Felicity Chooses Felicity
In “Nanda Parbat,” the vibe in the Arrow Cave has moved from tense to downright suffocating, a mood that saturates the episode. Oliver’s single-minded quest to defeat Ra’s a Ghul on his terms without the insights of those around him has sucked the fun out of Arrow, a show that has never exactly let the good times roll. Arrow typically balances Oliver’s sullen arrogance with Felicity’s joie de vivre and the recent imbalance between the two has upset the tone of the show. Felicity opts to escape Oliver’s gloom and catch a breath of fresh air in the arms of Ray Palmer. If we love Felicity (and really, who doesn’t?) we must applaud her choice to take this beautiful man “straight to bed.”
In this installment of Arrow, Felicity looks on as Oliver displays his worst qualities. He spends considerable time tromping around the lair like a petulant teen desperate to get his way. His need to protect Thea has morphed into a crusade to “save her soul,” and as it turns out a bid to shore up his wounded ego. Ra’s sent Oliver to an early grave and while his body appears to have recovered, his psyche has not. Oliver projects so much tension that you could bounce a quarter off his abs and not for the usual reasons. Under these conditions, Season Two Oliver would have sought solace in the arms of an equally fracked up lover. Fortunately for my inner-Oliciter, not even Laurel, who noted, “It’s hard to remember the time when I was actually in love with you,” would have him now.
Everyone especially Thea and Laurel reel from the revelation that Thea killed Sara, while images of confinement abound. Nyssa meditates in a cage, Diggle and Oliver find themselves chained to a floor, Malcolm hangs strung over hot coals, and Ray sequesters himself behind a mountain of tech. Guilt binds both Roy and Thea, and Laurel fluctuates between the grief of losing her sister and the absence of her father’s affection. Felicity’s anger toward Oliver remains palpable and threatens to consume her, yet ultimately she chooses to break free.
For the third time in as many months, Oliver leaves Felicity behind to face certain death. He assures her that he does not “plan on dying” to which she bitterly replies, “That’s what you said the last time . . . and how did that turn out for you?” Knowing that she deserves better, Felicity heads over to Palmer Industries and rescues Ray from his self-imposed exile. She has given up on Oliver – “him, I can’t do anything about” – and turns to Ray who acts as a serviceable substitute for the one she loves.
A freshly-showered Ray catches Felicity admiring his Vermeer among other assets. He offers her the consideration she yearns to receive from Oliver, and she responds by kissing him. Her decision to make the first move rather than wait for Ray to do so emphasizes that she is not a Fifty Shades-style object of the handsome billionaire’s affections. Brace yourselves – Felicity Smoak is a sexual agent. Arrow’s showrunners have wisely chosen not to trap Felicity in an antiquated double standard that allows Oliver to have sex with anyone in a skirt and relegates her to a nunnery. As an audience, we need to follow their lead and welcome Felicity’s sexual agency, not denounce her for it.
Felicity takes a chance and initiates a kiss with Palmer, something she has never done with Oliver, because little is at stake in her relationship with Ray. He represents a safe choice for Felicity. They share an easy banter and their casual interactions suggest mutual respect rather than love. Ray has yet to recover from the death of his wife Anna; Felicity can help him return to the world of the living. She can also, not surprisingly, give him a boost in the ATOM department. As one friend said, “of course having sex with Felicity gives you super powers.” Meanwhile, Ray can distract her while Oliver chases his shadow. Felicity has not chosen Ray over Oliver. She has prioritized her own well-being and happiness; she has chosen herself.
Thea could take some lessons from Felicity. Week after week, the plot relegates Thea to the position of a pawn, a woman in need of rescue. At this episode’s end, Thea takes a step toward saving her own soul by confessing to Nyssa that she killed Sara. John – “My friends call me Dig. You shouldn’t even speak to me” – Diggle finally gets back in the game, traveling to Nanda Parbat with Oliver to save Malcolm Merlyn for plot reasons too thin to explain. Dig has the good sense to bring a gun to a sword fight, yet Ra’s prevails. He captures the duo and then turns the tables on Oliver. Nyssa will have to find a new calling card since it looks as if “Heir to the Demon” is off the table. Ra’s stuns Oliver by asking him to become the next Ra’s al Ghul prompting another step in our hero’s quest to find his true identity.
As for Felicity, she knows exactly who she is and what she needs. Eventually, Oliver will pull his head out “of his colon” and find his way back to her. Along the way, I welcome any and all scenarios in which Oliver and Ray fight over Felicity. Ooh, maybe “there could be oil of some kind involved.”