Arrow recap: 'The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak'
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
With Donna in tow, Felicity shows up at Verdant, thus giving Ollie, Diggle, and Baby Sara a chance to meet Mama Smoak. Donna, who’s convinced she’s not dressed for a club even though she is, is impressed by how many billionaires with whom Felicity is friends. (ASIDE: If there’s one thing I wanted from this episode, it was for Donna meeting Ollie and Diggle to last way longer than they actually did. Also the expression on Emily Bett Rickards’ face when Ollie introduces Diggle to Donna was priceless. END ASIDE) Anyway, Ollie does not feel comfortable having Baby Sara in the lair, and thus Diggle is forced to leave Sara with Donna.
Not soon after, Brother Eye attacks the city again, this time threatening to shut down the bank system at Starling National, which causes many of Starling City’s residents to riot outside of the bank. In a reckless move, acting District Attorney Laurel Lance—the real one is visiting his niece in Coast City (fanboy squeal!)—decides to send a riot squad to the bank, which Quentin will later scold her for doing. Thankfully, Ollie and Roy arrive at Starling National in time, and with the help of tear gas arrows, manage to calm the crowd down. Meanwhile, Felicity has cracked the virus and has figured out that it was hers.
When Ollie gets back to the lair, Felicity proceeds to tell him about her time as a hacktivist and the virus she created. As she put it, it was her first big attempt at being a hero. Ollie’s stunned to learn about her past, and Felicity justifiably responds, “Do we even know a fraction of what happened to you the five years you were away?” It’s interesting how three years together and there’s still so much Team Arrow has left to learn about one another. At this point, Felicity is convinced that Cooper couldn’t do it, and, based on how her examination of the virus, deduces it was their other partner Myron.
While Felicity is tracking Myron down, Ollie and Thea, who was trying to force her way into the door that leads to Ollie’s lair to look for the backup generator, have another talk where Thea explains that no matter what she and Ollie are stuck with each other. Or, as someone—cough Malcolm cough—told her recently, “family is precious and love, in spite of everything, is what makes it precious.” Again, Ollie asks her to not take Merlyn’s money, but she says no and tells him that she’s trying to meet him halfway and really needs him to try, too.
Does hearing “[Insert name] you have failed this city!” ever get old? For me, it doesn’t, and it was awesome to hear it tonight when Ollie confronted Myron. Unfortunately, Myron is not the one behind the virus, which takes the Team back to square one and forces Felicity to exclaim that she’s running out of expletives for this situation. And Ollie asking her over and over about her college boyfriend isn’t helping because, as we find out before Felicity runs off, he hung himself in prison before being sentenced.
With Donna at her home and Ollie breathing down her neck in the lair, Felicity seeks solitude in her office at Queen Consolidated. However, her moping time is interrupted by Ray, who is looking for someone with whom to drown his sorrows because the whole Brother Eye thing is making his attempts to create Star City hard. Sadly, their bonding session is interrupted by Donna, who shows up angry that she’s spent all day waiting for Felicity. However, Donna’s anger merely gives way to Felicity and Donna finally having it out after all these years. Felicity has always felt like a disappointment to her mother when it came to her appearance, while Donna has always felt insecure because she isn’t as smart as Felicity. As explained by Donna, Felicity gets her intelligence and almost everything else Donna sees when she looks at her from her father, and she’s always worried that, like Felicity’s father, Felicity would eventually leave her. Like most of the families on Arrow, Felicity and Donna’s problems come down to a lack of communication.
The Smoaks try to finish their conversation later on at Felicity’s apartment, but the conversation gets sidetracked when Donna reveals what brought her to Starling: someone emailed her, telling she’d won a free round-trip flight to Starling, which raises Felicity’s suspicions. Right at that moment, masked men burst in and kidnap the Smoaks.
NEXT: Freaking out over the episode ending
To no one’s surprise, the Smoaks’ kidnapper, and the guy running Brother Eye, turns out to be her supposedly dead boyfriend Cooper. See, the NSA was looking for someone with his skills, but he needed to be dead in order for him to do his job, so they made him just that. This is rather hard for Felicity to hear since she was devastated when he died. Cooper explains that he tried to go looking for her when he finished serving his time, but was disappointed to find out that she’d gone corporate. Now, he’s brought her here, and her mother as leverage, to help him hack into the Treasury Department and re-route in-bound money to Starling National to him. While Cooper holds a gun to her mother’s head, Felicity acquiesces and does that, but also uses her mother’s fancy new smart watch to contact Ollie.
And you know what happens next: Roy and Diggle protect the Treasury trucks, while Ollie goes after Felicity. However, it is Felicity who actually takes out Cooper after Ollie takes out Cooper’s automated sniper guns. Sort of like last year’s episode with the Clocking, “The Secret of Origin of Felicity Smoak” gives Felicity her own heroic moment mostly in order to boost her confidence. The difference in these two scenarios is that last season, Felicity was feeling inadequate compared to Sara, whereas now, her confidence was shaken by how much destruction she is capable of causing with her mind (curse those two extra IQ points!).
Back at the lair, Felicity and Ollie have a moment where Ollie tells her that no matter what she went through in the past, it was worth it because it created the woman she is today and the one he cares for. Recognizing that as her cue to go, Felicity heads off to work, but ends up taking the day off to spend time with her mother, with whom she has reconciled because, as she tells Donna, over the years she’s realized she’s a lot tougher than she thought and she gets that from her mother.
Ollie and Thea also come to an understanding of sorts. Thea promises she’ll start paying for her huge loft once the club starts to turn a profit. She also invites Oliver to live with her because of all the space she has.
Meanwhile, Laurel shows back up at Ted’s gym and confesses that there is something on her mind that’s making her angry: the death of her sister and the fact that she can’t tell anyone. Ted tells her to stop training to catch her sister’s killer and to start training for herself, and then proceeds to offer a choice of red or black workout clothes: “Black, definitely black,” says Laurel.
AND NOW FOR THE FREAKOUT:
Remember how in Corto Maltese Roy had a throwaway line where he told Thea that he hadn’t been sleeping well lately. Well, tonight we finally learn why. He’s been having nightmares—or rather he’s remembering suppressed memories—of him killing Sara. [Insert collective WTF! OMFG! here]. This raises several questions: Did he actually do it? Is this a side effect of the mirakuru even though he was cured of that? Could he possibly have been brainwashed by someone to do that? Why did he decide to throw the arrows?
Wall of Weird:
— “I’m sorry that I don’t dress like a porn star… which I realize is a compliment to you.” Felicity really knows how to insult.
— “Seriously, if I had two less IQ points, we never would’ve gotten in this mess.” Felicity again.
— Tonight’s episode loses points for how not-awesome the final action sequence was.
— Who is Felicity’s father?! I need your theories now!
— Okay, the introduction of Brother Eye. I’ll admit, when it comes to Brother Eye and the OMAC project, I know very little outside the role the OMACs played in Infinite Crisis. From what I remember, OMACs are cyborgs, whose only mission is to hunt people with superpowers, and were briefly under the control of Maxwell Lord, who was head of Checkmate at the time. Upon his death, the Brother MK 1 satellite, which was built by Batman and monitored the OMACs, started calling itself Brother Eye. Remember, at the end of the Corto Maltese, we saw Ray looking at blueprints for OMAC. How will Felicity’s virus figure into what Ray was looking at?
— With the introduction of OMACs and Brother Eye, I can see why the producers wanted to use Ted Kord, a.k.a. Blue Beetle.