Arrow Thursday: Antagonists

Trust but Verify

If there’s one thing that Arrow does good, it’s Bad. So let’s talk about antagonists.

But first this:

Community Rules: Treat everyone with courtesy and respect. Do not say somebody is wrong, say “I respectfully disagree.” Any comment that refers to anyone in a derogatory way is going to get trashed. Any comment in a sarcastic, snide, or demeaning tone will be trashed even faster. Any comment that refers to John Barrowman as “so far over the top he’s underneath” is okay.

And now, antagonists.

Antagonists are the other half of the engine that drives the story. Protagonists own their stories; their stories happen because they desperately need something (that would be their goals) and they are driven (motivated) to get those somethings. So Indiana Jones must get the Ark of the Covenant to save the world. He goes to Cairo and says, “Where’s the ark?” and somebody says, “Over there,” and he picks it up and takes it home.

There’s something missing in that story: Conflict.

It’s a lousy story because it’s one beat (“Where’s the ark?” “Over there”) that’s not developed (no reason to) and has no impact on the protagonist (“Well, that was easy”). Because it has no impact it doesn’t change the protagonist, and because he doesn’t change, there’s no tension in the story. What do you need to get a story with escalating beats in a tension-filled conflict that has such a tremendous impact on the protagonist that he changes under the pressure? Right, an antagonist.

The antagonist is not necessarily the Bad Guy any more than the protagonist is the Good Guy; he or she is just the character who opposes the protagonist and in fighting back, shapes the plot. You can start with a single premise, and if you swap the protagonist and antagonist, you’ll get a vastly different story because different people are driving and shaping the narrative.

Take the story of a beautiful girl who is abused by her stepmother and fights back to achieve a triumphant wedding with a prince, vanquishing her abusive step-family for all time. Great story. Now take the story of an embattled mother, fighting to protect her daughters against the machinations of her devious stepdaughter. Same plot points but a completely different story. All that changed was who owned the story and who opposed and shaped it.

Now let’s take that mother’s story and change the antagonist to the godmother of the stepdaughter. Now you have an embattled mother in a conflict with another mother figure who has supernatural powers, a mother figure she must defeat if her daughters are to find any kind of happiness, Clash of the Mamas, if you will. Or take that mother and put her in conflict with a rich and powerful prince, a young man who can make or break her daughters’ future. All those stories start with the same premise, involve the same characters, follow the same general plot points, but they’re all different stories because the stories are driven by different protagonists and shaped by different antagonists.

So the story happens because the protagonist needs a goal and sets out to achieve it, but the story gets its shape when the antagonist pushes back; how interesting that shape is depends on how interesting and powerful the antagonist is. The ideal antagonist is stronger, smarter, richer, handsomer, and funnier than the protagonist, which means that the reader/viewer is going to really worry about the protagonist’s chances of success, and the protagonist is going to have to change, learn, and grow to defeat the antagonist. This is why, in many cases, the antagonist is more important to the plot than the protagonist. Not to the story, the story belongs to the protagonist, but to the plot, the events in the story that are shaped by the antagonist’s push-back.

Oh, and one other thing about antagonists: They always think the story belongs to them. That is, they all operate under the mistaken impression that they’re the protagonist. (Actually, all the characters in a story think the story is about them, but we’re talking about antagonists here.) As Arrow producer Marc Guggenheim said in an interview in January:

To the extent that we have a ‘Northern Star’ on the show in terms of bad guys, it’s to always make sure that every villain is the hero of their own story. For us, that principal means that there’s no villain who feels like they’re a villain. They all think that they’re perfectly justified and everything they do is right in its own way.

Okay, enough theory, let’s talk Arrow. As a protagonist, Oliver Queen sets a pretty high bar: he’s strong, smart, rich, charming, and handsome with a dry sense of humor and truly impressive abs. Constructing the perfect antagonist for this guy could mean dreaming up a multi-billionaire of genius level intelligence, hypnotic charm, and more than movie-star good looks who kills at comedy clubs at night and routinely kicks Mr. Universe ass. Or he could be exactly like Oliver, a mirror image that shows Oliver who he’s becoming, a doppelgänger antagonist.

One of the crunchiest things about Oliver as a protagonist is that he’s not that different from his antagonists; that is, he puts on a mask and goes out at night and shoots people. This means that a lot of his antagonists are going to be his double, and that means they’re going to act as foils in the story, characters who are so like him that seeing them side by side points out significant aspects of his character, not only to viewers, but also to Oliver.

Take Malcolm Merlyn, the season one Big Bad.

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Malcolm is a billionaire who puts on a hood and goes out at night, plotting to save his city from the cancer that is the Glades (aka, the Bad Part of Town). He thinks he’s a hero, so it’s a good thing we’ve got Oliver, a billionaire who puts on a hood and goes out at night, plotting to save his city from the cancer that is the exploitive one-percenters of the city (aka, the Good Part of Town). Both of them are driven by guilt–Oliver by the death of his father, Merlyn by the death of his wife–both of them were trained on faraway islands during an extended absence from family and friends, both of them favor the arrow as a means of killing, and both of them are wanted by the cops. I could go on, but you get the picture: Oliver and Malcolm are doppelgängers, two halves of the same coin. But, you say, Oliver acts to save the city. So does Malcolm. But Oliver is good, the only one tough enough to go up against the moneyed evil in the city. True, but Malcolm thinks he’s good, better than Oliver, because he’s willing to do the hard thing, the thing Oliver would never do, kill hundreds of low-lifes to clean up the streets. In Malcolm’s mind, he’s better than Oliver. Which is why it’s okay to torture him. Teach the kid a lesson. Also he can catch with one hand the arrows Oliver shoots at him and he’s willing to cross all kinds of boundaries that Oliver won’t. Malcolm may be Oliver’s doppelgänger, but he’s also faster and more ruthless and therefore more powerful, things that make him a great antagonist.

Oliver’s conflict with Malcolm highlights (the foil at work) the flaw in his own plan: he’s killing people. That’s bad. He’s killing them at a slower pace than Malcolm is, but still, he’s set himself up as the same kind of god that Malcolm has, giving himself power over life or death. The last thing Oliver says to Malcolm before he kills him (sort of) is, “Thank you for teaching me what I’m fighting for,” setting up his own turning point, paid off in the first episode of the next season: “The city still needs saving. But not by the Hood. Or some vigilante who’s just crossing names off a list. It needs something more.” Thus Malcolm fulfills the job of every great antagonist: he changes the protagonist through his conflict. (That Malcolm is played by John Barrowman clearly having a fabulous time is just icing on the antagonist cake.)

But not all foils are dopplegangers. That is, a foil is a character who highlights similarities or differences in the character he or she is standing next to, but the foil doesn’t have to be a double, it can be an opposite. Happy, shallow Tommy, for example, was a foil for his best friend, the brooding, damaged Oliver. But antagonists have to be more than happy, shiny people because they have to be stronger than the protagonist. In the case of Count Vertigo, “stronger” means “crazier with no boundaries, a creative bent, and a real head for business.”

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I may lose my grip a little here talking about the Count because he’s played by Seth Gabel, who not only owned the role, he franchised it and sold the T-shirt. The Count is as colorful as a big box of Crayolas, if the box was missing a couple of crayons. He’s a successful businessman who’s designed his own popular and dangerous line of drugs, a direct contrast to Oliver Queen who’s refused to become a businessman and take over the family firm. He’s egocentric, colorful and exciting and always moving, characterized by gradiose gestures and wild laughter in contrast to self-sacrificing, mostly silent, mostly still, never smiling Oliver. The impact here is that when Oliver stands beside the Count, he looks grimmer, and when the Count stands beside Oliver, he looks crazier, and their conflict forces them both to the middle: Oliver has to go out of his restrained comfort zone to bring down the Count, and the Count has to take Oliver seriously to escape him. In their final confrontation, the Count does something to shove Oliver not only out of his grim restraint, but also out of his mask: he kidnaps Felicity and forces Oliver to come for her, planning on killing her in front of him, something that’ll put some expression on that blank face at last. And in fact, he really does inspire Oliver to express emotion by killing him three time, putting three arrows into him because he’d taken hostage part of Oliver’s emotional life. Oliver before his conflict with the Count would have finished the job efficiently with one shot. Oliver after the Count needs three arrows because the conflict has pressured him enough that he’s fighting with his heart instead of his brain. And once again a great antagonist does the job he was hired for: he changes the protagonist. (Also, please tell me somebody dragged the Count off to the Lazarus Pit. I don’t care how ridiculous the explanation is, just bring him back.)

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Arrow has a wealth of fascinating antagonists to draw from in its source material (who do I have to bribe to get an Auntie Gravity episode?) and the writers have given us great ones, the Huntress, Deadshot, China White, the Dollmaker, and the Bronze Tiger, to name only a few. This season’s Big Bad is Deathstroke, aka Slade, Oliver’s comrade-in-arms from the island, another doppelgänger who thinks he’s the protagonist and who will undoubtedly push Oliver to new realizations about himself in the final episode. As Guggenheim said in the same interview quoted above:

I think heroes are born out of difficult circumstances, and Oliver will learn in the second half of this season that he can say he’s a hero, but the truth of it is that he’s going to have to become a hero through adversity.

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The Big Bads shape the A plot, but the antagonists in Arrow’s B plots are just as powerful at shaping Oliver’s personal life. The B-plot antagonist I’m most fond of is Moira Queen, a woman who loves her son to death (she sent him to be tortured and then shot him, but hey, tough love), and who lies and schemes to get what she wants, defending her plots and murders as protecting her children, which they very well may be since Moira, too, sees herself as the protagonist in her admittedly fascinating life story. When last we left Oliver, he had just given his mother the old heave-ho from his life, forgetting that Moira isn’t a helicopter parent, she’s a guided missile. Slade may be Season Two’s Big Bad, but Moira’s going to be shaping Oliver’s life through conflict for a long, long time (I hope). (And a big thank you to Susanna Thompson who took what could have been a cartoon mother and made her into an implacable force of maternal nature.)

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And don’t forget the antagonists in Oliver’s romance plots: Shado, Laurel, the Huntress, Felicity, McKenna, Isabel, Sara . . . when does this guy sleep?

The Arrow universe is packed with people shaping Oliver’s life, and that’s a big reason why the stories are so compelling: Arrow is full of fascinating characters struggling in complicated conflicts that fuel wonderful stories. The show may stumble, but Arrow won’t fall as long as its antagonists keep kicking its protagonist up the salmon ladder of self-knowledge and success.

291 thoughts on “Arrow Thursday: Antagonists

  1. Picking up this Laurel/Sara thread because I had to close the comments on the previous post:
    “On February 20, 2014 at 10:18 am CJ said…
    In the end, they are only “problematic” to the romance aspect of the show and that’s not even the fifth most important aspect of the show for most people.”

    I think any character who becomes problematic to the appreciation of the show is important, if only because the response to the show becomes about that instead of about the story. The episode we’re talking about had really wonderful scenes in it, but we’re stuck on a sister fight. That skews the attention away from Oliver fighting Nyssa, the personal revelations that could be used as ammunition by Slade in the mayoral battle, training Roy and his problems with the drug which are going to come into play in the main plot. Meanwhile, the Laurel/Sara cat fight, Oliver/Sara hook-up don’t matter to the main plot at all. It took real estate away from the major player and pulled the viewer response away from a great show.

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    1. I completely agree. One of my co-workers watches the show as well. Before the show, we watched the preview and were so excited about Nyssa. Since the show, all we talk about is the hook up at the end. We both have said we’d rather not have romance — stick to the action — than the mess that is currently in play. And I think that’s where the writers are making a big mistake.

      I love romances. I have read hundreds, but I also love action. My favorites are thrillers where the story/action is first and the romance is second. The problem here is that I can’t really care about any of the potential romances.

      I’ve never liked Laurel (she’s too cold and angry for me — and the writers gave her an impossible-to-forgive IMO scenario). The more I have gotten to know Sara, the more I don’t like her. She’s a petulant child. (I also think Laurel’s comment about the title of Sara’s autobiography “I Didn’t Mean to be a Bitch” is spot on.) It’s hard to root for a woman who says she cares about her addict sister then runs and jump in bed with the man who came between them just because her sister was mean to her.

      I bought the whole one night stand with Isabel as being the most believable encounter Oliver has had this season. Stupid, but believable. (I really can’t wait until she finds out that Isabel was his father’s mistress, part of H.I.V.E., etc. That will be fun.)

      As for Felicity, he has a really long way to go before he deserves her. I’m not even going to get started on that one!

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      1. I don’t care if you think the whole “laurel” sabotaging her sister is nothing or means nothing; the FACT is, SHE DID with ‘dark’ intentions so that her SISTER wouldn’t even have the chance..THAT’S one of things I hate about laurle..She’s a bitch! She’s no better then what Sara did to her in return..Is right for Sara to do so, no..But I wouldn’t be condemn Sara alone for their actions..But sister are just horrid but I can stomach Sara since lareld betrayed her first..That fact alone is important to me..It tells me that my ‘older/good girl’ sister would stoop that low just to get a guy..

        As for Oliver being drunk or it not being important etc..We as viewers really don’t have all the picture or a clear view as to how “in LOVE” Oliver is with laruel and do anybody really belive Oliver of the past and now, really, really is “IN LOVE” with Luarel..I mean, sure, he cares and says he ‘loves’ her but as a viewer, I just don’t see IT or the whole “epic” love..I mean, if Superman can fall out of love with “losi” lane and be with ‘Wonder Women,’ then I don’t see why canon has to be GA and BC when WE have a BC already..

        ‘sigh’. I had to spend 2 days going through the previous post. All the comments were amazing. Some more then others but really, really insightful.

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        1. They’re characters, not people, Kay. Also “I don’t care if you think . . .” is not the way we speak to each other here.

          Now that you bring up that story Sara told Oliver, though, here’s a question:
          Why did the writers put that into the story? It didn’t feel like something that was part of the original plot, although that’s pure speculation. Everything they had done so far to set up Laurel’s character had been absolutely positive, and then all of a sudden Sara blurts that out.
          I’m wondering if that was less of a “Let’s make Laurel unsympathetic” and more of a “Let’s make Sara more sympathetic.” Because a girl who will sleep with her sister’s boyfriend is not going to be someone a lot of women will approve of. And of course by doing that, they torpedoed both of them.

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          1. I really can’t figure out why the writers chose this back story for these 3. Cheating is just so…. blah. It never makes any of the people involved look good. Then you had Laurel pushing to him to move in with her when he was so clearly not ready and that weird scene between the sisters where Laurel was plotting out her entire future as Mrs. Oliver Queen while Sara (and the viewer) knows he’s looking to run off on a cruise to bang her sister. It made Laurel look a little… hmm. What’s the word. You know, one of those people who has their entire wedding planned when they’re 8 and are just looking to “insert any groom here” types (it came across creepy to me). It made Oliver look bad. It made Sara look bad. The whole thing is just icky. Why would you do that to your characters from the go and expect your reader/viewer to want to hang around these people? I’m still stumped on that one. Is it because the writers are guys? It’s funny because the women I talk to are all horrified and recoil yet the guys I talk to shrug and say, “I know a lot of sisters like that.”

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          2. I have no idea what the gender distribution is for the writers on this show, but it does strike me that this is a guy thing, somebody in the writer’s room going, “Cool, he scored sisters.” I think a lot of women, on the other hand, look at it and think, “You don’t betray a sister.” Then adding the “Well, Laurel called the cops on Sara first” didn’t even out the responsibility, it just made them both look bad. So fine, that was six years ago, everybody makes mistakes, but they’re still at each other’s throats because they’re both being awful to each other and feeling justified about it. So yes, I can’t figure out why they keep adding to that mess, either, since it’s just damaging both characters.

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          3. Ahaahaha! Yeah, both have serious loyality issue but I favor Sara since it WAS Laruel who did the WRONG first..That is VERY important too me..

            I’m upset that everyone just seems to blame Sara for her actions and yes, it’s wrong but she isn’t the ONLY one that did wrong..BOTH did, it just depends on the viewers/fans as to whom they choose to side with and I side with Sara…Simple as that…Sara would die for “someone” like larule but could any of the laruel fan say the same thing? I very much doubt it.

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          4. It’s “Laurel.”
            Also, people and characters are responsible for their own actions; that is, “She did it first” is not a justification for behaving badly, which is why that kind of character conflict generally blows up on both characters, leaving the reader to say, “These people are both awful. Who else do you have?”

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    2. That’s a good point, although for my part I had no issues with Sara and Oliver snogging at the end beyond the obvious “Noooo! Olicity!” reaction. It may not have been set up in the most effective way, but to me it is understandable. They have a history and a similar background, so to speak. He doesn’t have to hide anything from her. (He doesn’t have to hide anything from Felicity either, but they don’t have the sexual history that Sara and Oliver have, so that’s a whole other issue.) Oliver is a dude, and he’d like to get laid. Sara, just as Isabel was, is an obvious solution to me (setting aside the inadvisability of shagging his ex’s sister or someone he works with. Those too are a whole other issue).

      To address this post specifically, it was interesting to me to see the analysis of the Count/Arrow (there’s kind of a Joker/Batman feel to their dynamic) in the rescuing Felicity scene. I’ve seen people mention that three arrows was overkill – the whole Oliver fighting with his heart instead of his brain is a great explanation, and one that I totally missed.

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      1. Ooooh. Joker/Batman. That’s a really good parallel, especially since the Green Arrow was pretty much modeled on Batman.
        Now I REALLY hope they bring the Count back. I don’t care how ridiculous the explanation is, I want to see the Count again.

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        1. As long as Lazarus pits abound, I think the return of the Count is not beyond the realms of possibility.

          I didn’t realize GA was modeled after Batman. I suspect the Count was modeled after the Joker; I have seen him (Seth Gabel) accused of being a pale imitation of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and while there are similarities, I think he made the part his own.

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          1. It would’ve been better if like the Joker, the count off ‘laurel’ but that’s my hope/wish..

            I still say that, there’s NO logical way for a character like ‘luarle’ to be BC when she has NOTHING backing her, story/life wise, unlike Sara…Unless they go the cliche route of powering/super whatever her up with the whole Canary Cry then, woah la, you have BC in an INSTANCE! I would totally say, cope-out thou.

            I still think the whole Sara and Oliver thing to for fans/viewers, some, to dislike or begin to dislike and FAVOR laurel and it’s working…When it comes to laurel’s character, EVERY other character suffer in one way or another, just so HER character can improve or LOOK better..I hate that..The more they do this on screen the MORE I hate and HATE her…

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          2. Kay, logic doesn’t play a big role in who gets to be a super hero in this series. And while we understand that you don’t like Laurel, a lot of people do here, so if you could back off the “Laurel should be dead” comments that would be excellent; imagine how you’d feel if people were talking like that about Felicity or Sara. I understand that there’s a lot of fun in getting emotionally involved with the characters in that way, but that’s what fan boards are for, not Argh.

