‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 5: ‘The Secret Origin Of Felicity Smoak’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson is back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: A hacker with a link to Felicity Smoak causes panic in Starling City, Ollie lies to his sister a whole bunch, and the day is saved via a signal watch.
This episode was actually pretty light on action, at least by Arrow standards. The bad guy was little more than an afterthought, which is too bad, considering that he's, for all intents and purposes, Brother Eye (Nolan Funk). In the comics, the Jack Kirby creation Brother Eye was a sentient satellite that brought OMAC to life. Here, it's just a front for a hacker guy who wants to steal some money (and it looks like the Eye of Sauron).
Not to spoil it or anything, but the flashbacks in this one peer back into Smoak's college days as a hacktivist with her boyfriend, Cooper Seldon (whose name I had to look up because I think it was only mentioned once, and I am pretty sure is a jokey take on The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper). Guess who the bad guy is.
While Ollie is visiting Thea at her new apartment, the power goes out throughout the city. After some panic that includes Ollie saving a woman from being hit by a car by diving directly into the car, the power comes back and Brother Eye threatens the citizenry via a message broadcast through TVs and computers. The outage was apparently just the start.
Team Arrow assembles at Verdant/the Arrowcave. Dig shows up carrying his baby like she's a bag lunch, because Harbinger is off on a mission in Bane's home country of Santa Prisca. Ollie acts all weird about taking a baby into the Arrowcave (seeing hooded outfits in glass cases stunts development, he believes), so Dig hands over the baby to Smoak's mom (Charlotte Ross), who is visiting Starling on an impromptu trip.
Brother Eye announces its next target is the city's banks.
Meanwhile, Laurel is at police HQ finding out that she's the acting district attorney because her boss is in Coast City visiting his niece (shouldn't she know this already)? With this news, she goes on an immediate power trip and orders a riot squad to Starling National.
This part...well, at least it's short. A group of maybe 100 people is gathered outside the bank trying to get in and the riot squad starts escalating things. Arrow and Arsenal show up and disperse the crowd...with tear gas. I don't know if this was some wrongheaded effort on the show's part to be relevant to current events, but again, at least the scene was mercifully short.
Back at the Arrowcave, Smoak discovers that the "virus" that Brother Eye is using to gain access to all this important stuff is one she actually wrote five years ago. She sends Ollie after her old boyfriend's roommate, Myron Forest (another Kirby character, also from OMAC).
Arrow and Arsenal go to see Myron in his office. Before he can explain anything, they give him a "you have failed this city" speech and needlessly shoot out two of his computer monitors. Of course, he immediately explains that he isn't Brother Eye. He's just a regular businessman now. Arrow doesn't apologize for the monitors or anything.
At the Arrowcave, Ollie asks Smoak if her old boyfriend could be the culprit behind all this. Smoak says there's no way; he committed suicide in prison.
After a fight with her mom, Smoak comes back to the Arrowcave all frazzled. Ollie, who is suddenly a cool-headed guy who just takes things as they come, decides to tell Smoak to take an hour to go reconcile with her mom. In the middle of a massive crisis. Smoak pushes back, but eventually she goes.
At Smoak's apartment, which really looks like it's a set from an entirely different TV show, Smoak's mom brings up how she won her ticket to Starling through a random email that said she won it for free. Smoak's about to say, "Mom, you got phished," when they get attacked by some masked men and taken to Brother Eye HQ. There, Smoak's old boyfriend reveals how the government faked his suicide and forced him to work for the NSA as a super hacker. Apparently the NSA is a criminal factory, because Cooper talks about it as this crucible that made him understand that no one can help anyone else. Seems like that's the opposite of what the NSA should be doing, but government, am I right? Also, they just let him go after a few years. That makes sense.
Cooper forces Smoak to do some hacking even he isn't capable of: Changing the GPS route of a truck that's delivering a huge amount of cash to the bank after the hacking threat. Smoak says she won't do it, but Cooper threatens her mom, so she makes it happen almost instantaneously.
Satisfied with his efforts, Cooper leaves to go play D&D or whatever while Smoak tries to figure out what to do. The magic watch with Wi-Fi powers that Ray Palmer gave her mom starts chiming (more on that watch in a sec), and that gives her a way to call Arrow. It's ridiculous.
Arrow arrives and is confronted with a set of motion activated chain guns that are clearly designed not to hit anyone, ever. Arrow's flipping around like crazy and the shots don't even come close. Outside, Roy protects the armored car.
Once Arrow has dealt with those terrible guns, Cooper holds Smoak at gunpoint and threatens to kill her. She elbows him in the stomach and takes his gun.
Brother Eye was kind of terrible.
This episode's mostly about Felicity Smoak, and in the present-day scenes, it's largely about her relationship with her mom (whose name is Donna, but again, I'm not sure it's ever mentioned). Their scenes together are really a high point in what's otherwise a pretty undercooked episode. Maybe it's because the two of them are not heartless, scheming millionaires, but whatever the case, the interactions between them feel as real as anything on the show up to now.
