If you’re a fan of Arrow, and more specifically of the Oliver/Felicity relationship, you’ll have noticed that the PR so far this season has been less than promising. Interview after interview has come out in which the EP’s talk about how they’re ‘writing away from the romance,’ making many unsure whether these two will see reconciliation this season at all. Because of this, some fans are not as excited for this season, and understandably so. To avoid this kind of discouragement, I’ve personally decided to ignore all these interviews and focus on what I’m actually seeing play out in the episodes. And I’ve got to admit, so far I really like what I see and not just in regards to Oliver and Felicity. Here are just a few of the reasons why I’m actually quite optimistic about this season of Arrow.
Thea and Lance
So far we’ve seen these two unexpected characters together quite a bit this season and every scene they’ve had has been better than the last. Having recently lost Laurel and with Sara away somewhere traveling through time, Lance is not doing well, even resorting back to drinking. At the same time, Thea is still dealing with serious dad issues (never forget the fact that Malcolm literally brainwashed her into killing someone) while also struggling with finding out who she is without the Speedy moniker. It makes so much sense for these two to come together and be there for each other at this time, that I’m almost embarrassed I didn’t think of it. With Lance stepping in and acting as a father figure for Thea (if they aren’t going to bring Walter back, she at least needs someone) and Thea stepping in as a possible surrogate daughter for Lance, I think we’re going to continue to see some really great scenes between these two. Combining the emotional range Paul Blackthrone brings to his character and the sass and snark from Willa Holland, I can’t wait to see where this goes.
It’s not news to anyone that the flashbacks from the last two seasons of Arrow have been subpar at best. Especially last season, they seemed to relate so little to what was going on in the story that many viewers, myself included, tended to simply zone out during them. Already this season, though, it looks like that is going to change as the show gets back to the season two level of flashbacks that everyone enjoyed so much. We’re already seeing flashbacks that connect to the current story, with Oliver reverting to the Bratva way of team-building in the most recent episode as he tried to rebuild his own new team (the Bratva may be good at ruthless fighting but probably not the best model to follow for interpersonal skills, Oliver). Between bringing back a fan favorite in Anatoly and showing the ruthless fighting side of Oliver that helps explain where he was at mentally when season one started, the Bratva flashbacks appear to be something to look forward to this season. And let’s be honest, a shirtless fighting Stephen Amell doesn’t hurt either.
The New Team
I’ll be the first to admit that seeing all the promos featured around the new team, completely ignoring the core characters we all fell in love with, was very discouraging. Like others, I’ve been concerned about seeing the newbies take away screen time from our favorites. Having seen their introduction episode now, though, this is something I’m no longer worried about. Instead, I actually found myself enjoying the dynamics of the new vigilantes and looking forward to seeing what they can do. Even in an episode that was advertised to feature them, we still saw plenty of screen time for the original characters, easing some of my worry about that as well.
There were a few key moments in this week’s episode that cemented my optimism about seeing more of these new characters this season. Last season we were introduced to Curtis, as we saw how much he can benefit the show as both comic relief in his scenes with Felicity and as a catalyst to encourage Oliver, like he did with Damien Darhk. This season, we’ve already seen him stand up to Oliver once, putting him in his place during a moment when it really needed to be done. I can’t wait to see not only his friendship with Felicity grow, but also see what else he can do to help Oliver move forward on his journey.
Artemis and Wild Dog were also intriguing in their first big appearances, but the other vigilante who really caught my interest was Ragman. Like Oliver, he too was inspired to vigilantism due to the loss of his father. Seeing these two bond over that, combined with this giving Oliver a reason to remember why he even started his mission to start with, will be great for the show. Ragman also happens to be the only survivor of Havenrock, a key fact that will likely move Felicity’s storyline along.