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      2. I probably would have missed it except that I wrote a book with a male collaborator once. His guy was a hit man, and when a bad guy took a shot at My Girl, His Guy shot him and killed him. Then he put two more bullets in the body as he walked by, even though the guy was dead. I thought it was a brilliant move on the part of my collaborator because it showed how enraged His Guy was at the threat to the woman he loved. He couldn’t verbalize it, but he could damn well put two more bullets in him.

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          1. Thank you.
            I keep thinking of it in terms of this discussion because Bob and I talked so much about the same problems that Arrow faces. Like a protagonist (his) who kills a lot of people and another protagonist (mine) who has anger issues and bitches at people. You can do those things, but you have to make sure you keep the reader on the side of the protagonists. And the most effective way to do that is to construct scenes so that the reader says, “YES, if that was me, I’d do that, too,” make him or her complicit in the unpleasant/unlikable thing the character is doing. Which is where I think Arrow is falling down. If they’d set up that Oliver/Sara kiss so that the viewer was invested in it, wanted them to kiss, then even if it was a stupid thing to do, the viewers don’t judge because they wanted it to happen, they’d have done the same stupid thing.

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          2. my ditto that was supposed to be under “I loved that book.” oh well. Sentiment stands. One of my all time favorites and I love re-reading it.

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        1. Something about a messed up afterglow. I love that bit when Carpenter questions Shane, because it shows that Shane is not acting professional anymore.

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        2. I was talking about this with another fan. Oliver has proven, time and again, that he has excellent aim. In the Dodger episode, before he was even really emotionally invested in Felicity, he shoots that little arrow thing and severs some nerve that would make it impossible for Gauis Baltar (that’s the actor’s name in Battlestar Galactica…and how I will forever remember him) to push the trigger that would have detonated her bomb collar. Someone pointed out that when Laurel was kidnapped and almost killed by the Dollmaker, Oliver exercises restraint when it comes to killing him, but Sara DOESN’T–which goes back to what you were saying. The doll maker threatened her sister; she killed him even though he was no longer a threat. But when it came to the Count threatening Felicity, Oliver’s instinct goes to kill, not just to injure or sever a nerve (My husband watched that scene and said, “I’m surprised he didn’t shoot an arrow to his head…” because he thought Oliver’s facial expression revealed such anger).

          Everyone who ‘ships Oliver and Felicity looks at Oliver killing the Count and thinks “Awww..” (Except for Jenny, who probably went, “Dammit, Oliver!”) We’ve talked a lot about how Sara betrays Laurel, but in that scene when Canary kills the Dollmaker, it’s clear: man, she loves her sister!

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          1. I do remember my reaction to the 3 arrows killing Count scene. I was very surprised by the intensity. I think it is because they set that one up really well — it was a great build-up to that moment. He gets a call, expects it to be Felicity, and it’s the Count’s creepy voice. Using Felicity’s phone to call HIM. And just the chaos of having to get Felicity while his mom’s verdict, (which he was sure was going to be guilty) was about to be read. SA did a great job expressing the stress he was under. Torn many directions but there was only one choice, and that was to get Felicity. There was all this build-up to the big moment of bringing down the Count. Now, when we’re talking about a good set-up to the “moment” this was believable and made sense for me. It made the moment where he kills the Count all that more intense. In contrast, the set-up for the Sara make-out was not intense for me because it came out of nowhere. And again, it was one of those things where I got the feeling they expected me to feel the chemistry because I am “supposed to” without giving me any reasons to feel (akin to them telling me Laurel/Oliver has a great love without giving me anything to feel it). Killing the Count scene for me was much more intimate than the kiss because the set-up was so good. But that was quite the tangent since we’re here talking antagonist, which is a topic I love. haha!

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          2. It’s true..Oh and I dislike that everyone keeps mentioning Sara betraying laurele yet laruel did the same thing. So, none is the innocent victim nor party in those two sisters..I just tolerate/like Sara more becuz, it goes BACK to when laruel started it all..Yeah, it sounds childish of me but THAT’S what started the whole thing, IMO, anyways..I mean, if Sara was with Oliver, do I think larele would’ve gotten into that yacht or tried to GET Oliver, yes, judging by her dark nature..So, both are horrid but I just like Sara more..But that’s me..She has done everything to protect “luarle” and her family and that counts for something in my books..laurel, all she’s about is ‘mememememe’..Nothing else matter..She would wish her sister’s death more then her life and it’s just EASIER to forgive a dead person then a person alive..HER sister will DIE for her, but I can’t say the same for laurel…That fact I know as a viewers..

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          3. Except that this is a story, not real life, and I’m about 90% sure that part of the plot is a retcon. I just can’t figure out why the writers did it.

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    3. Oliver is problematic to my enjoyment of the show LOL. His hypocritical treatment of Tommy in s1 (“your dad is your dad” in 1×16 to “your dad is an evil bastard and you’re just like him” in 1×23). In the end of 2×13, Sara was being who Sara has always been. Oliver was supposed to have grown as a person and him slipping back into that behavior was maddening.

      This is the guy they want me to root for? Um, no.

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      1. This.
        It doesn’t matter if a real life Oliver would do this stuff because that’s his psychology, it matters that viewers/readers are backing away from the character.

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    4. “It took real estate away from the major player and pulled the viewer response away from a great show.” – Jenny

      Yep, yep and yep. I don’t care what the “It” is we’re talking about in that sentiment. If something in the Arrow storyline makes me feel like the story is swerving away from the major playing and pulling me away from a great show? I’m going to notice it and not like it. Again, I’ll point to Justified. There was a problematic character on that show I tried really hard to ignore. Then they went and, through a subplot, had that problematic character ruin the protagonist of that show. It wasn’t just that I noticed the problem or that it impacted the hero of the story it’s that, for me, it utterly drove me away. I turned it off and didn’t go back. That was Season 2. They’re now on Season 5 and I’ve only just now dipped my toe back into the show but the hero was forever changed by that and I’m still not sure I’ll ever like him again. The only reason I’m bothering to check the show out is because that problematic character is gone and because they’ve announced the show is ending after Season 6.

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      1. Julie, I feel the same way about Justified. I think I finally have given up this season after struggling for the last couple — and I’d bet it was for the same reason you did. In the beginning I loved Raylon, but the writers just didn’t know how to keep him going, and they let his romantic life ruin him in my opinion. Better no romance than bad romance.

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        1. Was it the Ava/Winona/stolen money from the evidence locker stuff? Cause that was the subplot that did it for me. I wanted to just reach through the TV and knock his head into a rock.

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          1. Julie—Yep…covering for Winona. She was whiny, and I couldn’t see what he saw her. And he violated his core values for her only for her to dump him because he wasn’t them an she wanted. Made me stop caring about him. Now, Ava I totally get. No matter how bad she is, I love her.

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        2. “Better no romance than bad romance.”

          That, in one sentence, is EXACTLY how I feel about Oliver-Laurel and Oliver-Sara. If he doesn’t end up with Felicity, I might keep watching (so long as Felicity is alive, happy, and committed to someone awesome…preferably Bruce Wayne). But if this show goes down the path of Oliver-Laurel or Oliver-Sara, I’m out. I didn’t need the romance to keep watching, but now that they’ve set him down a path of a stupid romance that undermines character growth on so many levels, I can’t appreciate everything else. I’d hate Oliver too much.

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          1. One of things we talk about when I teach character is that the reader/viewer bases his or her opinion of a character on four things: what they do, what they say, what they think, and what other characters think about them; that is, if a character we like, likes them, we tend to approve; if a character we don’t like, likes them, it gives us pause sometimes. So if our hero falls in love with somebody we don’t like, he takes a hit. (Four Weddings and A Funeral comes to mind there.)

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          2. I don’t understand the harp about Sara..The poor girl will die and not make it into Season 3.. She’s a non-issue, just like Barry Allen..I don’t get the whole so called ‘triangle’ since a triangle to me, has 3 ppl, BA was never going to anyone important in Felicity’s life or love life. Sara will die and I don’t like it and I don’t have to like it since I DO consider her BC but too larele fans, she’s not the “true” BC which is BS IMO..She is BC but they will kill her off for the character ‘alurel,’ so, I don’t understand everyone’s thoughts or dislike about her..She will not make it..I had no problem with the Kiss and Sex*?* since everyone knows it will not last. It’s just something that happened either to make “laurel” more popular among the female cast once again/to boost her up etc. I mean, yeah, I was thinking when the two were alone..”god, no..” to whatever is LEADING up to it! I mean, it did come out of no-where but that’s about it.

            I can’t hate a character that I KNOW and LIKE that will DIE in the end…So, Sara, non-issue.. It’s ‘laurel’ that’s the problem on this show not Sara!

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          3. Kay, none of that is on the screen or script page. That’s all speculation which is fun but not really useful here.
            I don’t think Laurel is a problem on the show any more. She doesn’t have to be likable to work in the story, not to mention the fact that a lot of people like her.

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    5. Exactly. It was a really good episode, but the audience is stuck on the Sara/Oliver hook up mostly, and to a lot of them, a 3 minute scene ruined a previously great episode for them.

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  2. The old thread got closed before I could respond to this post giving examples of what they see as Laurel being selfish. I’m sorry I don’t remember who wrote it.

    “To add to the examples you mentioned, when she tells Tommy that the reason Oliver seemed OK with their relationship was because he already knew about it, and Tommy asked her why Oliver didn’t say anything about it, she replies “maybe it’s because he knows he has no right to judge me.” Not “us” but “me”. It’s all about Laurel, even though Oliver could have a reason to judge Tommy in all this as well.

    The other example that struck me was when Oliver as Arrow saves Tommy, Laurel, and the kid from the hit-man, and Laurel tells her father “he” – Arrow – “won’t let anything happen to me.” Again, not “us” (Tommy is standing right there!) but “me”.

    My response to these examples is, where was Laurel wrong though? Since he slept with her sister, Oliver really can’t judge Laurel for sleeping with Tommy. Unless they were freely swapping girlfriends before the boat, Tommy has violated the bro code and, as stupid as the bro code is, Oliver would be justified in being mad at Tommy for it since he apparently never did it to Tommy.

    In regards to Laurel saying The Arrow would never let anything happen to her. Again, where is she wrong? He’d saved her before and, since she doesn’t know Oliver is The Arrow, why would she think one way or the other that his interest would have been Tommy’s well-being in that case? She wouldn’t. That’s not her being selfish. That’s her operating on the knowledge she actually has and not on the knowledge that we, the audience, have.

    People judge her like she has the same information we do when she doesn’t and if they’d stop for one minute and see things from her POV, they might actually consider cutting her some slack.

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    1. That was me, and you’re right, it isn’t wrong. But it does demonstrate a propensity Laurel has for thinking only of herself in relation to events that involved Tommy as well. That’s selfish. Speaking specifically of the “won’t let anything happen to me” comment, Oliver is a vigilante. He saves people, not just Laurel.

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    2. CJ, I was doing this same thing last night, so I know where you’re coming from, but we’re talking about Laurel (and all of the others) as if she were a person.

      If she’s a real person and people are misjudging her, then yes, you have to look at her POV.

      But she’s a character, and people are reacting badly to her, that doesn’t reflect badly on her, it reflects on the way she’s written. So for me at this point, the question isn’t whether Laurel’s justified in her responses, it where the writers went wrong with her character unless they deliberately wanted her to be misunderstood and vilified.

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      1. So we’re all passionately discussing these characters because we don’t view them as people?

        You have to view characters in art as people or else that painting of the Mona Lisa is just a canvas and paint. If you don’t see Lisbeth Salander as a person, then The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo becomes just paper with a bunch of words printed on it.

        If that’s the case then what is the point?

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        1. “So we’re all passionately discussing these characters because we don’t view them as people?”

          Yes, that’s why the discussions are passionate instead of illuminating.

          I’m still figuring this out, so it’s good to be challenged, and thank you for that. But I think there are at least two ways to look at this show. (Clearly there are any number of ways, but there are two ways we’re doing it here on Argh.)

          One is to look at the characters as people. That’s fun and there are boards for that, fan sites specifically dedicated to Olicity or whatever. You can go there and share your favorite moments, express your outrage at what’s happening to the character, speculate about that characters’ future, the point of which is that you’re having fun. Fun is good.

          Then there’s the stuff I want to do here, which is to look at fan reaction, identify it, talk about why we have those reactions and see how the writers did that, purposefully or not. That’s not any more important than the Fun Stuff, it’s just different.

          The problem is that the Fun Stuff confuses and drowns out the analysis. I did that last night, I got caught up in defending Laurel for not endlessly forgiving her sister because I’ve been in the position of endlessly forgiving somebody, so I wrote my anger at my experience into Laurel’s character. And when I did that, anything I posted was pretty much white noise because it did nothing to help me understand what I was really interested in: how the hell did the characters of Laurel and Sara end up being so unpleasant? Because I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t want them to be disliked. Not positive, but pretty sure.

          The more we passionately defend characters as if they were real, the more we just keep repeating ourself and getting nowhere. If we can step back and say, “Look, these are constructs, and any construct is a collaboration between the writer and the reader/viewer, between what the writer puts on the page and the experience that the reader/viewer brings to the page, so your Quentin is not the same person that my Quentin is.” And once we’ve accepted that, then we can go back to what was actually on the screen and figure out how, for example, two sisters who aren’t villains became so unlikable to so many people.

          There are plenty of places on the net where people can talk about the characters as people. It just confuses the discussion to do that here. And I’m as guilty of it as anybody else, so I’m not pointing fingers.

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          1. To me it’s like examining a meal. Sure, we all like to eat, and sure, we all like, say, pizza. But when we have a bad pizza, we sit there and analyze the cheese, the sauce, the crust, each topping, etc., to figure out why this particular pizza experience just didn’t work for us and we compare it to other, more successful/less successful pizzas. What did the cook do wrong in preparing this particular pizza that made the experience unpleasant vs. the other pizzas I’ve had?

            As a viewer I can overlook a lot of things a character might do because I like the character. Okay, so maybe s/he doesn’t always have the best judgment or they constantly make the same mistakes over and over again without learning anything from them, or have this weird habit of getting pregnant every time a guy sneezes in their direction (looking at you, soap opera world! lol). And that’s cool because as a fan of the character that’s pretty much where that train stops for me. I just wanna have fun and I don’t care if I can come up with all sorts of justifications about why my favorite soap opera female never learned the simple concept of birth control and a condom.

            As a writer, however, I don’t feel I can do that. As the crafter of that character and story, I have to know why they do what they do. I have to understand that person inside and out (their hopes, fear, motivations, goals, etc) and I have to be able to justify and explain it all if someone calls me on the carpet.

            As a fan I can get away with saying, “Well s/he was hurt and, well, cause!” As a writer I need to be able to explain that his/her choice went back to the established internal conflict and the character was reacting to XYZ. A fan doesn’t necessarily think about the elements of fiction writing and successful character building. A writer, however, must.

            I think that’s the point of Jenny’s discussions here (sorry, Jenny, if I’m stepping on toes). It’s the examination of writing elements and character development through the examinations of examples from tv shows and characters. Why did this work here on this show when it failed on this show. Why does this character attract people yet this character push people away? What is it about the *writing* that is causing that connect/disconnect.

            If I discuss this as a fan, my reaction is always going to be to find justification for that character as a “fan” of that character and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if approach dissecting that character from the perspective of a writer, I have to look at completely different storytelling/building elements in a more clinical way.

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          2. Thank you for this. I started watching Arrow as a study in characterisation and relationship building (well vs. poorly) after reading The Problem Of Felicity Smoak. I keep watching it because it’s a great show, but I don’t read anything about it online (no sneak peaks, interviews, reviews etc.) except for what gets posted on here.

            I love when everyone analyses the writing, and I’m learning A LOT about conflict, character arc and reader/viewer collaboration from reading all the comments. That’s why I come here, to learn, because you’re all really smart and really passionate about good story.

            But I’ve found recently that the other stuff has been getting in the way, and I’d pretty much decided to just read the posts from now on, not the comments, so that I could see craft stuff without getting exhausted (outrage is very tiring), until I saw this. If we’re refocusing on craft, I’m all in.

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          3. what I was really interested in: how the hell did the characters of Laurel and Sara end up being so unpleasant? Because I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t want them to be disliked.
            Editor Cheryl Klein has an exercise in her book Second Sight: Excerpt the first 10 significant things a character says or does–that’s who the character is to the reader. It gets trickier with a TV series, because you never know when your viewer joins the story.

            This doesn’t speak to character change, but it does highlight how characters may affect the audience.

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      2. I was thinking about that last night. It looks almost like the writers were deliberately trying to make her unsympathetic, which I know (at least I think I know) is not the case. It can’t be. So how could they have gone so horribly wrong with her? It goes beyond just the (perceived by me) selfishness. It’s in the way she brushes off Tommy’s request for a date, his offer of hosting a fundraiser, and the way she brushes Thea off when she wants advice about Roy (though in that situation she redeems herself immediately by realizing what she is doing and going after Thea). All of this and more adds up to a big bundle of ick.

        Stephen Amell was quoted somewhere as saying that everything is much more scripted than people think. Every look, every gesture is scripted. The actors don’t have much leeway when it comes to playing their parts, which to me makes Laurel’s problems a result of the writing, not any flaws on Katie Cassidy’s part.

        For the record, I’m talking mainly about the first season. Laurel is somewhat improved in the second and I am kind of enjoying her downward spiral, not out of schadenfreude, but because it is interesting, and to me, works within the confines of the show, the thing that she’s had to endure, etc.

        Unfortunately it’s too little, too late, because Felicity.

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        1. All of Laurel’s reactions to Tommy are perfectly in character with the fact that she’s known him since they were kids so is aware of his usual tactics with women and because of the way she was burned with Oliver.

          I do think a lot of the problems people have with Laurel stem from the same reasons I have problems with Sara. Most of their painful backstory happened off-stage for us so it’s hard to “get it”. I think the people would have the same problem with Oliver if we weren’t getting the pain of the Island shown to us in flashbacks. Though, oddly enough, many people think the flashbacks are the worst part of the show.

          Does that make sense?

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          1. Yes, that’s exactly it.

            The problem with so many of these characters is that we have to explain why they’re doing things, remember their back stories, and that’s a failure of storytelling because people don’t read/watch back story, they engage with the story that’s in front of them right now.

