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‘Arrow’ and the Character Assassination of Felicity Smoak

You have been warned: Spoilers through Arrow 4×22: “Lost in the Flood”

Is there a more hated character on Arrow right now than Miss Felicity Smoak? Over the past few months there has been an outcry from fans about Felicity’s rise to power, blaming her for Laurel’s death and the destruction of Oliver’s ability to shoot an arrow. Season 4 hasn’t exactly been kind to nerdy IT hacker/CEO, which breaks my heart because I adore the fashionable nerd, but why now? What’s changed in the past season to cause such an uproar over her character?

Felicity has been an integral character since the beginning of Arrow, providing a bevy of technical assistance to the vigilante for years, but in recent weeks her character has taken a bit of a nose dive and I attribute that solely to her mother, Donna Smoak. Or rather, to the poor use of her mother as a storytelling device.

Olicity (ugh I’m sorry, I hate that ship name, too) was inevitable. Even I couldn’t deny the attraction between the couple on their first meeting. He was sweet and aloof, she was a dork. As much as I wanted the pair to stay friends, they grew on me, and I accepted they were more than the hopes and dreams of Tumblr fans. Despite my reservations about the romance, Felicity and Oliver didn’t drag the show down because of it. In fact, the romance added a lightness the show needed to keep up with The Flash and even Supergirl. Things went south on Arrow because the show needed to end that romance in a believable fashion based on the notion that good television can’t have happy couples. Breakups make for better ratings, I suppose.

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In case you forgot, Oliver and Felicity ended because Oliver hid the knowledge of his son from her and Felicity was (understandably) hurt by his actions. It’s unfair to compare Felicity’s reaction to how season one or even season two Felicity would have responded because Early Felicity was still in co-worker mode. But Present Day Felicity was preparing to marry this man, spend the rest of her life with him. It’s not too much to expect honesty from him, especially when, in her mind, she already knew his darkest secret.

Oliver is a withdrawn character, burrowing into himself when things get dark because he thinks that is the best way to cope and protect those around him. Felicity is the opposite and wears her heart on her sleeve. If she feels something, she says it and has no qualms about people knowing where she stands on an issue. If the show had played to this angle, I’m almost certain that the break up and ensuing fallout would have been better received. A conversation acknowledging Oliver’s mistake, explaining his reasoning, and so on, would have made the transition from fiancé back to friend easier to withstand.

Instead, there’s this notion that Felicity’s actions must be explained more, that there has to be a bigger reason for her to have left Oliver. And that’s where Mama Smoak comes into play.

In the penultimate episode of season four, “Lost in the Flood” and last week in “Monument Point” we were treated to a significant amount of Donna Smoak screen time. I don’t hate Donna’s character. In fact, she was originally a comic relief I enjoyed and a parental figure who was so much more than the dark “woe is me” we’ve become accustomed to on Arrow.

However, since Oliver and Felicity broke up, Felicity has taken on more of her mother’s, shall we say, obnoxious traits. Donna’s obsession with “not lying” has become Felicity’s obsession, to the point where even lovable Curtis points out the similarities between the two. Felicity didn’t break up with Oliver because it’s in his nature to hide the truth. Felicity broke up with Oliver because a lie is a huge no-no and that’s exactly why Donna left Noah years ago and Felicity is trying to keep history from repeating itself. It’s as if the writers are somehow trying to explain the breakup-that-was-promised as unavoidable because of who Felicity’s mother, and thereby Felicity, is.

In driving this point home, they’ve even taken to changing Felicity’s character to better match Donna. Her clothes are more over the top (even though she’s always been quite fashionable for an IT girl), her shoes are beyond unreasonable for someone who fights crime day and night, and her quirky nature has been turned up to volume 11 to remind us that she is Donna Smoak’s child and therefore, her bad decisions aren’t her own.

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Felicity is a character who was, first and foremost, used for her brain. It was her intelligence, quick wit, and unfailing loyalty that attracted both Oliver and viewers alike. And while some of those things are still on display (she saves the world from Rubicon in the most recent episode and had some good lines like, “I am not pregnant. Is that the only news a woman can have?”), they seem to run far and few between these days. Instead of focusing on her we’re left watching as she’s caught in the middle of a marital dispute between two adults who make it a habit to single out from where she gets each of her significant character traits.

