The announcement that Arrow would be ending with its upcoming eighth season probably didn’t surprise that many fans. As much as the show has been exploring new types of storytelling and focusing on different characters this year, at the end of the day, it’s still the story of Oliver Queen. And that seems to be headed toward a natural – and likely bittersweet – endpoint with the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover next year. (Plus, we have to assume that star Stephen Amell probably wants to do something besides climb salmon ladders for a living by now.)
However, the news that Emily Bett Rickards, who plays Team Arrow’s resident hacker genius Felicity Smoak, would be exiting Star City at the end of Season 7 probably came as a much bigger shock. It seems almost impossible to imagine Arrow without her, period; let alone envision a final ten episodes in which Felicity will have no real role in wrapping up the narrative she’s been such a huge part of.
Her departure will mark the true end of an era, as Arrow says goodbye to both its leading lady and one of the team’s founding members. We still don’t know precisely how Felicity will exit Star City – though Arrow’s 2040 flash forwards have given us a pretty good idea of the isolated nature of her life going forward – but we do know this: the show will never be the same again once she’s gone.
Felicity Smoak is, in large part, the glue that holds Arrow together. Though she is perhaps the least physically capable member of the team when it comes to throwing a punch, she is as much a hero as anyone who suits up in a vigilante mask or hood. Her enormous heart, her compassionate nature, and her refusal to back down when facing the worst sorts of odds make her the kind of woman any of us might aspire to one day become.
As Team Arrow’s resident hacker and IT whiz, Felicity has always played a key role in the day-to-day operation of the group, even though she herself rarely ventures away from her tablet or computer keyboard. She’s brilliant, unashamed of her intelligence, and utterly capable, doing everything from managing remote missions to performing surveillance to hacking the FBI or CIA. And over the course of her time on the show, her character completely turns the idea of the nerdy superhero sidekick on its head.
Felicity’s character ticks a lot of the boxes of the (traditionally male) dorky computer geek: A fast talker who’s socially awkward, sarcastic, and maybe just a little too smart for their own good. Yet she is also a woman who unabashedly embraces her feminine side, choosing cute dresses and high heels as often as jackets or T-shirts, and who puts a priority on building lasting emotional connections with those around her.
Her compassionate nature is invaluable, and her vivacious personality provides a much-needed ray of sunshine in the otherwise dark and grim world of Arrow. (This is particularly true during the show’s earlier seasons which primarily dealt with Oliver’s family secrets and seemingly endless quest for vengeance.) She’s brave, loyal to a fault, and willing to stand up to those she thinks are doing wrong, even when they’re her friends.
That Felicity ultimately becomes Arrow’s female romantic lead is another bold choice on the part of the show – and not just because she’s the sort of character who, stereotypically speaking, almost never lands the hot guy at the center of the story. The decision to pair her romantically with Oliver represents one of Arrow’s first major departures from its comics source material, and established the show as one willing to take risks and tell its own story on its own terms. From a relationship perspective, her big-hearted sincerity offers a refreshing contrast to Oliver’s near-continual angsty brooding, and her refusal to compromise her beliefs to fit his often provides much-needed alternative perspectives within their group.
It’s true, though, that much of Felicity’s time on Arrow has largely revolved around her relationship to and/or with Oliver. Over the course of seven seasons, she’s been his admirer, his teammate, his girlfriend, his ex, his wife, and now the mother of his child. But Felicity has never been defined solely by her feelings for Oliver, and whatever their Facebook relationship status may be at any given moment, she still possesses desires and agency of her own.
Arrow, however, has not always done its best by Felicity when it comes prioritizing those desires as part of the story. The show has occasionally felt as though it didn’t quite know what to do with her character, particularly once she and Oliver were officially together. Arrow has a longstanding tendency to resort to emotional melodrama when cornered, which means we’ve watched a lot of bizarre storylines over the years that seemed to exist solely to put “Olicity” at odds.
Yet, as Arrow explored more of Felicity’s darker side in recent seasons – her regrets, her insecurities, her own past as a hacker, her messy relationship with her parents, and her rage at the situation that landed Oliver in jail – her character became much more complex and layered. She’s experienced tremendous growth over her time on Arrow as a hacker, as a businesswoman, and as a leader in her own right. Felicity is not a perfect woman by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is she a damsel in distress waiting for Oliver to swoop in with his bow and save her. She is smart and tough, complicated and quippy, loyal and brave, sometimes reckless and always stubborn in the best possible way.
Her character has come so far from her first scene all the way back in Arrow’s third episode, when she was just a tech support girl charged with fixing Oliver’s broken laptop. But it’s precisely because Felicity Smoak has grown into such an integral piece of the show that she’ll leave such a big hole behind when she’s gone.