            Oddly enough, I think that’s true in real life, too. When somebody does something awful, even if somebody else says, “Listen, he treated her badly six years ago,” my response is, “That was then, this is now, and the way he treated her does not excuse her behaving badly now.” Somebody being lousy to you is a good reason to walk away, not to be lousy in return. So if somebody who’s been horrible to me shows up in public, and I treat him badly, it’s absolutely fair for people watching to say, “That woman is treating that man badly” and judge me for it.

            So as a writer, you can write all the back story you want, but unless you remind the reader/viewer of it in that scene, it’s not going to matter. That was then, this is now.

            Edited to add: And what’s weird is that’s what they did in that Oliver/Felicity scene where Felicity told Oliver her father had abandoned them. I think they did that because they haven’t done anything to set up her back story, but it made what happened in the past something that’s happening now, Felicity’s panic is because she’s having a flashback to that time.

            Which means, I think, that the extensive, elaborate, and repeatedly documented back story they gave Laurel is a big part of what’s kneecapping her character.

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          2. It does make sense, and I try to look at the big picture and consider the fact that we as the audience are often privy to things the characters don’t know/see. But, to use the example of Tommy asking her out on a date, there is a nice way and a not-so-nice way to turn someone down (even someone with Tommy reprehensible dating history – he is an old friend after all) and there is just something about Laurel’s tone, something petty and peevish, that just rubs me the wrong way. I hear that same tone in many of her interactions with people (again, referring mainly to the first season). I think Laurel is a good person at heart, and she has good qualities. I just don’t think she’s a very nice person.

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          3. I love this point, CJ.

            I am one of those coming to this show without the baggage of the cannon, so if they haven’t shown it in the show, I have no knowledge of it.

            We are only just starting to see flashbacks with Laurel…and she’s finally becoming more sympathetic for me because to Jenny’s point instead of the “trust us..there’s backstory here that completely justifies her behavior and supports the epic love” we’re actually starting to experience some of that. Well, actually, we’re not experiencing the epic love yet for me…if they want me to root for Laurel and Oliver to work out a relationship, it would have been nice if there were flashbacks of her and Oliver having fun at some point and being good to each other instead of showing him being a cheating flake and her trying to manipulate him into maturity with her move in plot.

            But in terms of me coming to understand her more in general, the couple of flashbacks we got in the last episode do help. I think a discussed back story is one thing, but the experience of it takes it to a whole different level. I mean, if instead of Oliver just sort of pensively staring at her photo on the island, we had more of his memories of them laughing and generally being cute/happy together in the past, I might have felt differently when I first met her in person – even if she was being understandably a little cold as any smart person would be – at least I would have seen that warm and in love Laurel too, and I would have wanted Oliver to earn that back.

            Of course, if they showed them super happy and in love in flashbacks would have just underscored how much of a manwhore jerk wad Oliver was for being a cheating schmuck with someone he cared so much about and that he didn’t deserver her.

            So maybe they were worried about making him too unlikeable, and in trying to keep us from being completely unable to like him – what idiot bones the sister of a woman he truly deeply loves and wants to be with – we ended up with a Laurel who came across as less likeable than she should have been?

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          4. I just watched Season 1, Episode 6 of Arrow (Legacies), and I truly LOVE Laurel-Tommy. That was a romantic contract done well (at least initially, before idiot Oliver got in the way–dammit, I am really hating Oliver these days!). Yes, I agree that at the beginning, Laurel was cold and brushes off his invitation to throw a fundraiser, but that episode did a GREAT job of setting up their love story. What I saw is a character (Laurel) who holds herself in high regard (as every woman should) and knows she deserves a good guy (which makes it even harder to ever imagine her taking Oliver back). She gives Tommy a hard time because, let’s face it: based on the past we hear about, he deserves it. How is she supposed to know he’s really changed? So, on the one hand, we have a girl who’s been burned before and is careful to go down that road again. On the other, we have a guy who used to be a playboy and has decided that he wants to settle down. We see Laurel’s reluctance to fall for this guy, followed by discomfort (at his confessions of how he is falling/has fallen for her), and then we bear witness to that coldness crumbling because Tommy is winning her over. The way Tommy is so in love with Laurel tells me she must be awesome. I don’t know the details of why yet, I only know that if Tommy–wonderful, sensitive, evolved, amazing Tommy–likes her, she MUST be worth it. The other side of that is I understand why she is falling for him: he’s vulnerable when he tells her the moment he knew he was falling for her; he’s jealous of Carter Bowen (Thea asks, “How did he manage to study AND cure cancer?”) but isn’t petty about it (he stands alone and makes fun of Carter, by himself); and he takes care of Thea when she makes a scene after she reveals her interest in him and he refers to her as his little sister (which, literally, she IS! Slow clap, Show, slow clap…).

            When I ask myself why Tommy-Laurel worked, it’s because they SHOWED me that relationship develop: the looks, the witty and flirty banter, the confessions (from Tommy), and the smiles between these two characters. I see the contract! I see their future! If they spun off Tommy and Laurel into a romcom sitcom, I’d tune in:

            Tommy: I was with a girl…and it was progressing, if you know what I mean…
            Laurel: No, you’re too subtle.

            Tommy: You know, I remember some of the mornings when you and I were together, and I made you omelets, and I’d be in the kitchen, and I’d think to myself: this is more than fun. This is different. I never felt that way with anybody else…and I miss it.

            Tommy: (on Thea throwing up) She just ate some bad crab cakes.
            Laurel: Are you sure it wasn’t something she drank?
            Tommy: Don’t worry, I got this. You can go back inside. Keep having fun. Looks like you were having a nice little do-si-do with the good doctor.
            Laurel: Tommy, I’m going to let you in on a little known secret about Dr. Carter Bowen…the man is a gigantic ass…and the only reason I danced with him is because he wrote a gigantic check to CNRI. Why would you think anything else?
            Tommy: I guess when it comes to you, I don’t think straight.

            Laurel: Hey, Tommy. I owe you a dance.
            Tommy: Yeah?
            Laurel: You earned it.

            I liked Laurel for admitting to Tommy why she danced with “the good doctor” and that she wasn’t interested right away. I liked Tommy for admitting he wasn’t thinking straight (and for taking such wonderful care of Thea). I liked how that episode started with her determined not to let him in, and ends with “I owe you a dance.”

            It’s the stuff rootable love stories are made of.

            Oliver may be great at fighting the bad guys, but Tommy is the kind of guy I want to home to at the end of the day.

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    3. “I don’t understand the harp about Sara..The poor girl will die and not make it into Season 3.. She’s a non-issue, just like Barry Allen.”

      To respond to this, the producers already said that if the Flash pilot doesn’t get picked up, Barry Allen is going to be a recurring character on Arrow (who knows in what capacity). It has actually occurred to me that the reason the love story subplots are such a mess may be that the writers haven’t decided yet which direction they’re going. If the Flash pilot miraculously doesn’t get picked up as a pilot, Barry was well-received enough to recur and be Felicity’s love interest for a longer period of time. That’s just speculation, but I guess my point is: until Flash gets an official pick-up, I wouldn’t discount Barry as a legitimate hurdle for those hoping for an Oliver-Felicity relationship.

      Also, to add to Jenny’s point, I would argue further as to say it doesn’t matter whether Sara dies or not. When we talk about writing, character development, story arc, set up, etc., we’re trying to figure out WHY the characters would do this. Even if the writers did kill Sara at the end of the season, it doesn’t make the hook up any more believable. When I can’t see the set-up, I can’t get invested in the character or the storyline. Whatever happens to Sara, that hook-up affected how I feel about OLIVER. Kill her off and I’d still think he’s a moron.

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      1. I read that comment from the exec and thought they’d left a lot of wiggle room in there. It was one of those “of course we’d love to see blah blah blah that would be our hope.” I seriously have my fingers crossed for that pilot to get picked up on the purely selfish motivation that I think bringing the Flash to Arrow in any permanent/regular form would be the biggest mistake ever. Arrow is Oliver’s story, not the Flash’s story, and I think bringing him on would make the canvas way too crowded and really divert the focus of the storytelling because now you have to tell Oliver’s journey *and* the Flashes and start splitting the villians and development and trying to please the Arrow fans who want his story and the Flash fans who are going to be expected his story and… Ugh. Just Ugh. Arrow needs to shop distracting itself with the shiny, focus, and develop the character they introduced to me at the beginning.

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        1. See, this is my feeling about Sara as well. Purely selfish. I like her, I think I could see a friendship with her and Felicity, but I DO NOT WANT HER TO BE A REGULAR. I just think it would be TOO MUCH for the show. Keep her on a recurring basis, but nothing more. Occasional Team Arrow sidekick, NOT FULL TIME

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  3. I love these discussions, especially about Arrow because I love the show. But every time you dissect another piece, I learn so much. This post is especially hitting home for me because in my writing the antagonist is always the hardest for me to peg and put on the page. So thank you for doing this.

    I agree with Paula – I don’t like Sara. I never have. I keep hoping they’ll get rid of her.

    Kind of off-topic — there’s a quiz you can take to see what Arrow character you would be:
    http://www.zimbio.com/quiz/A1Gv2zYpEud/Which+Arrow+Character+Are+You

    Someone tweeted it earlier this week and it’s a lot of fun. I thought the Argh people, especially those who love these Arrow posts would enjoy it. According to the quiz, I’m Moira, but I’m not sure how I feel about that 🙂

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        1. Yikes! I got Laurel.
          I haven’t even seen the show, but I’ve read the blog and now I’m scared. Laurel is not a nice person.
          Maybe I should have chosen a different dessert.

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          1. Actually, Laurel is very smart, very focused, very hardworking. She worked in a storefront legal aid office and risked her life to help people. So you’re good.

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          2. Hi Nell – I too got Laurel. I was so annoyed I tried again and still got Laurel. Sigh. It’s the perfectionist thing. On a positive note, my hubby got Diggle, so I got that going for me.

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    1. Joining in on the discussion of back-story and how it helps with liking a character, and while I agree that back-story helps maybe understand a character’s motivation and maybe why they react the way they do, it doesn’t explain how some of the most well-loved characters on the show has little to no back-story when we meet them (Diggle and Felicity). When I think about it in terms of my own reaction to characters, so much is how they are presented to me here and now. It’s like meeting a person at a party. There are people you click with, some you don’t. It’s how they present themselves, if they can take a joke, have interesting things to say, how they react to you, how they are with others, are they real? personable, etc. I don’t need to know anyone’s back-story when I meet them to like them (or not like them). And maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they were having a bad day? This came to mind because we have a new person at work who for some reason didn’t click with people right away (and this is a friendly personable crowd) and I couldn’t figure out why. In thinking about it, I think it could be how she comes across, how she says things (tone), her response to other people, how she’s not open and friendly, how she’s not approachable. Of course we all give her the benefit of the doubt because it is daunting to be the new person (and this is real life with real people), but in a book or a show, the writer has to make the character such that I feel invested in them without the back-story. How they are, how they interact with others, how they invite me into their world is what is going to make me like them. And he challenge is, it maybe different things for different people. But I think for Arrow, the common theme for me is don’t tell me how I am to feel. Make me feel it. Back it up.

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        1. I vote yes to discussing how and when to deploy backstory effectively.

          Is it ok if I don’t have a specific question? I’m sort of generally muddled about how I feel about the device in general and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

          In terms of Arrow – I typically find the island flashbacks less interesting than the present story, but I do feel that they’re somewhat important for understanding the growth of Oliver, and they’re not so much less interesting that I feel the need to skip past them. I think that if they wanted me to feel more invested in Laurel and Oliver’s “Epic Love” I needed to see more of them as a happy, functional couple in the past – and that that’s why the lost me when I first met Laurel. But, I also see that they couldn’t necessarily show me that relationship, because Oliver was not a good guy in the past, and I honestly don’t believe it could have ever been a meaningful, adult relationship in the context of who he was back then. He was a sister-banging jerkface playboy. She was a woman on a mission to force her man child boyfriend to get in line and grow up. If they showed me too much of that part of his back story, I just wouldn’t like him. If they show him becoming hardened in the crucible of the island, though, I understand him and root for him. However, while he learned to become a bad ass on the island, I think your point that he grew more when Tommy died is a good one. So all the “island growth” wasn’t nearly the kind of growth we saw in the present story – the real becoming a man growth, and not the becoming a warrior-hero growth. So do we need all the island stuff? I don’t know.

          And maybe I’m sort of asking another question all together about flashbacks vs backstory and whether which way we get the information makes a difference to how I feel about a character.

          Hopefully there’s enough in my confused rambles to work with putting a post together on the topic. Thanks, Jenny!

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        2. Yes, please, a post on that would be fabulous.

          I’ve always been advised (disclaimer about all different writing roads and all that) that flashbacks and back story in writing are lead weights on story. There are always exceptions, of course, and writers who can do it well, but the basic thought process I always heard was: the story happens in the present. Flashbacks create disconnect and often confusion and the writer needs to ask themselves if the flashback is really necessary, if it’s a “lazy writing way” of getting some point across, if the point of it into an active scene in the present, etc. I’ve also picked up the general vibe that back story isn’t usually about explaining “why” a character is the way they are or is doing what they’re doing (because that should be part of the main/present day plot) but a shortcut way to info dump. As a reader, those are the sections I start thumbing through to get back to the Real Story.

          So I guess my question on this would be… Jenny, what questions do you ask yourself when you’re tempted to do back story information? How do you determine what’s needed what isn’t needed? And if the evils of back story are to be avoided (what are the evils anyway?), how does a writer accomplish in ‘normal scenes’ what they’re trying to achieve when they turn to back story?

          Hopefully those questions make sense.

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          1. Those are easy answers since they’re about what I do and not theory:
            I can do anything I want in a first draft because it’s exploratory and I know I’m going to change and cut most of it anyway.
            In the second draft, I cut all the back story.
            I never ever ever ever ever do flashbacks.

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          2. “In the second draft, I cut all the back story.
            I never ever ever ever ever do flashbacks.”
            – Jenny

            The flashback thing I totally get. I’m not a fan either. So why do you cut back story? I mean… a lot of people think you need to include the back story so people understand how the story got to the point it is and how the characters got where they are and also to understand “who” the character is. If you cut back story, how do you achieve that?

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          3. I’ll do a whole post on this later (thank you, Kim) but basically back story is the stuff that you stop the narrative for in order to explain why something is happening in the now of the story. But readers/viewers don’t want you to stop the story. So you’re basically pulling your reader/viewer out of the story to explain something because it’s easier than making it part of the now.
            Oliver saying, “What’s wrong?” and Felicity saying, “I have abandonment issues. My dad left us,” is in the now of the story, so you can have that much, but if you go on too long, people start looking for story again.
            And here’s the kicker: Readers don’t need most of the back story that writers shove down their throats. The writer needs to know all of it, but all the reader needs to know is what’s happening now. Stories are like icebergs, and that part under the surface is all back story.

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        3. Oh! Backstory is a good one! I think backstory is great when used to enhance an already great character or experience. One of my favorite characters is Deanna Raybourn’s Nicholas Brisbane (anyone else also a fan?) He’s a mystery. Dark, brooding, skilled, charming, intelligent, but we know very little about his backstory, or even what he’s thinking. In each of the books, we learn a little more and we want to know more. But when we meet him, we like him already, and in liking him already, we want to learn more about him. In the Arrow world, I did like the Island scenes during Season 1. When we meet Oliver he’s a mystery. Full of scars, trauma, missing for years, very skilled and I wanted to know what happened? I always love a good superhero origin story. And to be quite honest, in the beginning I wanted more island so I can put together the puzzle pieces. But I am slowly loosing interest because the island parts are getting dragged out too long and the present is heating up (and my favorite characters are in the present). So, I don’t have a specific question, but I am intrigued about how the use of back-story can either boost or kill a story and how to avoid those pitfalls.

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        4. Jenny, could you comment on creating a back story without just telling us about it. For example, with Arrow, they just told us that Oliver & Laurel were great loves. With all the flashbacks, we have never seen them happy, but we are just supposed to take the writers words for it. Then in season 1, they introduced Sara with one back story (running off with sister’s boyfriend); then they appeared to change the back story in season 2 (Sara had the crush & Laurel took him away). Appearing to change the back story changed the tone, but it also caused the viewer to question what they thought to be true. I think this can work in a mystery, but I don’t think it works as well in romance.

          I know in TV/film, flashbacks are a good way to set the back story — Arrow does it with the island. Highlander (TV show) did it all the time — everything Duncan did in present day had a related flashback. The flashbacks explained many of Duncan’s current relationships and showed his growth.

          How do you set back story by engaging the reader/audience without using the flash backs and without just telling them? In other words, how do you build back story without boring (or preaching) to the reader/audience?

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          1. I really will do a post on back story, but the short version is: Don’t do back story, stay in the now.
            I think Leverage did something interesting with back story on three of its characters in the pilot: as they introduced them, they showed a less-than-a-minute black and white vignette from the past to just punch their identities into the viewer’s minds. I wouldn’t have done any flashbacks, but if I have to watch them, thirty-second flashbacks are the best.

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          2. Ooooh.. LOVED, LOVED Methos..Don’t really care that much for Duncan..He seems toooo…. arrogant in his own ways..I mean, I didn’t dislike him or anything but he just seems to think to ‘highly’ of himself sometimes, esp when it came to Methos..Urgh, don’t even GET me started on cassrand, that witch!

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        5. I have a question about back story for your possible future post.

          Say that character A had a Big Scary Thing happen to her in her childhood that is somehow relevant to the story you are telling, or would add an extra dimension to her character. You’ve already said you wouldn’t do a flashback, but would you have her tell the story to character B in the now instead, or do you think it takes the reader out of the story in the same way a flashback does? Also, would you see the fact that character A needed fleshing out by telling her story as a sign that she wasn’t properly fleshed out in the first place? (Does that even make sense? I feel like I am tripping over my words here.)

          To use Felicity’s abandonment issues as an example, I really liked learning why she has them, as it gives her an added depth. But I would not have liked seeing it as a flashback. I much preferred learning about it in her exchange with Oliver in the present.

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          1. If the Big Scary Thing (BST) has no immediate relevance to the story, I’d never tell it.

            If it has immediate relevance to the story, but there’s no reason for the character to explain it, I wouldn’t tell it.

            If there’s reason for the character to explain it, I’d keep it as brief as possible.

            If the fact that she’s explaining it drives the beat, I’d explain it. That is if the fact that she’s being vulnerable and asking for help is what moves the scene, then it’s part of the now of the story, not what happened, but that she’s making herself vulnerable. In that case, what the other person responds to is that she’s vulnerable, not that she saw a clown kill a horse fifteen years ago. The vulnerability is in the now of the story. You can use that to arc the tension in the scene, if she’s pushed to say something about her past and then shuts up, and the other person needs to know and prompts her for more, if she resists and struggles, if the back story is the Macguffin in the scene, you can get more in, BUT it’s still back story, so even then, cut as much as you can. I’ve done that scene, and it’s like eating potato chips, the whole bag is gone before you realize you didn’t need half of it.

