Felicty Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) has been an integral part of Oliver Queen's (Stephen Amell) life since the very beginning of his vigilante crusade in season 1 of Arrow. Much like a Doctor Who companion, Felicity has often been the voice of reason and the reminder to Oliver to temper his power with compassion and understanding.
Felicity became a fan favorite early on, especially as an idealized heroine for geek girls. She was smart, sexy, brave, funny, and not above crushing on her hunky shirtless boss as he worked his way up the salmon ladder in the Arrow cave. Rickards and Amell also had an enjoyably mischievous chemistry on screen, so many viewers were thrilled when it looked like the two might finally engage in a real romance.
Unfortunately, after a brief "happily-ever-after" adventure away from saving Star City, "Olicity" was run through an ugly, emotional wringer that divided fans and damaged both characters' likability. The fact that this coincided with other storyline issues and a shocking character death didn't help. Even Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, now admits that they may have gotten a few things wrong:
"The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with an hour of television on any show where there hasn’t been something I wanted to take back. Doing 23 episodes a year, you’re just constantly running, so nothing ever turns out exactly the way you want it to. In other words, my list of regrets is actually incredibly long; it’s 100 episodes long."
Uber-critical fans may agree that there were at least 100 things wrong with Arrow over the last 5 years, and star Amell definitely hasn't been fond of the "factions" that have attacked the show via social media. Extreme views aside, however, there have been some real problems with the show, and Guggenheim also revealed that he agrees that the Olicity pairing wasn't handled well:
"I’d say probably my biggest regret is I wish we had allowed the Oliver-Felicity storyline in season 4 to unfold at a more natural pace. We had set these tentpoles at the beginning of the season, and we were a bit too rigorous on how we hit them. That was a case where the planning overtook the storytelling. We didn’t do things as naturally and as elegantly as we should have."
Many a writer has succumbed to altering character's personalities and motivations to suit the "issue of the week," or as a mere cog in the wheel of the overall story. It's not always catastrophic, but the Arrow showrunners involved two central, beloved characters in an awkward roller coaster of a storyline (which even included Felicity's surprisingly short-lived paralysis) that they are only slowly recovering from in season 5. While her somewhat randomly-introduced new romance isn't the best solution, Felicity has at least regained much of her appealingly quirky personality and the focus is more on her contributions to Team Arrow than her angst with Oliver.
Guggenheim insists that the show has always been willing to own up to mistakes and to schedule episode reshoots even for "just one moment that wasn’t landing the way it needed to land." It's clearly not always easy to see the "bigger picture" errors, but fans can only hope that any further forays into Olicity territory will be more thoroughly scrutinized than they were in season 4.
Arrow continues tonight with the Invasion! storyline on its 100th episode, at 8pm on The CW.