Arrow is the greatest superhero show in ages, and it's only getting better. There are a lot of characters to obsess about on this show including the Bruce Wayne-esque Oliver Queen — but Odd Duck author Cecil Castellucci explains why she's obsessed with Felicity Smoak, the show's glamorous computer genius.
Recently, I got Hulu on my Xbox, so for the first time in a long time, I can watch current TV. Always seeking the fantastical or the super, I started watching The CW's Arrow. And while I'm always very glad for Oliver's penchant for taking his shirt off, I want to talk about my girl crush on Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett-Rickards) on Arrow.
Sure, Laurel is our star crossed lover-girl. And I'm sure that her love with Oliver Queen is going to be doled out to us in some kind of deliciously long term angsty will- they-or-won't-they true love story line, and I'll love that. Also, I'm assuming that she will, at some point, turn into the Black Canary. After all she did wear fishnets in that one episode in the beginning and she proved that she could kick some mighty ass, not needing any boy to help her out. Then there is Helena Bertinelli. All passion and beauty and revenge. Our Huntress. She'll surely provide some interesting obstacles and chances for Oliver Queen to be all emo. And there is Thea, the sister. An enfant terrible facing her own privilege and growing pains But to me, these are the boring girls of Arrow. They're pretty bland even down to their boring predictable clothes. The really interesting, and in my opinion the greatest girl character in Arrow is Felicity Smoak. She just shines.
When we first meet Felicity, she is presented as a kind of dorky computer girl recruited and trusted by Walter Steele, who then disappears. Oliver also sensing and needing Felicity's skills, uses her as a go-to girl, asking her to locate an arrow, asking her to salvage destroyed tech, asking her to do things that are beyond his capability. Which is nice, because Felicity is no slouch and we recognize immediately that she is wicked smart. She's presented as totally capable. She sees pretty early on through Oliver's flimsy excuses about what he's actually asking her to do, but she goes along with it until eventually the excuses are so thin that she's brought into the fold. In fact, she's an essential team member, even if at the beginning she's not totally in the loop.
One of the nice things is that Felicity is not ever introduced to us as a potential love interest. And I like that about her. (Dear Arrow. Please don't make her a love interest!) She is first and foremost a skilled equal. But this doesn't mean that she's not sexy. She is. She's got the best (ie. not boring and middle of the road) wardrobe of all the ladies on the show. Those cool glasses! Those awesome shoes! That great lipstick! Those dangly earrings! She may be a total computer nerd, but she is one hot lady. It is refreshing that the initial dynamic between Felicity and Oliver is a bit of a role reversal. He notices only her brain. (What a treat! he's using her for her brain!) She is the one who notices and comments on how sexy Oliver is. She is our in-show male gazer. She says out loud the things that we might say as we are taking in the eye candy that is Oliver Queen and it's a relief, because someone has got to notice in that world that he is ridiculously hot. Felicity does, but it's not with the ultimate goal that she's going to get him, more like an appreciation of a hot guy.
It's important to note that the other ladies in the show have brains, too. But Felicity's smarts skills are on a whole other level. And Arrow uses those smarts in a smart way. They have Felicity move beyond the superficial toward a deeper relationship with Oliver, to the point where he brings her into his fold and she becomes more essential to his mission. In effect, they are growing their relationship. We don't see that with Laurel, because she and Oliver already have a history. And with Helena it's lust at first sight. Thea and his mom have known him his whole life and even the detective he dates, McKenna Hall, is from his past and there is an implied history. But with Felicity, we see a friendship being born. And what's nice about it is that it is free from the Oliver Queen from before. It's the first relationship with a woman that Oliver gets to have as his new post island self. In a way it's a chance for him to put into practice all that he learned emotionally while in exile.
When Felicity moves from behind the desk at Queen Enterprises to the Arrow's lair being brought in as insider, not only is she going to bring her expertise to his merry little band, but she's going to learn from him too. She makes his mission better, because now Oliver doesn't have to know how to do everything. She also joins the team on her own terms. Oliver and Diggle invite her in, but she negotiates what the terms of that inclusion is going to be and then when that mission has been met, she says she's out. She has an exit strategy and even if that doesn't happen she's made her terms. She's not overwhelmed by getting to hang with the cool guys. She's got a certain agency when it comes to her destiny. In her take-charge way, she's not afraid to grow into who she's going to become, demonstrated by the fact that she starts to train with Diggle. (Who is she going to become!? Even though Felicity Smoak is originally a 40-year-old woman minor character from Firestorm is she going to be this show's version of Oracle? Am I the only one who sees some kind of Birds of Prey thing developing here?) Sure, Oliver needs Felicity as the brains of his operation, but she is also the heart. The conscience. She's the one who tells him that he needs to become more than what he is. She's the one who verbalizes the moral dilemma that he's in as a masked vigilante. And through this, it's as though Oliver is now growing a heart.
In a recent episode where she is horrified by the events of the day, after failing to find a killer's exact coordinates through her hacking skills — through no fault of her own causing the death of a man — she says that she's not currently seeing anyone but that if she was she wouldn't know what to say to them about what happened. At the end of the episode, Oliver says that if she ever needs to tell someone about her day, she can tell him. It's the moment that we know a true friendship is born.
I'm always excited when I find a lady character on television that is more than just fluff or set dressing or love object, but one who is very clearly on a journey of her own. Felicity Smoak is a complex character and to date she has the most healthy relationship with Oliver Queen. She's a great heroic character for girls to see bloom on a superhero television show. Sure, she's the quirky one, and the one I identify with the most because she's exactly the girl I would want to be in a comic book, which in my opinion makes her the coolest girl on Arrow. I'm excited to see where this character goes and how her platonic yet clearly loving friendship with Oliver blooms. And I can't wait to see her kick some more ass with her brains and brawn.
Felicity Smoak, I want to be your friend. Wanna go get a cosmotini together?