The CW’s hit series Arrow (which has spawned The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow) is based on the comic book series about superhero Green Arrow, aka billionaire Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), and as such it celebrates the heroism of the main character. But what might not be apparent is that this series focuses on the heroism of its supporting characters – particularly the women – almost as much as the star himself.
This article won’t be focusing on the men on this show. Though Oliver, Diggle (David Ramsey), and characters like Roy (Colton Haynes), Tommy (Colin Donnell) and Curtis (echo Kellum) are all exceptional characters who have their own set of strengths and flaws, it is the women of Arrow who are the often overlooked and under-appreciated characters.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of 10 Times Women Were the True Heroes of Arrow.
Laurel defends a child and Tommy during a home invasion
The first season episode “Home Invasion,” Queen’s former romantic interest and high-powered assistant DA Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) offers her home to a child who witnessed the murder of his parents and is thus in danger, with Tommy declaring that he will stay with them also. Laurel is sweet to the little boy, comforting and loving to him as she tries to understand his pain. When an officer shows up at the door, claiming that he is there to protect the child, Laurel immediately knows that something is wrong because of his badge and moves to protect the little boy while an assailant bursts in.
As Tommy dives to shield the boy, Laurel wields her shotgun (again, her SHOTGUN) and attacks the man intent on harming the little boy. Though Laurel finds herself in trouble because of this decision, her choice to move toward the offensive while Tommy stayed on the defensive is really telling. Laurel is the daughter of a police officer, and her first instinct is always to protect the people she cares about and fight for them. In this instance, she followed her gut instinct which was to do everything she could to protect the child in her care. That makes her a hero.
Shado saves Oliver (again and again) on Lian-Yu
Shado (Celina Jade), the woman who trains Oliver on the island of Lian-Yu before he returns to Starling City and becomes the superhero we know and love, is not a woman who died before her time. She is a character who deserves recognition for how heroic she was while there.
Not only did Shado hold her own against the men on the island, but she also whipped them into shape. If it hadn’t been for Shado, after all, Oliver would have never learned how to shoot an arrow. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for Shado, he probably wouldn’t have survived living on the island at all. Though the end of her life is tragic, Shado was an amazing and human character, exhibiting compassion, patience, and strength.
Nyssa chooses to fight for herself
Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) is no an angel. In fact, she’s the heir-apparent to Oliver’s nemesis Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) and a paid assassin. And yet, even though she has killed in cold blood and even though she’s abrasive and defies others, often rebelling against orders… she is also caring and loving and vulnerable. Most heroically, though, she stands up to her misogynistic, abusive father in the third season episode “This is Your Sword,” when he insists that she marry Oliver. When it becomes clear that there is no way out of her circumstances, Nyssa chooses to take destiny into her own hands and swipes a knife from the dinner table in order to put a stop to Ra’s al Ghul.
In spite of the fact that Nyssa is often considered to be villainous and thus it seems absurd to classify her as a “hero,” she spends a vast majority of Arrow protecting the people that she cares for, defending herself, and forgiving and helping others (like Laurel), even when it goes against her very nature to do so.
Lyla protects her family, in every sense of the word
Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson) is one of the most consistently overlooked female characters on Arrow. She’s not featured especially prominently, so it makes sense that fans don’t talk about her often. But they should, because the truth is that Lyla Michaels has proven time and time again that she is just as much of a hero as her husband and Oliver’s confidante, John Diggle. And – one might argue – the fact that she is a soldier, wife, and mother is what sets her apart.
During the first season episode “Suicidal Tendencies,” this is especially true. Diggle and Lyla have just gotten married for the second time. While on their honeymoon, Lyla gets called away on a mission to Kasnia. Without hesitation, Diggle accompanies her, but they both come closer to death than they ever thought was possible, only to be saved by Deadshot (Michael Rowe). But it’s Lyla’s difficult decision to place her family and their daughter above her work in the field that truly makes her heroic. It’s not an easy decision, by any means, and not a permanent one. But it takes courage for her to take a step back from her job.
