Arrow Season 3, Episode 5
“The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”
“If I had accepted my life, I would be a cocktail waitress in Vegas like my mother, and I never would have gone to college, and I never would have moved a thousand miles away to work at Queen Consolidated, and I never would have believed some crazy guy in a hood when he told me I could be more than just some IT girl.” – Felicity Smoak, “City of Blood”
99.99% of women would likely tell you that the most difficult and complex (and important) relationship in their lives is the one with their mother. (And that .01%…hi! Is your name Rory Gilmore? What is it like to have your mother be your best friend?) I get along with my mother MUCH better now than I did in my 20’s, but even now we lock horns on regular occasions. I struggle a lot with feeling like my mother does not understand me or my life choices. At my age, my mother had been married for 14 years already and she had three kids, so she sometimes has a hard time understanding my life as a single 30-something living alone in New York City. She doesn’t understand what I do with this website (“Why can’t you text back and forth with me during The Bachelor? Are you mad?” “No Mom, I have to take notes for a blog post and I need to focus.”). She doesn’t understand why I go to conventions, dress in costumes, and pay to have my picture taken with celebrities. (Because it’s fun as hell. –Sage) She most certainly doesn’t understand why I would be frantically texting and yelling at my phone minutes after getting on a plane the week of my sister’s wedding because the hotel block for Gallifrey One sold out immediately and I couldn’t focus on anything until my group had a hotel room (#priorities). Now before you think my mother is a horrible person, I admit that I don’t make things easy for her. I get very impatient when she DOESN’T understand (“NO MOM I CANT TALK TILL I HAVE THIS HOTEL ROOM SORTED. SORRY I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU SINCE CHRISTMAS”) things and therefore I get snippy or I shut down. I will be the first person to admit that I’m no picnic sometimes.
Needless to say, I related a LOT to Felicity Smoak in this episode of Arrow.
“The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” finally gave us the long-awaited back story of our favorite IT Genius (duh, look at the title) and also introduced us to her mother, Donna Smoak. It turns out that Felicity didn’t always use her computer skills for good and she wasn’t always the super cute blonde with the excellent taste in boob window dresses that we know and love. That’s right. Like many people, Felicity went through a goth phase in college, complete with purple hair, dark lipstick, and all the piercings. She was also, along with her boyfriend (which did Oliver get totally jealous at the mention of her college boyfriend? I think he did.) a part of a cyber terrorist group. You know. Just for funsies. Personally, I think Felicity was part of the group NOT to wreak havoc but for the intellectual stimulation. She proved as much when her boyfriend Cooper used a virus she had written to try to wipe out the campus’ student debt and she stopped him, much to his chagrin. For Felicity, it was never about putting her plans in to ACTION, it was more about her needing to get all that genius out of her brain. Even in her goth days, Felicity was a woman with a strong moral fiber and a good healthy fear of jail-time. After she stopped him, Cooper then posed the question that gets to the very core of who Felicity is: “Are you a hacker or a hero?”
What Cooper failed to realize is that you can be both.
Cooper, of course, goes to jail because even the ATTEMPT to wipe out all student debt alerted the feds to him. Felicity tries to save him, but Cooper confesses that he wrote the virus in order to keep her out of jail. However, Cooper then kills himself in prison (see Oliver, you’re not the only who has dealt with pain in your life) and Felicity, forever changed, dyes her hair blonde, takes out her nose ring (though I like to thing she kept the ear bar as a reminder of just how close she came), and dons her geek glasses. There were a lot of rumors building up to the episode that Felicity’s origins would have some sort of comic-booky root, but it turns out that she’s just an ordinary girl capable of extraordinary things. (Now I have Felicity as a companion of the Doctor in my head and it’s wonderful and I can’t get it out.)
Proving you never can truly escape the past, Felicity’s cyber-terror days do come back to haunt her. Starling City is forced into a blackout and suddenly a hacker that can ONLY be described as the Eye of Sauron comes on all the screens in the city promising destruction, beginning with the banks. (Sound familiar?) Horrified, Felicity realizes that Sauron is using the computer virus that changed her life, and she has to figure out how to outsmart HERSELF in order to stop it. The city is thrown into chaos, and the chaos in Felicity’s life is only heightened by the unexpected arrival of her mother. At first glance, Donna Smoak is everything you expect her to be, knowing she is a cocktail waitress in Vegas. She’s brash with big hair, bright make-up, and wearing a dress no one really wants to see their mother in. She’s flighty and fawns all over both Ray and Oliver (Their reactions to her are amazing. Ray ponders if Felicity was adopted while Oliver just stares at his future Mother-in-Law with delight). She’s delighted to see her daughter, yet completely overlooks Felicity’s discomfort at her sudden appearance. It was, at first, a nightmare, and I totally understood Felicity’s embarrassment. But here’s where Arrow flipped the script on the “Nightmare Mother” cliché: Donna feels the exact same way about her daughter’s perception of her. Donna feels misunderstood by her daughter and desperately wants to connect with her and all of her attempts are failing.
Felicity is all Donna has and Donna FEELS how Felicity wants to pull away from her and it hurts her. Donna knows that she may not be on Felicity’s level of intelligence or skills…but it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her and doesn’t want to connect with her. That’s the thing with Moms. The good ones never stop fighting to have a relationship with their kids. And Donna IS a good mother. She just wants Felicity to SEE her. “Maybe I wasn’t the mom you wanted,” she pleads. “But I was always THERE.” I feel like I’ve had the exact conversation with my mother. My mother is/was always there for me, every step of the way. She drove me to every after-school activity and encouraged me to grow and pursue my interests (aside from that one misguided summer when I was enrolled in Soccer Camp and wanted to die on a daily basis). It’s the same with Donna Smoak and she did most of it by herself, struggling to understand a daughter who related more to her absent father. “All I see is what HE gave you,” she confesses. Deep down, Donna just wants to know that Felicity has some of her legacy in her life, aside from the propensity for hot pink lipstick.