Felicity is Felicity. We don’t need to see her parents to know where she came from because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What happened to the girl who joined Team Arrow on her terms? The girl who made a living off of giving Oliver a piece of her mind? The girl who said, “It feels really good having you inside me. And by ’you,’ I mean your voice. And by ’me,’ I mean my ear. I’m going to stop talking. Right now.”

I miss her.

About Jen Stayrook

Jen Stayrook
Don't let the fancy nerd duds deceive you; Jen’s never been described as “classy.” You can find her on Twitter where she stalks all of her favorite celebrities: @jenstayrook. Or you can find her on Steam or Xbox dying in every game she plays as "Rilna." Email: jen.stayrook@theworkprint.com

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19 comments

  1. I agree totally 100% with this article. Felicity isnt the problem, it is the issues her parents her having.

  2. Not sure how you can make a general claim that Felicity Smoak is the most hated character on Arrow. Based on what? Just looking around on Twitter and Facebook and seeing the posts of crybabies who want Arrow to be a direct adaptation of the comics? I understand that this is your opinion and you have the right to express it. But blanket claims? Irresponsible. This is not a fact, this is your opinion. Don’t present it as such.

    Now, has Felicity’s character taken a few knocks in the past couple of seasons. Sure. I’m a fan and I acknowledge that. But I believe that’s mostly because Arrow doesn’t let its characters have a voice. The show isn’t quite inclined to present perspectives, even Oliver’s. But Felicity is still the same strong, funny, smart Felicity I fell in love with back in the first season. Only now, there are more layers. Because characters evolve. Because characters develop. And even if Arrow is more plot-driven than most, it has shown the change in its characters.

    I see this claim that Felicity is hated now a lot from people who still seem to want Felicity to be the quirky IT girl in the background whose only role is to help Oliver and make quips. But that’s not who she is. That’s never been only what she is. What you mentioned about Felicity’s “rise to power,” getting blamed for Laurel’s death and Oliver’s inability to shoot an arrow — all of these have actually nothing to do with Felicity Smoak as a character. Felicity Smoak rose to prominence in the story line because she is not the main relationship of the protagonist, the hero. Laurel’s death has everything to do with a show finally able to cut loose a character and an actress that do not serve its narrative. Oliver’s inability to shoot an arrow has more to do with the fact the show decided to go with a magic bad guy and having to accommodate the lesser abilities of actors such as Katie Cassidy in fight scenes. Have you noticed that after Laurel’s death everybody is now able to fight in the light of day?

    Felicity Smoak is still very much beloved. As evidenced by the fact her Funko dolls keep selling out. Her DC action figure also keeps selling out. Her portrayer’s recent T-shirt for charity sold thousands in a limited amount of time. So unless you can back up your claims with definitive proof, stop making them. It just weakens your argument, and pokes holes in your entire article.

    • Felicity was invented to be comic relief the show runners at the time said she wasn’t designed to be a regular character just a character that came in every few episodes to make a joke so to say she is more than a funny IT girl is wrong and the only reason so has so much unnecessary plot because of you guys who think of this show as a romantic show when this is a action show. Felicity is cancer and to say your reasons for liking her is that she is cute or she looks good with Oliver shows how little you know about the actual characters. Of course it shouldn’t be exactly like the comics but the people who decide felicity’s fate in the shows job is to translate the comics into a tv format. In the comics Felicity is Ronny Raymond’s stepmom (firestorm).

      • Where did I say that my reasons for liking her is because she is cute or looks good with Oliver? No, my reasons for enjoying Felicity is because she’s a strong woman (yes, being able and willing to express emotions even in a manner that includes tears is something I consider strength), a brilliant woman, a kind and compassionate one, a funny one, a gorgeous one, a complicated, multilayered character. Even if she was originally created to be a one-off character (never have the producers and showrunners said she was just meant to be comic relief), she has grown and evolved, as characters in long-running series usually do.