            The big mistake made with back story is that writers think readers/viewers want to know it. We don’t. We want to know what’s happening now. Explaining why something is happening now is not telling the story, it’s an external shoring up of character.

            We’re invested in this character right now, in what she’s doing and feeling right now, in the fight she’s struggling with right now. As long as we stay in the now and the pace is fast enough to keep us interested, we’ll stick with the story. Start screwing with the now, the pacing goes to hell, and we go away and get ice cream.

            I thought Felicity’s explanation for her back story went on too long. She’s extremely upset, Oliver notices which has its own implications in the now, that he’s finally paying attention to human beings even when he’s about to speak in public about his mother’s candidacy. Felicity hesitates because she’s afraid of losing Oliver. He asks again, and she says, “Look, I have abandonment issues because of my parents so this is hard for me.” He says, “I won’t leave you.” She tells him what he needs to know.
            But they didn’t do that, they wanted to set up Mom and Dad, so they have her continue with the Mom was crazy and Dad left stuff, and even as short as that was, it undercut the pacing and the tension. She was afraid, not nervous. She wouldn’t have rambled, but they wanted to set up that back story so . . .
            Cut as much as you can of back story and then cut more. It’s a story killer.

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          2. Re: Felicity’s back story. Frankly, I’d have liked to have seen her “abandonment” issues shown to us before they just had her tell us. It’s a problem I’ve always had with her, though. She’s always coming up with these new things that are thrown at us and explained away with one line. Like Jenny said a couple posts ago when I thought Sara might be Oracle, “Nope, gotta see it on the screen.”

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          3. That was shoe-horned in.
            I’m wondering if they’re not patching story. That is, these scripts are really complex pieces of plotting, and then all of a sudden somebody comes in a drops a bomb of back story–“Laurel called the cops on me,” “I have abandonment issues”–and it feels so clumsy. As you said, there’s no more set-up for that than there was for the Sara/Oliver hook-up. And yet, they’ve done a lot of careful layering and set-up in the past. They can’t go back and layer that in now, so they have to patch it in. Maybe. I’m guessing.

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      1. I’m a weird person. Back story to me doesn’t really hold much interest for me. Yeah, it might give me some insight about why a character acts a certain way or give me that (personally annoying!) prequel story that all the tvs and movies seem so fond of these days… But I shouldn’t need a huge, invovled back story to understand, like, or invest in a character in the present. Their character should be able to pull me into their present day situation, their present day “person,” and their present day conflict.

        Take Felicity as an example. Everything I need to know about her I learned by watching her in action, in the present. I could draw conclusions about her back story – without the show telling me – about the kind of person she is and whether or not I liked her. I could tell she was alone/lonely and not really comfortable around people because of her run away mouth and awkwardness. I knew she wasn’t close to her family because of how she reacted to Walter Steele and his kidnapping. I mean, she went really far to find a guy all because “He was nice to me.. That one line told me everything about Felicity’s past experience with people that I needed to know and made me want to wrap her up in a big hug, the poor kid. Add in that hospital/family scene after they rescued him and you knew she feels very much on-the-outside-looking-in when it comes to a loving family.

        As for the type of character she is, I know through watching her that she’s smart and funny, sure, but I also know she’s loyal, very honest, extremely trustworthy, sassy, and strong. This is not a woman afraid to stand up for herself because we saw her do it with Oliver over and over again and let’s face it, he is very physically intimidating guy.

        Arrow filling in her back story has only, so far, confirmed what I already knew. It’s nice and it adds layers to the character, expands the potential story lines for her in the future (Meet the Parents), and all that, and we do need to know more about *her* as a character for sure, but it’s only going to reaffirm for me what the story has already done through her character in action. I pick at Arrow a lot for “telling me” stuff instead of “showing me” and letting me draw my own conclusions with Felicity, they actually have done a good job with what they have given me so far. Did telling me she went to MIT change anything? No. It’s back story info, but it didn’t do anything. The parent thing I think will but, again, I suspect that’s for future story events & plot.

        But if I don’t like a person in the here-and-now in a story, giving them even the worst sob story background really isn’t going to change anything because they act like a doofus in the present. I might understand *why* more but that doesn’t mean they can still be a jackass in the present. I’m not going to say, “But 5 years ago, all this stuff happened so it’s okay….”

        I’m interested in the story *today.* I want to see the character dealing with conflicts in the here and now and see how they change from here forward. Maybe that’s the problem with the flashbacks for some people. We knew Oliver was a self-involved screw up from that 20 second new cast bit “Oliver Queen is Alive…” We know he went out a self-absorbed, spoiled playboy and came back a ripped warrior (saw that with his rescue and that scene in the hospital, his subsequent kidnapping and escape). We know what he did and the outcome of it (cause that’s part of the present day plot). Does the show really need to show us in flashbacks every episode everything that happened? Regardless of what it was, we – as an audience – have already seen the outcome: Oliver Queen: Army of One.

        That’s not to say I don’t get why the show is splitting the Arrow story into Past and Present (that prequel fascination again, I swear, geez) but I think maybe that’s why some viewers don’t like the island stuff. They have enough information without the island stuff to understand how Oliver got to his point in the present and now they just want to see how he grows and changes from here to get the Green Arrow Hero Status. The flashbacks just keep pulling them out of that and throwing them backward into a story that’s already “done” in their mind.

        I think the only perspective altering flashback stuff the show has given me is when it comes to Moira. They presented her in the current day story as a villain then, through the use of that one flashback episode, showed that she was actually (supposedly cause I still don’t trust her lol) trying to stop what was going on and lost her husband and son in the process, then got swept up in the aftermath and tied into Meryln’s plans. But that served a story function in the present for her character and I thought that was effective.

        Then you look at Malcolm’s story about losing his wife. We didn’t get a flashback for that but he filled in that back story in a present day, active, moving way that was just heart wrenching. That’s the kind of back story stuff I prefer.

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        1. Yes on the backstories being reinforced, multiple times. For example we see the Death Stroke mask with the arrow through the eye . Slade then confirms that Arrow stuck an arrow in his eye to Blood. Oliver then tells the rest of the team that he stuck an arrow in Slade’s eye and at some point we possibly will see the actual event happen in a flashback on the Island.

          Another example is the whole Malcolm is Thea’s father. So far as an audience we have seen it acknowledged by Malcolm to Moria, Moira to Walter, Felicity to Moria, Felicity to Oliver and Oliver to Moria – and Thea doesn’t know yet.

          I get that the characters can’t know events unless they are told, but maybe in addition to some of the backstories being just *tragic* the amount times an event is reinforced to the audience weighs down the story moving along because we *know* already, hurry up an get to the stuff we don’t know?

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    2. I got Felicity. Which I love, but don’t know how I got her based on the questions and my answers. Thought for sure it would be Moira since we have being a mom in common.

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  4. Last October I was telling my husband that I saw something on the internet about how the movie Halloween was shown to groups of college-aged people who hadn’t seen it before in order to test their reactions. The most popular response was “meh”, if not downright laughter. As I related the anecdote, I added that my response to Michael Myers as an antagonist was pretty much the same. For me, I needed something more than “he’s crazy” to really invest in any of it. I grew up reading things like Agatha Christie stories – those antagonists were of a completely different ilk than Michael Myers and that’s the kind of thing I had as “the bar” in my mind the first time I saw Halloween.

    Anyway, my husband was pretty flabbergasted to know other people honestly thought that way. He always and completely bought into “he’s nuts” as all the motivation the antagonist required in order to board the train and go for a ride. I guess this ability to just take something at face value and buy in helps explain why slasher movies work for a lot of people: ‘that guy’s crazy and this guy just wants to get away’ is motivation enough. Or, putting it in more modern terms, it seems like instead of the “he’s crazy” guy, things like ghosts, demons and other supernatural phenomenon now stand in as the type of antagonists that audiences will accept as worthy opponents to the protagonist without needing to know anything about them.

    Still, I’ve noticed that it seems like the majority of story-telling works from a model which requires antagonists to have a bit more depth, sophistication, and ability to inspire at least some sympathetic reaction so that even when the audience is rooting for the protagonist and against the antagonist, it’s still able to think “well, the antagonist *does* have a point”.

    I think I like stories best when the protagonist and the antagonist raise the bar for one another so it’s not just the protagonist who is being put through a trial of fire in order to become the most elemental version of himself. In the case of Arrow, I loved the scene when Merlyn had knocked out Oliver during a fight, took off his hood and said, “Oh no” when he saw who it was. It was a moment when you knew a bajillion things were going through Merlyn’s head, one of which was that he suddenly knew he was going to have to sharpen his blade, up his game, and go to a place he didn’t realize he would have to go in order to reach his goals. You even wondered for a minute if he could find it in himself to hurt and/or destroy Oliver.

    That was a good story-telling moment for me: I was totally there and couldn’t wait to see where it would go.

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    1. YES!! I think my biggest pet peeve is a weak antagonist as a tool to lift the protagonist. Almost like the protagonist needs the people around him/her to be weak in order to succeed. That brings down the protagonist in my view. I like a villain that is smart, complex, strong and even possibly right sometimes. A stronger antagonist lifts the protagonist in my view. That is why I am so excited about Slade. He’s a challenge for Oliver on so many levels. We know he’s physically strong. We know Oliver respects him and is emotionally attached to him (emotional challenge), we know he was a good person, capable of love and loyalty, we know his revenge is fueled by his love for Shado. He’s not the typical bad guy that we just hate because he’s the “bad guy.” He more complex than that. We know he’s smart, and capable of ruthlessness. So many angles to him. And, at least for me, we LIKE him. I really do. So I am emotionally challenged as well. I never had a strong like for Merlyn, so while he was a good antagonist, I wasn’t emotionally challenged by him. He was the bad guy. I know he was Oliver’s best friend’s dad so that can’t be easy for Oliver, but we never saw Oliver’s relationship with him. So we can imagine the emotional connection, but we don’t feel it. With Slade I feel it much more. You don’t need to tell me there will be tension. I know it’s coming and it will be so much more than can he beat me.

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      1. Exactly. It’s a common mistake to make the antagonist a buffoon, the comic relief. The minute you do that, you’ve punched a hole in your fuel tank. It’s not that the antagonist can’t have a sense of humor, it’s that he or she can’t be the butt of the joke.

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      2. I think the Slade/Oliver dynamic is definitely more interesting because it’s more Oliver’s story than it is Oliver cleaning up Dad’s mess. You nailed it, BT, when you said, I think, that Oliver v Malcolm wasn’t as interesting because Malcolm was only, essentially, Oliver’s foe on a physical threat level — i.e. stop the mad man from destroying the city.

        With Slade, Oliver’s conflict is not only physical (stop the super army) but emotional because they were friends, because Oliver contributed to the animosity between them, and mental because Oliver has to be carrying a lot of guilt over how Slade got into this position as well as the Shado thing (which I still think is lame because it’s not like Oliver made a conscious choice of Hey, shoot this one and not that one)… There’s a lot of contributing factors to their relationship and that complexity just makes the story that much more layered, intense, and interesting. Plus you feel like they’re equals on all levels so that threat level goes way, way up.

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  5. Okay so on the topic of Antagonists. I love a good villain. I like them to be all smart and manipulative and cunning. Sometimes the villain is more fun for me than the protagonist. LOL. Justified has a great protagonist/antagonist pair in Raylan and Boyd. Two guys who grew up together in this small town and who pursued such different paths — one as law enforcement, the other as a criminal. They are just so much fun to watch together and, for me, the strength of that show.

    I am not a fan of antagonists who are doing evil for that “just because” reason. They feel like cardboard cut outs and you know the protagonist will never have any problems stopping them. I loved Malcolm Merlyn because while I could say, “Man is off his rocker crazy!” it’s deeper than that. He loved and lost and saw the same problem with the city that Oliver did. He just saw the solution as different. He really, truly believed in what he was doing and he really believed this was how you saved the city. Moira is another great one because, again, while I might have issues with what she’s doing, they writers have really done a great job keeping her right on that line of Good/Evil. Her motivation makes it understandable even if the actions are reprehensible. But because you get what she’s doing and why, you can take that villainy ride with her.

    It kind of goes back to that sentiment: One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. It all depends on which side of the ‘fight’ you’re on, your perspectives on a situation, and the justifications/motivations you embrace to rationalize those actions.

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    1. I know you didn’t ask me, but that’s a theory I find quite interesting. I don’t think it will happen, but I can see how it could be made to work. Laurel seems to have been driven by circumstances to a place where she could go either way. I think her turning into a villain would be the less realistic option (although I think KC would do a fabulous job at it; she seems to be good at playing not-nice characters, to put it mildly) but we’re talking about a TV show where they have already taken a few liberties with realism, so who knows.

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    2. If she can untangle herself from that damn back story, I’m all for it. I love that actress when she’s got that implacable look in her eye. But if I have to hear anymore about her sister or Oliver (or from her sister), then no, just send them to Disneyland.

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  6. Off topic..but since you brought up Raiders of the Lost Ark, I have to ask…did you see the Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon and Amy watch Raiders? He is so excited to see how she likes it and she says she enjoyed it except for the “glaring story problem”? Great episode.

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    1. I loved that episode! It made me a little scared to watch the movie again. One of my favourites but Amy was so right.

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  7. For the record, I took that poll and I’m Felicity, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

    I’ve been lurking for a while but thank you Jenny for such a great blog. I’ve been writing as a hobby for about 20 years, and I appreciate your thoughts on writing and story, so thank you!

    I think I finally figured out why the Lance sisters seem so unlike-able even though they are not villains. It’s because the trio of Oliver/Felicity/Diggle is such a great dynamic. Felicity and Diggle are such upstanding moral characters that we want our protagonist to strive to fit in with their dynamic. We want him to grow and change and become better, and so when he doesn’t–when he returns to the vomit-fest that is the Lance sisters, we cringe. The original Team Arrow is pure gold, but Oliver regressed so far in that last scene that I just want the whole mess over with already.

    It’s true that “real” characters have flaws and so forth, but then again Felicity and Diggle haven’t fallen from grace yet in my mind…so does that mean they are not “real” characters?

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    1. I think all the characters on Arrow are hyper-real, larger than life. Nobody in the real world working in an IT department has Felicity’s I-can-hack-anything skills. It’s a show based on a comic book, it’s supposed to be hyper-real.

      Another example is Red. You get so used to the characters in the story that you forget that people can’t DO those things, so when Frank gets out of the car shooting and the car spins around him or Marvin goes up against a missile launcher with a handgun, you don’t say, “I don’t believe that,” you cheer.

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  8. “Do you feel like this is a problem on this blog? I read the comments on the Dashboard, not on the actual board (I’d never find anything), so I don’t know if there’s an Olicity problem on here. If there is, we should definitely talk about it.”

    This is from the last post.

    I wanted to respond because I read a lot of fan boards, from all different sites, although I don’t post anywhere but here. There are a lot of passionate, conflicting opinions out there–it’s hard to believe we’re all watching the same show. There are any number of reasons that color our perceptions of story lines and characters, and the relationships are a really big issue in Arrow. I, personally, do not think there is an Olicity issue on here. I think the posters back up their opinion with careful analysis–certainly with much more respect and intelligence than you would see on other fan boards (Olicity fans have gone WAY beyond “They have GREAT chemistry!” and Laurel-Oliver shippers have gone beyond “But it’s CANON!”).

    Olicity fans get a lot of crap for their passion, but let me say that personally, I would not be watching were it not for the publicity these fans have given the show. I gave up already. I read about these very vocal fans and I thought, “Okay, I’ve got to see what all the fuss is about.” (This isn’t just true for “Arrow,” it’s also why I checked out “Firefly,” “Jericho,” and now, “Leverage.”) Also, I have seen some very nasty comments from Lauriver fans, so it DOES go both ways. When an Olicity shipper posts on a fan board that is pro-canon, they get decimated, too. That doesn’t happen here. We have discussions, and if the consensus sometimes sways one way, that’s inevitable, I think.

    The problem is that those who do not agree will be annoyed by the arguments that are brought forth, because it isn’t an opinion they share. I can only compare it to how I feel when I enter a fan board that is Oliver-Laurel centered and puts forth the “it’s canon” argument: I read the comments, but because what I see is completely different, it’s frustrating. I’m learning I can’t get other people to change their minds, no more than they can get me to change mine–but I can tell you WHY I have that opinion, whether or not it changes yours. You can remind me all the sweet nothings Oliver has said to Laurel thus far; you can quote the exact comic book issues that show the intense, epic love between Oliver and Laurel/Green Arrow and Black Canary, and I’d still hate the version the Arrow writers have decided to show. I have a different definition for love, and Oliver-Laurel doesn’t fit it.

    More people on here do prefer Oliver-Felicity relationship, but that’s the way it is with most fan boards. I do think we have listened well to the Oliver-Laurel fans and really thought about the other side. I don’t hate Laurel anymore, and I did before I came here. I’ve learned to see a different perspective, and I’ve learned a great deal about protagonists, antagonists, romantic contracts, letting a story change direction because of where the characters take it, and more. I LOVE the forum you provide for us, and I appreciate that you keep everyone in check and try to keep the conversation as respectful and focused as possible, which can’t be easy when you have people from all over the world, speaking all different languages, coming together to discuss something. So, again, thank you.

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  9. I just want to say that I’m so happy that I found this forum because the people here seem able to engage in interesting, respectful discussions without resorting to a ‘them vs us’ attitude according to what particular ship they support, or making it personal. Plus I love discussing the different aspects of storytelling and how we craft narratives, with smart poll who have so many insightful things to say.

    One of the problems I think with the whole Sara storyline is that our perspectives on her will change, according to our own preferences with regard to each character. The powers that be have shifted the goalposts. I really liked Sara and could see where she fitted in with all the other characters. I thought I understood her purpose in the story. Of course, that can change but they seem to have changed it overnight in a very random way. The plot is driving the character, not the other way round. Sara has now become the antagonist, in a way, with regard to Laurel and Felicity. As a Felicity fan, it’s hard now to see Sara as one of the ‘good guys’. Laurel fans probably feel the same. That’s unfair because it takes 2 to tango but Sara is now the obstacle in the way of the other two female characters, for those who love L or F, despite the fact that I don’t think there’s any chance for Laurel and Oliver to work, and Oliver is not ready to be with Felicity yet.