Journeys for OTA
Each member of Original Team Arrow will be facing their own journeys this year as they deal with the fallout of last season and so far, I am excited to see where those journeys take them. For Oliver, we’ve been told that he will be struggling with remembering what made him start this mission in the first place, which Ragman is already opening his eyes to. Not only that, but he’ll also be contending with his decision not to kill, after realizing that that decision is exactly what got so many innocent people murdered last season by Darhk. With the brutal Bratva flashbacks, he’s going to have to fight that instinct they instilled in him to be a ruthless killer. At the same time, it looks like we’re going to see Oliver open up more and grow as a person. He’s already opened up some to Felicity about Russia and been able to take advice and change to become a better leader, something the old Oliver never would have done. All of this, along with him trying to juggle being mayor while fighting crime, looks like it will lead to a very interesting and satisfying journey for Oliver this season.
Diggle’s journey so far looks like it will be dealing with the direct consequences of his decision to kill his brother last season. No matter how bad Andy had become, he was still Diggle’s brother, and that’s not something Diggle will get over easily. Currently he’s rejoined the army, looking to find answers there, but it only looks like this is going to ruin Diggle’s faith in humanity more. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see him rejoin the team, where hopefully he will find the clarity and answers he needs to come to terms with his decision to kill Andy.
For Felicity, a lot of her journey will likely also deal with fallout from the end of last season, as she was faced with an impossible decision with Havenrock which ended the lives of many people despite saving so many others. It’ll be important for the writers to remember while showing Felicity deal with her guilt that it wasn’t really her that killed these people, even though she may feel like it was. The fault actually lies completely with Damien Darhk, something she may eventually come to terms with, helping her to deal with the grief by realizing it’s not really her fault. Throughout their journeys, I’m willing to bet we’ll see OTA be there for each other, offering advice and compassion as we’ve seen them do so much throughout the series. Their bond is one of the strongest parts of the show and I’m hopeful that the writers will be able to highlight that bond as each of them deal with their own issues and guilt this season.
Oliver and Felicity
This is the big one, the reason that so many fans are feeling discouraged about this season of Arrow. Based off interviews, fans have every right to feel this way, as the writers are making it sound like all the growth and journey we’ve witnessed with Olicity is just going to be forgotten. From what I gathered from the interviews, my worry was that they were going to revert to a season two vibe, ignoring everything that’s happened between these characters since then. I can say with at least some confidence that I’m no longer worried about that after watching this week’s episode. In fact, I’m more optimistic about Oliver and Felicity’s relationship than I have been in a while. Let me explain why.
The reason Felicity broke up with Oliver last season was because she was hurt that he didn’t trust her enough to tell her about William and allow her to help him come to terms with having a son. Oliver has never been good at communication or opening up about his feelings and emotions, having been trained during his five years away to be nothing more than a ruthless killer. He’s learned over the years, little by little, to open up and start trusting people again, especially Felicity and Diggle. But when faced with the huge news of having a son and being told he couldn’t tell Felicity about him, he reverted back to his old ways, obviously a major mistake.
Already this season, though, we’re starting to see a rebuild of their relationship, which is the only way it’s going to be believable for them to get back together. They need to earn their reunion and to do that, we need to see Oliver opening up more to Felicity and trusting her with his emotions. That is exactly what happened in this week’s episode when she came to him about his questionable leadership skills. In a heartfelt discussion, he opened up to her about Russia, something he has never done before. Explaining why he was treating the new recruits the way he was and even revealing some of his pain and vulnerability from losing so many past team members, Oliver let Felicity in and was rewarded with her once again declaring her faith in him. This is exactly the kind of scenes we need to see between them to start the slow climb towards a reunion. While it may not be ideal for them to be apart right now, it is important that they build a stronger relationship so that when they do eventually get back together, they’ll be all the more strong.
The writers can tell me in however many interviews they want that they’re writing away from romance but as long as I continue to see this kind of growth and forward progress on my screen, I’m going to continue being optimistic about Olicity. Sure, they’re going to face obstacles along the way, the completely unnecessary boyfriend being one of them. And I honestly don’t expect this to be a fast rebuild, based off of these interviews. I have no expectation for them to be back together by midseason, but hold out hope that it will happen sometime during the second half of the season. The writers should be doing a much better job of promoting this idea, if it is indeed what they’re planning on doing. Obviously, there’s a chance I’m completely wrong and none of the things I’m hoping to see play out will actually happen. For now, I’m remaining optimistic that the writers know what they’re doing both with Oliver and Felicity and with the show as a whole. I certainly hope they don’t make me regret that.