Guilt is a powerful motivator. It weaves through our lives, coloring a myriad of decisions. Who we connect to, the activities we partake in or don’t partake in. In the Arrow-verse, guilt can compel our characters to work against their own interest, or sometimes to expose a deeper issue.
We are treated to three very different studies in guilt and its affects here. We are given a view of Cop Daddy as his guilt for not taking down a past baddie resurfaces when the Doll Maker is on the loose once again and going after the well moisturized women of Starling city. We see Moira’s guilt for her past actions drive her to possibly not fight for her own life in the courts. And we see Laurel’s guilt rear its vengeance filled head as she takes out her anger on the Arrow.
With Cop Daddy, we find out that it was only a month after his youngest daughter went missing with Oliver that he took on the Doll Maker for the first time. A ghoulish serial killer with an affinity for crafting human size dolls out of his victims. The cat and mouse game that the two played years ago drove Cop Daddy to the edge as he hunted the man that was killing girls that reminded him of his daughter. His guilt over her loss drove him to wallow in the darkness as girl after girl was taken out until he finally took the Doll Maker down. When the Doll Make resurfaces, so does the guilt, but only to provide some fresh optics for Cop Daddy with respect to Laurel’s actions.
Moira’s guilt is shaped by her involvement in the Glades destruction. Or is there more to be revealed? Our soap opera gasp moment arrives when the DA drops the bomb on the courtroom that they will be seeking the death penalty. For most people, this would have floored them, but for Moira, it is more important for her to continue to conceal certain aspects of her past than to necessarily fight the harsh ruling. Moira’s guilt is obvious and she seems to have accepted her fate. She also has decided that her eternal silence is preferred to certain truths being brought into the light.
Then there is Laurel. Her actions at the end of Episode 2 and leading into the opening of this episode gave us a heart-stopping moment of drama. We wonder if this is going to be the big reveal that Oliver cannot escape. Then the platinum blonde in leather and a mask drops in to save the day and lead him to the dark streets and his freedom.
Laurel has been driven in these first few episodes by Something that has had her working with a focus, putting a bullseye on the Arrow as the instigator of all things that have gone wrong for her, especially the death of Tommy. But it is not the Arrow that Laurel wants to punish. It is herself. When she comes to face her own mortality at the hands of the Doll Maker’s horrifying plasticizing scheme, she sees that it is only the Arrow that could and at the last minute does save her. Even after hunting him and threatening to take him down, he came to her rescue, forcing her to face the mounting guilt that had driven her decisions. The guilt of holding herself responsible for Tommy’s death. She had held onto the idea that had she just left the Glades when she was told to, Tommy would still be alive. Ultimately it was not her fault and she faces that in the aftermath of her thwarted murder.
The guilt that we allow to define us is not always a negative force in our lives. It also is not always necessary. Being willing to take a look at ourselves from the outside can allow us a broader perspective and a more positive approach to how we sift through the messy clutter that defines our character and the world that it affects.