While I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Arrow over these past seven years, it’s the good that outweighs the bad given everything that this show has done for me, in terms of my personal and professional life.
While I stepped back from writing Arrow reviews in its final season — and vowed I wouldn’t watch live — I found myself flipping through my channels when I suddenly stopped on a familiar face: Oliver Queen.
And suddenly I found myself watching. I couldn’t help it. Some habits die hard.
Arrow‘s season 8 premiere was indeed the love letter to the fans that the showrunners promised — in how it was able to honor the past and celebrate the future of this show. Oliver and Tommy. Oliver and Moira. Oliver and Diggle. Every moment from the series premiere — and nods to episodes hereafter — had me feeling the nostalgic bug.
Honestly, I almost went to Netflix to begin re-watching the season premiere. I stopped myself because I had other work to do, but I wouldn’t doubt that sometime in this final season I’ll be staging a re-watch of the beginning of this series that forever changed the superhero game on The CW.
But as I was watching the season 8 premiere, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing. Something vital. Something game-changing. Something that can never be replicated. Something that made me love Arrow.
For me, Arrow didn’t really begin until one character charmed her way on screen and left Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell, The CW and fans smitten with her quirkiness and quick wit.
Everything changed when Felicity Smoak stepped on screen. The show. The journey. The hero.
In a single two-minute exchange, suddenly you could see the hero that we were supposed to root for. No longer was he wearing a perpetual scowl, he was smiling, smitten by the blonde IT expert that wasn’t afraid to call him on his bullshit.
Felicity’s impact on Arrow — and Arrowverse as a whole — is substantial, and also something that I’ll delve into in a separate editorial. But that was the moment where I finally felt like there was something in this show — and the hero I was supposed to be rooting for — to invest in.
Make no mistake about it: Arrow wanted Felicity Smoak for its final season. But they didn’t really have a chance when Emily Bett Rickards decided to take a step back and focus on a new direction in her career. So, immediately, Arrow faced the biggest challenge it’s ever faced: Creating Arrow without Felicity Smoak.
The one thing that Arrow did in its season 8 premiere was mention Felicity every chance it could, which was difficult given that Oliver was sent to another Earth where he couldn’t exactly talk about his lovely wife and beautiful daughter, Mia.
But that didn’t matter. Arrow was going to find a way. Whether it was Oliver clinging to the photo of him, Felicity and Mia for dear life or him instinctively going to the IT department on this new Earth because he hoped he’d see Felicity — even if it wasn’t his Felicity.
While the show did a good job of reminding us that Felicity is still very much a part of this show, it couldn’t compensate for the loss of Felicity’s presence. Arrow has always been a show shrouded in darkness. But too much darkness could’ve and would’ve killed this show.
That’s where Felicity shined — she was the light in what seemed like an impenetrable darkness. And she was the light that was finally able to break through the darkness that had consumed Oliver.
Felicity has always been more than just Oliver’s partner, friend, girlfriend, wife and mother of his child. She has been an inspiration to so many people that watched and continue to watch this show because she represented those like us — people that didn’t wear the mask or costume but were heroes at heart.
While I know Felicity won’t be in Arrow‘s final season — although I’m holding out for the series finale, be it previously-filmed footage or Rickards’ return — that void will be felt throughout these final episodes. Because when you take away that light, the darkness is blinding.