While Deadshot paid the price with his life, Lyla demonstrated that she was just as heroic. She chose to fight for justice and what she believed in, to stand alongside her husband not just as his partner in marriage but in battle. While the men on Arrow are impressive because of their ability to handle the circumstances thrown at them, the women – women like Lyla – are impressive because they not only handle the circumstances thrown at them, but also simultaneously protect their families and subvert the expectations society and men have placed on them. Lyla is a strong and heroic woman, which means that she is layered and flawed, but still does the right thing.
Felicity shields Curtis in the Lair
In this season’s episode of Arrow titled “Restoration,” a metahuman manages to find Curtis Holt and his employer, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), while the two are investigating his unique playing card tattoos at Palmer Technologies. As the two flee to escape in an elevator, Felicity kicks the metahuman out of the way as the doors closed, suggesting that this is the end of that particular story.
But it isn’t. Because a few moments later, the metahuman finds his way downstairs into the Arrow Lair and Felicity immediately leaps into action in order to save her friend, grabbing a machine gun and shooting it at their assailant with her eyes closed. No Green Arrow comes to her rescue. Dig and Thea (Willa Holland) and Laurel are nowhere in sight, either. Curtis can’t do much to protect himself, and if there is one thing Felicity Smoak has in spades, it’s the desire to keep the people she cares about safe at all costs. Felicity – the unassuming blond hacker – manages to physically best a human being who has superhuman powers.
When Oliver returns to the Lair, he expresses momentary surprise that his girlfriend was capable of holding off an attack by herself. But that is precisely why Felicity was such a hero – no one sees her coming. She blindsides everyone with her intelligence, her wit, her heart, and her skills. Just when people underestimate or dismiss her, Felicity proves that she doesn’t only deserve to be a part of Team Arrow, but earns the title of “hero” just as much – and sometimes more – than those masked vigilantes.
Sara’s first (seen) act in Starling City is to save a woman
Waxing poetic about Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) would take a lifetime, but one moment in which she was more heroic than anyone else on Arrow was the first good deed she performed after returning to Starling City in the second season episode “City of Heroes.” A woman is being accosted by men and Roy Harper – former criminal turned small-time vigilante – attempts to intervene. But when it’s clear that he’s going to lose, a masked woman clad in black leather takes the assailants down and rescues both Roy and the accosted woman in the process.
Sara Lance is a hero, in spite of the fact that she often doesn’t believe herself to be one, given the terrible things she had to do while in the League of Shadows. But this is the same woman who made a promise to a man on Lian-Yu, before he dies, that she would protect his daughter. And she did – Sara looked after Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) in Starling City and kept her safe, just as she promised. This is heroism at its purest form. Sara puts on a mask and a wig, yes, but she is a true hero because she doesn’t allow the pain of her past to cripple her and prevent her from caring about others. She may be jaded in a lot of ways and she may believe herself incapable of heroism, but that doesn’t negate the fact that she IS one.
Thea saves Diggle’s life… twice
Let’s be honest, here: Thea, aka Speedy, the sister of Oliver Queen, is the real hero in a lot of these moments. Diggle is awesome. He’s witty and wise and loyal and compassionate. But Thea Queen is also all of those things. She’s feisty. She’s strong. She’s defiant. And in the third season episode “Al Sah-Him,” when it comes down to putting an arrow in her brother or letting him hurt Diggle, she chooses the former. It’s interesting, because many of the characters – despite their protesting to the contrary – would not have been able to do the same. Diggle was losing in a fight with Al Sah-Him (Oliver’s name after he joins the League of Shadows) and it’s unclear if Diggle would have been able to maim or kill his former best friend (and best man) if the situation had called for it. But Thea was able to do what was necessary so that she could save her friend. Thea and Diggle had never even been extremely close on Arrow. They don’t have an established rapport like Felicity and Diggle do. And yet, without hesitation, Thea chooses to protect Diggle’s life at the expense of hurting her brother.
It’s really telling of Thea’s character that she does this, and what’s extremely telling is the fact that the Arrow writers not only allowed Thea to save Diggle once, but twice in the course of a few episodes. It would be easy for them to write Thea off as the “inexperienced” member of the team (because she was). It would be logical to depict her as failing or insecure. And while Thea is still learning, even in the fourth season, to harness and refine her skill set, there is something noble and brave about having the rookie – and the rookie woman, no less – save the seasoned war hero. Diggle exudes nothing but gratitude and pride toward Thea in these moments and it’s amazing that a show about male superheroes and often male egos pauses long enough to remember that women are just as valuable as men.
