[Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Arrow season 4.]
Over the last four seasons on The CW, superhero mainstay Arrow has seen the original crime fighting team of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) grow exponentially. They have cycled through a number of crime fighting vigilantes including Sarah Lance/Black Canary/White Canary (Caity Lotz), Laurel Lance/Black Canary 2.0 (Katie Cassidy), Thea Queen/Speedy (Willa Holland) and Roy Harper/Arsenal (Colton Haynes). As the team has grown, so too have the story arcs that are crafted to show Oliver's evolution from the cold blooded vigilante of season 1, to the more evolved and democratic Green Arrow of season 4.
A driving force in both the show and Oliver's development has been Felicity who, after being introduced as a one-off character, quickly turned into the comic relief, brains, and heart of the show. While this fan favorite has gone through some significant changes since she was first introduced - perhaps most noticeably rising from a low level IT position at Queen Consolidated to CEO of Palmer Technologies - she hasn't yet received a major comic book transformation like many of her friends have. Though Felicity now appears in certain Arrow comics, she hasn't taken on a moniker of her own in the show.
It looked as though this was all about to change after the harrowing mid season finale left Felicity shot, and trailers showed Oliver seeking revenge, leading many to believe that Felicity would take up the mantle of Oracle after being paralyzed by Damien Darhk's men. In the comics Oracle is the alter ego of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl who was paralyzed after being shot by the Joker, and decided to continue fighting crime from behind a computer, using her intelligence and tech skills to build a worldwide communication network for superheroes. Even without the devastating injury, the resemblance is downright uncanny. When discussion heated up following the apparent reveal of Felicity's fate, however, Arrow executive producer Wendy Mericle told TV Line that Felicity as Oracle was “off the table.” Mericle continued that though the alter-ego had been toyed with, it had since been discarded.
“That’s something we definitely talked about [doing] with Felicity in the beginning…. But yeah, it will not be Oracle, sadly. People have to tune in to see what happens.”
Rumors of Felicity becoming Oracle have been circulating since season 2. Originally the slated title for the following season's episode that centered around Felicity's backstory was called 'Oracle,' though it was later changed to ‘The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak.' Of course, one assumes Mericle wasn't under oath when making those statements, and the producers could very possibly still be moving forward with Oracle, but want to try and throw people off and encourage more live viewing. Hopefully this is the case, since abandoning this transition would be a very disappointing move, and these comments don't match the character development we've already seen.
Felicity already possesses most of the qualities attributed to Oracle. Genius level intellect? Check. Expert hacker and tech guru? Check. Connections to other superheroes within the larger DC universe? Check and mate. The CW continues to expand its shared DC Comics universe with The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, and Felicity is a huge connecting piece to both sister shows with strong ties to the male leads. Existing similarities aside, this would be a interesting place to take a character that is very popular, but with far less backstory than the rest of team.
Obviously no one on the show rivals Oliver for history and development - this is his story, after all. But we have seen plenty of Diggle's past in the Army, his re-marriage to his ex-wife, becoming a father, and now struggling with his brother's return from being presumed dead. He has had plenty of material to stay interesting and dynamic as we enter the back half of the show's fourth season. Felicity hasn't been ignored - in fact, she did most of the emotional heavy lifting through the exhausting Nanda Parbat storyline - but most of her journey has been centered around her relationship with Oliver or various technical troubles. We've only had glimpses of who she was before Oliver walked into her life, and nearly all of her struggles and accomplishments have come directly from her new life helping to save Star City.
Arrow has a fantastic lead in Rickards, and having Felicity become Oracle (or even a similar character who uses a different moniker) would give her more to work with, while continuing to develop her beyond the somewhat played-out love interest/tech support role. The show continues to do well in the ratings for The CW and we already know that Amell is contracted through 2019, so Arrow could run for many more seasons. In order to keep audiences interested and invested, all of the characters will need to experience growth and change the same way that Oliver is. Not having Felicity become Oracle seems like a missed opportunity to do just that.
Of course, the DC universe is plentiful and there are a multitude of other heroes the writers could still draw from for Felicity's alter-ego. However, if they chose to move forward with this plot - be it a fake out, a different superhero mantle, or simply having her be Oracle in everything but name - the fact that Felicity is on her way to an interesting and engaging new story arc is good news for fans. As long as her injuries and paralysis is not Oliver's fever dream, or fixed within one episode, we are poised for more compelling drama in the much improved season 4.
The Flash will return on Tuesday, January 19, 2016, while Arrow will return on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 and Legends of Tomorrow will see its series premiere on Thursday, January 21, 2016.