    Because I love Felicity and I don’t want to see her hurt, my gut instinct is now to see Sara as kind of the bad guy. Intellectually, I know that’s wrong but my emotions may make me irritated now when I see her again. Just as I felt seeing her with O in a spoiler pic from the next episode. They have made me confused about who exactly Sara is and where she stands in terms of being on the side of the protagonist or as another antagonist who will cause trouble for Oliver, even unwittingly. Though her obliviousness as to what her relationship with Oliver will do to Laurel, or even Felicity, makes me not like her very much. But then, this whole Sara and Oliver storyline makes me not like the main character very much, to be perfectly honest. I like that Oliver was a morally ambiguous guy, especially in season one. But this new relationship is not really so much about morality, as it is about common decency and kindness and not being a complete jerk face! I feel the hook up, coming out of the blue, has just muddied the waters of the narrative. If it were a one time thing, I would get it. But if they have O and S explore a new relationship, well, that is just not something I want to see, partly because I just don’t like the idea of it, but mainly because it just doesn’t make sense in terms of the story they led me to believe they’ve been telling.

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    1. Hm..Just have to see what next Wed have in store for the viewers..I guess that’s why they ended that last ep the way they did..

      As for Sara being in the way of either Felicity or “laurel”..Nay..I believe as ALWAYS, she’s a non-issue. It will always be “laurel” that’s the issue since SHE is the MAIN LEAD.. I personally, really don’t understand nor get how anyone can hate Sara..?? I can’t wrap my mind around that issue or alleged issue.

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      1. Sara is not an issue; she’s a character. Her behavior is not an alleged issue, it’s a real issue for a lot of (but not all) viewers. It’s not who’s right or wrong; perception is perception. Both sides are right.
        This is a story. Again, Laurel is not an issue, she’s a character. The fact that she’s a lead is irrelevant because that’s outside the story; nobody within the story world looks at Laurel and says, “She’s a lead character,” because nobody within the story world thinks any of them are characters. Within the story, Laurel and Sara are caught in a plot that’s off-putting to some people for a variety of reasons, although other people are fine with it. None of these people are wrong about their own perceptions.
        But I do agree with you that I can’t understand why anybody would hate Sara because I can’t understand why anybody would hate any of these characters; they’re characters. While you’re watching the show, the writers are trying to create a willing suspension of disbelief (and doing a really good job of it, too) to draw you into that story world so you participate vicariously, and so that we have these visceral reactions; that’s the whole point of storytelling: emotional catharsis. We’re supposed to love or hate these characters while we’re in the story. But once the episode is done and we look back at it to discuss it, it makes no sense to hate an illusion and argue about how other people see that illusion. It makes sense to look at the story and say, “How did that happen? Why did the writers do that?” and compare reactions. I’ll even buy, “I hate the way they’ve constructed that character,” or “That character is a horrible person within this story.” But it’s blurring the lines between the story world and the real world that makes the fan boards such petri dishes of anger.
        And then it can become really frightening when that hatred merges the character and the actor. It’s one of the reasons I’m becoming a real killjoy in this. While I watch the show, I absolutely believe all these characters are real, and I feel all those emotions. But afterward, viewers have to step away from the story world or they end up emotionally involved in something that’s not real. And that’s when the shouting starts.

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        1. Of course the fans or whomever is going to take this to another level..EVERYONE does it; no-matter if one WANTS to admit it or not..I DO! I’m not ashamed of admitting to disliking/hating a character and transferring that ONTO the ACTOR/ACTRESS etc..It’s life..We all do this, it’s just if one wants to admit if one’s CROSSING a certain line between reality or fantasy..That’s the fun of entertainment and tv… Nothing wrong with that..It’s just, don’t go too far as to THREATEN bodily harm or whatever..NOW that is going TOOO OFF the grid..LOL..

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          1. The problem is that it annoys people who are either trying to talk about story or who like the character somebody else is hating. It’s fan board stuff, which is not what Argh is.

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  10. I have nothing intelligent to say as I’ve only seen one partial episode. Oh to be in charge of the remote.

    However I love RED and would go anywhere with that version of Bruce Willis. I totally believed the revolving car stunt. I get bubbles in my chest just thinking about it!

    Also I would follow John Barrowman to the ends of the earth. And yes, I know I’m not his type. I don’t care. The way he acts makes me think he would be fabulous to hang around with.

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    1. KG, I haven’t seen the show either, but I’m going to find it and watch it – I want to be able to apply all of this fabulous writerly stuff to it. And I took the which-character-are-you quiz and came out as Laurel – want to know what the heck that means; from the bits I’ve gleaned, she isn’t a fun, party-girl. Figures.

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  11. Going back to the Antagonist topic for a second, I’m curious how people have felt about the villains of Arrow so far. Is there a villain that didn’t work for you? One you’re wanting to see more of? One you’d bring back if you could?

    Isabel, in whatever villian role she functions (which I’m still not even sure if she is villainy but she’s definitely an antagonist for Oliver), really needs fleshing out for me because they’re losing my interest with her. I expected her to be more cunning and more of a challenge. So far she’s kind of been Oliver’s hall monitor. Where are you going? Who told you you could take the plane and fly to Russia? Do you have a hall-pass? I’d hoped for more and I’m still hoping.

    When it comes to Antagonists in the traditional sense I think of them (i.e. villains) I was really disappointed by the Bronze Tiger thing. I thought’s been totally underutilized and kind of boring. With Amanda Waller recruiting him for the Squad, I’m hoping it gets more interesting but I don’t know, I was expecting a little more.

    I was really disappointed about the Doll Maker being killed off. I thought he was a potential antagonist that could be brought back for a few visits.

    I also miss the Dodger. I’d like to see him return because I thought he was just smoothly cool and cunning and I’d like to see him rise again.

    I think Arrow has done a good job of giving most of the characters personal antagonists. Oliver’s had a bunch, of course, both in his crime fighting and in his real life. Diggle got Deadshot. Laurel even got Sebastian Blood this year (there’s another antagonist I’m kind of let down about for some reason). Sara’s got her League of Assassin assassins. Felicity, however, hasn’t been given an antagonist yet. I think maybe that’s why I really liked the Felicity/Moira scene. It gave Felicity someone to rub up against and I liked that. It’s why I’m also looking forward to Felicity and the Clock King when the show returns, as well as the potential dynamics with her mother and/or father. I want her to get her own Moriarty, so to speak, someone, like Diggle’s Deadshot and Oliver’s Slade, that is a personal antagonist that means something to her character and its development.

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    1. I thought Shrapnel was a pretty weak villain, but I’ve enjoyed the others for the most part.

      Aside from Slade, Count Vertigo was my favorite. “Quiet please, I’m threatening” was such a great line. I also loved the flashback scene to when he escaped from Iron Heights after the quake and he gave the keys to the Doll Maker on the way out telling him that he liked his work. Too bad he’s dead. It would have been fun to see him as part of the squad.

      I’m not sure what they’re doing with Isabel, but I would not be surprised if it turns out that she’s been working with Slade all this time, serving as his eyes and ears on the QC front much like Blood is doing on the Arrow front.

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      1. Abby, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Shrapnel. Since they took him alive, I’m betting he’ll be back and maybe fleshed out a bit more.

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        1. I hope so. I had such high hopes for him, and he just fell flat.

          Maybe he’ll be like Bronze Tiger, and we’ll learn more about him later down the line.

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        2. Julie, you were right!

          Shrapnel is part of the Suicide Squad! I just saw the pic on SA’s facebook page. It’s him, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Lyla, Digg, and Amanda Waller.

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    2. The Count was fantastic; Abby already mentioned my favorite of his lines. He threatened Felicity, so I wanted to see those three arrows in him, but he was fun.

      Fyers wasn’t very interesting for me, I suspect because we spent so much time not knowing what the hell he wanted except that it involved using Yao Fei. It didn’t help that he was the hired help in that plan, and we never found out who orchestrated it. Personally, I’m hoping it was Isabel. Not just because I want the flashbacks to be relevant in terms of the present-day plot instead of just Oliver’s character arc, but because I think Isabel has been under-used as an antagonist so far.

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      1. Both Fyers and Ivo were weak for me…but I am one of the few who generally doesn’t enjoy the flashback scenes. I found neither vulnerable, nor sympathetic. Ivo was a little bit better, but even then, when he tells Sara the darkness is closing in and he needs her…I just didn’t buy it. Shrapnel wasn’t great either (really, that’s how they decide to use Simon Tam–I mean–Sean Maher?).

        Generally, I’ve loved how multi-dimensional Arrow’s characters are. Malcolm is the best example of this–his plan was to tear down the city to build it up again. It’s crazy, but when he tells the story of listening to his wife die through a voicemail…who didn’t want to cry for him? Even when he threatens Moira to tell Thea, and says that he felt so guilty for betraying his wife, and that “Thea is all I have left.” I was all, “Dammit Moira, tell Thea! Malcolm deserves a win!” (And then I thought, immediately after, “What’s wrong with ME?! He’s the bad guy!”)

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        1. See, I think Malcolm talking about his dead wife was vastly more effective than a flashback would have been.
          I don’t like the island stuff, either. Fortunately, it’s filmed with a different color filter so it’s easy to forward past those parts.

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          1. “See, I think Malcolm talking about his dead wife was vastly more effective than a flashback would have been.”

            Well, there’s the answer to my back story question, in a comment you posted yesterday.

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          2. As I remember, Tommy rejected that whole story, too, something about if he cared that much about family he wouldn’t have deserted his son. And that made Malcolm’s confession part of the now of the story; Tommy’s reaction took it from “explanation of back story” to “the lie you’re telling now” and used it to motivate the next beat of the scene in the now of the story, which is freaking brilliant writing.

            I read a comment somewhere that said that I overthink things (no memory of who or where) and I thought, “Yes. Story wonk.” Because when you parse story down like this, when you see the things that power a scene that you never catch when you’re watching and participating in the story, it’s so exciting to see how story works. Story done well is just magic, it takes you to another world and dazzles you, and that happens because of a million little decisions, probably half of them made subconsciously. How can you not want to see how that happens?

            Yes, I know I have a problem. Fortunately, it pays the electric bill, so I’m not going to cure it.

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        2. I don’t like the island flashbacks from the first season. I don’t mind them this season, because the Mirakuru and the Slade/Shado stuff was tied to the present-day plot. Also they’ve been so much shorter this year. But it’s still my least favorite part of every episode. Well, the Lance cat fight was my least favorite part of the last one, but still, the island was a close runner-up.

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    3. I can say, I don’t hate or dislike many of the so called ‘villains’ since most are pretty cool.

      The only one I didn’t TAKE TO was ‘Blood’..He had this weasel like face, demeanor/attitude/mannerism that I didn’t like, right off..I just wanted to SMASH or SLAP him. I didn’t take to him but I didn’t hate his character or anything..I mean, I even like him more then larell.. I don’t know what that says about me..LOL..

      I do like Isbel thou..She adds a bit of spice to the whole Oliver/Felicity situation, be whatever it is. We haven’t seen that chinese women/china white at all, this season..??

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  12. “I want her to get her own Moriarty, so to speak, someone, like Diggle’s Deadshot and Oliver’s Slade, that is a personal antagonist that means something to her character and its development.”

    I agree! I adore both Emily and Felicity and want her to keep growing. I haven’t been disappointed by the villains so far, but my favorite has been the Count because Seth Gabel made him so creepy. But then I’m a huge fan of Heath Ledger’s Joker, so…

    I think it’s definitely true that good heroes need great villains to be believable. Otherwise the “Hero’s Journey” is too easy, like in the Ark storyline mentioned earlier.

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    1. I’m wondering, JK, if that’s why they’re supposedly bringing in Felicity’s mom or dad. If they’re going to be the antagonist(s) for her and surprise us by being villainy. Though I have money on the mom. She sounds like a piece of work so far. LOL.

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      1. I would love to see Felicity’s mom as a kind of villain. It would be so interesting for her character development,and it would also explain something things about Felicity’s character we are learning such as: her high morals and hating lies (she once said liked computers because they don’t lie). I can almost see her mother being similar to Moira; beautiful, intelligent, and powerful, willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve her goals. It would kind of explain Felicity’s fearlessness in confronting Moira, maybe reminding her of her own mother. Villains are interesting.

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        1. Ah, that is another great Felicity line that glimpsed at her past, I think. Computers lie. People don’t. Also that line to Diggle recently about people never showing their real face in public. Felicity has some really good human condition/experience kind of observations (reminds me of Sherlock on Elementary at times) that convey the type of experiences she had growing up and, imo, they weren’t sunshine, that’s for sure.

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  13. And this pretty much sums up the problem with everything I’ve ever tried to write: no real antagonist = no conflict = no interest. Argh.

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  14. Julie H., that’s possible and maybe even probable at this point. All I know is I found it curious that we don’t have much backstory on Felicity, so it makes me wonder what’s ahead for her. I hope the writers do her justice though.

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    1. Well, we don’t know anything about Dad and we know that Mom is a monster or something like that. I read somewhere that Felicity’s story is going to be huge in S3, maybe even a main plot, so i’m guessing that someone is going to be big bad.

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      1. Yes, xoxo, I also read that Felicity’s backstory and character would be big in S3 and that her parents would feature. In one of the producer interviews they have said that the info she told Oliver about her parents in 2×13 would figure at the end of the season, so I agree maybe one (or both) of her parents will be introduced as a villain going into S3. There’s been a lot of speculation about who Felicity’s Dad is but I’m more interested in her Mom. Her mother sounds like a piece of work, so I’m hoping for big showdown of Felicity’s mother vs. Moira Queen.

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          1. Seeing Moira and Felicity’s Mama clash would be awesome. LOL. I can’t even imagine that. Worse, though, what if they joined forces? Ha! I really hope we get to meet one or both of the parents by the end of season 2. Just a hint.

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        1. Her mother sounds much more interesting to me, too. The way she said “She’s…my mother”…talk about loaded. That woman clearly has issues, and I want to know what they are.

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      2. Oh no..She never said her mother was a ‘monster,’ I think she just said, she was ‘URGH’. Well, I hope her Dad is anyone but ‘Robert Queen’ and that her dad is someone POWERFUL; be him evil or good but since good would equal boring, then bad..LOL..

        I hope it’s Ras’ ah Ghul..That would be interesting and it would be MORE interesting if she was ‘Talia’ ..

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          1. AHAHAHA!! I’d rather have Bruce Wayne as her LOVER/Husband!! I mean, lets’ be honest..Bart Allen is a KID when compared to her or Oliver..It’s just ‘ehhh’…He’s just in this show for 2 eps and we still don’t know if the show will take off and even if it does, I can’t and WILL NEVER see Felicity with someone like BA..C’mon, it’s like her dating a baby/kid..Ewww..No!

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  15. I love seeing Slade/Deathstroke as the antagonist for season 2. I was so invested in the close friendship he and Oliver established on the island during season 1. But when Slade was introduced I was a bit confused, knowing his history as a notorious villain in DC comics and the “Teen Titans” animated series. In “Arrow” he was on the good side. Slade started to train Oliver simply for his own survival, then, to his surprise, started to like and respect Oliver. It’s another example of what Jenny pointed out before: when Slade respected Oliver more, the audience respected Slade more. I certainly did.

    Despite their growing friendship, I kept asking myself “When will Slade turn on Oliver and Why?” Slade was his mentor, teaching him about strategy and fight training. He also warned Oliver about his compassion; he believed it would get him killed. I never imagined how this warning would eventually foreshadow the coming showdown between the two of them in present day Starling City. Oliver’s compassion opened the door for Slade to trust him on the island when Slade followed Oliver and rescued Yao Fei (the first time) then Shado. That compassion led to him, Oliver and Shado to become “Team Island.” Then, that compassion opened Slade’s heart for Shado.

    Slade’s ultimate reason to destroy Oliver didn’t appeal to me at first. Eventually, I started to sympathize with him. The destruction of their friendship was so personal and heartbreaking. He loved a woman who loved Oliver (that scene where Slade giving Oliver Shado’s hood was gut wrenching). Then found out the man Shado chose, the man he considered a brother, betrayed her (basically killed her) in order for Sara (a relative stranger) to live, at least that’s how he sees it. Having that rage mixed with the mirakuru festering inside him while wearing an eye patch is a great recipe a great nemesis. I don’t want him to succeed, but I understand why he feels he must carry out his revenge.

    There’s one more more thing I need to mention, slightly off-topic. I love Slade. I think he’s awesome, but I don’t want him anywhere near Felicity… as a couple. I’ve read a few comments on fan boards and tumblr wanting Slade to save Felicity in the next episode (2×14). I think it’s some people’s reaction to the Oliver/Sara kiss and wanting Oliver to suffer/feel guilty for hurting Felicity. I think Slade is too cynical and sardonic for Felicity. Their personalities simply don’t mesh with me. But if some people really think Slade and Felicity is hot and actually appeals to them as a couple on its own merits, then go for it.

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      1. Yeah, I saw that! I was like WTF?? Now I’m like “What if Slade spills the family secret to Thea?” That will definitely tear the Queen family apart, sink Moira’s mayoral campaign and, possibly, turn an unruly Roy against Team Arrow. Frightening, isn’t it?

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        1. The twitter pic looks like a between take scene w/ Manu checking his messages on his smart phone and Willa taking a quick nap. But if it’s an actual scene, that would be interesting.

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    1. I think the dynamic is fine. Gruff but hot villain with a tragic past and Reasons and the nice, upbeat, inspiring in her honesty, and also hot heroine is pretty classic, and an obvious setup for a heel-face turn. If this show was equally about Slade and Felicity, I can see it. But it’s not, so Slade isn’t going to become an anti-hero.

      Having Slade appreciate her, though, that’s appealing. Of all the women on the show, she’s the most like Shado, after all, and paralleled with her as part of Team Island. Shado was noble, competent, kind, beautiful. I think Slade would find Felicity more immediately attractive than Oliver did.

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      1. Oh, that’s interesting.
        If the writers are setting up Felicity as a Shado doppelgänger in Slade’s mind, that sets up a different kind of parallel with Oliver: they’re both invested in the same girl again.
        Much better than having to choose who gets shot, Sara or Felicity.