Felicity saves herself in “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”
Though Oliver shows up, bow drawn back, to save the love of his life from her sociopathic ex-boyfriend in this third season episode, it is not Oliver who is the hero – it is Felicity Smoak. This is a woman who wears cute dresses and heels and utilizes knowledge of self-defense in order to protect herself and save her mother – in this case from a cyber terrorist ex-boyfriend who uses Felicity’s mother as leverage to make her use her computer skills in the service of his nefarious plans. It would have been completely expected for Arrow to have Oliver swoop in and save the day. In fact, it would have even been romantic – Oliver protects Felicity, and the two embrace. This trope has been played out across all mediums for so long that it was shocking to see that the woman saved herself and her mother by using the skills she already possessed.
So often, Oliver Queen is lauded as a hero. And he should be, for all the good he has done for Starling City, the surrounding areas, and people within those cities. But what this show reminded viewers with during this particular moment is that sometimes the best way for the person you love to grow is to let them be their own hero – to let them surprise you, to remind you that they are capable and strong. Sometimes, Felicity needs to be saved, but not this time. This time, Arrow reminded us that the real hero of the scene wasn’t the man who parkour’d his way through lasers, but the woman who remembered how to elbow someone in just the right way to gain the upper hand.
Team Arrow’s women and Caitlin Snow defend the Arrow cave
When boomerang-wielding villain Digger Harkness (Nick Tarabas) attacks Oliver’s hideout in the third season’s “The Brave and the Bold,” the whole Arrow team immediately springs into action. Lyla draws her guns and begins to shoot, while Felicity and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) seek cover. When Lyla becomes severely injured by one of Harkness’s boomerangs, Caitlin instantly arrives at her side, using her medical prowess to figure out the best way to save Lyla’s life. Meanwhile, Felicity locates one of Oliver’s exploding arrows and tosses it at Harkness, scaring him out of the cave.
Every woman in this scene utilizes her talents and skills and is a hero because of it. Caitlin is able to save Lyla’s life and keep her stable long enough for Barry (the future Flash, played by Grant Gustin) to return and rush her to the hospital. Because Caitlin is quick-thinking and cares about the work she does, Lyla lives. And Lyla’s immediate instinct when faced with danger is to defend and protect. So she took the offense, using her marksmanship skills to fend off Harkness. And Felicity? When Harkness’ boomerang lodged itself in Lyla, the blonde does what she always does in a crisis – thinks quickly and designs the most effective solution. Felicity is so used to running scenarios and codes and numbers day after day that she is able to usually be three steps ahead of a problem and her decision to toss an exploding arrow at Harkness at just the right time was the very action that helped save their lives.
The choice for Arrow to allow the three women not only to share a scene together but a scene in which no man was present to save them was a significant one. There is no doubt that in this moment, all three of them were the true heroes of the show and – honestly – the true heroes of the episode, too.
Moira sacrifices herself for her children
An ultimate example of when a woman on Arrow was the show’s true hero is the end of Season 2 episode “Seeing Red,” in which Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) sacrifices her life so that her children Oliver and Thea can live. Moira was never a perfect character – she was abrasive and amoral; she was manipulative and deceptive and shrewd. But she was also loving and caring. She was funny and stoic. And what truly stands out about her is the fact that she approached every situation with her head held high. Moira Queen did not cower in the face of adversity. Even when facing certain death, she held her own against Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) – Oliver’s former mentor who is hellbent on destroying Starling City.
Despite the horrible things she did, those things weren’t nearly as defining as the way in which she repaired her relationships with her son and daughter and the attitude in which she made amends for her crimes. The fierce way that she loved her children in the bitter end is one of the most powerful things about her character. This is a woman who was constantly surrounded by men who wanted to harm her, take her down, to strip her of her authority and power. But Moira refused to allow the people around her to dictate her future. She chose, instead, to make her final act on earth a sacrificial one. That is why Moira Queen’s decision to lay down her life for the lives of her children makes her a true hero on Arrow.
With so many strong female characters, there are plenty of other moments for the women of Arrow to be true heroes. Let us know about them in the comments!