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The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak

"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" is the fifth episode of the third season, and fifty-first overall episode, of the CW series Arrow. Based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, the series follows the story of billionaire vigilante Oliver Queen, (Stephen Amell), who returns home after five years supposedly stranded on a Pacific island, featuring flashback sequences to his time away. The episode is notable as the first Arrow episode to feature flashback sequences centered entirely on a character other than Oliver Queen, focusing instead on the backstory of the character Felicity Smoak, (Emily Bett Rickards). The episode was written by Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan and directed by Michael Schultz. It premiered on the CW on November 5, 2014.

"The Secret Origin of
Felicity Smoak
Arrow episode
Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak.jpg
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 5
Directed byMichael Schultz
Written by
Original air dateNovember 5, 2014 (2014-11-05)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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The episode flashbacks to the late 1990's, showing Felicity's time as a student at M.I.T alongside her then boyfriend Cooper Seldon (Nolan Gerard Funk) which has repercussions for her in the present day. It also sees the introduction of her mother Donna Smoak (Charlotte Ross) and ends with the apparent revelation of the murderer of Sara Lance, (Caity Lotz). The episode stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen alongside Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, David Ramsey as John Diggle, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, Willa Holland as Thea Queen, Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance, Colton Haynes as Roy Harper and guest stars Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer.

The episode was watched live by 2.73 million viewers, achieving the third highest ratings share of the show's third season. It was generally well received with critics praising the performances of Rickards and Ross and the character development in the episode, but criticizing the more predictable elements of the plot. The episode holds a critics approval rating of 100% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.



The flashbacks centre on Felicity Smoak five years previously, during her time as a student at MIT, where she is shown to have been a dark-haired goth, and alongside her boyfriend Cooper Seldon and his roommate Myron Forrest, considers herself to be a hacktivist. She creates a computer virus that enables them to access government mainframes, but objects to Cooper's plan to wipe all records of student loans from the system. However, the attempt is tracked by the FBI and Cooper is arrested and sentenced. Felicity is later shown to have dyed her hair to her more familiar blonde, and to have abandoned her goth style wardrobe.

Present dayEdit

Felicity discovers that cyber-attacks by a group calling itself 'Brother Eye' have been launched using the code she developed whilst at M.I.T. and reveals to Oliver that her former boyfriend Cooper can not be responsible as he committed suicide whilst in prison. However, Felicity and her mother, Donna, are kidnapped by 'Brother Eye', revealed to be led by an alive and well Cooper, who admits his suicide was faked by the NSA. Felicity agrees to help him hack into the Treasury Department when he threatens to hurt Donna, but manages to secretly contact Oliver, who aids in rescuing the pair. The episode ends with Roy Harper waking from a nightmare in which he sees himself shooting Sara Lance, making him wonder if he is in fact the killer.



Loosely based on the DC Comics character of the same name,[1] Felicity Smoak was originally written as a one-off guest star for the first season Arrow episode, "Lone Gunmen".[2] The success of the character led to her being promoted to recurring status throughout season one and main cast from season two onwards.[3] Speaking during Arrow's second season in 2014 executive producer Marc Guggenheim discussed how the writing staff had developed a back-story for Felicity during the season, and that "more will be forthcoming, not only in Season 2, but in Season 3."[4]

During the Arrow panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg confirmed that the third season of the show would contain an episode exploring the history of the character Felicity Smoak, to be entitled "Oracle".[5] However, in an interview given in August of the same year Guggenheim revealed that the title had been changed to "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak".[6]

Actress Charlotte Ross, who plays Felicity's mother Donna Smoak, a character introduced in this episode

Kreisberg explained that the episode would explore Felicity's time at M.I.T, but denied rumors that her father would be Anthony Ivo.[5] It was later confirmed by Guggenheim that the episode would explore more about Felicity's family history, introducing her mother and exploring the way "She and Felicity are two very different people", as well as "extending the mystery" of who her father was.[6] Speaking before the episode aired, actress Emily Bett Rickards noted in regard to Felicity in the episode that "She's younger, she was finding herself but she was on the track where we see her now"[7] and that the story of her past would reveal her "deep turmoil".[8] Discussing the young Felicity's 'goth' persona. Rickards acknowledged that the costume design was 'a nod' to the character of Death in the DC comic book series The Sandman.[9]