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      2. That is such a great parallel, Shado and Felicity. I didn’t think about that before, but it makes a lot of sense. Maybe that is why I feel that Felicity and Shado have the best chemistry with Oliver compared to all the other females he has been with. They both seem very genuine and honest. They seemed to bring out the best of Oliver. Thank you for bringing this up. I love this blog, I learn something new all the time. 🙂

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      3. thecatbastet, I do see the parallels. Shado and Felicity have always seen the best in Oliver and are attracted by that potential. The best visual parallel is in “Three Ghosts” Felicity telling Oliver “Stay with me” and he hallucinates Shado saying the same thing. I do agree Slade would appeal to Felicity’s nobility and kindness. Yet, Shado had more grit and a warrior instinct Slade was impressed by and was drawn to. Even though Felicity is extremely brave she’s might be perceived as too delicate. And Felicity may find him too dark and frankly too out-of-control dangerous. He doesn’t have Oliver’s level of restraint. With her (and Diggle’s) help, Oliver hasn’t slipped into evil, whereas Slade is too far gone. She may inspire Slade to become morally ambiguous, but for a woman like Felicity that’s not good enough, which makes Oliver strive even harder — with a few stumbles here and there — to become the hero she believes he can be.

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  16. Thanks to Shannyn Schroeder for the Quiz – I ending up taking it a couple of times, but Oliver came up twice so……I’ll go with that.

    Now onto Antagonists –

    I enjoyed Nyssa’s introduction into the show cannon. This was a chick with some serious skills (how about that back flip on the table to get her bow), a defined moral code and an emotional arc to another character. (BTW I felt crushed for her when she recognised the past tensed ‘loved’)

    And I love it when sometimes I want the antagonist to win (or I can’t decide who I want to win because both characters have a lot going for them). Very excited to see her again towards the end of the season – and who she’s going to come back for. (Likely Sara but Malcolm is still around).

    The Dollmaker as the villain of the week has probably been the one I’ve enjoyed the most. He had a very set focus and a back story that tied him to Lance. His story was also helped in my opinion to the fact that Broken Dolls has been one of the better all in team episodes this season.

    As a season bad, Slade probably has more of my attention that Malcolm, but we’ve also seen more of Slade’s journey. This slow turn from comrade to broken man to person wanting to destroy Oliver has been fascinating and really but for a few different set of circumstances this guy could’ve been Diggle. In some ways I hope that maybe he just ends up wounded (metaphorically) but not beaten because right now I would like him to continue on into season 3 in some capacity.

    In terms of romantic antagonists – special shout out to Shado. She kept Oliver physically alive, taught him some survival skills and he wears the hood to honour her and her father. Not to mention that at one point he gets a tattoo like hers (I’d like to think that was a choice). Oliver might have thought no good thing happened on that island, but I would argue that he is a better person of having known her and that is a good thing.

    Finally honourable mentions to Moira, Huntress and the Count

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  17. There’s a new clip up for next week’s episode. Felicity gets her antagonist. What bothers me is that I should be really excited about it as it looks like a real chance for character growth for my favorite character, but instead I’m mostly angry because it’s Sara front and center.

    What does that say about the writing when I am more angry about having to watch one character when my favorite character is allegedly getting an episode that centers on her? Are the writers trying to make us like Sara? Or are they trying to turn us against her? (Note I use the word allegedly because I don’t trust these writers any more. I’m still willing to give them a chance, but I don’t trust them.)

    Here’s the clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3HjZAQNkosw

    On another note, one of my friends speculated yesterday that Sara hasn’t really left the League — that she’s there for some other reason. Now I could get behind that if she is really just playing Oliver and is really going to turn out to be a villain. I could support that. I can’t, however, support her as any kind of hero unless something major changes. Sadly, however, I think Sara is going to be the Winona of the show. (Don’t you agree, Julie H.?)

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    1. I’ll come back and watch the clip later, but my guess is that you don’t like it because it feels like a cat fight with Oliver as the subtext. In which case, bleah.

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      1. Jenny, the EP is talking about Felicity, but the scene set up is Felicitywatching Sara spar with Diggle and Oliver. Then Oliver is talking about the party he’s throwing for Sara. It seems to be setting up Sara & Felicity as antagonists. My issue with the writing is 4 episodes ago, Oliver was telling Felicity that she is his partner. Last episode she opened up and told him her biggest fear. He know abandonment is her fear – and then he seems to abandon her in favor of Sara. The writers need to be careful because Oliver is supposed to be on a hero’s journey. Heroes don’t treat their partners like that.

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        1. Hi Paula, I wrote my response below before was able to read your most recent post above (I hope it’s above). I think all those previous details you mention are part of a set up to get us into Felicity’s vulnerabilities and psyche. They developed this closeness with Felicity and Oliver, and we buy it and approve. Then they give us a deep-rooted fear of abandonment, which he assures her about. Then they throw in Sara. Oliver will have people in his life, and they will be important to him, but I don’t think he’s “abandoning” her for Sara, BUT because this episode is through Felicity’s perspective, she may feel that way and we could very well feel what she feels. And because we know what we know, we will feel for her, deeply. So the big thing for me is not how Oliver handles it so much as how Felicity handles it. She’s got a lot things pulling at her and the true test for her is how she comes out of it. I hope it comes out okay, I think it will, but I think with this, there is a lot of potential for growth and new understanding. My hope is that she is honest about her struggle, and Oliver comes out with a better understanding of her, but my hope is that’s it’s her struggle and she takes herself out of it and comes out ahead.

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        2. I don’t think they’re setting Sara and Felicity up to be antagonistic toward each other. I think they’re exploring Felicity’s character and fleshing story out for her (yay!) and setting up a group dynamic in the Arrow cave. But I really don’t think they’re going to have them not like each other just because Oliver’s banging one of them. I’m excited about the Clock King because I get the feeling he won’t be a villain they do a one off thing with and that he’ll be a returning character. *fingers crossed*

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          1. BT & Julie H., I hope you are both right. I am, however, liking Oliver less and less with every comment and sneak peak! I also hate when the writers make Felicity overly jealous. I’m thinking particularly of the “Fantasy Island” comment in 2.09. That seemed out of character.

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      2. Jenny, I don’t think there is a cat-fight situation involved. From TVline:

        “Caity Lotz said that while some viewers are expecting a ‘jealous girlfriend kind of thing,’ the romantic (or at least sexual) nature of Oliver’s connection with Sara is not what gets picked up on. ‘It’s about their closeness, how when there’s someone else in your life, you kind of have to share them,’ Lotz explains. ‘Felicity just wants to make sure that she still has her place in Oliver’s life.'”

        And

        “Contrary to what the logline or the episode suggests, Felicity is not affected when Oliver, Dig and Sara compare battle scars, but instead is discomfited by an intrusion upon her turf. ‘She become intimidated when, out of nowhere, Sara infringes — or so she perceives — on her territory a bit, in terms of something needs to be done on the computer,’ Stephen Amell clarifies. ‘That’s where feathers are ruffled, so Felicity tries to branch out a bit.'”

        This sounds a lot more interesting that two girls fighting over a guy, which would be totally bleah.

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    2. I saw the video and I am okay w/what they are doing. It looks like there’s lots going on with Felicity in terms of conflicts in her life, from a challenging villain that is a direct challenge to her skills to new dynamics in the Arrowcave. I think these are all elements that hit her where she is most vulnerable and Sara doesn’t necessarily take away from that story, but is a part of it: her relationship with Oliver is something Felicity must process in all of this. This is just based on my viewing of the clip though. I think it is good they are placing both emotional and intellectual challenges before Felicity. I think we like her b/c we get a sense of what she is capable of when helping Team Arrow, but her perspective and vulnerabilties are the focus, so that great! Now we get to see what she is capable of when challenged on a very personal level and get to view it from her perspective.

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      1. BT – I hope you are right. Before the end of 2.13, I would have totally agreed, but now I just can’t even guess what the writers of thinking!

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        1. See, I didn’t think Felicity’s been overly jealous at all. Waspish, yeah, but not jealous. Heck, the girl can’t even admit to herself how she feel about Oliver. The thing with Arrow is that it’s an ensemble show. I mean, it’s got a ton of characters. Some get moved to the front in a few eps, some get moved to the back, but in the end, they all get time. Though I think poor Diggle gets the worst of it. I think they’re still trying to find a good balance and how to make it all work, but I really can’t complain about Felicity’s involvement in this season because she really has been quite prominent for most of it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t get impatient when they start shoving characters and their subplots to the forefront that I don’t enjoy, but that’s a problem they’ve had since Season 1 and goes straight back to the horrible character and story impact of Laurel/Oliver/Sara/Lance Family. I just don’t care about any of that and if they drop kicked it into the ocean in the next episode and took the show back to everything else (Quentin can stay, by the way) I’d be thrilled.

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          1. Julie H., I agree with everything you just said. My favorite episodes are when they focus on the three members of Team Arrow, and I think that’s why I have been frustrated with the story lately. I miss Diggle – and I agree that he’s gotten the worst of it. I miss he and Oliver and their talks (and their vodka). I don’t care about the Lance family (expect for Quentin) either. It’s not that I don’t like them – I just don’t care. In fact, I missed part of the Oliver/Sara texting because I took a break when Laurel & Sara were talking. I break then because the story I signed up to watch was about a man on the journey to hero, not about two sisters fighting over a boy. I like your idea of drop kicking the sisters in the ocean or, hey, send the sisters to an island and don’t show us what happens when they get there. I think the Lance Sister Melodrama gets in the way of telling what I see as the story, and there’s not one thing about it I enjoy watching.

            My concern with the current direction of the show is that there are too many characters fighting for scene time. I question how the storytelling will go with so many players in the game. It seems to me that having so many characters leads to sloppy storytelling — for example, the hook up with no set up. If they had set up the scene, I wouldn’t have hated it nearly as much, but there was too much going on in that episode to invest in developing the relationship.

            I read somewhere that the plan for season three is more intimate storytelling. I hope that’s true — as long as it’s the story I enjoy. Ha! 🙂

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      1. That’s my theory too, Jenny, that the Clock King will wind up being her dad. I think we talked about this before. LOL. But I’d love to have them meet in the next ep, go head to head, have him escape and later find out (meaning the viewer, not Felicity) that he’s her dad. I’d love for neither of them to realize who the other person is until later. The show can reveal it ala the mystery woman with the legs at the end of the Fryer’s story. Have the dad & mom meet or call so he can be all, “We need to talk about our daughter,” cue pan to old family photo on the desk with a very young Felicity in it. Cue audience reaction: Oh Snap! But yeah, the Clock King would make total sense as her dad. It’s a theory I’m in love with right now.

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    3. I’m nervous about this upcoming episode too Paula. I want to be more excited about the Felicity focus, but then the show released pics showing Sara seemingly saving Felicity from Clock King. How can Felicity feel more secure about her worth the Team Arrow if Sara has to rescue her? Then there were the ep. dialogue tweets from prod. Marc G. :
      “I’ve loved you half my life” -to Laurel (supposedly from Oliver)- so, what, now it’s time to switch and give some love to your sis?
      “You’ll always be my girl”- Oliver to ?? (I’m hoping it’s to Thea cause if he says that to any of the other ladies I think I’m gonna throw up.
      So not looking forward to this episode as much as I should be cause I’m not trusting the writers right now either.

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  18. To everyone who have been bummed that Sara seems to have taken Felicity’s spotlight. It sucks doesn’t it? Now you know how Laurel fans feel.

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    1. The difference is that Laurel is a weak character, poorly written that drove a lot of people away from the show. Meanwhile Felicity is one of the most popular/liked ones whose hype made a lot of people tune in.

      But I suppose your comment was rhetoric.

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      1. No, her comment was based on her opinion that Laurel isn’t a weak character, which is a perfectly valid opinion.

        Which is why this kind of conversation goes nowhere. I’d delete it, but I’m thinking it’s illustrating why I’m kicking people’s butts other places.

        I don’t care who you ‘ship, just don’t treat opinions as facts on either side.

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        1. I do think her opinion is valid, yes *nods* I just thought her dig at Felicity -fans- was uncalled for, but that’s what your original response was for, so I apologize.

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  19. I saw the Producer’s Preview, and am so very excited for this episode. Perfect timing for this article too, as Felicity now has her own nemesis, and I LIKE HIM! I could be wrong, but the from the looks of it, he is directing his comments TO FELICITY –> “you think no one can touch you in the safety of your hide whole? But I can!” He has the best voice to increase the creep factor!

    So once again we have Felicity becoming the protagonist (correct?) with an even larger antagonist. I really am hoping that this is the main plot of the show. What a great opportunity to show growth and development. I hurt for her in what she is going through with all the doubts she has, but at the same time, weeeeeeeee! I am a little leery given the writers we have; however, so far they appear to be pretty consistent in doing Felicity justice. The fact that I am almost positive he is talking to her DIRECTLY and challenging her — in her “home” no less. This has real promise, I just hope they can pull it off.

    Being that pre 2×13 they were promoting this as a Lance family drama, someone mentioned elsewhere that it could be they didn’t mention the Felicity aspect of this episode prior to 2×13 because they couldn’t mention why she was vulnerable. I don’t know, but I hope this would be the case and that the show runners aren’t trying to promote the liked part of the episode as opposed to the portion being ranted about LOL.

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    1. Claire Rose, I agree. Loved the creepy voice & I think he is talking to Felicity. I just hope the writers deliver on that story.

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    2. Oliver’s always going to be the protagonist of Arrow. That’s unchanging.
      But there may be (I have no idea) a subplot between Slade and Felicity, and in that case, the protagonist is whoever owns that plot.

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      1. Hmmmm, so Oliver will always be the protagonist of the show. But for this next episode, with the Clock King would Felicity be the protagonist of that piece and the Clock King the antagonist — as a subplot to the show? Sorry, I’m a lousy student LOL

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        1. The story of the show is the story of Oliver Queen.
          However, every scene in every story has its own Protagonist/Antagonist dynamic, as does every subplot.
          The main plot is always going to be Oliver fighting crime.
          The subplots should hang off that to complicate or echo the main plot.
          So every unit of narrative–main plot, subplot, scene–has a protagonist and antagonist, but everything is in service to the main plot.
          If that makes sense.

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      2. I think the whole Slade/Felicity thing came about because of Slade’s monologue in 2×09 when he was describing to Blood how he was going to decimate Oliver, and she was shown when he said he was going to “corrupt those he loves.”

        Felicity is such a loyal person that I don’t know that she could be corrupted, especially where Oliver is concerned, especially if her calling Moira’s bluff in the last episode is anything to go by.. but it would be interesting to see Slade take a personal interest in her as a means of getting to Oliver.

        One of the producers said that two massive things were going to pay off towards the end of the season from Felicity’s speech where she talked about her parents and that she was afraid of losing someone important to her. I’m fairly certain we’ll be seeing or at least learning more about one of her parents before the end of the season, so that takes care of one of those things, but as far as her losing someone important to her, I could see Slade using those fears against her in some form or fashion.

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    3. Prior to 2-14/2-13..This coming EP was titled as the ‘lance/laurel’ family ep and NO, Felicity wasn’t even mentioned at all.. EVEN when some fans asked SA during that whole Q/A thing for his FB, SA and the EP etc, said EP 14 was A ‘LAREL/FAMILY’ ep.. I wonder why they lied or changed their tone???

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      1. They didn’t lie. It’s perception. There’s so much plot in these episodes that the next episode could easily be both. They’ll just highlight whichever part of the story seems like it will sell the most viewers, which is basic marketing.

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  20. Question for Jenny: Do you have any idea yet on the topic for the next Arrow Thursdays post, or will that depend on what happens in the episode? (Apologies if this has already been asked and answered; there are a lot of comments here, and I may have missed it.)

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    1. I’ll wait until I see the episode, which will be after everybody else because I don’t get them until the next day. If you have a topic request, let me know.

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      1. I’ll be waiting to read your take on it. I don’t have an interest in watching live; the previews and interviews have left me cold. I am intrigued by the idea of the Clock King being Felicity’s nemesis.

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  21. Jenny, I have learned a lot from your posts regarding aspects of a story especially with regards to a romance. I’m a long time Romance Novel reader and was a soap opera addict for years. I see now how I got twisted when my couple would change mid show to include a new love interest. With soaps they made it some huge betrayal and it was hard to go back and ship your original couple because you had to make so many allowances for why it was okay they broke up in the first place. I realized some time ago I’m a ‘shipper’, there has to be a couple that I can root for in order for me to stay with the show. I’ve left the Mentalist because that just went on too long and there was never a clear indication of Jane and Lisbeth.

    I’ve never really cared about the antagonist but I really enjoyed the Count and Dead Shot. Dead Shot made me more interested in Diggle and the story behind his brother’s murder. I liked China White too, talk about a lady who knows how to run a mission: In, Out, Quick and Effective! Thanks for this space to talk “Arrow” and other fun story related things.

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  22. Now… antagonist discussion.

    I haven’t really been that impressed. In season one, I always wanted the DC villains they introduced to be bigger deals than they were. Which, to be fair, they had to stay grounded in reality then because of the whole “no superpowers” thing. Deadshot was enjoyable but, he’s been more important to Diggle than Oliver, so the gravitas just isn’t there, especially now that Diggle’s barely present.

    Slade, whatever his endgame is for this season, is also lacking presence. We’ve seen more of his minion Blood than we’ve seen of him. I mean, they didn’t even care enough not to spoil his costume reveals in the previews to that episode! Since we’re also supposed to be getting more of the League and the debut of the Suicide Squad (and maybe H.I.V.E. as a separate entity?), I can’t imagine how they are all going to get their just due unless this is just one mass set up of the Big Bad’s for the next however many seasons.

    Moira was a great personal antagonist last season for both Oliver and Malcolm. Her moral ambiguity was fun and also touching. This new “at all costs” Moira though… just, no. Because it’s just her personal interests she is worried about now and she’s also let herself become a pawn for a bunch of men. Again.

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    1. I think episodic TV undercuts the power of the villains because they get defeated in forty minutes. If they didn’t, Oliver would be the most inept superhero in the DC universe. The fact that he’s stopped killing will help that some, but still, defeat in forty minutes.
      Then there’s the Big Bad for the season arc. Buffy always did that so well because the show let you know who it was right off the bat (we didn’t find out about Malcolm until about halfway through the season, I think) and then a lot of the episodes were dealing with lesser villains that were tied to Big Bad in some way. The season with the Mayor was brilliantly done, keeping him front and center and still giving Buffy her weekly victory.
      Slade has the potential to be a great season-arc villain, but we haven’t seen him except for a few growling seconds each episode. As you pointed out, even his minion Blood hasn’t gotten much screen time. So as far as story goes, we haven’t had a season arc which would add gravity and real threat to season story. At this point, Slade is almost a joke. All he does is threaten and kill his own minions. I’m sure he’s going to be great in the last episodes, but he could have been great all season.
      The Suicide Squad has real possibility as long as they pick ONE of them to be the season Big Bad, and then have him use the Squad to give Oliver hell, although the Suicide Squad is supposed to be more like SHIELD, fighting for Homeland Security, than it is an Evil Nemesis Squad, so I’m not sure how that would work.
      Really, what Arrow needs right now is to stop dicking around with all of these emotional family plots that have no consequences, and concentrate on the Oliver vs. Slade plot, sticking to the subplots that are going to support or complicate that conflict, like Moira running against Slade’s minion Blood for mayor, which means that Thea’s parentage is going to become a game piece. I love pretty much all of the subplots they run, but at this point, it’s like getting a double Big Mac with everything on it and finding out they left off the hamburger. (Guess where I had lunch today).

