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I really wanted to love this episode. Really. After all, Felicity is pretty much my favorite character on Arrow. But “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” just didn’t work for me on a number of levels. The plot of the episode was predictable and offered almost nothing in the way of surprises (save for the possible Roy revelation, which I’ll dissect a bit later), and it wasted Charlotte Ross in the role of Felicity’s mother (which may have been my greatest disappointment within the episode).
For a show that spends a great deal of time on flashbacks (and, for the most part, a show that knows how to effectively utilize flashbacks), their particular use here was clumsy. Sure, the flashbacks were necessary to tell the overall story, but each time one happened, we were treated to opening and closing shots of Felicity staring off into space (I assume, because we were supposed to think the flashbacks were really her remembering things). When Oliver or Thea have flashbacks within an episode, they are treated as an element of the plot, not a side effect of a character losing focus and remembering things. It makes the placement of the flashback clunky when we’re meant to see it as a remnant of memory rather than a smoothly flowing element of the plot.
As for the overall plot of the episode, it was certainly one of the more lazily constructed stories I’ve seen on the series. Not a single element of the plot was surprising or, frankly, interesting. So, Felicity was a master hacker with a slight goth streak, whose boyfriend was arrested for hacking into government systems? I could have come up with that plot. And said boyfriend allegedly died. only to emerge alive and hellbent on destroying Starling City (why Starling City and why he wanted to destroy it beyond his basic “hackervisim” is never mentioned)? Again, pretty obvious. I mean, I can’t imagine any audience member who didn’t see that apparent “twist” coming from the word go.
When the show began touting that it would be presenting a Felicity-centric episode, I was super excited (I was more excited when the episode was entitled “Oracle,” but I was still excited even after the title change). Felicity is one of the most interesting and fun characters on Arrow, so I was expecting a fun and interesting look into her past and how she came to be who she is today. An origin story wherein the character’s only difference from then to now is her taste in boyfriends and the color of her hair and wardrobe is not an origin story. There was nothing explaining why she became a master hacker or how she learned these skills. It was a lazy attempt at fleshing out one of the show’s major characters.
The only really “new” piece of information we learned is that Felicity and her mother do not get along (unlike, presumably, Felicity and her father). Much was made of the casting of Charlotte Ross (who was excellent during her time on NYPD Blue) as Felicity’s mother. But why tout this casting if you’re only going to have her appear vapid and ditzy for most of the episode with almost no chance for Ross to flex her considerable acting chops? It wasn’t until after Felicity and her mother escaped that we were given any hint of who Felicity’s mother really is under her rather annoying exterior. This was a real chance to delve into some of Felicity’s own pain and vulnerabilities. Instead, the show paid lip service to a clearly fractured mother-daughter relationship and focused on the dull, revenge driven relationship between Felicity and her ex-boyfriend. Such a wasted opportunity.
Finally, let’s touch on the piece of the episode that was meant to be the real shocker: Roy might have killed Sara. While this, if true, would be a true shock, I so hope it isn’t. Roy is one of the most troubling characters on Arrow. He’s had precious little character development over the last season, and making him Sara’s killer would only be a disservice to him. Because you know what? If he’s the killer, as his dream suggests, it’s clear that he didn’t do it while in his right mind. Which would really be a rehash of everything that happened to him last season. And the last thing I want (and the show needs) is another storyline where Roy has no control over what he does. Again, that is lazy storytelling.
Now, if this dream turns out to be something different- say, a PTSD manifestation of his actions from last season, where his guilt over killing people has caused him to believe he killed Sara- I might be able to buy it. Plus, it would give Roy a truly complex and interesting story. Roy did some awful things last season, and I highly doubt that after six months, he’s completely healed from the psychological horrors of what he’s done. But if he killed Sara because something or someone made him, then I’m really going to be disappointed in the show. I know the writers are better than that, and much better than this episode as a whole.
— One positive: Felicity managed to disarm and knock out the maniacal ex on her own. So, I guess that’s something?
— Roy Palmer continues to be charming. Although, now his cheeriness is starting to become more strange and creepy than purely charming.
— Despite the poor episode, Emily Bett Rickards did her best to sell it.
— I’m starting to get sick of Oliver repeatedly saying things to Felicity to hint that he still loves her. He had his chance and said no. He needs to leave Felicity alone. It’s a pretty jerk move to keep bringing it back up.