        I hope you can argue the merits of a show and character without devolving to calling anyone a cancer. That is a serious disease and for all the passion it generates among fans, Arrow is JUST a show. So, chill.

        No, Arrow is not an action show. The executive producers from the very beginning have called it a drama with action elements. No, I don’t want it to just be focused on romance, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy Oliver and Felicity in a relationship. I do. But I enjoy the action/adventure elements as well and would like more of that. And I would like more of those elements to involve Felicity. It’s fun for me seeing her on the field, working with the Diggle and Oliver.

    • Your reply is perfection. Thank you for leaving it. 🙂

      I couldn’t disagree more with this article. I was GLAD to see the inclusion of her parents, tbh. I WANTED that backstory and it made a lot of stuff more clear about her.

      That also said, the storyline I was most frustrated by this season was Oliver’s. It’s not that Oliver lied, it’s that for four straight seasons, Oliver never STOPS lying to people, either deliberately or by omission, and he never progresses out of that character arc despite the rather catastrophic disasters because he doesn’t. It’s become the go-to for the writers to create conflict, and it’s grown old.

      Granted, it’s in character, given *Oliver’s* parents. Let’s face it, clinging to a lie when a truth would serve you better is an out and out Moira Queen characteristic. (And I loved Moira and hated to see her go.)

      But SOME advancement along this character arc would have been welcome. I was even more frustrated this time around because they even have a time travel episode where Barry WARNS Oliver not to lie. And Oliver? Lies. For singularly stupid reasons, too, especially since everyone else save Felicity knew about his kid by the time it was all over. (And how about the utter out of character move by Thea, who complained for two seasons about everyone lying to her, telling Oliver to lie to Felicity, too? WHAT, writers???)

      (And I won’t even touch on how much I hated every aspect of that whole secret baby story arc. It really ruined my view of Oliver as a character, all the way around.)

      Let’s face it: Proposing to a woman when you KNOW you have a kid who could potentially show up on your doorstep one day is a skank move, not to mention stupid. Given Oliver’s line of work, if he really cared about the kid, he would have told Felicity — if for no other reason than to make certain that someone else he trusted kept an eye out for William in case something happened to Oliver himself. If for no other reason than thinking ahead more than five minutes and realizing the emotional bombshell that would happen if he married Felicity and had a family and boom, suddenly William turns up on his doorstep.

      But then if he trusted her, I guess he would have lied to Baby Mama and told Felicity anyway. Not like Baby Mama had any way of knowing whether he told Felicity or not, right?

      So, no. I had no problems with Felicity this season. Problems with Oliver? Yes, absolutely. Problems with the writers? Even more so. But not with her. I was glad she had the self-respect to kick him to the curb. And that, too, is in character. But then, *I* didn’t like Felicity because she was comic relief. I liked her because she was one of only two people (the other being Dig) who wouldn’t put up with Oliver’s bullsh*t and called him on it. It was the same reason I loved and still love Diggle, even though they’ve undercut *his* willingness to call Oliver on stuff, too.

      And as long as Oliver listened when they did, he was a better character. S3 and S4 was what happened when he didn’t.

      • FYI, the above reply was to Thaddeus Jones, not to any of the others before it.

      • Boy you people really live on your own planet dont you? Felicity is self righteous, smug, a HYPOCRITE, obsessed with herself, obnoxious, pretty quick to find another lover after dumping Oliver, and LIED continously to the board of Palmer Corporation. Barry really dodged a bullet when she dumped him. She has more screen time than Green Arrow. On multiple occasions she’s told Oliver that he’s really not important to the team and they could get by without him. She’s somehow able to shoot a gun with no experience and hit her targets while closing her eyes and her head facing the wrong direction, her hacking skills are to the point where all she needs to do is hit one key(she literally found all the info she needed on the “new canary” after one key stroke) she can survive multiple gunshots to the chest and belly…. but one arrow is all it took to kill Black Canary, THEN she makes the death of Canary about her! Oh, and what was the point of her being handicap and having visions of her college self? Served no purpose to the plot at all and trivialized the whole thing of real handicapped people. Can she go one episode without whining?

