Felicity Smoak has come a long way from her season one debut as the awkward, bumbling tech girl assisting Walter in uncovering the secrets of Queen Consolidated. In one season she became the breakout character of the show so much that she went from recurring to a regular, infiltrated the Dynamic Duo of Oliver and Diggle to form a more complete Team Arrow and instantly supplanted Laurel Lance as the love interest everyone wanted to see Oliver ultimately end up with.
In the old days of television, canon would be honored, and the geek girl would forever be the wallflower and never get more than a passing pity glance from the hot guy, but times have changed. Through the sheer power of awesome that is Felicity Smoak, the bumbling tech girl not only has already snared the leading man’s heart and has him on a string, they’ve already broken up over her issues with his darkness and has caught the eye of not one but two additional fine prospects: Barry Allen who has the obstacle of living in another city, his own hero’s journey as The Flash he’s dealing with, and his own canonical love –Iris West- he’s beholden to and Ray Palmer who is the tall, dark, handsome version of Oliver with brains, awkwardness, and wit that more than match Felicity’s.
And she also has more than earned her place as a character in her own right who deserves her own centric episode and we finally got it in the form of the delightfully entertaining episode, The Secret Origins of Felicity Smoak.
For the most part the story beats were pretty predictable. We learn that back in college Felicity was a grumpy, arrogant goth hacktivist who along with her boyfriend, Cooper, and his roommate, Myron, would hack away on the internet as means of protest and general mischief. That is until Cooper screwed with The Man, got arrested, and sent to prison. Felicity was willing to step up and own her role in the crime, but Cooper fell on his sword for his lady love and protected her from punishment. Then he committed suicide. Or so Felicity thought after giving up the Goth and embracing the sunnier blonder side of life in a bid to be a new person.
But as always with Arrow, dead is not dead and the once sweet Cooper revealed himself to be alive after having cut a deal with the Feds to be their hacker for hire until his prison term was up. Why he had to fake his death I have to clue but this has Amanda Waller’s stench alllll over it. In any case Cooper came out of the situation a stone cold, cynical killer and rather than reach out to his lost love to see if they could pick up where they left off, he was disgusted in her joining the establishment and becoming everything they had stood against. Which seemed to be a reasonable motive for his disdain until Cooper forced Felicity (after having kidnapped her and her mother as leverage) to steal money for him which then makes Cooper less an angry activist and more a hypocritical loon. In a nice twist, Felicity saves Starling City from Cooper’s cyber terrorism, herself AND her mom with a nice gun aided punch to Cooper’s face and Oliver’s minimal assistance and is able to put closure on Cooper and her past life as well as mend some fences with her mother.
The real meat of the episode lay less in the plot and more in what you learned about Felicity in the course of the story. That Felicity was once an angry young woman and not the more upbeat positive, innocent, panda bear flats wearing girl we’ve been used to. Her anger was not just as the loss of Cooper but about her childhood and issues with her mother, a stellar Charlotte Ross as Donna Smoak, who may be a cocktail waitress who dresses too young for her age and has no clue how to send a text but is also a strong, warm hearted woman who is comfortable in her own skin and has nothing but love for her genius daughter. Mother-daughter dynamics are never easy, and it’s no wonder with Felicity’s smarts and desire to aim high and do things that matter and Donna’s not so smarts and humble goal to have fun and put food on the table that they’d really be at odds. But in the end your mom is your mom and your kid is your kid and when you’ve been through what Donna and Felicity have been through the superficial differences don’t really matter.
Of course there was some subtle aligning of the triangle of Oliver/Felicity/Ray with both men showing why they’re not bad shoulders for Felicity to lean on. Oliver is still trying to figure out how things are going to be in the aftermath of their break-up and while he sometimes still errs on the side of being too cold and all business and putting his foot in it (the look on his face when after pushing Felicity about Cooper and her tearfully admitting he’s dead was an amusing frown/eye roll of impatience at himself, a thought bubble of ‘Damn it, stepped right in that one. I’m such a dick’) to briefly finding the right side of the line where he can be sensitive and caring and say exactly what needs to be said in the moment.
Meanwhile Ray Palmer seems to be completely absorbed by the myriad projects swirling in his brain, always appealing to Felicity’s imagination and intellect, but also showing that he is ever becoming more attached to Felicity in a more than business capacity by showing a great sensitivity to her moods and needs. Counter to Oliver, Ray offers himself as a safe place that isn’t hostile or loaded with unseen emotional landmines but offers comfort and a sympathetic ear. It’s been a nice set up to see how slowly but surely, Felicity would be drawn to Ray in a more than business way herself and I’m intrigued in how the next phase of earnest dating between Felicity and Ray will be done even if I know that ultimately Ray will lose to Oliver because, well, he’s Oliver.
As for the other characters being moved around the chess board in this season long chess match-
- Thea copped to Oliver that she’s funding her new life using Malcolm’s money and shut down Oliver making her feel guilty over it. Oliver decided to let bygones be bygones and meet Thea halfway not knowing that creepy DaddyMalcolm is keeping a close eye on Thea in her spacious loft by spying on them from a nearby rooftop.
- Diggle was in Daddy mode himself (but less creepily), cradling a cute baby Sara around the Arrow cave to Oliver’s discomfort. I actually get Oliver being a bit uncomfortable since they have League of Assassin crazies just wandering in whenever they want but Oliver should also know that Diggle will snap anyone who comes near his baby girl to do any harm and since Sara can barely keep her eyes open or talk, his secret lair and identity are safe. Another bright spot for the Dig: he finally masked up for a mission! Granted it was an unstylish black ski mask, but we’re heading in the right direction with protecting one’s identity!
- The only thing worth mentioning about the lying Laurel who is still lying to her father about her sister’s death and being angry all the time is that Quentin looked darned fine all suited up and mad as hell at Laurel for her regularly schedule screw-up for the episode.
- And then there’s Roy. Sweet, he wants to punch something, Roy ending the episode by waking up from a nightmare in which he sees himself killing Sara on the rooftop! Yeah, not believing that so called twist for one second. No way Roy killed Sara because frankly it would be no biggie and have no rippling impact on the group. It seems his memories of killing the cop during a Mirakuru fueled bender last season is obviously starting to break through and he’s superimposed it on a more recent traumatic experience but there is the good question or HOW he knew how it looked on the rooftop that night and Sara’s last words before being shot.
It was smart to leave this episode on the cliffhanger of ‘Did Roy kill Sara?!’ since next up seems to be a Laurel and Ted Grant centric episode: which isn’t destined to be a clunker, but isn’t set up to be a game changing episode either. As much as I tweak Laurel, I do want to see her evolve and ascend into a character that is ultimately fun to watch. Maybe this episode will be the one. Maybe not. At the very least there’s the possibility of shirtless, boxing Ted Grant which does buy a nice amount of good will with me. Unless Laurel does something completely bonkers. Which, who are we kidding, she usually does.