Stupid Cupid

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.07 of Arrow, “Draw Back Your Bow.”**

I want to take you back to a simpler time, a time when we were all so excited to learn new and wonderful things about Felicity Smoak. We got to learn about her “hacktivist” days, about the relationship she has with her mother, about her deep grief over the death of her first love. We got to watch as she defended herself and her mother, as she kicked some serious former-hacktivist ass, as she admitted that she’s a lot tougher than she’d previously realized. That episode happened only two weeks ago. I was overall very glowing in my review, and I remember being very optimistic, even hopeful, about Felicity’s writing going forward.

Well, forget all of the character development you think you saw in that episode. Say goodbye. Put it in a box and ship it to Lian Yu. Get it a nice dank cell next door to Slade Wilson. He’ll sit there and whisper-snarl at Felicity Smoak’s Forgotten Characterization Box, and he’ll swear vengeance for himself and the beautiful blonde girl he once held hostage. “I keep my promises, kid! And one of those promises is the guarantee that I will restore Felicity Smoak’s characterization come hell or high water! I keep my promises!”

I’ll stop beating around the bush: This was a terrible hour of television. I mean, it was truly awful. I’m trying to come up with something to compare it to, and all I can think of is the How I Met Your Mother series finale. I really hate to say this, but I think this episode fell apart on nearly every single aspect — writing, characterization, stunts, acting, pace, even casting — except, weirdly, for Thea’s storyline. Which was barely a plot for her, it was more of a gentle reminder that she exists in the city and she’s reopening her nightclub. Perhaps this episode’s single saving grace is that Laurel wasn’t in it, not because Laurel is inherently bad, but because she comes with her own set of problems that would’ve exacerbated these.

I’ll start with the two bits of good news: Maseo didn’t die thanks to his kickass wife, and Thea hired a DJ.

 

Bask in that for a minute. It’s all downhill from here.

I went into the episode dreading Cupid herself, because “I’m Cupid, stupid” was not the greatest entrance. But Carrie ended up being pretty great, writing aside. It’s nice that she didn’t die, and it’s also nice that she’s not running around all wild-eyed and free like Helena Bertinelli — as we speak, Carrie’s probably making crazy eyes at Deadshot while they train on the Suicide Squad. She was a bit of a bright side in this otherwise terrible episode, because the acting really elevated the meager writing for the character (a run-of-the-mill Personality Disorder, coupled with Oliver having saved her life) and she played vixen with a side of stalker really well. Unlike with Helena, I might actually enjoy when they bring Cupid back. I’m open to the idea.

But we need to talk about Ray Palmer because with all the Sara, Laurel, Roy, Oliver/Felicity, and flashback stuff going on, I just haven’t had the inclination to pay attention to Ray, other than to call him “punchable” a few times. Showing up on a helicopter, which he landed on the roof of Queen Consolidated, did not give me a very good first impression. Wanting to change the name of the city to rebrand it? Sounds kind of stupid, cupid. Buying a company to basically stalk a blonde-ponytailed executive assistant?

… That’s creepy, right?

Why aren’t more people talking about how creepy Ray is? The writing is so bad for him that I’m pretty sure on any other show, he’d be the Explicit Villain. He showed up at Felicity’s work, he bought the company she worked for, he showed up at the hospital, he showed up at her house, he bought her a whole bunch of things she didn’t ask for, and he’s continued to do it through last night’s episode. That’s villainous behavior. Imagine Slade Wilson or Malcolm Merlyn behaving this way toward a woman. Creepy. So why is everyone, including the writers, acting like this is normal behavior for Ray? Is it just because they thought we were desperate for a love interest for Felicity and we’d take whatever they threw at us? I’d rather she stayed single! Or kept going back to Central City to kiss Barry a few more times! I’d take anything compared to the travesty we got last night!

