It's the Felicity-centric episode that we've all wanted.
Can we all take a moment of silence in honor of Emily Bett Rickards for absolutely killing it in the first Felicity-centric episode? Then again, there’s very little reason to be surprised since Rickards has always been one of Arrow‘s strongest players.
Arrow, never one for subtlety, decides to dig into the whole “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” rule of life regarding family as it explores Felicity’s weak relationship with her mother. Ollie and Thea also get in on some of the thematic action as well as they are still trying to navigate their new relationship. While the whole “learning a lesson about the importance of family” at the end feels rather cheesy, it definitely feels earned for a show that used to avoid cheesiness like the plague in its earliest days.
FLASHBACK — 5 Years ago, MIT
Tonight, we ditch the Hong Kong flashbacks for a look at Felicity’s time at MIT, and we learn two things: First, in her youth, Felicity was a hacktivist, along with her boyfriend and first love, Cooper, and their friend Myron. Second, it is impossible to make Felicity look anything other than hot and flawless—even in ’90s goth attire, which was Felicity’s sartorial aesthetic back in 2009.
During her time at MIT, Felicity built, what Cooper called, a super virus, which basically gave the user access to any computer/network that was infected. (Tonight’s episode loses points for all the techno babble. It was almost as ridiculous as this CSI: NY clip.) To test out the completed virus, the Three Hacktivisteers (we need a different name) decide to hack into the Department of Education. Felicity thinks this will be nothing more than hacking in and taking a screenshot to show of their skills to other hacktivist forums. Cooper, the group’s super activist, has other plans in mind and decides to casually get rid of student loans because he definitely won’t get caught doing that.
Wrong. A day after their hacking misadventure, the FBI show up on campus, interrupt the two lovebirds, and arrest Cooper. Feeling bad because it was she who wrote the virus, Felicity decides to turn herself in. She ends up not doing so, however, after visiting Cooper in jail where he tells her that he already told the FBI that he was the one who built the virus. After their requisite feelz-filled placement of the hands on the prison glass, Felicity leaves.
Sometime later, it’s not exactly clear when, Myron comes back to their shared dorm room to find a bag full of Felicity’s goth attire. Felicity, then exits, and shows off her new look: She’s gone blonde and is wearing something resembling her season 1 attire.
We open with an extended montage of almost every character, save Diggle, training with their mentors: Ollie and Roy are sparring with sticks, Laurel’s boxing with Ted Grant, and Thea and Malcolm are bonding by sword fighting. And out of all of them, Thea, who is very close to becoming one of my favorite characters on the show, is really the only one not failing, as Roy is moving very slowly today and Laurel is essentially punching the air because Ted dodges all of her attacks effortlessly. At home, Felicity is struggling to do five push-ups.
Felicity’s early morning workout is interrupted by Ray Palmer, who enthusiastically shows up before our favorite former IT girl has had a chance to have her morning cup of coffee. Ever the inventor, Ray is trying to figure out a way to give all of Queen Consolidated’s energy back to the city for free using something called co-generation (I’ll let you all explain it to me in the comments). This morning brainstorm sesh is interrupted by another knock at the door: Felicity’s mother Donna (Charlotte Ross), who shows up dressed for a night out in Las Vegas very early in the morning. In a scene I wish had gone longer, Ray stands back and marvels at—and wonders aloud if Felicity’s adopted—how the Smoak girls interact, which includes Felicity explaining to Donna that Ray did not sleep over, but is actually the Ray Palmer, who is now her boss. Before leaving, Ray gives Donna, who just bought an older version of his smart watch, a prototype of his newest one because he’s just that kind of guy who likes giving stuff away for free.
Meanwhile, Ollie shows up at Thea’s new pad, which he is surprised to learn is being paid for by Malcolm Merlyn’s estate, and he is not happy because he’s worried this means that Merlyn has his claws in her—if only he knew! Upset that Ollie played the “Merlyn killed your brother card,” Thea walks off. Right then, the city experiences a massive blackout and Ollie jumps into action. (Didn’t he think his sister would be suspicious that he left via the balcony?)
The city’s power grid has been taken over by a hacker going by the name of Brother Eye (we’ll freak out later in the comments!). In an act of arrogance, Brother Eye introduces its agenda by presenting itself as Starling City’s next earthquake/siege, and tells the residents to prepare for life on their knees. (Has the push of a button ever been this important since the hatch?)
NEXT: The past comes back to bite