Could you imagine Arrow without Felicity Smoak? I shudder to even think about it. Heck, even the show’s stars can’t imagine it. “We can’t make the show without Felicity,” Stephen Amell said at a fan convention earlier this year. The point is, Arrow would not be the same without Felicity Smoak.
Felicity has quickly become one of television’s most-beloved characters and is without a doubt the heart and soul of The CW’s hit show. And she has also proven to be quite the ratings charmer. Last week, fans were treated to the first in-depth look into Felicity’s backstory in “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak,” and it proved that fans want more Felicity.
The episode garnered the show’s best ratings of the season with a 1.1/3 in the key demographic, which was also higher than the show’s second season finale. It also set season highs for demo ratings in A18-34 (1.0/4), M18-34 (1.1/5), W18-34 (0.9/3), and M18-49 (1.2/4).
The episode had the second-highest viewership of the season with 2.72 million, behind only the season premiere (2.82 million). In fact, it was the second-highest viewership dating back to February 2014. Factor in the social media dominance, which included Twitter, where #WhoIsFelicitySmoak trended worldwide not only throughout the airing of the episode but two hours before. Case in point, fans will tune in for Felicity Smoak.
So what is it about Felicity that has made her so important to the fandom? It starts up front with Emily Bett Rickards, who was originally brought in as a one-off guest star in the show’s third episode. There’s no doubt in my mind that Felicity would not have had the impact she has or be a regular if not for Rickards. Heck, the character might not have even made an appearance past that guest star role in episode 3. Rickards has taken a character that didn’t have a rich comic book history and developed her into one that has made its way into the Green Arrow New 52 comics.
Rickards delivers one-liners like no one I’ve seen in quite awhile. Arrow is a very dark show, and Felicity helps make it a little less dark. It doesn’t take much for Rickards to have audiences hooting in laughter even in the darkest of times, and her character is the only one that can make Amell’s Oliver Queen smile even as Starling City is being burnt to the ground. But while Rickards’ comedic timing is brilliant, she’s proven time and time again that she is so much more than comedic relief. When given the opportunity to showcase a more dramatic side, she rises to the occasion each time and reminds us exactly why she is the heart and soul of this show.
I think one of the reason’s the audience responds to Felicity the way they do is because, for all intents and purposes, Felicity is us. Before Oliver came to her for help, Felicity was just a normal person, albeit with a much higher IQ and computer hacking skills that rank among the best in the world. But even as she was brought into and lives in this superhero world, she maintains that level of normalcy that we respond to.
You only have to look to the opening montage of last week’s episode to see as much. As Oliver, Roy, Laurel, Thea and Malcolm are all hardcore training we get a shot of Felicity in her living room celebrating the completion of five sit-ups. It was at that point where I said, “That is literally me.” Felicity is the normal one in a world of not-so normal. She is the constant reminder that even though this is a world where vigilantes wander the streets fighting bad guys, this is still very much a grounded world with normal people like you and I. And she is that representation of us.
When you’re one half of a show’s most popular “ship” or couple, for those unaware of the term, it certainly doesn’t hurt your popularity in the fandom. Oliver and Felicity were in the making since Rickards and Amell first shared that scene in episode 3. The chemistry was electric, natural and immediate. Thus began the phenomenon known as Olicity. Once Felicity was integrated as a member of Team Arrow, more fans began responding to the relationship.
The reason that Oliver and Felicity are happening isn’t because of the fans – it’s because of the natural chemistry between Rickards and Amell, as said by executive producer Marc Guggenheim. Now during season three, we are embarking on the romantic journey between Oliver and Felicity. We’re only five episodes into this season, and it’s already been a heartbreaking ride. But for a relationship to grow there needs to be obstacles, and there needs to be progression. You need to be broken apart before you can be put back together again. But one thing is looking to be almost certain, Olicity is poised to be the love story that every superhero show or movie needs. And that is half because of Rickards.
So the next time someone asks you to imagine Arrow without Felicity Smoak, take my advice and don’t imagine it. Because Arrow would be a much darker place and our hearts would be a whole lot heavier without her.