Nick Picks | What the DC Extended Universe Can Learn from Felicity Smoak

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Last week, I published a feature entitled What the DC Extended Universe Can Learn from the Arrowverse. For those that don’t already know, the Arrowverse consists of a few DC shows on the CW: Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. There are several reasons why these three series are more engaging than Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, i.e “The Arrowverse Has More Diverse Characters” and “Listens to Fan Feedback.” There was one particular reason that seemed to divide people in the comments section, though: “The Arrowverse Has Felicity Smoak.”

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Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak.

For many fans, Felicity is easily their favorite part of the Arrowverse. Others, however, simply can’t stand the character. They find Felicity’s quirky personality obnoxious and her storylines to be too soapy. On top of that, they can’t get past the fact that Oliver Queen ultimately fell in love with her when the Green Arrow developed a romance with Black Canary in the comics. While the character isn’t without her haters, Felicity is largely the reason why the Arrowverse has developed into something special. Her impact on the franchise can pretty much be summed up in a few words:

Felicity Smoak > All of the other characters in the Arrowverse >>> All of the characters in the DC Extended Universe.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s go into greater detail on why Felicity Smoak saved the Arrowverse and what the DC Extended Universe can learn from her.

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Felicity Smoak in the comics.

Before we begin, a little backstory is probably required. Felicity made her debut in The Fury of Firestorm #23, a DC comic that was published in May 1984. While Felicity would have a few more appearances after that, the character didn’t go on to play a substantial role in the DC universe. She kind of faded into obscurity until popping up in the third episode of Arrow. A tech girl who helps Oliver, Felicity was initially intended to be a one-off character. Emily Bett Rickards was so lively in the role, however, that the showrunners kept bringing her back.

By the beginning of season two, Felicity joined Oliver’s crew and became a main cast member. Just as audiences fell in love Felicity, so did Oliver, who revealed his true feelings for her in the season two finale. Since then, their relationship has become a major driving force for the series. So why exactly did Felicity leave such a mark? For starters, she injected some much-needed humor into Arrow.

If Jar Jar Binks and Scrappy-Doo have proven anything, it’s that a comedic relief character can really backfire if done poorly. Fortunately, the writers supplied Felicity with legitimately funny dialog and Rickards has nailed every line with pitch-perfect comedic timing. More importantly, the showrunners didn’t rely on Felicity to be the show’s sole source of comedy. Arrow has become an ensemble piece with the comedy deriving from how all the characters play off of each other. Even the brooding Oliver can get a laugh every now and then. Hell, he made a pretty hilarious Harry Potter reference just a few weeks ago! This all started with Felicity, who showed the cast that it’s okay to smile on occasion.

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Felicity with Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen.

With that said, there’s a lot more to Felicity than an adorkable persona and witty one-liners. She’s also emotionally complex, caring towards her loved ones, and a badass in her own way. A while back, I wrote an article on how nerdy characters have become increasingly popular in entertainment. This is primarily because writers are starting to realize that ‘nerds’ can be a lot more diverse than initially believed. In addition to being knowledgeable, they can be strong, passionate, and even cool. Felicity Smoak is a prime example of how nerds have evolved beyond the textbook definition. Since Felicity emerged as such a three-dimensional character, she also gave Arrow something it was missing in its earlier episodes: a heart.

Oliver Queen could be so cold and guarded at first that it was hard for the audience to relate to him. Through his friendship and romance with Felicity, Oliver finally started to let down some of his defenses and become a more fleshed-out individual. By bringing out Oliver’s humanity, Felicity gave viewers someone and something to root for. Although every character on the show has grown significantly over the years, Felicity continues to act as the brain and heart of the team. Without her, Arrow just wouldn’t be what it is today.

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Aren’t they precious?

Above all else, Felicity has supplied the Arrowverse with an identity of its own. In the beginning, Arrow clearly borrowed a lot from The Dark Knight. The same could be said about Man of Steel, which launched the DC Extended Universe. Since Christopher Nolan acted as a producer for Man of Steel and contributed to the story, it isn’t all that surprising the film felt more like The Dark Knight than the Richard Donner classic. Taking a grittier, more sophisticated approach to Superman’s origins actually wasn’t a bad idea. The problem is that Man of Steel didn’t really feel like an original take on Superman. It felt more like Zack Snyder trying to impersonate Christopher Nolan, and coming up short.

This is a problem that numerous modern superhero films have. Many of them assume that Nolan’s Batman trilogy was a success simply because it was dark and serious. Although Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises treated their audiences like thinking adults, that’s not the only reason why they became box office hits. Rather than just repeating what was popular and conventional at the time, these films strived to present Batman from a unique perspective, while also remaining loyal to the character’s mythos.