Actress Charlotte Ross was cast as Felicity's mother, Donna Smoak, in August 2014[10] followed by Nolan Gerard Funk as her former boyfriend Cooper Seldon later in the same month.[11]


Filming for the episode took place between August 25 and September 4, 2014.[12]



The episode was watched live by 2.73 million viewers, and had a ratings share of 1.1, the third highest share of the show's third season.[13]

The episode attracted 995,000 viewers for its British premiere, making it the 3rd most watched programme on Sky One for the week.[14]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the episode holds an approval rating of 100% based on 15 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The critics consensus reads "Arrow finally has a Felicity-centric episode that -- aside from being well-done -- warrants attention because the flashbacks are finally about someone other than Oliver."[15]

Jesse Schedeen of IGN rated the episode 7.5 out of 10 and noted that "This episode was definitely a great vehicle for Emily Bett Rickards to strut her stuff" and that "It was definitely a fun change of pace to see Felicity taking point in the conflict and using Ollie and friends as her muscle." Overall Schedeen welcomed the fact that the episode allowed Felicity to take centre stage and for the audience to see her interaction with both her mother and old boyfriend, but felt that "the plot was predictable and the final confrontation with Cooper disappointing". He did welcome the plethora of DC Comics cameos in the episode.[16] Writing for Den of Geek, Mike Cecchini awarded the episode 3.5 out of 5 and also noted the number of DC related Easter Eggs present throughout. Whilst he felt that the episode could have gone wrong, he concluded that it successfully delivered on its promise.[17]

"There are so many things that could have gone wrong with "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak." We could have gotten too bogged down in the past. Too much weight could have been given to some "dark secret" of Felicity's. These things didn't happen. What we got was a fun, charming episode of Arrow that still managed to not feel too lightweight."

—Critic Mike Cecchini reviewing the episode for Den of Geek[17]

Kevin Fitzpatrick of ScreenCrush observed that both Felicity's "cartoonishly attractive mother" and Felicity's "stock "goth hacker" past at MIT" could have fallen short, but that they "end up much better in their execution than they might look on paper", although felt that the "villany fell somewhat short". In particular he praised Charlotte Ross for the "surprising amount of depth" she bought to the character of Donna, and Rickards who he felt "gave just the right amount of vulnerability and determination in having both family and past sins pulling from either direction." He also noted that it was nice to "see that the character always had something of a heroically badass streak".[18] Writing for Bustle Kelly Schremph echoed similar sentiments, noting how it was "nice to see yet another one of Arrow's female characters really come into her own and take control of her life rather than letting a man do it for her" and to see the character of Felicity proving "that she's way more than just a genius hacker. She's also a hero."[19]

Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffrey described the episode as "a thank you from the Arrow writing staff to Rickards for everything that she's gifted this show", and praised Rickards' performance. Whilst he felt that the episode was weak on plot, he praised writers Sokolowski and Ford Sullivan for the effective character development in their script.[20] Alan Sepinwall of Uproxx also considered the plot's twists "well telegraphed", as well as noting that the action sequence was one of the weaker of the series, but felt overall that the episode was "so satisfying despite that because of the character work promised by that title." He also praised Rickards performance, noting that the episode was recognition of "how talented and appealing Emily Bett Rickards is".[21] Writing for Paste Magazine, Mark Rozeman also felt that elements of the plot were formulaic, but that Felicity's relationships "as clichéd and trope-heavy as they may be, make for a fun, breezy hour of TV". He praised the writers for making "a Felicity-heavy installment without it feeling like blatant fan pandering", and stated that "overall the episode does succeed at touching upon multiple layers to the character", calling Felicity "one of the best characters on TV".[22] Carissa Pavlica of TV Fanatic gave the episode 3.7 out of 5. She welcomed the opportunity to reveal Felicity's backstory, and in particular praised both the character of Donna and Ross's performance, but felt that overall it failed to deliver on the anticipation inspired by the title, and that Felicity's story in the episode was overshadowed by the final reveal.[23]

