This Arrow review contains spoilers.
There are so many things that could have gone wrong with “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak.” We could have gotten too bogged down in the past. Too much weight could have been given to some “dark secret” of Felicity’s. These things didn’t happen. What we got was a fun, charming episode of Arrow that still managed to not feel too lightweight.
In fact, I’m just going to get the only major problem I had with the episode out of the way right up front, and that’s the matter of Felicity’s mom. Charlotte Ross is great, and the character is a lot of fun (“how many millionaires do you know?”), but the problem is, we’ve only heard her mentioned in passing once or twice, so having the two of them have their big important mother/daughter moments this week, literally thirty minutes after we first met her, didn’t quite sit right. If Mrs. Smoak was like Lwaxana Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, showing up from time to time to flirt and make everyone’s life difficult and then we got this, it would be a different story. I do hope we see her again, though.
One of my pet hates on television is the practice I call “magic hacking” where keyboards sub for magic wands, I tend to excuse it on Arrow. I DO get worried when it turns out an entire episode is going to be focused on it. There’s plenty of magic hacking on display in “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak,” and I have to wonder if “hacktivism” was even a word five years ago (I don’t feel like looking it up), but I guess when it’s dressed up in the trappings of the DC Universe I tend to get awfully forgiving. It’s my tragic flaw.
Now, as for the rest, what can I say? The first thing we see of younger Felicity is that she’s coding a Zork emulator? And then when she “grows up” she has an Adventures of Robin Hood poster on her wall. Are you kidding me? It’s like they’re trying to get their target audience (namely: me) to love this character even more. (ahem…it worked)
While it was pretty obvious from the outset that Felicity’s boyfriend would turn out to be the bad guy of the episode, and the minute Brother Eye (more on that down below) showed up talking like Anonymous, we all knew who was behind it, Arrow made up for that this week with some particularly inventive sets of DC easter eggs (like I said, more down below). But mostly, what kept me hooked was how different this felt from how things usually unfold.
We didn’t get a single shot of folks in costume until nearly twenty minutes in, but the way things were playing out, I didn’t miss it. I took last week’s episode to task a little for being something of a talky, season one style throwback, and in general, Arrow season three has (so far) felt a bit bashful about going “all in” with the superhero stuff the way they did last year (reasonable, considering how much The Flash gets in). Basically, the show never went too far in either direction this week…although the tear gas and snare arrows were plenty badass.
You know what else? I’m not even gonna pick on Laurel this week. It’s too easy. Her dad said everything that needed to be said.
Now, just a little bit about the ending, and then we’ll dig into the nerd stuff…
The final flashback of Felicity moving on from the goth look was something to keep an eye on. “This is me now” speaks to something a little deeper going on with her. If this were a different character, you’d wonder if she was unstable. I’m not suggesting Felicity is, but if she can shed her skin so easily then, she may do it again at some point.
Thea is definitely up to no good, and she probably doesn’t even realize it. I’m certain of it. She settles in to watch Possessed with Joan Crawford and Clark Gable after Ollie agrees to move in with her. While Possessed may just be a convenient old movie from the Warner Bros. catalogue to bust out, it is about a woman with some mental health issues that leave her not exactly in control of her own mind.
Which brings us to…
Who Killed Sara Lance?
Wow. That was quite an ending, wasn’t it? I suspect this is just another red herring, though. The idea of Roy flinging arrows with enough force to kill Sara indicates that this is nothing more than an awful hallucination. Unless…unless he’s having weird mirakuru flashbacks. You know, like how some people that you may know who took too much acid in college sometimes have trouble looking at plaid later in life because it kinda moves around? I mean, I certainly don’t know anyone like that, of course, but I’m sure some of you shady types do.
DC Universe Watchtower
– Brother Eye was a creation of Jack Kirby for his absolutely insane OMAC comic book series in the ’70s. It was a satellite super computer that helped create/activate OMAC, the One Man Army Corps superhero who was kind of like a hi-tech cross between Shazam and Captain America. You just have to go with it. It’s great stuff.
Anyway, Brother Eye and the OMAC concept has since been used to varying effect in DC Comics continuity, and these were even the heavies in an unproduced Justice League movie from a few years ago.
– Myron Forest is actually the doctor who created Brother Eye in the original Jack Kirby comics. That’s clever. When he says “I drive a hybrid, it’s blue” he’s referencing the non-Jack Kirby version of OMAC technology, which are blue cyborgs. You know…hybrids. That sound you hear is everyone I know asking each other why they even talk to me.
– Now, speaking of OMAC, we did see Ray Palmer checking out the blueprints for OMAC tech a few weeks ago. So, now we have Brother Eye and Myron Forest…OMACs are coming to Arrow. You heard it here, first. We won’t have mirakuru zombies this year, but we may have OMACs!
– Santa Prisca gets a name check. Was that a first? Santa Prisca is an island with a pretty serious prison, and it’s where the comic book version of Bane got his start. You know you’re bad news when you start in prison.
– It is absolutely no coincidence that Felicity looks like Neil Gaiman’s Death from Sandman when she goes to visit her boyfriend in the slammer. You just know she had them all, in hardcover, and read them obsessively while listening to Disintegration by The Cure and…I’m sorry…am I projecting again?
– And yes, evil boyfriend was wearing a Starro shirt. A kind of artsy-looking one that I would totally wear. But I’m not an evil hacker. Starro is a DC villain/creature that sticks to your face and makes you evil. So, yeah. Maybe it was the shirt that did it.
– The original title of this episode was “Oracle,” the tech-whiz character that Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon became when she lost the use of her legs, and the character that, in terms of skill set, Felicity most resembles. It was changed, likely at the behest of the Warner Bros. corporate masters, which makes me wonder if “Oracle” has a role in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, or some other high profile DC TV or movie project in the works. Keep in mind Ray Palmer was originally supposed to be the Blue Beetle…
Still, the “secret origin” title is plenty appropriate for a show about the DC Universe, as it’s been tagged on to individual stories and several ongoing comic book series through the years. We could totally do “secret origin” episodes for Ray Palmer, John Diggle, and characters over on The Flash. I endorse this practice. They should continue…
What did I miss, Leaguers? Let me know…