Arrow started out as another Dark Knight wannabe, but the showrunners quickly realized that Oliver had to become someone else. He had to become something else. Arrow has since found it’s own distinctive voice, and that’s partially due to Felicity’s influence. There’s only one Felicity Smoak, and thus only one Arrowverse. The DC Extended Universe meanwhile, continues to feel like its living in the shadow of superior movies and graphic novels.

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Our reaction after seeing Superman break Zod’s neck.

Now as much as I’ve praised Felicity throughout this feature, the character admittedly isn’t without her flaws. For my money, Rickards has never given a bad performance on the show, but she hasn’t always been given the best material to work with either. Most people would agree that season three was a low point for Arrow, and this is chiefly due to Oliver and Felicity’s relationship. That’s not to say the two lacked chemistry. On the contrary, Olicity is one of the best couples of modern television. Their scenes together range from cute, to funny, to poignant, to touching, to utterly romantic. The audience desperately wants to see Oliver and Felicity together, which made it frustrating when the showrunners decided to prolong their will they, won’t they? relationship.

At the beginning of season three, Oliver and Felicity are driven apart for really forced, contrived reasons. As a result, we got way too many scenes with Oliver being a martyr and Felicity being confused about her feelings. Why do so many shows drag out romances when the audience already knows what’s going to happen? Sure, the characters run the risk of becoming a boring couple, but that’s still better than week after week of sexual tension that ultimately goes nowhere.

Even though season three understandably tried the patience of some, many viewers still looked forward to seeing Oliver and Felicity every week. Why? Because they’re two great characters that can function as both a couple and separate individuals. Then when the two FINALLY got together at the end of season three, it was a very heartfelt moment. As drawn-out as their relationship was, shippers never lost their investment in Olicity. That’s more than can be said about any of the dynamics in Batman v Superman, which were mostly underdeveloped and offered the audience little to care about.

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Seriously, could Olicity BE any more precious?!?

Of course, the main issue people seem to have with Felicity seems to stem back to the fact that she wasn’t a big part of the comics. If you haven’t noticed, some fanboys and fangirls tend to lose their $#*& when a comic book adaptation makes even the tiniest change. There were fans out there that wanted to see Arrow tackle the romance between the Green Arrow and Black Canary. So naturally, they felt like the show missed its target when Black Canary was pushed aside for a minor character from the comics.

Then again, Arrow didn’t just neglect the hero’s romance with Black Canary entirely. In season one, the key relationship was between Oliver and Laurel Lance, who would later become Black Canary. In season two, we learned more about Oliver’s relationship with Sarah Lance, the original Black Canary and eventual White Canary. At the end of the day, though, Oliver simply had more of a connection with the shy MIT graduate. Thus, it made more sense for Oliver and Felicity’s romance to become the focal point of the series. To a certain extent, an adaptation should remain loyal to its original inspiration, but that doesn’t mean it needs to follow the source material to a T. It’s appropriate to make alterations when it’s for the better, and expanding Felicity’s role was definitely a good call.

In my original feature, I argued that “The Arrowverse Isn’t Afraid to Embrace Its Comic Book Roots” and Batman v Superman seemed ashamed to be a superhero movie. Some felt this statement was misguided since Batman v Superman actually packed in several DC references while Arrow is doing its own thing. Although Batman v Superman made a fair deal of changes, it was clearly inspired by The Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Superman, A Death in the Family, and various other DC storylines. Copying and pasting moments from the source material doesn’t mean necessarily equal a good adaptation, though. The same can be said about taking the source material and just making it darker.

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We’re dark and serious, which equals a great movie… right?

Even if Arrow isn’t exactly like the original comics, it still possesses the tone, atmosphere, and spirit of the source material. It’s evident that the showrunners have affection for comics and understand how to transfer the medium to the screen. As for Zach Snyder, well… Kevin Smith probably summed it up best on his podcast:

“It’s almost like Zack Snyder didn’t read a bunch of comics, he read one comic once, and it was Dark Knight Returns, and his favorite part was the last part where Batman and Superman fight” – Kevin Smith

Smith additionally added that Batman v Superman lacked “heart” and “humor,” two elements that the Arrowverse has in spades thanks to Felicity Smoak.

So does this mean Felicity should join the DC Extended Universe? Batman v Superman probably would’ve been a lot more fun with Emily Bett Rickards, but no, that’s not the solution. As stated before, the DC Extended Universe has yet to find a voice of its own. It’s not going to find that voice if it keeps stealing from other artists. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t learn from the Arrowverse and especially Felicity Smoak.

