What Makes Arrow’s Felicity Smoak a Great Character


The Hollywood Reporter wants you to vote on the best female character of all time. Here’s why Felicity Smoak from The CW’s Arrow should win.

To accompany its recent “Hollywood’s Favorite Female Characters” survey, The Hollywood Reporter has opened a bracket allowing fans to vote for the all-time best female character in film and television. Industry professionals chose Hermione Granger, the bookish witch played by Emma Watson in the Harry Potter franchise, as number one. With four days remaining, though, fans have chosen a different, somewhat surprising winner: Arrow’s Felicity Smoak.

Felicity doesn’t have the history of Princess Leia or Ellen Ripley. Being a CW show, Arrow has a niche audience. It isn’t a cultural phenomenon the way Game of Thrones is. But none of that changes the fact that Felicity is badass. Here’s why she would deserve to win the Hollywood Reporter bracket.

At first, Felicity wasn’t supposed to be a main character. Actress Emily Bett Rickards originally joined Arrow for a one-episode guest appearancn to a recurring role and, after the first season, a series regular. Now, almost halfway through season five, Felicity feels as essential to the show as Stephen Amell’s billionaire vigilante Oliver Queen. (Some might argue she’s more essential than he.) It’s easy to see why she became a fan favorite.

When we meet Felicity, she is an IT technician at Queen Consolidated, the company owned by Oliver’s family. Oliver arrives at her desk with a damaged laptop he confiscated during a night of crime-fighting and asks if she can salvage any information from it. From the instant we see her sitting in that swivel chair with a pen between her lips, sporting a pink blouse, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, it’s obvious that Felicity is not your stereotypical tech genius. Bett Rickards lights up the screen, displaying a keen sense of comic timing (“Right, but he’s dead – I mean, drowned”) and an infectious vivacity that offsets the show’s otherwise grim tone.

Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak in Arrow season 1, screenshot courtesy of The CW

Not coincidentally, Arrow found its groove once Felicity became a consistent presence. Despite being one of the few major characters without a superhero identity, she never feels left out. She’s the brains of Team Arrow as well as its heart. Her hacking skills prove invaluable time and again. Besides, her sunny sincerity is a necessary and refreshing contrast to Oliver’s brooding intensity. She may not be able to fire an arrow with pinpoint accuracy or win a duel in hand-to-hand combat, but she refuses to be daunted by the comic-book theatrics around her. She’s always ready with a deadly quip or pump-up speech.

Admittedly, the show hasn’t always known what to do with Felicity since making her romantic relationship with Oliver official. Too often, Arrow resorts to melodrama. But to the credit of the writers and Bett Rickards, being a love interest hasn’t denied Felicity her personality or agency. She’s tough and vulnerable, confident and insecure, funny and emotional. She doesn’t hesitate to argue with Oliver, making it clear that she won’t compromise her desires and ideals to fit his, but you also understand why she sticks by him in the end. After all, beneath her bubbly demeanor, Felicity has her own dark side – regrets, fears, and insecurities that help make her the compassionate, brilliant person she is (see especially the episode “A.W.O.L.”).

Oh, and even if Arrow refuses to confirm it, she is definitely not straight.

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In short, she proves that superhero girlfriends can be more than blandly supportive damsels-in-distress. The Marvel and DC film franchises should take note.