In his recap for Collider David Trumbore awarded the episode a B rating, describing it as "a nice, fun, diversionary episode", and praising the deepening of the performance of Stephen Amell.[24] Recapping the episode, for Entertainment Weekly Chancellor Agard described Rickards as "absolutely killing it".[25] He also included the episode in his list of Rickards "10 Best Epsiodes" across the series as a whole, describing it as one of her best performances, and praising her "comically exasperated performance" in response to Charlotte Ross' Donna.[26]


  1. ^ Wilson, Matt D. (July 1, 2013). "Gerry Conway Starts Blog Aimed at Fair Compensation For DC Character Creators". ComicsAlliance. Townsquare Media. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Gerry Conway, the writer who co-created the character with artist Rafael Kayanan in a 1984 issue of Firestorm.
  2. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 10, 2012). "Shiri Appleby Poised To Recur on NBC's 'Chicago Fire' & More TV Castings". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  3. ^ Wieselman, Jarett (April 22, 2013). "10 Minutes with 'Arrow' Star Emily Bett Rickards". Entertainment Tonight. Archived from the original on April 22, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  4. ^ Radish, Christina (March 19, 2014). "Marc Guggenheim Talks ARROW Season 2, Exposing Oliver's Secret, the Suicide Squad, The Huntress, Harley Quinn Rumors, THE FLASH Crossover, and More". Collider. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Pester, Lauren (July 25, 2014). "Arrow at Comic-Con: Get Scoop on a Two-Hour Flash Crossover, Oliver and Felicity's Romance and More!". "EOnline". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Abrams, Natalie (August 18, 2014). "'Arrow' changes title of Felicity's backstory episode". "Entertainment Weekly". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Ng, Philiana (November 5, 2014). "'Arrow': Emily Bett Rickards on Reinventing Felicity, Toxic Affairs and Superhero Suitors". "The Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  8. ^ Mitovich, Matt Webb (November 5, 2014). "Arrow's Emily Bett Rickards: 'I Was Sad to Know How Sad Felicity Had Been'". "TVLine". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  9. ^ Ng, Philiana (November 5, 2014). "'Arrow': Emily Bett Rickards on Reinventing Felicity, Toxic Affairs and Superhero Suitors". The Holywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Abrams, Natalie (August 1, 2014). "Exclusive: Arrow Casts NYPD Blue Alum as Felicity's Mom". "TV Guide". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  11. ^ Ng, Philiana (August 28, 2014). "'Arrow' Books 'Glee' Alum for Season 3". "The Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Guggenheim, Marc [@mguggenheim] (August 25, 2014). "Arrow Ep. 3x05 begins filming today. Written by @BenSokolowski & @briforsul and featuring @charlotteross @EmilyBett" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  13. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (November 6, 2014). "Wednesday Final Ratings: Arrow, The Mysteries of Laura & Chicago P.D. Adjusted Up; The 100 Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  14. ^ "Weekly top 10 programmes". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  15. ^ "Arrow - Season 3, Episdoe 5". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  16. ^ Schedeen, Jesse (November 5, 2014). "Arrow: The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak". IGN. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Cecchini, Mike (November 5, 2014). "Arrow; The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak". Den of Geek. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  18. ^ Fitzpatrick, Kevin (November 5, 2014). "Arrow: The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak". ScreenCrush. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  19. ^ Schremph, Kelly (November 6, 2014). "On 'Arrow' "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" Confirms This Girl Is More Hero Than Hacker". Bustle. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  20. ^ Jeffrey, Morgan (November 6, 2014). "Arrow s3, episode 5 recap: Felicity Smoak's roots revealed". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  21. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (November 5, 2014). "Review: 'Arrow' – 'The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak'". Uproxx. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  22. ^ Rozeman, Mark (November 6, 2014). "Arrow Review: "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak"". Paste Magazine. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  23. ^ Pavlica, Carissa (November 6, 2014). "Arrow Season 3 Episode 5 Review: The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak". TV Fanatic. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  24. ^ Trumbore, David (November 5, 2014). "ARROW Recap:"The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak"". Collider. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  25. ^ Agard, Chancellor (November 6, 2014). "Arrow recap: 'The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  26. ^ Agard, Chancellor (April 1, 2019). "Goodbye Felicity:A look back at Emily Bett Rickards 10 best Arrow Episodes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2019.

External linksEdit