VOD TV recap: Arrow Season 3, Episode 5 (The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak)
Matthew Turner | On 28, Nov 2014
This week’s Felicity-centric episode opens with a nicely cut-together montage of three fight training sequences: Oliver and Roy, Laurel and Ted Grant, and Thea and Malcolm Merlyn, who are continuing their training in secret now they’re now back in Starling City. The punchline is that after each of them reaches a resolution, we cut to Felicity’s apartment, where she’s doing rather badly in her own morning exercise routine (basically sit-ups).
As the tongue-in-cheek comics-referencing title suggests, this turns out to be our cue to spend the majority of the episode with Arrow’s most likeable character. What’s interesting is that although this episode is much lighter in tone than usual (the less charitable might deem it a “filler” episode), Felicity actually gets her own version of all the story elements that are usually reserved for Oliver. To wit: she’s threatened by the reappearance of a figure from her past that she thought dead; she gets to save herself by kicking a little ass (pistol-whipping, no less); she gets the flashback treatment (so no visit to Flashback City this week); and she even gets a hefty dose of family melodrama, thanks to a surprise visit from her estranged Vegas cocktail waitress mother, Donna (Charlotte Ross).
Plot-wise, Starling City is threatened by a mysterious tech expert calling himself Brother Eye, who shuts down the city’s power grid with a virus that Felicity realises is one she wrote herself, back when she was a gothic-dressing, black-haired “hacktivist” at MIT (a look that’s presumably intended as a homage to Neil Gaiman’s Death). The obvious suspect is Felicity’s ex-boyfriend, Cooper (Nolan Funk), except he supposedly committed suicide in prison after he was arrested for hacking student loan records.
The reveal of how Cooper turns out to be still alive is actually pretty smart, although Cooper himself is a fairly lame villain, especially given the significance attached to Brother Eye in the comics. (Short version: Brother Eye is a rogue artificial intelligence associated with O.M.A.C. – a name we’ve seen in reference to whatever Ray Palmer is up to.) Incidentally, Brother Eye was created by a character named Myron Forest, which, in one of Arrow’s pleasingly regular comic book references, turns out to be the name of Felicity’s college roommate (played by Matthew McLellan) in the flashbacks. With that in mind, it’s possible that we’ll see Myron again – maybe he’ll use Cooper’s mind to kick-start an artificial intelligence programme or something – but there’s no hint of that here.
Underwhelming villain aside (though it is good to see Felicity come up against someone whose skills rival her own), the episode is a largely entertaining diversion from whatever the main plot for this season is going to be. A large part of that is due to Emily Bett Rickards’ performance as Felicity, coupled with the surprisingly engaging and emotional chemistry she generates with Ross’ Donna, which is no small feat, considering we’ve never seen the character before. Their estranged mother-daughter relationship (and the reasons behind it) is the stuff of time-honoured cliché, but there’s nothing wrong with clichés provided they are marshalled correctly and these clichés do their job and push the right buttons.
Another intriguing note is how Felicity and Donna both talked around the identity of her mysteriously absent father – Felicity apparently takes after him, which could mean he’s some sort of tech wizard. (A highly unlikely pet theory: it’ll turn out she’s Bruce Wayne’s daughter.) Either way, it seems like this is laying the ground for a future appearance from Felicity’s Mystery Dad, but whether that’ll happen this season or next remains to be seen.
The only wrong note occurs when Felicity ditched her hacker identity in the flashbacks to become the present-day Felicity we know and love. That seemed like it happened too quickly, an unnecessary touch that could have been saved for a future flashback episode.
As for the remaining sub-plots, there are essentially two, the first of which involves Oliver re-establishing his connection with Thea (despite the pair of them still lying to each other) and moving into the giant loft apartment she bought with Malcolm’s inheritance cash – cue an amusing shot of a sad-faced Malcolm watching them bond over a Joan Crawford movie together. The second sub-plot nudges Laurel further on her Black Canary trajectory by having her screw up and cause a riot on her day as District Attorney: she then confides in Ted Grant, who gives her good advice on how to channel her rage and frustration in the ring and helps her out with a costume decision.
And then, oh yes, the ending. Normally, we’re quite happy to leave discussion of the cliffhanger endings until the following week’s review, but this one is such a great moment it’s worthy of inclusion. We witness Sara’s death on the rooftop again, only this time with the reveal that a Mirakuru-addled Roy is flinging arrows into her body with super-strength! Cue Roy waking up in a cold sweat, convinced that he’s just “remembered” killing Sara. But did he really kill her? Tune in next week, Arrow fans!
Season 1, 2 and 3 of Arrow are available on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, for free next day UK delivery on Amazon items, as part of a £79 annual Prime membership.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.