Warning: You will find spoilers for all four seasons of Arrow in this article
Before he was Green Arrow, before he was Arrow, before he was The Hood, he was just a selfish rich party boy named Oliver Queen. So how did the island turn him into the indestructible vigilante we all admire? He had a little help…
If you recall, Mr. Queen was trapped on Lian Yu (which is Mandarin for “purgatory”) for five years before he was rescued by Chinese fishermen. The island, located in the North China Sea, was used by the Chinese government to trap exiled prisoners, including Yao Fei. Now, it is used by A.R.G.U.S. (and Arrow) as a supermax prison.
Remember how innocent our shipwrecked Ollie was? He preferred starving to death than killing a chicken with his bare hands. That is, until hunger took over and he gave in to his first kill. Who helped him by refusing to help him? That’s right, it was Yao Fei (Byron Mann) who looked after him.
Yao Fei, the original master archer, was a general for People’s Liberation Army of China. The general was used as a scapegoat after the military massacred innocent people. Even though Yao Fei did not commit these crimes, he was forced to take the blame and was sent to Lian Yu.
The former general treated Oliver like a son and risked his life on several occasions to help the shipwreck survivor. Their initial interaction was quite unconventional as Fei casually shot Oliver in the back with an arrow. Turns out, it was for the future Arrow’s protection and Yao was actually saving his life – the irony.
Yao Fei took Oliver to his secret cave while he taught him basic Lian Yu survival skills. Mr. Queen projected his first ever arrow under his supervision with little success. The former general not only taught him to “chengcún” (survive), but he saved our Star City savior on multiple occasions.
Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) is a former member of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). Because of his alliance with Yao Fei, Wilson took on the role of Oliver’s mentor while the former general was being held in captivity by Edward Fyers’s (Sebastian Dunn) men.
When Wilson realized that Oliver Queen was a complete novice in regards to combat, he took responsibility to teach the former playboy as much as he could with the time they had. Eventually, one event led to the other, turning a vengeful Slade into Arrow’s archenemy.
The emersion of Shado Fei (Celina Jade) revealed that her father, Yao Fei, was actually working for Fyers in exchange for his daughter’s safety. In this dangerous double agent game, he was killed in the crossfire, leaving Shado to escape with Slade and Oliver.
Having been trained by her own father, Shado had quite a lot to teach Ollie (more than just repeatedly slapping his hand on a bowl of water for hours upon hours). She educated him on combat skills, but most importantly, she instructed him on how to properly use a bow and arrow.
This last talent is crucial as it ends up not only being Arrow’s weapon of choice, but also the inspiration of his superhero nickname. In honor of his former lover, he even held on to Shado’s signature hood and integrated it as part of his suit.
The love affair between Oliver and Shado was also important as it allowed him to temporarily move on from Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), which Yao Fei had said was vital if he was to survive on Lian Yu. The end of their relationship may have been brutal – which is the origin of Slade’s desire for vengeance – but Oliver truly had feelings for her.
In case you bumped your head on a shipwreck and forgot, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) was on the Queen’s Gambit ship along with Oliver Queen and his father, Robert. Oliver and Sara had been having an affair while the playboy was dating her older sister, Laurel.
When they got shipwrecked, Sara was presumed dead. However, a year after Oliver had arrived on the island, he came into contact with her. Sara had been found lost at sea and was taken aboard a ship called the Amazo, where she was held prisoner.
Dr. Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal) rescued her from a horrid destiny when he took her on as his apprentice and accomplice in his mission to “save the human race.” In order to do that, they needed to find the strength-inducing and cell-regenerating WW2 Japanese serum called Mirakuru (“miracle”), which was located on Lian Yu.
Dr. Ivo disciplined Sara on how to torture her former fellow prisoners while teaching her essentials regarding biology, herbology, technology, and even combat. The future Canary, who is tough but not evil, later confessed she only obeyed because she was glad not to be one of the prisoners.
Her dilemma appeared when Oliver Queen became one of the prisoners she was forced to torture. With Shado and Slade’s help, Oliver managed to escape, taking Sara along for the ride.
Sara being in a similar situation as Oliver, her intention was never to train him as they deemed each other equals. Instead, during their time together on the island, they learned life-saving skills from one another. This was the case until they were once again separated, leaving Oliver to believe he had lost her for good this time.
Unlike Barry Allen in Season 1 of The Flash, Oliver Queen’s enemies on the island never intended to make him more powerful. However, every experience offers an educational opportunity.
Aside from Yao Fei’s arrow in the back, Oliver had never experienced true pain until he was captured by Fyers’s men and tortured over and over again. This trained him to become more resilient in withstanding pain. This has proven to be a useful skill on several occasions throughout the show’s entirety.
Baron Reiter, John Constantine & Taiana Venediktov
Baron Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) was the leader of the secret operation run by Shadowspire on Lian Yu, in which Oliver was ordered to infiltrate by A.R.G.U.S. He became susceptible to the dark arts’ magic, which made him nearly undefeatable.
John Constantine (Matt Ryan) is an exorcist and demonologist who practices the dark arts and was held captive by Reiter. He magically imprinted Oliver with a tattoo that would give him abilities to face the dark arts in the future.
Taiana Venediktov (Elysia Rotaru), a former dive instructor and the sister of the late Vlad, was one of Baron Reiter’s prisoners on Lian Yu who became a victim of the island’s magic.