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      1. I remember an interview with Stephen Amell that he said they were setting up two big groups that would go up against each other by the end of the season. Hence an inflated Team Arrow, Slade and his minions, the Suicide Squad, and the League of Assassins. I’d guess Team Arrow could work with the Squad against Slade and the League? Or maybe it’s the other way around, I honestly have no idea at this point. This is probably way too many protagonists and antagonists for just one show.

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        1. I don’t think the Suicide Squad will be working w Slade. They just recruit bad guys. It’s one of those “their ends are just their means are questionable type things. I loved Deadshot and Digg working together in Episode 6! I wouldn’t be surprised if the LOA (or some parts) also joined up with Team Arrow. I can’t see Nyssa going against Sara (I don’t think their story is finished). And then we still have Malcolm and the Thea issue, so who knows if he will show back up and what side he will be on. This is going to be so good. I can’t wait!

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          1. I’m tending to think it’ll be Team Arrow + Suicide Squad + League of Assassins against Slade/Blood & his army of super soldiers. Reminds me of the battle in the X-Men.

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          2. Ooh, Julie H., I think you might be on to something that it’s gonna be all Teams against Slade’s super-soldier army. If you guys will humor me for going a bit off-topic–

            I’ve been thinking about this: if to make the Mirakuru serum you need the blood of a super-soldier [I don’t know this for sure, but I’m assuming because why would only Slade’s blood be that special?], then the only solution to this would be to kill ALL the soldiers, or, you know, couple of years from now some other mad scientist might wanna do it again. And this is the season of no-kill, so that doesn’t make much sense.

            I find it interesting that the way they introduced superpowers was through “science”, so I’ve been wondering when will someone figure out that maybe the way to solve this problem is not through fighting — it’s someone figuring out an antidote for the Mirakuru. Of course, the only chracter who could come up with that is Barry, and I’m not sure they’ll wake him up before The Flash pilot. But I remember Amell mentioned on the Dallas Expo panel that someone from Central City would show up by the end of the season. Maybe it’s Barry, or maybe it’s someone else that works on S.T.A.R. Labs [they did cast a bunch of people for the Flash pilot]. And the big fight wouldn’t be so much about killing the super-soldiers, but about keeping them distracted while Barry [or random scientist] and Felicity figure out a way to administer the antidote to an army of super strong angry dudes.

            Anyway. I’m just speculating, but an antidote would make it possible for Slade to survive, even. And it would make Felicity’s role relevant in this possible big final battle scenario.

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  23. Laurel becoming a villain or a semi-villain is very interesting for me and i would like to watch that.Unlike, most of you i like Oliver and Sara. I think that they are honoring GA/BC canon here and that romance is not for long run. We don’t even know if Sara lives in S3. I like idea of Slade/Felicity, i already wrote it, not like relationship but i would like to see him fall for her somehow somewhere just a little… Because i noticed parallels between Shado and Felicity long time ago, and maybe Felicity could have a similar impact on them both (Oliver and Slade).

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    1. I still don’t really see any parallels between Felicity and Shado in relation to Oliver. Oliver did not love Shado at least not like Slade loved her. I seriously don’t see any difference between her and the other women he’s been in relationships with. He only gives a piece of himself. I think a lot of his relationship with Shado simply had to do with surviving the Island and trying to find a little “happiness” while doing so. I feel he held himself back with her because he always thought he would get off the Island and try to make amends with Laurel. I do think he has the potential to really love Felicity like he’s never loved anyone. If anything he respected Shado for everything she taught him.

      Maybe there’s a parallel between Felicity and Oliver and Shado and Slade? I don’t really don’t see this either. Slade’s feelings are one sided and so are Felicity’s? That’s a stretch. Island- Slade loved Shado. Shado loved Oliver. Oliver loved Laurel. Now- Felicity loves Oliver. Oliver loves Laurel? Yeah, no I don’t see parallels here either.

      So maybe Shado and Felicity are parallels of each other? To me they are not that similar. Oliver was so different back then it’s also hard to compare their interactions with Oliver. They treat him different but circumstances are different.

      I just want to know if Felicity is “used” by Slade how Slade would even know Felicity’s relation to Oliver as more than just his EA. He’s “with” Sara now and he really has not outwardly demonstrated any sort of affection for Felicity. I think it’s all been internal for Oliver about Felicity. Unless, Slade is walking inside of his head, I just don’t see how Felicity is involved in his plan. I think the montage was for the audience’s sake, not necessarily what Slade was thinking. If the choice thing does come into play I think Slade’s targets will be Laurel and Sara. Oliver choosing to save Sara over Shado has to mean something at least in why Slade would think Oliver would choose Sara over Shado. Did Oliver choose Sara because of Laurel? And now in light of recent events Did Oliver choose Sara because it was Sara? I would think that Slade would know that Sara and Oliver are together. In the promo he did say something about changing the focus. Anyway, who knows, interesting stuff though. Slade is a great antagonist!

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      1. And just to add, even if Slade knows about Oliver and Felicity’s relationship via Team Arrow, I don’t see how outwardly Felicity’s relationship with Oliver is any different than Diggle’s is with Oliver and Diggle wasn’t shown in Slade’s montage thingy.

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        1. He knows Oliver is the Arrow. He would be able to follow that the Arrow no longer kills…but that, to save Felicity Smoak, the Arrow killed the Count and put three arrows in him. It was in the news. Barry mentioned it to Felicity in “The Scientist.”

          Remember, Oliver killed Fyers to save Shado. That would point to much deeper feelings for Felicity than an EA.

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          1. If Oliver really loved Shado, at least as the montage would have us assuming, like Slade thinks Oliver loves Felicity then he would never have picked Sara over her. ( I was a little surprised when Oliver specifically said that he chose Sara. I thought his feelings were a little deeper, though I never was under the impression that he loved her.)

            That’s a lot of assuming on Slade’s part from one incident (The Count), especially if he likens it to the incident with Fyers. Not sure I understand the comparisons you make. Are you saying Slade thinks Oliver loves (or at least feels something more than employer/employee) Felicity because he killed the Count after he made the vow of no more killing. (Also, was this a public vow? Could it be that people noticed he wasn’t killing anymore, not that he told people besides Team Arrow/Lance that he wasn’t.). I seriously don’t think Slade thinks Oliver ever loved Shado. He blames Oliver for the death of the woman HE loved. I don’t think he’s looking too much past this. The drug kinda warped his mind.

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        2. I didn’t explain myself. I meant parallels in terms of effect on them. Shado had deep effect on both Oliver and Slade. Felicity, i hope, has on Oliver, so i was talkning about that. You’re over-analyzing a bit 🙂

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          1. There is no such thing as over-analyzing.
            I think there are parallels there. For example, neither of them has admitted their feelings. Slade says he waited too long to tell Shado; maybe he’s going to put Oliver in the same position.

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          2. I do see the connections between Oliver and Felicity and Slade and Shado. I just don’t see how Slade would know that Felicity is his Shado.

            I think a great parallel between Oliver and Slade was shown in the Dollmaker. Slade was telling Oliver that women were a distraction and to not form attachments. This was after Shado decided to stay behind and Oliver felt that she should have come with them. Slade proceeds to say that it was her life and her choice. Felicity echos these same words when offering herself as bait for the Dollmaker. I felt the writers had her say that as a reminder to Oliver of Slade’s words. Keep your distance. Do not become attached.

            I admit I was confused by Slade’s line to Shado about telling her sooner. I was never under the impression that Shado had any feelings for anyone but Oliver. What would have telling her sooner have done? My friend is under the impression that he was referring to a conversation off screen (while Oliver was on the freighter) where he admitted his feelings to Shado and she reciprocated those feelings and they had a brief time together where they were happy together. In this case his line to her was because he was dying and if he told her sooner then they would have had longer to be together. With her theory they were suppose to show the conversation between Shado and Slade in the form of a flashback. After Slade told Oliver that he was the man she loved this theory went out the window, lol. Maybe if he told her before she got together with Oliver she could have loved him instead? Felicity already loved Oliver before he realized it himself. I’m still not too sure that he fully realizes it.

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          3. Since Slade is calling the shots (shaping the narrative), all that matters is what he thinks. Since he thinks that Felicity is somebody Oliver loves (when he said “corrupt those you love” he thought of Felicity), the parallel is there in Slade’s mind.
            Everything else is speculation about who did what when and doesn’t matter. All you need to determine his motivation as a character is what his character thinks. One thing that will make you crazy when analyzing story is to start thinking the characters are people instead of characters. Logically, Slade can’t know that Oliver has feelings for Felicity; Oliver doesn’t even know if he has feelings for Felicity. But the character knows that anyway because he’s a character in a narrative and the writers have shown that he thinks that.

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      2. Slade has a lot of ways to know that Felicity is more than just Oliver’s EA. First, he has the news articles that noted that Arrow shot and killed the Count while saving Felicity. If Slade has been paying attention, and he probably has, that’s was only the second death associated with Oliver post the island. Second, he has Sebastian Blood’s dirty cop, who may very well have known that Quentin and Felicity are in contact about the Count. Third, since Slade, unlike Blood, knows perfectly well who Arrow is, Slade can keep an eye on Oliver and notice that, wow, both Oliver and Felicity go to the Foundry/club a lot. In their public personas Oliver and Felicity can handwave that off as getting drinks post work and that Oliver owns the club, but Slade knows better.

        If Slade is working with Isobel, he also has heard the company rumors that Oliver and Felicity are sleeping together.

        Slade was one of the people who pointed out well back in the first season that Laurel and Oliver were never going to work out and Oliver needed to give Laurel up. Slade also seemed skeptical about Oliver’s feelings for Laurel, given the running away on the boat with her sister. And he knows that Laurel and Oliver aren’t in a relationship now – he ordered Blood to go out with Laurel, which only worked because Laurel wasn’t dating Oliver.

        The much, much larger question is what’s going to happen when Slade finds out that Oliver is back with Sara, because I don’t see how Slade could know that yet, and of everyone in the show, I think Slade is going to have the worst reaction to this. Quite possibly making the viewer reaction look like nothing.

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        1. But shouldn’t it make sense why Slade thinks the way he does? I don’t really see the Roy or Detective Lance thing either. Like why would he think about those people when it would have made more sense to use other people, Diggle, Thea, etc. Diggle or Felicity would be more of the followers than Roy. Roy wasn’t even part of the then. Also, he cares about Detective Lance more than Thea? I’m confused, lol. I need to stop thinking.

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          1. Yes, it should.
            When Slade thought of Felicity in connection with “people you love,” I thought it was odd because it was Laurel’s picture Oliver carried with him on the island. The writers may have done that on purpose to create mystery and the solution will be revealed later (like Isabel is working with him and that’s where he gets his info, Blood had a guy in the police station so he might have known that the Arrow worked closely with Quentin, etc.) or they may just have decided that that’s what Slade thinks and made it happen. Given that these writers are good, I’m betting that there’s a reason Slade knows all of this.

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          2. “Slade has a lot of ways to know that Felicity is more than just Oliver’s EA. ”
            – Chris

            Yep. I won’t be at all shocked if Isabel is working with Slade, and if she thinks Oliver and Felicity are sexing each other up (despite Oliver’s denials) then she’s shared that information with Slade and so he thinks they’re sleeping together. Even if Isabel isn’t working for him, it appears everybody at QC thinks it, so Slade could have gleaned that information via his spying. Either way, he knows Oliver and Felicity spend a lot of time together and that he obviously cares about her. There’s love and then there’s Love. Either way… Felicity is a weak spot for Oliver.

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          3. He’s supposedly having sex with Felicity but then has sex with Isabel? (Don’t know exactly what this says about Felicity’s role in Oliver’s life, especially from someone (Isabel) looking in. I wonder if she reported that back to Slade. That’s assuming she’s working for Slade. (I tend to think her connections are more with the LOA because of the Moira angle, but I guess it could be both). I get what you guys are saying, but it’s all based on Slade assuming things. This is a tv show. I’d rather see it I guess.

            Also, how is Sara different from Felicity from an assumption POV? He’s actually in a relationship with her. We/They get to witness this. And he chose to save her.

            Also, he really did stare at that pic of Laurel it seemed like every episode last season, lol. And it was mentioned by Shado in the presence (though in the background) of Slade when she asked Oliver about Sara when they hooked up on the Island. Shado deduced that Sara was the sister of the woman he loved. The woman in the picture. This was either in the Scientist or Three Ghosts, can’t remember which, but shortly before Slade reveal.

            I guess my question is why assumptions have more weight than actual fact when it comes to deductions?

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          4. Do you mean why would Slade the character assume Felicity is the love interest when he knows Laurel was?

            Because his character is a master-of-the-world guy, so he’d have up to date intel, and Oliver has dated everybody but Laurel since he got back. And I think there was a line that wasn’t Isabel’s (Diggle’s?) that said that everybody at Queen Consolidated thought that was how Felicity got her promotion. That’s a lot of people; it wouldn’t take much intel to find that out.

            But because the writers haven’t put that information on the page, we don’t know. What we do know is that Slade thinks Oliver loves Felicity, although he didn’t specify what kind of love. Slade knows a lot of things, like the fact that Oliver is the guy in the hood. I’d just roll with it for now because it’s not a plot hole; it’s entirely plausible he’d be up to date on any gossip or rumor about Oliver.

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          5. Yes, why would Slade think this.

            It was Isabel who said that. Oliver laughed it off and said they were just friends.

            I don’t think it’s a plot hole and I do think it will be explained. I don’t think what Slade thinks and says during the monologue are reflected in the clips they showed. Basically, I think he thinks one thing but they showed something else. For example, with the Felicity clip, the audience was privy to Oliver’s real feelings, but Slade thinks he loves Laurel, so proceeds to corrupt Laurel… Tells Blood to get close to her, etc.

            I don’t know if this is some sort of formula… give insight to the audience but have the character think something else or if I am totally off base. Does this make sense?

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          6. I think if they show the clip while he’s speaking, it’s what he’s thinking. Otherwise there’s no reason to show the clip.
            But I could be wrong. I often am.

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          7. We have no idea how long Slade has been in Starling City or all who he has on his payroll, but we do know that he’s been keeping up with everything that’s been going on as far as Oliver/Arrow is concerned.

            Quentin got charged with obstruction for helping Arrow go after the Doll Maker, so it’s not hard for anyone paying attention to see the connection there. Quentin represents the law and he’s helping Arrow. He’s also Laurel and Sara’s father. Turning him against Oliver is actually a good move on Slade’s part because it eliminates an ally.

            Roy has been snooping around ever since Max’s death and Blood’s blood drive, and Arrow came to his rescue, killing Cyrus Gold. He’s also Thea’s boyfriend and he’s been injected with the Mirakuru. Turning him against Oliver/Arrow, especially with his newfound strength, also eliminates another ally.

            Like a few people have already mentioned, there’s love and then there’s LOVE, but either way it’s obvious that Oliver cares about Felicity, so even if Slade doesn’t know that there’s some sort of romantic feelings there, if in fact there is, he at least knows that Felicity is important to Oliver, important enough for him to put three arrows into the Count’s chest and break his “no kill” policy. Add in the rumors of them sleeping together and she’s as easy a target as they come.

            Of course, this is all speculation until Slade actually voices his reasoning for going after them, if he ever does, but it’s not that far-fetched to see why he would either IMO.

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        2. If Slade’s been paying attention, there are actually at least two dozen deaths associated with Oliver after the island, not just the Count’s. We know Slade knows Oliver is The Arrow. In 1×16, Quentin takes Thea and Roy down to the morgue and shows them one of the vigilante’s many “victims”. So I don’t particularly see Slade thinking Felicity is special just because Oliver killed for her.

          The rest of your ideas hold and, I think, the fact that Oliver and Laurel haven’t been so close this season may just end up saving Laurel’s life if Slade thinks she’s not important anymore.

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          1. The three arrows are significant, though. That’s something Slade would notice.

            And yes, I think you’re right, Laurel probably just dodged a bullet.

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          2. After he returned from the island the second time around, Oliver implemented his “no kill” policy though. If I was Slade and I was paying attention, something like that would stand out to me, especially since Oliver was dropping bodies like flies before the quake and now he’s leaving them alive for the cops to find. The first time he killed this season was to save Felicity, and it was something that was obviously made public since Barry read about it. Again, if I was Slade, I would be curious as to what drove Oliver to finally kill someone after going months without doing so, and finding out that it was for Felicity, who also happens to be his EA who goes practically everywhere with him and who the majority of QC assumes is sleeping with him, would raise some red flags.

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    2. I was thinking about the Laurel the villain thing after questioning her purpose on the show and which direction the writers could/should take her and I came to the conclusion, at least in regards to this that it probably isn’t a possibility. The baddies are rarely regulars, only MB this season and he’s also on the island. This show doesn’t really have a resident villain and I don’t think they’d change source material that much to make her one. And I don’t see her as one. Maybe semi-baddie. I doubt the actress would be demoted to recurring from regular.

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  24. I agree that Arrow has done very well with creating and writing of antagonists for the most part. I feel that they have been more successful with writing the long term antagonists, such as Malcom, Slade, Moira. These characters are multidimensional. The villains of the week are not as strong. Some are written well and others are forgettable. I liked Count Vertigo, although the character has been criticized by other fans as too over the top. (And also a Joker ripoff) I would agree that his first appearance in S1 I found the performance a bit too manic for my taste. However, I think the writing for the character for his final appearance in S2 was well done and I enjoyed the quips and the interaction with Oliver. I felt Shrapnel was weak and underdeveloped. And the villain played by David Anders from S1 was pretty boring in my opinion. Isabel Rochev hasn’t been utilized well. I was really hoping to see her character as a much bigger nemesis for Oliver, although the QC company in jeopardy storyline seems to have disappeared. That being said, Clock King looks to be an interesting character and I am hoping that he won’t be killed off so that he can return again to cause problems for Felicity.

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  25. This post has blown my mind about everything I thought about backstory up ’til now. I just completely understood why I find the island scenes so boring [not so much in season 2, but I still never rewatch those scenes after the first view] — I really don’t need them to be able to relate to Oliver.

    And another thing is that one persistent thing fandom has been pointing out to the producers [and media coverage has picked up on it as well, and asked about it in interviews] is that everybody wants to know more about Felicity’s background. And I have to admit up until I read these comments, I was pretty sure I wanted it too. But now I realize that unless it drives Felicity’s story in the now, it really makes no difference to how I see her, or feel about her, if I know where she grew up, or how many boyfriends she had on MIT. I already know everything that makes me like her so much.