In many ways, Felicity has become more than a character. Through her humor, heart, and overall personality, she’s become the embodiment of everything that makes the Arrowverse a unique product. When and if the DC Extended Universe finds a Felicity Smoak of its own, perhaps the franchise will at last become something else.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

22 comments on “Nick Picks | What the DC Extended Universe Can Learn from Felicity Smoak

  1. Maia

    She is easly the fan favourite of Arrow, of course she has haters (haters who only hate on her because romance and for not being part of GA world in the comic books) like every popular character but she really was and id my reason to love this show!! I love her performance, her relationship with Oliver, Diggle,… it’s really sad how some purist comic book fans only hate on her beacaue only want action on the show, THIS IT’S TV and even in the comics we see a lot of romance in it. Anyway Felicity Smoak is necessary it looks depressing when the team it’s without her… i really can’t imagine this awsome show without her

  2. Julie

    I’ve watched Arrow since the beginning and it wasn’t until Felicity Smoak entered the picture and balanced out Diggle and Oliver that I could see where the show could go and the potential it has at its fingertips IF it was bold enough to seize the opportunity and have the vision (and guts) to make some changes. They did and Arrow has now been must-see-tv for me every week on Wednesday nights. The spirit of Felicity Smoak and all she’s accomplished by daring to be unexpected and different absolutely is something DC should embrace. You never know what greatness you’ll achieve by daring to walk a different path. So glad Arrow did and so glad they kept Emily Rickards, Felicity Smoak, and Oliver & Felicity around.

  3. callistawolf

    This is a wonderful follow up to the original article (which was also very compelling). Thank you writing it and sharing it with us. I am certain most of those who dislike Felicity do so because of her existence and her relationship with Oliver “disrespecting” comic canon. Complaints about her character, I believe, stem from that frustration. A great deal of fans DO love Felicity Smoak and you did a fantastic job of outlining WHY in this article.

  4. Rachel

    If it weren’t for Felicity, my interest in Arrow wouldn’t have been as big as it is. I love Arrow, Oliver, and Felicity.

  5. Liddy

    I love Felicity Smoak, for me currently only reason to watch show and I would be very interested in some kind of spin off with Felicity as main draw, any ideas?

  6. Marcela

    I love Felicity and I think she GIVES BALANCE to the more serious characters in the show without falling into being ridiculous, she can be fun and a bit dorky but everyone still believes her intelligence and importance. Arrow already had bit of humor to it before she arrived (Oliver and Tommy also Oliver and Diggle) but it seems after she arrived they seemed to find the funny they wanted. Felicity and Diggle are part of what makes Arrow amazing and I wish to see more of them, of course I love Olicity their is an amazing well written romance story but my enjoyment of the character never depended on her romance with Oliver. I always delighted in all her relationships, I love that.

  7. Ariane

    I absolutely love Arrow but I know that without Felicity I would never have been as much into it that I am now!
    I completely agree with everything said on that article. Felicity was the key for Oliver to become the Green Arrow, I can’t see how they would have done it without her. Oliver would have stay the Arrow. Seeing him finally cracking jokes because he is happy made me so emotional

  8. JGrey

    Agree with every word. There was definitely something missing when Arrow first started. Felicity was the character that Arrow needed. It’s great to see how much of an impact she’s made. It was Felicity and Diggle that kept my interest in the show.

  9. V.P.

    Bravo! Arrow would not be the same without Felicity Smoak. I would not have been as invested in the show without her character.
    She truly is the heart of Arrow, and one of the better developed female characters out there.

  10. Anonymous

    Bravo! Awesome article about an awesome character! So much truth! Like the show runners themselves have said Arrow wasn’t Arrow until they found Felicity. She is the heart and brains of the team and the heart of the show. She saved Oliver and the show. She’s a badass superhero in her own right and an amazing role model for women and young girls. She’s a beautiful, brilliant, brave, strong fighter I love tuning in to see every week. And Olicity is absolutely one of the best relationships on tv. They bring out the best in each other (another thing ever the show runners have said), they make each other truly happy, and have a very healthy, mature love. Awesome characters in an awesome relationship! Thanks for this wonderful article! A

