Did anyone else need a tissue after watching Arrow’s season finale, “You Have Saved This City,” or was it just me? I’m used to action and drama on Arrow. I’m not used to the series tearing my heart out and tossing it around the room like a T-Sphere. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, though. For months, fans have been speculating that Oliver would die during the upcoming Crisis, and his absence from the future storyline lent some credibility to these theories. Felicity’s visit to Oliver’s grave seemed like confirmation…right up until the Monitor appeared, offering to take Felicity to her husband.
Wait what?! This raises so many questions! While it’s unsure what we’re going to be getting in Arrow’s eighth and final season, it’s clear it’s going to be a LOT different than everything that’s come before.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Emily Bett Rickards will be along for the ride. Earlier this year, the actress announced that she wouldn’t be returning (at least, as a series regular) for the final season of Arrow. I’m still holding out hope that she’ll make a surprise appearance in the series finale, but as of now, this episode was our goodbye to Felicity Smoak. There are so many emotions to work through, I’m not even sure where to begin. Felicity Smoak has done so much for Team Arrow and Emily Brett Rickards is one of the show’s greatest assets. How can we say goodbye to Felicity?
Felicity Smoak made her comic book debut in 1984’s The Fury of Firestorm #23. As you can tell from the above panel, things between Felicity and Firestorm did not get off on the best foot. This caused some real complications when Felicity wound up marrying Ronnie Raymond’s father. That’s right, folks, instead of marrying the Green Arrow, Felicity’s comic counterpart married Firestorm’s dad! After the antagonism had worn off, Felicity and Ronnie grew close and she learned about his Firestorm identity. It’s a good thing they worked out their differences, because the thought of Felicity as an evil stepmother just doesn’t feel right.
Have you all been reading my monthly Easter egg columns? I ask because Emily Bett Rickards’ portrayal of Felicity on Arrow was originally intended to be little more than one of those—an Easter egg. She was only set to appear during one scene in the season one episode “Lone Gunmen.” Had that remained the case, fans would’ve said, “Oh cool, that’s Firestorm’s stepmom from the comics” before moving on to the next bit of action and eventually forgetting it had even happened.
So, what changed? Emily Bett Rickards’ performance as Felicity and her undeniable chemistry with Stephen Amell were so good that the showrunners brought her back as a recurring character.
Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to imagine the past seven years of Arrow without Felicity. That first appearance was the scene that launched a thousand ships, and Rickards infused Felicity with a lightning quick wit and a generous amount of heart that was so unlike anything on the show that the impact was immediate and profound. While Felicity wasn’t the first extended member of Team Arrow—that honor goes to John Diggle—she proved to be the team’s moral compass. It was Felicity who nudged Oliver down the path of redemption and ultimately made sure he never backpedaled too much, even when things got bleak. Not only that, but Rickards’ portrayal and take on the character also influenced the comics, who evolved Felicity Smoak to be closer to what we were seeing on the show.
As you can see, not only has Rickards changed the direction of the Arrowverse, but she’s also altered DC’s comic book universe, most likely for good. By the way, I encourage all of you to rewatch that first scene and pay attention to Felicity. It’s interesting to see how she’s grown. During season one, Felicity was jittery and a bit less sure of herself. Flash-forward to the literal flash-forwards of this season, and she’s leading her own group of resistance freedom fighters. We have seen her run corporations, we’ve seen her adopt a superhero persona, we’ve seen her struggle as a stepmother, and we’ve seen her put Oliver Queen in his place more times than we can count.
Of course, season seven saw her go through some of her biggest changes, from giving birth, to aiding a revolution, to saying goodbye to Oliver. It’s been quite a journey for Felicity Smoak, starting in the offices of Queen Consolidated and ending with a trip through a portal with the Monitor.
Earlier in this column, I told you all to imagine Arrow without Felicity. Sadly, it looks like that’s what will be happening this fall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about Arrow’s final season and have no doubt it’ll be exciting and memorable, but Felicity’s absence will be felt. Emily Bett Rickards, from the bottom of our fandom hearts, you have saved this city AND this series. Like Oliver, we’ll all just have to figure out a way to go on without you.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.