Arrow 3.5: “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Arrow are present in this review.


After a couple of weaker episodes, Arrow rebounded a bit this week with “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”, giving us a welcome Felicity-focused episode that finally delved into her mostly unknown backstory. It’s still not quite up to the highlight Season Two yet, but at least this week’s offering was a great look at where Felicity came from, and how much she’s changed since joining up with Oliver’s crusade.

Charlotte Ross played a big guest role this week as Felicity’s mother, Donna Smoak, and from the get-go, you see that these two women have nothing in common. Felicity is just as awkward around her mother as you may imagine, with Donna being a Las Vegas cocktail waitress who comes to Starling City on a whim to visit her daughter. Her arrival comes just in time for Ray Palmer to find his way to Felicity’s apartment as well, and despite Felicity’s brief trip to Central City, it’s great to see that Felicity and Palmer have lost none of their usual rapport’s charm.

Arrow - Footage 1

Once again, the Hong Kong flashbacks with Oliver were absent this week, instead going back to the past for Felicity, boasting a goth look, and being part of a college hacktivist group. Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) Felicity was into bad boys, or at least bad hacker boys, and had a boyfriend that ended up getting snatched by the FBI after getting overzealous with a student loan hack, later committing suicide in his cell. Just as this callback to her past is going on, a virus that is almost identical to the virus that Felicity once wrote for her boyfriend’s hack has started menacing Starling City.

Yes, you can probably see exactly where this is going.

As much as the bits involving Felicity’s backstory were quite interesting, one of the major problems with this episode is that it was incredibly predictable. Obviously, Felicity’s ex isn’t quite dead, and is behind the whole thing. Obviously, Felicity’s mother is going to end up being in a hostage situation where Felicity has to save the day. Obviously, Oliver is going to mop up the bad guys afterward. It all played out surprisingly by-the-book, which is disappointing, considering that Arrow usually does a pretty great job when it comes to surprising its audience with unpredictable story developments.

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Beyond the business with Felicity, Oliver continued to have difficulty accepting Thea’s new association with Merlyn, or at least his money, with Thea now boasting a large, spacious apartment complex that was paid for by her father’s fortune. Again, this goes exactly along the path you would expect it to, with Oliver trying to persuade Thea to disassociate herself with Merlyn, failing, then just accepting the situation anyway, with he and Thea making peace, as Merlyn watches from the shadows. It was another story development that felt like it was going exactly along the path that you would expect it to.

Lastly, Laurel is still angry. After being a highlight character last week, Laurel continued to stay along the same story arc, being unable to confide in her father about Sara’s death, and now apparently abusing her convenient temporary acting D.A. authority to dispatch riot squads after Felicity’s virus causes mayhem around Starling City. Thankfully, Oliver and Roy make everything ok, with Laurel getting a simple chewing out for her loose cannon tactics, though it was good to see Captain Lance finally acknowledge that he’s noticed Laurel’s anger. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lance puts the situation together himself, especially since he’s eventually bound to notice that Sara isn’t checking in, and won’t answer her phone.

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Surprisingly, of all characters, it was Roy that seemed to have the big moment this week. Felicity’s interactions with her mother, and how the two became closer by this week’s conflict, was all well and good, but the final minutes of the episode presented a potentially huge development for Roy’s character. As Roy has a dream about the moment of Sara’s death, Roy is shown to be the one flinging arrows into her chest!

Obviously, this raises several questions, chief among which is the fact that Roy seemingly has no motive to kill Sara. Is this simply some sort of sub-conscious rage reaction brewing from leftover Mirakuru in his system, after he was cured at the end of Season Two? Was Roy somehow manipulated into being Sara’s killer by someone else? There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but it’s early in the season, so we’re bound to continue unraveling the mystery as the season goes on. Still, this is a pretty big twist, and it was an awesome way to end the episode.

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Everything else about the episode still didn’t totally escape the holding pattern from last week’s disappointing episode however. Making an episode about Felicity’s backstory is a great idea, but it didn’t seem like the writers had any other real ideas of note this week. The other story arcs still feel like they’re biding their time for bigger developments to come later in the season, particularly after the League of Assassins inevitably comes back into play. Worse still is the fact that the action was pretty weak this episode, with Oliver’s final confrontation with Felicity’s ex being pretty underwhelming and too easily wrapped up, even if it was cool to see Felicity be the one to actually subdue him.

We may know the secret origin of Felicity Smoak now, but hopefully the secrets surrounding the rest of the season get back in focus next week.

"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" gave some appealing focus to its title character, but some potential was lost due to the other predictable story beats.
Felicity's starring role
Charlotte Ross was great as Donna Smoak
Roy twist was a great closer
Most of the story was far too predictable
Felicity's ex was ultimately a pushover