“Your worst fear is yourself. Your worst enemy is yourself.”
Things are going from bad to worse this week for mayor-turned-vigilante, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) as allies are in short supply. However, when a familiar face shows up in the Arrow Cave, Oliver begins to question whether he is responsible for Star City’s demise.
Last week, we ended on a sour note, as the corrupt city officials who Oliver fired took their case to the news, suggesting that the mayor should be impeached because he fired those dealing in charge of the Green Arrow case. Returning to City Hall, Oliver is faced with the knowledge that, unless he can get concrete evidence of the DA and the Police Captain’s work with Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) the council have no choice but to believe that they were fired in order to cover up the fact that Oliver is indeed the bow-wielding vigilante that they believe him to be. And, to add insult to injury, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is insistent that he and John (David Ramsey) reconcile, and repair what is now a one-man team. However, when Oliver’s anger at his situation gets the better of him, and his temper sees William’s (Jack Moore) science project broken, Felicity is forced to take a step back from the man she loves but no longer recognises.
Shaken by his rampant losses, and worried that the worst is yet to come, Oliver finds himself confiding in Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) who at this point is basically everyone’s dad, and one of the only characters to speak sense on a consistent basis. One of the only people left on the vigilante’s side at this point in the season, as well as being one of the few original characters left in the show, Quentin tries to put Oliver’s mind at rest by reasoning that the man he knows now is a far cry from the man who returned to the city six years earlier. What’s interesting, however, is when you really think about it, Oliver hasn’t changed so much as Quentin’s opinion of him has – this isn’t to say that the titular hero hasn’t changed in six seasons, more that he hasn’t changed as much as these characters seem to claim.
However, things get very strange when Oliver, left alone in the Arrow Cave, comes face-to-face with a character we all believed to be dead. We later come to realise that Oliver has been given a dose of Vertigo (told you it would be back to cause trouble) which is causing him to hallucinate. Already concerned that he is to blame for every problem that has arisen for him and his team, the hallucinations Oliver begins to experience are a manifestation of his fears – in particular, the fear that he is the one to blame for the corruption and hurt of everyone his has ever cared about. We follow him through memories of Laurel, both the wide-eyed innocent girl he left behind when he joined his father on the Queen’s Gambit, and the woman on her death bed, terrified of death. All the while, Oliver is plagued by the familiar spectre’s questions, forcing him to reflect on the life-changing decisions he has made throughout his time as the Green Arrow.
The culmination of these visions sees the Oliver of now face the Oliver who returned from Lian Yu – the Green Arrow vs. the Hood. We’ve known since the beginning of Arrow that Oliver’s own worst enemy is himself, but to see this manifestation of that is interesting, as only in this scene are we able to truly appreciate the difference between the Hood and the Green Arrow. The original vigilante is feral compared to his successor – more violent, and yet more focused. When he began on his mission, Oliver’s goal was to right his father’s wrongs, and make his city a better place for those who lived there – but the Oliver we see now is spread too thin, spending his days as Mayor and nights as a masked vigilante. With no focus, villains like Adrian Chase, Cayden James and Ricardo Diaz have been able to plant themselves in positions of power in the city, leaving Oliver in the dark to their schemes until it is far too late.
As the Vertigo wears off, and John’s words from the week before begin to take on new meaning, Oliver’s hallucinations have provided him with an important lesson – to be able to save Star City from Diaz, he must go back to basics, and remember what made him a vigilante in the first place. Moving forward, Oliver will embrace the one-man team that he was in the beginning, separating his personal and professional worlds in order to focus maintain focus.
But can Oliver really handle Diaz alone?
An intimate look at Oliver’s worst fears, “Fundamentals” provides a much-needed focus on Oliver as a character in his own right, rather than his relationships with the other characters. Amell does well to explore the emotional journey that his character faces in this episode, and though the end of the episode is a fairly disappointing plateau, “Fundamentals” is certainly a high point of this season.