Because this is Starling City, Mother/Daughter bonding time is interrupted by strangers ambushing Felicity’s apartment and kidnapping the two women. (Also how amazing is it that Oliver knew something was wrong when Felicity didn’t answer her phone? “She’s never away from her phone.” #married) Turns out Cooper has been alive the whole time and is the one that unleashed Felicity’s and now he’s out for revenge…and money. (“It was about money and I’M the sellout.”) As they tend to do in life threatening situations, Donna and Felicity’s true colors come out. “All I’ve ever wanted is for you to be HAPPY,” Donna says tearfully (once again echoing my mother…and many other mothers I’m sure). What I loved about this scene is that you SEE the pieces fall into place in Felicity’s brain regarding her mother and what her mother has done for her. Daughters always give their mothers a harder time than they should. When Donna snarls “I worked 60 hours a week to raise that genius child right there,” you see Felicity realize “You know what YEAH she did.” But also, you see in this scene that Donna is more like Felicity than SHE thought. She thinks on her feet, much like Felicity does, and she uses Ray Palmer’s watch to turn on a wi-fi signal so Felicity can alert Oliver as to where they are. (My notes literally said “DONNA IS A BITCH WITH WI-FI!!!!!”) Ollie shows up to take Cooper and his cronies down, but ultimately, Felicity saves herself and her mother, proving once and for all, that she is a HERO. “I have learned I’m a lot tougher than I thought,” she admits to Donna, once they are safe and sound. “I get that from YOU.”
*Excuse me while I go cry in a corner*
That was such a perfect note to end on with Felicity and Donna (for now, as we’ll be seeing her again). It was so lovely to see these two incredibly different and incredibly dynamic women to come to an understanding…and for Felicity to give that gift to her mother. She may get her brains from her father…but she got her soul and her character from her mother…and THAT is what makes all the difference. It’s the difference between being a hacker and a hero. I am sure they will continue to clash again and again, because that’s what mothers and daughters do. But now they will clash because they know they are so alike instead of desperately grasping at straws of understanding. And that’s much better, don’t you think?
Odds and Ends
– While we’re still a good bit away from the longing looks and lingering glances of seasons one and two (and MILES away from all the casual touching of the premiere), there were some really nice Olicity moments in this episode. What I appreciated most about these moments is that they were NOT romantic, but more about the friendship at the foundation of their relationship. I love that Oliver was the one encouraging Felicity to work it out with her mother. He, of all people, knows the importance of mending relationships with the family that you have.
– “Lovers sounds creepy no matter how you say it.” Accurate.
– “They shaped the person you are today. And you know how I feel about her.” You know what, I am TIRED of these two people (especially Oliver) being idiots. YOU GUYS LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH, JUST BE TOGETHER. However, I DO love that Felicity didn’t go all melty and googly-eyed at that comment. It’s going to take a lot more than just words to fix things with them. But those words are a good start.
– In a nice parallel to the Donna/Felicity story, Oliver and Thea clashed this week over Thea (who is still using a perfect poker face about it) using Malcolm’s “estate” money to get an apartment (and reopen Verdant). I love that Thea didn’t cave to Oliver’s demands and said that she had to meet him halfway if he wanted to be in her life. This season is ALL about Thea taking control of her life, and I loved that Oliver DID meet her halfway by the end, when he showed up with a big bag of popcorn at the end. (But was it our favorite fun time snack Kettle Corn? I like to think that it was.) I am a bit creeped out by Malcolm observing the siblings from afar though. Shit is gonna hit the fan once Ollie realizes just how close Malcolm and Thea have gotten.
– I loved the three-way fighting montage at the beginning, especially when it was countered with Felicity struggling through her morning workout. #gpoy
– Ollie’s reaction to Baby Sara coming down to his lair was hysterical. Also more of David Ramsey carrying that baby around in a snuggie please.
– Guys, I am really enjoying Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer. I think he’s an excellent counterpoint to Oliver and I love how invested he is in Felicity and how he builds her up. Not saying I am looking forward to their inevitable hook-up though.
– Laurel is still training with Ted and Ted finally called her out on her anger, saying she was just “lashing out” instead of focusing. Quentin did the same when Laurel was the acting DA during the protests and called in the riot squad, which just escalated the situation. (Oh by the way, he still doesn’t know Sara is dead, will someone PLEASE tell him?) Laurel finally confesses to Ted WHY she is so angry and driven…she wants vengeance for her dead sister. Ted sagely tells her she needs to fight for herself and not revenge. Promo pictures of Laurel as the Black Canary were released yesterday, and she will be taking up that mantle in episode 10. She’s got a LONG way to go before I’ll buy her as a competent fighter and vigilante, so I hope that we see logical growth over the next few weeks. Cause right now, it just irks me.
– Roy is still having trouble sleeping and it is revealed at the end of the episode that he believes HE is the one that killed Sara. WHAT?
– GOD BLESS TUMBLR.
And that’s our episode. Thank you again for your patience in my tardiness with this one, dear readers. Our convention season is officially over until Gallifrey One in February AND our Doctor Who recaps are going on hiatus until the Christmas Special. So what I am saying is…I will be able to be more timely with these from now on. I’ll get to work on recapping last night’s episode, “Guilt” while YOU discuss how awesome Felicity is in the comments. Deal?