queen’s Gambit was lost, his father committed suicide, and he was left alone.
This is the guy who lost everything and everyone and had to get it together on his own, and who eventually became the feral warrior now kicking ass all over Starling City. He was completely isolated, and in the closing moments of the second episode, he was attacked, and if the scars are any indication, he continued to be over the course of five years. He’s a PTSD case study.
Rescued Oliver v1
This is the guy who wants everyone to believe he hasn’t missed a beat and is ready to resume his live fast, die young lifestyle. He’s funny, he’s cocky, he’s super sure of himself and he just breezes in and out of any attempt at a serious conversation. He also relishes taunting his remarried mother and her husband and his ex-girlfriend’s father, whose younger daughter died on the Queen’s Gambit. Yeah, he’s that guy.
Rescued Oliver v2
This is the super secret brooding guy that nobody knows yet. As much as he’s scarred outside, it’s infinitely worse inside. And the way Amell flits his eyes and features and even shifts his body weight to morph from v1 to v2 (and really for all the variations of Oliver) is something to behold. In the premiere, it was a bit disconcerting, but in the second episode, he did it very seamlessly and it worked. We hear this Oliver in voiceovers. He’s shut down on purpose. He can’t trust anybody, can’t talk to anybody, and he’s driven by grief and rage. We’re not sure who he’ll be when his mission is over. He’s the actualization of the abuse on the island.
Rescued Oliver v3
The guy sharing ice cream with Laurel is a mix of v1 and v2. He’s not “return of the big man on campus” but he’s also not completely turned off. I like that he’s trying to navigate letting someone from his old life back into his new life without tipping his hand just yet. Oliver v3 is a new persona, and isn’t fully formed, but I think it’s who Oliver wishes he had been before the shipwreck and who he would like to be–a balance of his past and his present who does good things but isn’t so far gone that he has to be a vigilante.
As for his renewed friendship with Laurel, I’m already thinking ahead to episode nine or ten (guessing/not a spoiler) where Laurel sees his scars for the first time–not even meaning that in a sexual way. She knew his body when it was perfect, so she’ll have the most visceral reaction to actually seeing on his body what he’s been through.
Oliver was ragingly uncomfortable with his sister getting a glimpse of his scars. Imagine that magnified when he sees the impact of his scars reflected back to him on the face of someone he had a relationship with, whom he also betrayed and likely wished him harm but never like that. (I’ve already written it in my head, y’all. I hope we get to see Amell and Katie Cassidy do a scene like this.)
Oliver as Arrow
Arrow is a bit of pre-shipwreck Oliver and v2. He’s arrogant, he’s dedicated, he’s slightly demented, and he’s clever. This is where whatever the island did to him kicks into high gear and he uses it to best the baddies on his daddy’s to-do list. We haven’t seen him really get hurt yet, but he will. He doesn’t morph into a super human, so at some point he will bear even more scars from becoming Arrow.
I didn’t know Amell by name before Arrow, which is doubly odd for me because he’s a Canadian boy. I’m glad there’s a lot of “research” material out there for me to catch up on. He’s on Twitter and Facebook. He’s a breast cancer crusader because his mom is a survivor. He’s funny and charming, and he’s a dog guy. Like I said, it’s a problem. He’s crushworthy on and offscreen.
If you haven’t jumped into Arrow yet, you can catch the first two episodes on The CW website. Episode three airs Wednesday at 8 pm/7c.