  3. Felicity was never designed to be a season regular so the claim that she was never just a nerdy IT girl but more layered is not true the character was designed not to be layered and just be comic relief. All her story lines are unnecessary and she gets more screen time than any other b character. The show is called arrow and it should be about him.

    • Indeed… this talk of layers and all is for Shakespeare – if I wanted to see that, I would have done so…and Katie Cassidy is a fantastic actor… and can do stunt scenes too… the only reason she got killed off was not because of here “lesser abilities” because the Arrow team cough*Guggenheim*cough does not know how to write women characters… Felicity has taken over… and yes despite what the above passive aggressive response says, I fully agree with you… Felicity & friends was once a brilliant Superhero show called Arrow.

  4. I love all the characters but Laurel, Felicity and Thea have always been my favorite. Laurel was before this show ever aired and I feel Katie Cassidy did great, as much as I miss her i now know she was the best character story wise to kill off. Thea, I have liked since the show began. I do have to say though that the moment Felicity became a regular character the show got better, I really cant say I cared for Arrow before her, i loved Laurel and Thea, and how they were protrayed but it wasnt what i needed to get me into the show, I give Felicity that credit, but i will admit this when Laurel bacame the Black Canary that would of been enough to get me to watch Arrow as well. Same for Thea when she donned her red costume, Barry also helped me get into Arrow, because after watching the first half of season one the year prior nothing held my attention and Felicity at the time when I watched was a minor character.

  5. Watching Felicity and her family (and the new gay black guy) is like watching characters in Scream Queens or Nickelodeon shows like iCarly or Drake and Josh. It is over the top acting for children.

  6. Felicity was a great character. Laurel was a great character.

    For some reason, about 3/4 of the way through Season 3 and all of Season 4, the writing for those characters went increasingly downhill. I’m not sure what happened, but it was pretty quick, really.

    Felicity has always been the tech girl. She’s always been the “behind the scenes” girl. But as with all characters, she can’t be “just” that forever. She has to change or the character stagnates. That, I get. What I don’t get from the writers is why they changed her into a whiny baby. She was never a whiny, self-righteous, teenager. She was funny and brilliant and sweet and concerned. She was never written or acted, as a morally superior character. She had her moments, as all human beings do, but she was never written as just a whiny baby you wanted to slap more than hug. But she was in Season 4 and a lot of Season 3. Which completely sucks. Because the character, and the actress, deserve so much better than that. I want to see her go back to being that kind of character.

    As for Laurel and her death – that was just an insane piece of “writing”. I don’t know what created the reasoning for it, but whoever was responsible for it should be fired, quickly, and forever. Laurel, to me, has always been almost the antithesis of Felicity. She’s rarely funny – almost always serious. She is constantly considered as morally superior to everyone else and doesn’t mind making that known. And that’s not a bad thing – there has to be a character like that. Laurel is the one on Arrow. Sometimes she’s right and sometimes she’s wrong, but she always truthfully believes in what she’s saying. She’s insanely brave, intensely loyal, and completely on the side of Justice. That’s who Laurel is / was. That’s what she brought to the Black Canary. I wish they’d get back to writing HER like that – when she comes back in Season 5 – thank God.

    But my problem is that I’m hearing in so many different places, that fans are either pro-Felicity or pro-Laurel. And I can see where that comes from – since the comics are so pro-Oliver/Laurel and the show – based on the chemistry of the actors, is much more Oliver/Felicity. So I can see where that would be a problem. But the show is NOT the comic. The show is BASED on the comic. And to me, the chemistry on the show has always, since the beginning, been between Felicity and Oliver. They have the MOST chemistry, on the SHOW, regardless of the “mythology” of the characters in the comics. Sometimes you have to go based on what the actors involved, give you. So it irritates me that it seems that in the Arrow show, there’s only room for either Laurel or Felicity and the writers chose to kill of the Laurel character rather than just simply giving Laurel Lance a new love interest. I don’t care about the mythology of the characters. If I wanna read the comic – I will go and READ the comic. I wanna watch the show. And the SHOW, in my opinion, needs BOTH characters. But they need to be written towards both the characters and the actress’ core strengths. There is enough screen time and enough show for them both, if the writers would get back to their jobs.