Their relationship is basically this: Donna is a classic party girl. She spends most of the episode wearing a tight cocktail dress. That, as we know, isn't Felicity's thing. They're markedly different people, and that leads to a lot of disagreements. Mainly, Donna thinks her daughter works too much and Felicity thinks Donna is irresponsible (for example, she showed up unannounced for this visit).
As things start blowing up around them, Smoak and her mom come to something of an understanding. Donna doesn't see much of herself in Felicity; she sees more of her dad, who was also a smartypants computer guy. The thing is, Smoak's dad left, and Donna's worried that her daughter is going to leave her, too.
By the end of the episode, Smoak ditches work (she's been taking a lot of time off lately) to go spend the day with her mom. It's a well-constructed single-episode arc, and both actresses do really nice work.
When Smoak's mom meets Ollie, she asks, "How many millionaires do you know?" It may be my favorite line and delivery the show's ever had.
The other relationship that gets a lot of focus is the one between Ollie and Thea. There are a lot of lies involved, mostly on Ollie's part.
Thea has a fancy new apartment full of fireplaces. When Ollie comes to visit, he asks how she paid for it and she tells him straight out: Malcom Merlyn's money. That's how she paid to open Verdant back up, too. Ollie says she shouldn't be using it because it's "blood money," like he's some saint that hasn't killed dozens of people.
Later, Thea shows up at Verdant and starts trying to open the door to the Arrowcave. Ollie tells her a pair of lies here: 1) that he couldn't ever open the door and 2) that the sub-level is flooded. Jeez. Then he has the gall to tell her once again not to take Malcolm's money.
To her credit, she says she's her own person who can live her own life.
By the end of the episode, the siblings reach a compromise: Thea will pay off the apartment and the club, and then donate all the rest of the money to an "earthquake relief charity thing." Seems sincere. She asks Ollie to move in with her, but doesn't ask where in the hell he's living now. Malcolm watches them from across the street.
Then there's Laurel. Both her dad and Wildcat tell her she's angry, like she doesn't know that. She's still keeping Sara's death from her dad, but she tells Wildcat about it. In an astonishing monotone, Wildcat tells her “train for yourself,” not for the killer. Then she chooses to put on black gear.
There's a good amount of Ray Palmer screen time in this one, but he doesn't get to do a lot except give Smoak's mom a watch ("it replaces your computer," he says, because it is magic) and mutter a lot about "co-generation," the practice taking leftover heat energy and turning it into other types of energy. Ray wants to donate Queen Consolidated's energy to the city.
Brandon Routh continues to be entertaining in the role, but for the past couple weeks, he's just been around to mutter, toss in a few plot devices, and give Smoak time off. Maybe the co-generation stuff will turn into something eventually.
Much like the episode two weeks ago focused on Thea's recent past rather than Ollie's, this one looks back at Smoak's college days.
And yes, she's dressed like Death from Sandman. I don't know if that's great or terrible.
Anyway, the story in the flashbacks is pretty basic. Smoak, Cooper and Myron are a group of college hacktivists. ("Haven't you heard of hacktivism?" Cooper helpfully asks.) In the boys' dorm room, Cooper goes too far and almost wipes out all student loan debt (if only he had).
When Smoak and Cooper are out walking around in the middle of the city talking in some ludicrous TV hacker talk, an FBI van drives up and he's arrested. I have no idea how they knew it was him and not Smoak or Myron; it was Myron's dorm room, too, and he did the crime on Smoak's laptop.
Either way, she goes to visit Cooper in jail and he tells her he's taking the fall for her. They touch the glass and cry.
The next time see Smoak of the past (presumably after she got the news of Cooper's "suicide,") she has de-Deathed herself and transformed into the exact Felicity Smoak we know now.
It was short, but crazy.
Roy has a dream about Sara's death in which he sees himself killing her. What's even nuttier than that is that he is throwing the arrows at her rather than shooting them with a bow. It's bonkers.
Roy wakes up in a cold sweat.
Making this a dream is a good way to set it up as a fakeout or a red herring, but man, wouldn't it be something if Roy killed Sara by throwing arrows at her?
With the less-than-inspired adaptation of Brother Eye and some lackluster action, this one didn't really succeed as an episode of a comics-based TV show. What it did do pretty well was some character drama, particularly the stuff with Smoak and her mom.
And, no joke, that ending was so nutty. I loved it.
A few other quick notes to wrap up:
- The episode opened with a training montage. Everyone is training, not just Ollie. It leads into a pretty funny gag where Smoak is trying to do some crunches at home.
- Speaking of which, is it just me or has this season severely cut back on the beefcake? Ollie wasn't even shirtless while he was training with Roy. Does this show not know its audience?
- When Ollie goes to visit Thea, he says, "Nice place you got here. Lots of space." That's a line (delivered by both Bruce Wayne and the Joker) from Batman '89. That's cute.
- Brother Eye really, really looks like Sauron.
- Smoak has a Robin Hood poster in her apartment. A little on the nose, isn't it?
That's it for this week. Pray for no more hacker bad guys, won't you?