“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.
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.
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD.