There was a TV show in the late 1950’s and early 60’s called The Rifleman. It was a Western that revolved around a rancher, Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), raising his son Mark in the New Mexico territory of 1870’s.
I watch the reruns all the time.
In my opinion, I think it’s one of the best examples of storytelling that I’ve seen on TV. In a half hour, you’re told a story that can be either complex or simple and that will take you through many different emotions along the way. The best part is that every episode is a contained story—there’s a beginning, middle and an end. I’ve always walked away from the episodes with a lesson learned or some sort of appreciation for what I just watched. In fact, I often catch myself thinking about it afterwards.
Although it’s from close to 60 years ago, it holds up really well. Sure, there are some episodes that have a little bit of cheese in terms of stunts or special effects, but the dialogue and overall heart are completely solid. I also think it was probably pretty ahead of it’s time—often tackling issues regarding race, class, alcohol abuse, single parent homes, etc.
But what really makes the show for me is its main character, Lucas.
When I think of a hero, or at least what I think a hero should be, I think of this guy. As fans of TV, movies and comics, we’ve seen a wide (almost endless) array of male hero stereotypes over the years. They move in cycles. Recently, it seems the trend is to be the grumbling, hyper-violent, “I don’t care about anything” guy; or the sort of wimpy/awkward guy who is really in touch with his emotions and fumbles his way to make everything work out and get the girl in the end.
Lucas is neither of these and I think that’s what’s so refreshing.
The best way I can describe it is that he’s the kind of guy you’d strive to be—at least how I’d want to be. He tries to do the right thing and raise his son to be accepting of those around him. He helps out his community and has his moral compass facing the right direction. He’s intelligent and has an underlying masculinity about him—nothing over the top. While he tries to avoid violence, he is sometimes forced to use it in order to keep himself, his son and those around him safe. He’ll never start anything, but he’ll finish it if need be. He was a levelheaded guy living in a chaotic and lawless world, but he kept it together—a stark difference than what we’re used to seeing these days.
So, why talk about a character from an old black and white Western that most people reading this have probably never seen or heard of?
Because, tonight, Arrow made me think about it.
In his backwards, twisted way, Adrian succeeded in making me look at Oliver in a different light. For some reason, I had never really processed the amount of killing Oliver has done over the course of Arrow. Maybe I’m just a product of my environment—numb to the violence of modern storytelling. Sure, the guys Oliver took out were some bad dudes, but maybe they could have been brought to justice instead. After all, isn’t that what our heroes are supposed to do? Batman faces some of society’s worst and has one of, if not the scariest, villains rogue galleries ever, and yet, he doesn’t kill.
So, in a weird way, Adrian sort of made sense. Here we are, rooting for Oliver, but we forget that he’s a killer whose actions have affected many lives. The only thing that separates him from Adrian is that the guys Ollie has taken out sort of seem like they have it coming.
But then you get into that gray area that Gandalf so beautifully put when he said:
“Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
What I do find interesting is that Adrian got Ollie to crack and admit that he does in fact like to kill. Not only that, but going one step further and releasing Oliver to essentially have to live with the fact that he’s admitted to it. That’s cold blooded. I bet Ollie would rather be dead right now than live with himself.
In sports, guys often gain an edge by getting in another player’s head. That’s exactly what Adrian has done tonight. Ollie is thrown completely off his game and is essentially owned by Adrian now. It’ll be interesting to see how he comes back from this.
Let’s face it, Ollie has gotten away with a lot of killing over the years and has never had to actually pay or atone for it. Now that Adrian has called him out to his face, he’s forced to confront it and he crumbles. I suppose this was Evelyn’s point all along…
But is it right to does use violence to expose past violence?
My heart tells me no, but the Arrowverse might tell me differently…
Until next episode,
Matt Ross covers Arrow as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. Catch new episodes of Arrow Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.