We started with our eyes being assaulted with a shirtless Ray Palmer working out in his office. Where he’s supposed to work. When he knew Felicity would walk right in. If that wasn’t insulting enough, he was working on a salmon ladder, because these writers don’t know how to make subtle comparisons anymore. And just when you think it’s bad enough — just when you’re thinking, “Well, Felicity’s sharp, she’ll see right through this, she’s awesome like that!” — nope, she just mutters to herself, “I have a type.” And that type apparently only consists of salmon-laddering and being shirtless. (Needless to say, and I never thought I’d be making this point, but Oliver never subjected people to his shirtlessness at his place of business. Even Oliver knew that was over the line.)

From there, it really just goes from bad to worse. Ray says, and I’m not kidding, “BTW, are you free for dinner tomorrow night?” He says all three letters. Then asks her to dinner. Not romantically, mind you, it’s just because he has to talk to boring people and Felicity’s brand of Not Boring is perfect for this! (Actually, he threatens to slice his wrists open if he has to go alone, but it’s played as a joke so I just have to let that one slide or else I’ll be ranting about everything. But seriously, that wasn’t funny either.)

Essentially, he talks to Felicity like she’s the specialest snowflake in the entire world, and Felicity, in a stunning lack of awareness, falls for it. Oh no, wait, she doesn’t just fall for it — she allows herself to be bought. With a couture dress. “Which I’m pretty sure is French for ‘expensive,’” he says, douchily. And she agrees to go, “Only so that I can wear this dress.” That was pretty much when I knew this episode was going to be bad. And that was only five minutes in.

Oliver and Diggle watch as Ray Palmer, with Felicity by his side, renames the company Oliver’s father had built, the company his stepfather had run for the five years he was gone, the company his mother had run for six months, the company Oliver had run for a year. Just like that, Queen Consolidated is now Palmer Industries, and Felicity stood there all smiles and sunshine, not acknowledging what this means to Oliver, even after she’d so recently accused him of not having feelings.

She shows up to log in some Arrow hours looking for Carrie and helping Oliver suss out her background, but in the end she asks him for time off to go to the Oh So Boring Dinner with Ray, and Oliver makes every single clenched-jaw jealousy expression imaginable as he mutters, “Do what you want.” You did this to yourself, bud.

 

Of course, Diggle’s continuing his grand tradition of being out-of-character this season, so he takes it upon himself to go up to Felicity at her place of business and tell her that Oliver’s “all twisted up in knots” over her dinner with Ray. She rightly points out that this was Oliver’s choice, but Diggle insists, “It’s messing with his head, Felicity, and that’s really dangerous.”

I talked about how Oliver’s “And you know how I feel about her” comment was unfair, but it came from a pure place. This, though, the way Diggle’s basically laying the responsibility at Felicity’s feet? That’s patently wrong, unfair, and downright cruel. It’s not something I would’ve ever predicted Diggle would do, and that scene, more than any other scene in the entire episode, has me fuming. How dare he? How dare anyone blame Felicity for this? For moving on with her life? Sure, we as the viewers know what’s really going on, that Ray’s being gross and stalkery and Felicity’s only a couple episodes away from an “it rubs the lotion on its skin” situation, but all Diggle and Oliver see is Felicity spending time with Ray. Where does Diggle come off telling her that she should go run and fix Oliver when it’s a choice he made?

{Fix Diggle now, writers, because I’ve been saying for weeks that the more you mess up Diggle, the more you break the foundation of the show. Recalibrate. NOW.}

There’s a terrible sense of loss when Diggle leaves her office. At the beginning of the scene, when he walked in all casual with his street clothes and his leather jacket, it was refreshing to see these two being friends outside of the foundry. Then Diggle had to go and be out-of-character, and that forced Felicity to be a little bit harsh and say Oliver should be the one talking to her. To his credit, Diggle took his cue and left, but her morose little “Goodbye” as he walked away was heartbreaking. Remember “because you’re irreplaceable”? Remember when she went to his apartment in 1.21 to try to talk him back onto the team? Why is this happening?

The hits never stop coming, though, because Ray further “buys” Felicity with a $10 million necklace. She never questions it. She never looks freaked out. She just looks flattered and stunned. So the real question is, at what point did Felicity turn into a Disney princess? Did I accidentally turn on an episode of Once Upon a Time? Why isn’t she running as fast as those heels can carry her?