    And just because a show is called by a specific name doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that should be on. If the show was ONLY about Oliver Queen – though I do love Stephen Amell greatly – I wouldn’t watch it. Arrow is supposed to encompass his world. And his world, in the tv show, should include both Felicity AND Laurel. And killing off any of the main original characters – though great for “storytelling” and “drama” is just stupid. Kill ’em and bring ’em back – okay. Kill ’em for good??? No.

    But again – in my opinion – Felicity is a great character – she’s just not been written well the last year and a half of the show – and it’s a testament to Emily Bett Rickards’ acting that she’s not more hated than she actually is right now, with the amount of whining and self-righteous attitude she’s been forced to show lately. Get her back to being Felicity – the cute, carefree, BRILLIANT, sweetheart of a girl who loves Oliver and would do anything to help him. Whether she’s with him or not.

    And in my opinion – the same is true of Katie Cassidy’s portrayal of Laurel Lance. I hated her death – it was a stupid decision on their part to make it “forever” – but for a few minutes there, I just about cheered because of her being overbearingly know it all superior. And that’s not Katie’s fault – that’s the writing. She’s been morally smug since the beginning and I never disliked her for it – until late Season 3 and most of Season 4. Get the writing on her back to being smug, but endearingly so because she’s fighting for what’s actually RIGHT. Not just what she WANTS. And for God’s sake, get the woman a love interest. I don’t care if it’s a guy or a girl – just so long as it’s somebody. it seemed for awhile they were pushing a Laurel / Nyssa romance – which I did not want – but hell, so long as she had SOMEBODY, I was gonna be happy for the girl. But all said, if it wasn’t for Katie’s acting ability, I’d have wanted them to kill her off long, long, LONG ago. And an Arrow without Laurel Lance sucks about as much as it would without Felicity or without Diggle or without Speedy.

    One final though – please, for my sanity – get Donna the hell of the show. I didn’t mind it a couple shows a year – but I don’t like the character – or the actress – enough for an all the time thing. We got to see why Felicity is the mess she is – sweet and adorable mess, obviously, but still a mess – but Good Grief, please send mama back home. Felicity was much better off without her. Just sayin.

  7. Felicity is absolutely the most hated character on the show. Ever since they’re fraudulent break up I absolutely can’t stand her flaky relationship issues and her borderline show canceling personality which adds quite literally nothing to the narrative anymore. I sincerely wish her character will die a slow and horrible death just to make the show better. If she just randomly vanished and they just said oh well and moved on in the script, I would be sending the writers themselves gift baskets.

  8. I was an Arrow fan from day #1, even through the bad episodes, I defended Arrow like nothing else. But then, slowly but surely, Felicity because one of the most annoying characters to ever exist on television. Sure, she was fun and quirky, but when they started giving Emily harder stuff to work with, she just couldn’t do it. Her “crying” was laughable and her whining was annoying.

    Then they had to give her so man y unnecessary screen time. They kept focusing on her instead of the more interesting characters like Laurel and Diggle. Then they had to go and give her more screen time than Oliver. Everything became about her. It’s incredibly annoying.

    And then she gets shot and paralyzed. But all-powerful Felicity cannot stay in a wheel-chair. Because grounded Arrow is no longer a thing, it’s now fantasy BS Arrow now. And then they have the audacity to kill one of DC’s characters and the most fleshed out character on the show, Laurel. How? By an arrow. You mean to tell me, Felicity can get shot at and survive, be in a wheelchair for ten seconds, but Laurel dies after an arrow to the stomach??

    It’s complete BS and Guggenheim should be fired for being such an ass, a horrible writer, and for pandering to an overly vocal minority part of the fanbase.

    Yes, Felicity straight up SUCKS. She killed Arrow and she threatens the very existence of the DCTV. The four-way crossover should be for them to fight the all-powerful Felicity and finally defeat her and get her out of TV forever.

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