Felicity Smoak – She’s Not That Girl
In an episode chock full of great moments, one stands out above all the rest in Arrow’s “Lost Souls.” Felicity Smoak’s split-second pause after “I think we should . . .” causes her beau Oliver Queen to catch his breath and then relax when she finishes, “. . . clear the air.” This moment surpasses the return of an ebullient Ray Palmer, and Donna and Quentin’s onscreen debut as SmoakinLance. That split-second pause reminds Oliver that Felicity is her own person and if she walks out the door his world might implode, but Felicity would survive. This knowledge keeps their relationship fresh and vital for the characters and the viewers.
After Felicity saved Oliver from Ra’s in the Season Three finale I wrote, “Perhaps the vision of Felicity carrying Oliver to safety balances out the less empowering choice to quit her job at a company she presumably now owns to ride into the sunset with Oliver.” “Lost Souls” acknowledges how that choice limits Felicity’s intellectual and personal growth. Mini-Ray (the symbolic stand-in for Felicity’s career) spends nearly six months trapped in Damien Darhk’s aquarium because Felicity chose a boy over her career. Her choice to be “that girl,” the one who “lose[s] herself” in a man has direct consequences for Ray and, as we learn, for Felicity.
The season premiere hinted at a problem in paradise that peaks in “Lost Souls.” Oliver felt content in the burbs while Felicity could not keep her hands off a keyboard. Suburbia boxes Felicity’s ambition much like Darhk boxes Ray. She gains an irreplaceable joy from leading a successful board meeting or making a tech breakthrough. Ray’s predicament teaches Felicity that work gives her a type of sustenance that her relationship with Oliver cannot provide. She cannot bear to lose or even marginalize the feeling of personal success she gains from leading Palmer Technologies; doing so would strike at her identity and cause her more harm than ending a romance with the man she loves. Oliver and Felicity’s relationship appears headed for trouble.
Enter Mama Smoak.
Charlotte Ross’s Donna Smoak fills a gaping hole in Arrow’s storytelling. Felicity needs her mother’s wisdom and Star City needs this woman’s energy. Donna helps Felicity see that Oliver is not the bad guy. Sure, he makes mistakes and needs to learn that Felicity craves order and would not be a good candidate for a surprise party. Yet Oliver is not her father [and with any luck Damien Darhk isn’t either]. He supports her ambition and loves her for her intellect. Felicity can have love and career because she chose the right man, the one who complements her personality and shares her goals.
As for Oliver, he does not fully understand how central Felicity’s career is to her happiness until she delivers her powerful “I was never that girl” speech. He learns, with some help from Dig, that Felicity’s happiness depends upon more than his ability to climb the salmon ladder or cook a proper chicken cordon bleu. If he is going to keep her (and live off of her money), he had better take her career seriously. To his credit, he does exactly that. Felicity leads the team in an elaborate plan to free mini-Ray from Darhk’s clutches. The whole team backs her up without question, even Sara who’s not yet housebroken. They succeed in bringing the ATOM back to his original size with his smile and intellectual prowess intact.
Compared to Ray Palmer, Oliver Queen has the brain power of a stegosaurus and Oliver knows it. After Felicity leaves to get Ray settled, you can almost see Oliver running around their loft saying, “She’ll be home any minute. That damn Palmer makes me look like a Neanderthal! I have to do something. F#ck! Why don’t I own any books? I could look smarter if I was reading a book!” Oliver settles for the blank green [arrow] journal someone presumably gave him for his birthday, rips his shirt off, and jumps into bed. Felicity finds him in repose and ready for sex. This man knows his assets.
Felicity takes her mother’s advice. She ends the pause that knocks Oliver off-balance with a declaration that the two find, not lose themselves in each other. Then the woman who holds the top position at a billion dollar corporation climbs atop her boyfriend and he holds her there. Because he’s that guy.