*Psycho music plays in the background*

Oliver finally admits to Diggle that he’s not happy with Felicity being out with Ray, but he mans up and takes responsibility for the situation. As he should.

  

That’s when I got a text from a friend: “When did Diggle become everyone’s marriage counselor?” When, indeed.

Oliver insists that he needs Felicity’s help on this case, but she’s busy being Ray’s arm candy. No, scratch that — she’s busy being his trophy wife. She’s got the diamonds, the couture, and the updo, now all she needs to do is be the closer. That’s how this works — the man has all the power and status, but he brings the trophy wife to dazzle everyone else and charm them into selling their Nevada mine holdings. And Felicity plays right into it, again, giving them empty words and promises based on the nothing she knows about Ray. And she really does know nothing about him. She’s been too distracted, either by Arrow stuff or by the things that Ray constantly showers over her.

She’s back at the foundry in time to overhear Oliver telling Carrie that he has to be alone, which feels so contrived that it’s almost insulting. Of course that’s what she gleans from that exchange. If this was some kind of elegant and subtle parallel between Carrie and Ray, then that heart-shaped arrow of storytelling completely missed the mark, because Felicity never got the message. She sat there and listened to Carrie declare her love and stalker-y ways to Oliver, and Oliver’s patient explanation that this isn’t going to work, and all Felicity heard was Oliver saying “I have to be alone.” She didn’t realize how closely Carrie’s behavior mirrors Ray’s. She didn’t make any connections at all. She just got hurt, went back to the office, and kissed Ray like it was some hugely romantic moment and not the single creepiest thing I’ve had to watch on TV in a while.

 

So inevitably, at the end of the first episode where Oliver doesn’t sleep with the femme fatale of the week, Felicity and Ray share a kiss. Unfortunately, Oliver witnesses this after yet another ill-conceived pep talk from Marriage Counselor Diggle, and it sends him back to the foundry and, once he spots Felicity’s love fern, he goes into a rage. Roy’s there, though, still grappling with his murder revelation from last week, and that’s when Oliver shows another unexpected bit of character growth: he takes Roy under his wing, and they go to a late dinner at Diggle and Lyla’s.

And the team is together without Felicity.

Ray claims he intended for this dinner to be platonic, but the couture and diamonds say otherwise. That’s okay, because he tells her, “You deserve all those things, and more.” Good thing Felicity is a material girl this week! It’s also a remarkably bad kiss, even the lighting is bad, but hey, it ends quickly, and he takes off, leaving her standing there confused. He goes and looks at his Atom prototype (DC Iron Man?) and we’re supposed to believe he’s gonna be a hero, I guess, but either the actor isn’t great at his job of, you know, acting, or Atom’s gonna be a villain in this universe. (Except no, he’s not, because the Arrow writers kept retweeting praise of Ray and his hotness/adorability during the live broadcasts, roundly ignoring the rampant negativity surrounding him.) It’s been seven episodes and I still can’t figure out what the hell is going on with him.

I’m being very harsh on Felicity but it’s mostly from a writing standpoint than a character one. None of this is overtly unfixable, but it’s building itself into a real problem. There’s never any clear indication of where she’s reacting to Oliver’s rejection, where she’s reacting to Sara’s death, and where she’s just being Felicity, but this entire episode felt like it didn’t belong in any of those categories. The main sticking point for me is that she’s just not registering Ray’s behavior as creepy. Would she have accepted this behavior in Oliver? Would she have been flattered if Oliver bought her things and showed up unannounced at her doorstep and acted like he belonged there? None of her relationship with Ray feels earned, because besides the so-called chemistry that the producers insist they have, we haven’t seen anything tangible between them in seven episodes besides the THINGS he keeps giving her. When did she become that girl?

And I’ll pose a serious question here: What is their endgame with Ray/Felicity?

