While Arrow’s third season was far from its strongest for a variety of reasons, some people are quick to blame the romance between Oliver and Felicity as the central culprit. And while I may be biased as a passionate shipper of the two, I have trouble understanding how people believe that Olicity “ruined” Arrow.
I could make a list of things that went wrong during Arrow last season, and I kind of did (read my season 3 review), but Olicity is nowhere on that list. Could they have done better by the pair? Sure. Was the romance the downfall of the season? Hell no. Their relationship was one of the only bright spots in an inconsistent third season.
Arrow is my favorite show on television, and as a passionate fan of the show it was difficult at times to see Arrow scrounge wasted opportunities, force storylines and push its central, fan-favorite characters to the backburner. Was Arrow a horrible show last season? Hell no. But it did have its faults which made it even more difficult to compete with its best season to date in season 2.
When you make a show based on a comic book superhero, a main portion of your target audience is going to be that of the male variety. But it’s also going to be that of the female variety. Just like there needs to be a nice balance between the two, there needs to be a balance between action and romance. Not to sound cliché, but every superhero story has that epic love story that always pulls through in the end. Why? Because it’s something that tethers the hero to humanity, and the same applies to Arrow.
One of the complaints that these romance-haters seem to have grabbed onto is that there needs to be more action and less romance. I’m sorry, but the point of a show like Arrow and what’s been able to accomplish has been the nice balance between the two. Before Arrow paved the way for shows like The Flash, Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., etc., it was the lone superhero show on network television, but it didn’t give off that campy comic book vibe, which allowed a broader audience to find its appeal. While Arrow certainly used its action prowess as a hook, it was also about an emotional connection to the characters – and the main character – that ultimately grabbed fans.
Before Felicity walked into Oliver Queen’s life, he was a character that was hard to empathize with. Yes, he had just returned from an unspeakable five years of hell, but it was hard to connect to a character that was so closed off at all times. But Felicity, in her small early season 1 appearances, was able to bring out the Oliver Queen that we as an audience had been waiting for. You can have all the action you want, but if you don’t care about the characters then what’s the point?
The great thing about Oliver and Felicity is how the romance was born. It wasn’t intended; it was a happy accident; the best thing that could’ve happened to this show, to be honest.
Because Arrow was based on a hero in comic books, there were certain things that fans of the comic books expected, including the romance between the Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Black Canary (Laurel Lance). From the pilot it was clear that Arrow was setting up endgame between Oliver and Laurel, no matter how toxic their relationship was presented as, as well as the lack of chemistry between the leads. But that pairing only lasted a season until the producers backtracked seeing how the failed love triangle wasn’t advancing the story.
Hell, they even gave the audience that Green Arrow/Black Canary romance with Oliver and Sara last season. So there you go, enjoy those six episodes of season 2 just for you. That, my friends, is the definition of fan service if I’ve heard it.
But what Arrow has and continues to do with Oliver and Felicity on the other hand is the complete opposite. I find it funny because I still hear that “fan service” comment from haters even though the executive producers have said that fans don’t control what happens, as well as that the story is planned well in advance. Let’s get this straight, fan service isn’t a thing, and if it were you would not find Olicity listed under the definition.
Oliver and Felicity is unlike any romance on television in that is was born out of the chemistry between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards. Everything changed the second Felicity Smoak stepped on screen back in episode 3. Even if they didn’t know it at the time. Even when there weren’t plans to pursue a romantic relationship between the two back in early season 1, you couldn’t deny the electric chemistry between the two. Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg said it best last year at Comic-Con:
“They have so much chemistry, it’s literally insane. If they were our friends in real life, we would all be going, ‘Dude, why aren’t you two together?’”
To be honest, I cannot imagine Arrow without Emily’s Felicity, and I shudder to even imagine it. Felicity not only brought levity to a show doused in darkness, most importantly its hero, but she also became the person who would help nurture and encourage Oliver on his path to becoming the Green Arrow.
The great thing with Oliver and Felicity is that Arrow took two seasons to nurture and set up the romantic pairing. We watched as they went from strangers to co-workers to friends to partners to lovers. It was glorious because you don’t often get that kind of treatment with a couple. While we missed out on the five months of flirting and development that led to that season 3 premiere date, season 3 dealt with Oliver struggling with his dual identities and Felicity represented the side that wanted to settle down as Oliver Queen; the light in the darkness.
But let’s examine the most important part about Olicity in terms of the show. Arrow is a show about Oliver’s journey to becoming the Green Arrow, and Felicity is someone who has made Oliver a better person and set him on his hero’s path, along with Diggle. She has seen him at his darkest, encouraged him in his doubt and become the one to harness that light that has always been inside of him. How do you argue with a romance when the one half helps the hero become his comic counterpart? And with treatment like that how could you not believe that this is the intended end game for the show?
Oliver and Felicity was never planned from the start, but thanks to Stephen and Emily it became something that you’d have a hard time believing wasn’t the plan from the very beginning. Who would’ve thought one of Arrow’s biggest surprises would turn out to be the best thing that could’ve happened to the show?
Arrow returns for its fourth season this fall on The CW.