  11. gina

    I think you’ve written an excellent article (minus the typo where you say Olive and Felicity…forgot the “R”). I think the first few episode with Oliver doing the voiceovers just didn’t work very well. I always liked that it was dark and brooding, but it also needs some levity along the way. Every superhero from Batman to Superman makes you wonder….how does someone not notice the stupid excuses the superhero’s alter egos have for running off suddenly. Or the fact (minus Batman) that they look really similar to the superhero they are (hello Superman). I like that Felicity was a representation of “us” the viewer. Like the goofy excuses Oliver came up with…”I ran out of sports bottles.” It was us rolling our eyes with her and trusting that the guy wasn’t a complete lunatic. You also got to see a much more relatable Oliver with Felicity. One that you could actually like and understand. I think too often Superhero movies always portray the women as a bit naive or clueless and I think Felicity came across as a strong smart woman who didn’t buy the crap that our hero was selling and stood up to him when he was being an idiot. That’s why I love her. I do hate the contrived reasons for keeping them apart (baby mama drama…really???). I wish they would give us a bit more credit as an audience, but I’m going to stick with it because I certainly like Arrow better with Felicity than without.

  12. Jan

    If Felicity had not joined Arrow, I don’t think I would have continued watching. She brought the team together, she was a breath of fresh air to the programme. The relationship between Felicity and Oliver is a beautiful story being told and can’t wait for more. So pleased the writers chose the story they are telling and not the comics. Felicity is a beautiful, strong, smart, and witty character that I throughly enjoy watching week after week.

  13. Yakko

    Like MG said this weekend, the show needs to write towards the cast, not just comic canon. If the latter were the case, this show prob wouldn’t be seeing a 5th season. And much of the show’s success is owed to the Original Team Arrow aspect, especially Felicity.

  14. Kristopher Awojobi

    Sorry to say that Felicity will be part of the reason the ratings will drop next season.

  15. Jame

    Yeah uh no. Felicity is not the reason why the dc verse will do well in fact it’s arrows undoing. Look at the reviews the show has gotten as of late. They’ve been terrible. Clearly an olicity shipper wrote this.

  16. Kat

    Confession: I was ready to drop Arrow after the early episodes. Even Oliver and Diggle’s growing relationship and Moira’s Machiavellian machinations weren’t enough. But then an IT girl with a red pen turned around and tilted her head at Oliver Queen, eliciting a genuine smile. I was hooked and Arrow became appointment TV for me. I love Felicity’s mix of brains, beauty, strength, vulnerability, determination, humor, compassion, kindness — seriously, I could go on and on. She’s not perfect, but she strives to better. And she’s proved that you don’t have to put on a suit and a mask to be a hero.

    You mentioned one thing in particular that I wanted to touch on: “Most people would agree that season three was a low point for Arrow and this is chiefly due to Oliver and Felicity’s relationship.” I agree. Season 3 kept Oliver and Felicity apart, emotionally and physically and the quality of the show suffered. One of the best things about Arrow is the dynamic and chemistry of these two characters, and without Oliver/Felicity playing off each other, Arrow became a grim show without light. And keeping Felicity away also meant the audience didn’t get much of Oliver/Felicity/Diggle, the core trio dynamic that is also one of the main strengths of Arrow. I hope Arrow has learned its lesson: Felicity Smoak, Olicity, Original Team Arrow. These are why Arrow is the best superhero show in the Arrowverse and from DC.

  17. Donald Garch

    Your article seems very successful , I read maybe one or two comics in my life , and besides being dark and tragic failed to catch me. However , arrow ( TV show ) . He managed to get my attention and just when the character Felicity , who gave the story a brightness, warmth and humanity entered the scene. I agree with you , and I appreciate as a spectator to write a good review of arrow .
    Of course I compliment the work of the actors , David Ramsey , Stephen Amell and Emiliy Brett Richards who endeared as a team for the viewing public . And the success of the character of Felicity is due to the writers of the Tv Show and of course the performance of actress Emily Brett .

  18. PrimeEarth

    Someone is obsessed with a minor small screen character.

    Running out of topics to write lately?

  19. vic

    Well put, Nick! But of course the comic canon fanboys and fangirls will continue trundling along in their bubble of haters haze to spit their venom.

  20. Mac

    Very well done article! I probably wouldn’t have made it past the mid-way point of season 1 if there hadn’t been Felicity Smoak. She really is what pulled the show together. Emily Bett Rickards is A++.

  21. Mercer Creed

    Found this article while googling for pictures of Felicity to use in a meme.

    Cant stand her, never have. The character is the worst part of the show and makes me LONG for the days when I hated Lana Lang on Smallville. Oh how good those days seem now. The actresses’ acting ability is surpassed in awfulness only by the completely juvenile way she is written into the show.

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