It will go one of two ways: he’s a villain and he leaves her feeling violated and scarred, or he’s a hero who, once his Not Iron Man suit is ready, ends up having to make the exact same choice Oliver had to make in 3.01. It’s not nuanced. It’s not compelling. It’s not even good.

Is this really what they wanted when they killed off Sara Lance? Are all of these characters behaving the way they should be? Are all of the failed parallels worth it? Do we even have an intriguing arc going on? Is it worth what’s happened to Laurel, or Roy, or Oliver? Is it worth losing Felicity from the team? Is this really what we gain from losing Sara? What a waste. What a terrible and nearly unwatchable waste.

In two weeks: Arrow vs. Flash, apparently, and I was really excited for this before “Draw Back Your Bow” aired, and now I’m apprehensive. Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell usually make for some pretty entertaining scenes, but both of those characters are in a bad way right now, so we might just be in for two hours of Superhero Angst, and man, since Sara died, I’m so tired of watching that.

Also, Captain Boomerang showed up at the end of this episode, but I’m not sure whether he’ll be appearing in the crossover or not.

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9 thoughts on “Stupid Cupid

  1. I got serious Gossip Girl flashbacks in the worst way. Felicity accepting the dress and necklace reminded me too much of that Nasty Ship I shall not Name.

    I swore off the network after seeing what Gossip Girl did to women, and I should have stuck to it. Ray is the very definition of Rape Culture Romanticized. Where a woman can say no multiple times — but hey, buy her out and she’ll say yes and drool over you like you’re god’s gift to humanity. Fuck Felicity Smoak. I’m glad Sara died and isn’t around to witness this bullshit. It’s also killed any lingering investment I have in the show. I’m just sorry I convinced myself that Greg Berlanti wasn’t as cheap as the other CW showrunners are. He used to be original, but he’s become one of them.

  2. Do you seriously think Felicity received any character development in her backstory ep all i learned is she used to be Goth and hates her mom for no real good reason.Yes this episode was average as has this entire season and i agree the only plus was no Laurel and i really enjoyed Cupid.It makes me sad that actress could have been Laurel

    • If that’s really all you gleaned from Felicity’s backstory episode, then we were probably never going to see eye-to-eye on this subject.

      I learned that she’s always been idealistic. I learned that she had a rebel streak. I learned that she’s always loved deeply. I learned that she wanted to be a hero in her own right five years before she ever joined this team. Most of all, I learned that the character of Felicity Smoak did not just materialize around Oliver Queen. “Secret Origin” drove home the point that the Felicity we’ve known for three seasons was a fleshed-out character with nuance and passions that predated the day she met Oliver. If you really want to tell me that all you got was “goth” and “hates her mother” (which was never true) then you weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t matter anyway — as I said in this post, all of that is erased by the damage “Draw Back Your Bow” inflicted on the character.

  3. Maybe we’re all thinking about this the wrong way. What if Ray Palmer is actually “stalking” Oliver. I mean hell he got his company, the salmon ladder, “felicity” and so on. He’s even going to become a superhero. How do we not know he’s not trying to be The Arrow Part 2?

    • Maybe he is — and thats a very good point — but does that change your opinion of his behavior toward Felicity? Its still stalking, except now shes also collateral damage. Either way, its the sort of behavior that should alarm Felicity, but it doesnt.

  4. Haha, I’m so glad I found this!
    When I saw the promos for this episode, I kept tweeting/saying, “that better be a tech wearable” or “that necklace has wifi!” or SOMETHING to make her have that “omg, I love this so much face”. No… just diamonds.
    Ok, Felicity does love her clothes. She has great style. She even has awesome jewelry that I have found online and bought for myself. But she’s not awed by the price tags. And if she’s got this great new job as VP of Palmer Tech, why in hell can’t she afford her own couture dress? That is just stupid. Nope, nope, nope.
    I do understand that she needed someone to say she was valuable and worthy and desirable, because she’s obviously wrestled with self esteem (daddy issues, boyfriend issues, Arrow issues) but gifts are not the way to reach her. As far as I remember, the most powerful moments for her have been when Oliver told her “you’re my partner” and Diggle said, “there isn’t a thing on this earth that could make you a bad person” and how she found her place in the world as part of that team. NOT clothes, jewels, gifts. In fact, Oliver has never gotten her a darn thing… EVER. And she’s madly in love with him.
    The pinging the cell phone. I swear, if Felicity doesn’t say “ping my phone one more time and I’ll burn your company to the ground” I will be very upset. It’s not cute and it’s not cool.
    That’s all. Felicity and Diggle are my favorite characters and I was SERIOUSLY disappointed and how they screwed them up recently… So, thanks for being the voice of reason!

