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Arrow S3.05 The Secret Origin Of Felicity Smoak Review

Pros

  • Writers: Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan
  • Director: Michael Schultz
  • The one where: As Starling City succumbs to the cyber-terrorist known as Brother Eye
  • Felicity must confront her past...

Cons

“The Secret Origin Of Felicity Smoak” proves to be a bit of a bait and switch. The unexpected arrival of Felicity’s mum – entertainingly played as a ditzy cougar by NYPD’s Charlotte Ross – promises a snappier, frothier slice of Arrow, crackling with the sit-com potential of the clash between the Smoak ladies.

And yes, the episode has fun with that for a while (“Are you adopted?” asks Ray). But there’s something deeper here too, something just a little darker beneath the gags about mom dressing like a porn star. Watch the scene where Donna confesses she sees too much of Felicity’s absent father in her daughter: “There’s nothing of me in you,” she says, suddenly vulnerable. Ross makes Donna a real person in this moment, carving out the emotional heart of the episode.

It’s an unexpected touch in a story that doesn’t conceal its bigger twists too well. New villain Brother Eye is a wonderfully eerie presence at first – there’s a cool echo of the Outer Limits title sequence as all those hijacked TV screens declare “We are in control now!” – but the mystery of who’s behind this techno-threat evaporates too soon. Of course it’s Cooper. We realise this a quarter of the way through. The possibility that it’s Myron Forrest feels like obvious misdirection and so the remainder of the episode follows the rails to its inevitable conclusion, its plot beats solid but unfolding with no real surprise.

Death Becomes Her

There’s more than a touch of Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman about the young Felicity, right down to the ankh pendant…

Still, it’s fun to see Felicity earn the five year flashbacks this week. Emily Bett Rickards delivers a subtly different take on Felicity, one who’s superficially more confident, armed with goth girl stylings, taking refuge behind a tribe. I’m not persuaded that this flashback is Felicity’s true secret origin, mind – ultimately her father’s walk-out seems the more compelling candidate for the tragedy that shaped this particular hero.

And then there’s Roy… What are we to make of his vision of killing Sara? Has he become a programmed assassin, Manchurian Candidate style? If so, it’s a welcome, intriguing development for a character who’s been rather sidelined so far this season.

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Trivia

The title’s a play on DC comic book Secret Origins. It was first published in 1961.

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More Trivia

Brother Eye is a nod to the Jack Kirby creation of the same name, an AI satellite on a parallel future Earth first seen in the pages of OMAC in 1974. It was the creation of Global Peace Agency scientist Myron Forrest, reimagined here as Felicity’s roommate. It’s the second OMAC reference we’ve seen this series (Ray Palmer was looking at OMAC weaponry plans in “Corto Maltese”). Could these Kirbyverse references be leading somewhere?

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Did You Spot?

Felicity clearly has a fixation on emerald archers. There’s a poster for Errol Flynn’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood on the wall of her apartment.

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Did You Also Spot?

That’s starfish-tastic Justice League villain Starro the Conqueror on Cooper’s tee. The image is from the cover of Brave And The Bold 28 but Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and the Martian Manhunter have been cunningly removed to avert continuity meltdown.

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Best Lines

Ray: “What’s the one thing that Queen Consolidated has that we don’t use to its maximum potential?” Felicity: “A doorbell?”

Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD.

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