Remember how Felicity was only in one scene in last week's episode of Arrow? Total bummer, right? As you can tell by the title of tonight's episode, "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" makes up for that by focusing mostly her story. And if you were happy she wasn't around much in last week's episode, well, I guess you won't be a big fan of this one, will you? For everyone else, it's pretty good!
Emily Bett Rickards has been in plenty of scenes which call for her to be more than a source of levity, but this one really focuses on pushing her abilities as an actress. Sure, there's a good laugh or two along the way -- the opening is a perfect example of this and was very creatively executed -- but this one was all about giving us a character-driven ride. Felicity's always charming or locked in a confusing relationship with Oliver Queen, but this chapter focuses on her family and what she's been through to become the person she is today. The final scene in her flashback felt a bit abrupt, but getting hit with the harsh reality of what she does put her on the right path, so it's easy to see why she wanted to make such a swift transition. There aren't any critical developments with her here; it's all about delivering emotion and it most definitely succeeds in doing that. You won't have any shocking epiphanies about who she is or where she came from, but odds are you'll have a new appreciation for the character and see she's not there just for a charming joke or two. Plus, how awesome is it that she technically saved herself?! Oh, and did anyone else notice her boyfriend's shirt seemed like a nod to BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28?
As for the dynamic with her mother, both Rickards and Charlotte Ross give very heartfelt performances. Yes, it's a little tough to take the mom seriously when she's wearing such a revealing and tight dress (speaking of which, who else was shocked to see Ollie was wearing a shirt during training?), but that just goes to show how different she is from Felicity and the scenes between the two were really powerful. Even if you didn't feel moved by the relationship, you have to at least recognize they both gave really commendable performances. And, of course, I can't fail to mention that Brandon Routh remains ridiculously likable as Ray Palmer.
The mother-daughter dynamic wasn't the only one on display here. This episode also focused on another important family theme: the bond between siblings. The bits between Thea and Oliver weren't nearly as compelling as the ones between Felicity and "Mama Smoak," but it's great to see that the relationship is progressing. Arrow is filled with so much darkness and tragedy, so when we finally see positive growth, it's really rewarding. Also, it was nice seeing Oliver smile and be the emotionally level-headed one for a change.
Laurel didn't play a pivotal role here but it was definitely critical for her story. Okay, having her choose between a black and red outfit wasn't exactly subtle foreshadowing, but this was an important step for her. Her debating whether she should tell her father about Sara has finally come to an end and she can begin to channel her anger instead of just randomly unleashing it.
Aside from the big reveal being all kinds of predictable (come on, you all saw that coming, right? If we hear someone's dead but don't see it, it's time to get skeptical), my other complaints with the episode are pretty minor. Oliver talking about hacking in his "Batman voice" felt a bit silly and it was totally an unintentional laugh when the security drivers said, "Something's not right" while pulling up and seeing a bunch of gunmen not in uniforms. Also, was anyone else wondering why Ollie didn't want Sara downstairs? Is he just paranoid that stuff can potentially go down at any moment since the League of Assassins knows where he works? And, after all they've been through, Starling City's riot squad doesn't have tear gas? Again, these are just minor points and the obvious twist is the only big one.
Yeah, we need to talk about that ending. If you don't want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph and don't move your cursor over the spoiler bars! So, I'm torn between thinking Roy actually did that and it just being a twisted nightmare because he used to have Mirakuru flowing through him. If the former, does he occasionally go through withdrawal and it takes over, sending him into a rage and Sara's just an unfortunate victim of it? Or was it brainwashing? If so, who would benefit from doing that? The immediate suspect would be Malcolm Merlyn. If Malcolm did it, it's because he foresaw this death would create a war between team Arrow and the League of Assassins (in this scenario, he knows Sara's dating Nyssa). That way it's "killing two birds with one stone" and Thea has no outside influences as they move forward. But if it's just a rage-induced outburst, that's sure to have some interesting consequences. Or, could someone be giving him those visions? Things are going to get very interesting if it turns out Roy occasionally loses control. If so, that means they've finally found Sara's murderer, but it's their close friend and he wasn't even in control. It was just a totally random tragedy. That has the potential for a lot of drama. However, just because Roy's having these visions doesn't confirm he did it. They can just be really vivid nightmares. Begin the speculation!
I doubt anyone's jaw will be dropped when the antagonist is revealed and that arc is definitely the weak point of the episode, but "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" makes up for that by having a ton of heart, strong performances, and an attention-grabbing ending. Now we just have to wait and see where they go with this shocking cliffhanger.