  5. I was seriously insulted by the fact that you made a dig at the “Once Upon A Time” TV show. That show is AMAZING and Golden Globe/Emmy nominated show with better actors and better writers then Arrow could ever have. It is complex and despite the unrealistic storyline, the writers are able to make it SEEM realistic. Because that is what good writers do. You want to talk about unrealistic writing?! Well, what about Laurel and Sara’s entire back story!!! Laurel spent the better part of season 2 as a drug/alcoholic addict but was cured in one episode. Sara stole her sisters boyfriend and became a paid killer (not to mention the fact that her back story of being with the League of Assassins is complete bull crap b/c Rhas Al Ghul would never trust someone that slept with her sister’s boyfriend…he has too much sense of morality – even if it is a twisted sense – for him to allow a liar and a cheater into his League).

    • How was my mentioning Disney princesses and “Once Upon a Time” an insult?

      And I’m sorry, but if we’re going to talk about problematic characters, maybe OUAT isn’t the best example to hang your hat on — not with characters like Rumple running around.

  6. The difference between Rumple and the Lance sisters is that Rumple is not problematic as you put it. He is extremely complex and for very good reasons. The Lance sisters are problematic in the fact that they both (Laurel especially) belong on a soap opera TV show. As a psychology major I can understand and sympathize with Rumple (much like I can with the Emma Swan and Regina characters). Rumple’s entire backstory makes sense and drives the character in everything that he does b/c that is what a backstory does, it helps explain why a character acts and says what they do. Rumple was abandoned by a cowardly father (Peter Pan) when he was a child which led him to have abandonment and trust issues from an early age. He gets married to a woman who — when he returns from war (after injuring himself) to ensure the safety of his son (something I’m sure a lot of parents would do; and something that shoes just how much Rumple loved his son) only to have his wife, Milah, be more concerned with his new-found cowardly reputation instead of what he’s gone through. Said wife then had an affair and left Rumple for Captain Hook (cheaters never prosper) and abandoning their son in the process (she was the cowardly one). Years later when Rumple takes revenge and kills Milah it was perhaps a big overreaction on his part, but anyone who has ever been cheated could probably sympathize with him on that (I’m not condoning violence, simply stating I understand it). And of course, Rumple — while trying to find a way to save his son from the Ogre Wars — is tricked by the Dark One into taking on the curse himself. He basically became the Dark One in order to protect Bae. Also, the writers of the “Once Upon A Time” show did reveal the Dark One’s curse does make people act out more violently then they normally would have and causes people under said curse to be a bit more “insane.” So, a lot of what Rumple does is either fueled by his love for Belle or his son which, due to the Dark One’s curse, can get a bit out of hand. Also, when he turned Belle away at first after she confessed her love it was mostly to due with trust issues (he thought she was working for Regina and he has always been tricked and used and abandoned by others so why would he believe her). These are many traits that characters like Emma and Regina share, too. Emma was abandoned repeatedly during her adolescent life and Regina was constantly used by her mother who wanted her own power. I don’t get why people give Rumple so much grief when in his 350 yrs has faced a lot more tragedy and heartache then all the other characters. “Once Upon A Time” may have a chaotic storyline and messed up characters, but it is written very well in a way that is understandable and often used to further plot development. ARrow just likes to throw around a lot of random Oliver having sex with multiple women and a lot of shock factor (Sara’s Death).

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