    Of course, I still wanna see where she lives because I’m a sucker for fictional homes mirroring their owners, but I’m fine with seeing the Arrowcave as her space for now.

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    1. Where somebody lives tells you a lot about who they are now, too. Laurel has a great apartment, and I remember in the first season, Oliver saying something like “It looks just the same,” which told you a lot about how she’d shut off that part of herself after the betrayal loss and just concentrated on her career.

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      1. I was confused by that line, actually, because at the end of the first season, she suggested they move in together. Then, in the last episode, she seems to live with her parents and tells Sara she and Oliver are going to start looking at apartments together. So, I don’t quite understand why Oliver would say her apartment looks the same if she supposedly didn’t have it when he disappeared 5 years ago…otherwise, why didn’t they just move into her apartment? Tommy did it.

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        1. Tommy moved in when he was poor.
          Oliver was the son of a billionaire. I would imagine they’d move up, especially if she was planning on marriage which is when people start wanting things like dining rooms and more than one bathroom.

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  26. Slightly off-topic but an antagonists question so I hope this is ok? Can the antagonist ever be a part of the protagonist’s self – ie guilt feelings that they can’t lay to rest, or is it always better to externalise that in another character? (I hope that makes sense!)

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    1. Nope.
      You’re talking about internal conflict, which is great for sparking character arc but can’t move plot because it’s the character sitting in one place silently beating himself up. So all he’d have to do to end the conflict is change his mind.

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  27. Ah got it – so does it fix the problem if I externalise it, so there is another character to act as antagonist for that character arc (it’s a sub plot not the main plot), ie someone who is convinced that the protagonist _should_ feel/is guilty? Or do I just leave it as an internal conflict arc? (Thank you, Jenny!)

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  28. Someone in an earlier post said that “Shado” deduced that Sara was Laurel’s sister. No, she did not. Shado asked him who Sara was and Oliver told her. I LOVED the look of contempt on Shado’s face when he told her.

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    1. That was me. I remembered she deduced something because she said the lines “the woman in the picture. The woman you loved.” Or something close to that. My point was about the words she said about Laurel not about Sara or deduction, so just forget that part, lol.

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  29. “Re: Felicity’s back story. Frankly, I’d have liked to have seen her “abandonment” issues shown to us before they just had her tell us. …Like Jenny said a couple posts ago when I thought Sara might be Oracle, “Nope, gotta see it on the screen.”
    – CJ

    Now see, to me, there clearly were hints of Felicity’s family life already on the screen. It was in the way she behaved and reacted to people, her relationship with Walter, her loyalty to him because he was nice to her, etc, etc, etc. But until a character says it on the screen, like Felicity just did in the last episode, it’s not a confirmed “known” fact. So I’m not sure what you mean when you refer back to that ‘Nope, gotta see it on the screen,’ because we did. You have to start somewhere with back story and sometimes it comes out as dialogue. It’s like Diggle telling use about his experience as a soldier and how he killed rebels that turned out to be kids. I guess I’m just not sure what you mean when you say you wanted to be “shown it” on the screen before she told us or what the difference is there.

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    1. It felt to me as if it came out of nowhere, and it was a little clunky in that it seemed an odd time to be explaining it to Oliver in the seconds before he went up to speak. Not telling him about Moira, that she had to tell him, but it felt like she was saying, “I have to tell you something about your mother, but first, let me give you a little background on me.” Odd.

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      1. It did seem like a strange segue into telling him about his mother, but to me, it was more because we didn’t actually see her tell Oliver what exactly happened. Like, if she told him that Moira threatened her and told her that Oliver would hate her for telling him the truth, her prefacing it by telling him about her abandonment issues would have made more sense, I think, because it would have explained why she was so hesitant to do so and why she’s been so preoccupied in the days prior.

        But once she dropped that bit of backstory, to use Felicity’s own words, everything about her became so unbelievably clear. The fact that she started building computers when she was 7, her saying that people lie but computers don’t, the fact that she was willing to go along with Oliver’s crusade to help find Walter because he was “nice” to her, her spending so much time with Barry while he’s in a coma, and the most telling was when Oliver was leaving to go fight Cyrus Gold and told her that he’d come back and she asked him to promise her.

        Suddenly, all of those little nuggets made complete sense.

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        1. It’s funny, Abby, because I loved that they didn’t show us Felicity telling Oliver what happened because we’d already seen it (the Moira/Felicity exchange) so we would have had to sit through it then listen to it recapped. I thought it was a great transition to flip forward to Oliver’s face as they announced him coming to the stage to pimp her. I loved the way that was visually framed by the camera.

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          1. The problem with them not showing it though is that we have no idea exactly how much Felicity told Oliver about what happened which lent to, as Jenny said, the clunky feel of the scene. After going into such detail about her own family, Oliver sensibly asked “Is this about your family?” which is a logical question after what she had just told him, but then she said, “No, it’s about yours.”

            So, it was kind of like.. “Okay then.”

            I’ve seen a lot of people speculate that she didn’t tell Oliver about Moira’s threat and just told him that Thea was Malcolm’s daughter and that his mother has been lying, and in that case, while her hesitancy to tell him would have been understandable, it really wouldn’t have explained why she felt the need to tell him about her father leaving and how much it hurt. Oliver quickly caught on that she was afraid of losing him, but again, unless she told him about Moira’s threat, it wouldn’t really explain why she was afraid exactly.

            I enjoyed the scene all the same, and I do understand why they didn’t show her actually telling him since we, the audience, already knew what she was going to say, but there seems to be some question as to how much she actually told Oliver about her encounter with Moira.

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        2. I don’t see how building computers when she was 7 is indicative of a fear of abandonment. It’s not even indicative of not like people, it’s just a kid who likes to take things apart and put them together. “People lie, computers don’t” doesn’t say fear of abandonment to me, it says that somebody lied to her in the past. Helping to find Walter and sticking by Barry are both signs of loyalty; it don’t see is it as fear of abandonment.
          The last one, yep, but that could also just be Felicity afraid for a man she loves. She didn’t say it to Diggle when he let himself be captured and sent to a Russian gulag. And at the time, my reaction was, “She loves him,” not “She’s afraid he’ll abandon her by dying.”
          All of those things are indicative of a warm, caring, loyal person, the kind of cues you put in the page for somebody who cares about people. People who have abandonment fears tend to be clingy, and she’s not. If they really wanted to build her character from the beginning with abandonment issues, she wouldn’t have walked out on Oliver the times she disagreed with him. She wouldn’t have fought with him at all, she’d have been holding on for dear life.
          It feels like a retcon, the same way Sara’s “Hey, Laurel was awful first” came out nowhere.
          Although I’m not judging; I wouldn’t want to be replotting on the fly the way these writers are doing.

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          1. When I said that everything suddenly became clear, for me, I didn’t mean that each individual situation taken separately screamed “abandonment issues,” but looking back at the things that we do know about her and the way she reacted to certain situations, it made sense, to me at least.

            Not everyone with abandonment issues are clingy. Some people tend to become even more reclusive, which is what I saw happen to Felicity. Her father abandoned her at a young age and it obviously devastated her, and rather than allow herself to open up to people and risk the chance of that happening again, she turned to something that couldn’t walk away from her… a computer.

            The few people that she did let in, to whatever degree, she has been shown to go above and beyond try to be there for them. Yes, it is loyalty in a sense, but, in the case of Barry and Walter, I saw it as her not abandoning them, especially Barry. She knew that his mother was dead and his father was in prison, and there he was in a coma. We never saw her in Central City, so we have no idea how many people are actually there to look after Barry, but Felicity didn’t just abandon him. She kept going to see him and keep him company even though he has no idea she’s there.

            So like I said, looking back on the tidbits that we do know about her, finding out that she does indeed have abandonment issues didn’t really come out of the blue for me. It just sort of made things fall into place.

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          2. Also, couldn’t those characteristics of being clingy, reclusive, loyal, etc., be seen as by-products of abandonment in some way? Like sequelae to a disease almost?

            Because Felicity was abandoned, she’s very protective of her “family” and tries to keep it intact which is why she tried to get Oliver to apologize to Diggle and jumped out of a plane despite her fear of heights to go find Oliver on Lian Yu?

            Because she was abandoned and knows what it feels like, she refuses to do the same to someone else which is why she wanted to try to help find Walter when she realized he was in trouble and why she’s there for Barry?

            I know that those traits are not exclusive to someone who has been abandoned, but since hindsight is 20/20, I do think that they can be traced back to it once you’ve been given the “diagnosis” so to speak.

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          3. It’s the Barnum effect (and I’m not criticizing the writers for using it at all).
            It’s the reason people read their horoscopes and say, “My god, it’s true!” People fill in the blanks on things they want to believe in. In storytelling, that’s good, you like the story so much, that you want to believe.
            There’s a Sherlock episode called “A Scandal in Belgravia” that I adore. Every time I watch it, I’m amazed all over again by how damn good it is. A friend of mine, Laura, analyzed it and pointed out all the plot holes in it that I’d filled in because I love the story so much I wanted it to work. Even I could see that the ending was flat out ridiculous, would never happen in a million years. I don’t care, I want to believe.
            I think the Arrow writers have constructed such vivid, active world filled with such fascinating characters that we want to believe in that we’re will to fill in a lot of holes, especially when they patch them for us.
            Julie, was it you who told me about the Raiders episode of The Big Bang Theory? Because I watched it, and that’s exactly what generations of Raiders‘ lovers have done: filled in the blank spaces so we didn’t notice the big structure problem there. And even now that I see it, I don’t care. I will fill in those plot holes without a second’s thought because I love that movie.

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          4. I wonder if that’s why they’re going to insinuate that Felicity has no close relationships in her life — a few of letting people in, letting herself care about them, only to have them leave/abandon her, so it’s easier to just keep the walls up and not get attached. Getting involved in Team Arrow definitely put her in the middle of all the stuff she’d fear. Of course I could analyze that to What If death. LOL. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers go, if they go anywhere with it. Though I can’t say I’m sorry they’ve steered away from the clingy thing cause that would bug me.

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          5. I think Felicity’s fear of abandonment manifests itself in her desire to be useful. Demonstrating her usefulness is her version of clinging. Being told she’s doing a good job is what she responds to more than anything else. Oliver had her from “you’re remarkable.” I think she probably had a very exacting mother who had extremely high expectations and offered little praise. I don’t think it’s simply that Oliver admiring her abilities is flattering. I think it reassures her that she has a purpose, and as long as she has a purpose, she has a place.

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          6. Or it could come from parents who pushed her to succeed.
            Or it could come from parents who told her she’d never amount to anything and so she’s desperate to please.
            Or she comes from a family that has been dedicated to service and this is how she interprets it.
            Or she just likes computers and loves how they work and loves showing people what she can do with them.
            Or she could have been born a Virgo.
            It’s the white space thing. Writers push readers in a certain direction and leave the space for readers to fill in the blanks. If it’s a direction they want to go in, they’ll fill in the blanks to make it happen, interpreting the gap to fit their own experiences, which is why every novel is a collaboration. This show really uses white space well which isn’t that common in TV which tends to want to control every aspect of story.

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      2. Ah, okay, that I get. And yes, it did seem clunky. I thought it was awkwardly worded/done but I wasn’t sure what CJ meant about it compared to what you (Jenny) meant when talking about Sarah being Oracle and the whole “Nope, gotta see it on the screen.” Because I get the sara/oracle issue. There’s been nothing on the screen to this point that even whispers that Sara has any computer skills. Obviously that can change in the next episode, but I always figured Felicity came a fractured/troubled family because of the way her character’s been shown so far.

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        1. Wait. I’m going to correct myself. Technically speaking (no pun intended) I guess you could argue that Sara’s “canary cry” being a technological device could intimate that these assassins are not unfamiliar with using technology in their approaches. But hm. Does knowing how to use a device necessarily mean you can sit down at a computer and hack? I’m assuming Oracle can do that kind of stuff because, again, I know very little about exactly what the traditional Oracle figure can actually do with a computer.

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        2. You’re right. There has been nothing on screen that points to Sara having computer skills. But would you just accept it straight out that her skills are close ennough to Felicity’s that she’s going to be able to infringe on F’s territory if it she throws it out there she went to college for computer programming? Or would it make you roll your eyes at how convenient it is?

          I feel like a lot of what we get told about Felicity is the same thing. Maybe not so much her personal background, because hind-sight being 20/20, I can see the connections people made now but just her overall skill-set. But, sorry, her dropping that bit of information was still way heavy-handed.

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          1. CJ I don’t quite understand the correlation between the two. Having a skill set to match Felicity’s would IMO take years about years to achieve. Felicity has been doing this since she was 7. Sara from what we saw in flashbacks was like a female Ollie. A party girl of sorts. Kind of troubled hence Quentin’s little quip about her in 2.13 in the flashbacks. Laurel was obviously the mature, dependable one albeit a bit delusional where Ollie was concerned. So I really doubt education was that important to her. A skill set that takes years to learn is different than a back story being told onscreen. One is a fact. “Yo, my father left me as a kid” which unfortunately happens to kids these days, coming from broken homes. The other is a highly advanced set of skills would be difficult to master in a few years although I think the League probably taught her all sorts of stuff, I just don’t see her being able to have Felicity’s level of intelligence in that area. If she does I’d be surprised honestly. She may know a bit more than basics but to be on the same wave length as Felicity in a few years with the LOA? Doubtful. So yeah, I’m not understanding what the correlation between the two is.

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          2. Hmmm…. Sam, see I would be surprised if Sara picked up other skills as an assassin. I mean, think about what Oliver’s had to get by to get into the compounds of bad guys (security systems etc). He knew how to get into bank stuff and transfer money out. So it wouldn’t be a shock to me if — during her assassination days — she picked up a bunch of other skills. We do live in a high tech world and people who have assassins after their butts generally have money and security/technology to hide behind.

            Would it have been nice to have the show acknowledge that earlier (like Sara getting into the Starling City PD or through security system or something)? Sure. it certainly would have flowed into the story more smoothly if they’d done that.

            Now, definite eye roll worthy material to me would be if you shot a character who knew how to defuse a bomb only to have Character C leap in and disarm it, turn to everybody and say, “Oh, did I never mention in the 5 years of the show that I once took classes in explosives?” LOL.

            So while I guess I see the interjection of Felicity’s backstory in that moment as clunky and awkward, is it on the same What The…?! level I would if Character C jumped in and disarmed the bomb or conveniently had some medical virus knowledge during a sudden epidemic? I’m just trying to figure out if I look at clunkily inserted backstory information the same way. I honestly don’t know.

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          3. Crank! That was supposed to be: Hmmm…. Sam, see I *wouldn’t* be surprised if Sara picked up other skills as an assassin.

            Grrrr. Stupid typos.

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          4. CJ, I don’t see Sara’s computer/technological skills as similar to Felicity’s right now. We do know when Diggle tried using the medical charger to revive Oliver’s heart in 1×14, Felicity knew the wiring needed to be fixed and did so on the spot. We also know at the end of that episode she upgraded Oliver’s computer network because “Your system looked like it was from the 80s and not the good part of the 80s…” In the second season opener we learned not only did she remodel the entire Arrow cave, she had Oliver’s bow custom made to fit his hand. For Sara’s skill-set to be on a similar level, I think she would need more than just taking college computer programming courses.

            I would’ve agreed with you if Sara upgraded outdated machines found on the island and on the freighter. We would’ve had enough on screen evidence.

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          1. They’re two different things.

            Isolation that a character chooses is a state of being used as a coping mechanism. If you’re going to arc that character, you’ll move him or her from isolation to connection. The choice could be motivated by any number of things–shame, guilt, fear of being hurt, etc.–but it’s a state of being, not a state of feeling.

            Fear of abandonment is a motivation, any fear is a motivation, as in “I’m afraid, therefore I do this.” Fear can motivate any number of thing including lashing out at people to keep them at a distance or clinging to security mechanisms (like isolation).

            So fear of abandonment can lead to isolation, but it could lead to other things, too, and the isolation could be caused by other things.

            Yeah, writers think about this stuff a lot in the rewrites.

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      3. Jenny, I think she was in the mindset that Moira had planted that seed of doubt, so she was constantly thinking “I can’t lose Oliver, what if I lose Oliver” so she felt she had to tell him of her dad and how much it hurt her when he left her, to give him insight of this issue she has just in case he was upset at her after finding out the truth from her. I think Moira (not really knowing these deep seeded issues within Felicity) struck a nerve with Felicity and it hit all her fears and doubts where she finally felt the need to maybe be more open and vulnerable than she had before so Oliver could know where she was coming from. That she couldn’t lose someone that important again. She wanted to inform him about her fear. I think it was one of those things where you think about it for days, and when the person keeps poking and prodding you, then you just start spilling it. That was my point of view on that. I think it was an odd place to tell him the truth considering he was about to go up and give the introduction, however it was for drama effect and the tension (which made for a good scene IMO) and also because I think Oliver didn’t seem like he was going to let her off the hook, because he was clearly bothered by whatever it was that was bothering her, so he had to know.

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        1. I think this is a hallmark of really good character construction that you can take how you feel about Felicity and extrapolate that she felt this way. But this is you collaborating with the writers. None of that is on the page or screen; the writers gave you a character, and then they had the character say something, and they left a white space in between, and you filled it in. It could just as easily been filled in with Felicity afraid she’ll lose her job and telling Oliver she has abandonment issues so he’ll feel sorry for her. That’s not your interpretation of Felicity (nor mine), but somebody who doesn’t like her could fill in that white space that way.
          I think the opposite happens with Laurel. There’s white space there to fill in, and because many people don’t like her, they fill in the white space in the worst possible way, while the people who do like her fill it in differently. Then they look at each other in annoyance because they’re talking about two different characters based on how they filled in the white space.
          I think Felicity’s statement should be taken at face value, she doesn’t lie, but looking at how the character has been built on the page, I see nothing before that statement that really supports it, and quite a bit that doesn’t, which is why it feels like a character patch instead of something set up before.

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          1. I think a lot about a lot of characters on Arrow feels patchy. I think it’s one of the reasons why comments about wanting the show to be more “intimate” because whiel the writers have done great things with the action plot a lot of the character development stuff has kind of faltered. Thea is a great example.

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          2. I think so, too, but I also have a lot of admiration for writers who are retconning on the fly. They had a master plan for the first season, they’d have been idiots not to, and they scrapped a lot of it and went in new directions and that takes guts. For all I bitch about some of the things they haven’t set up well, it’s pretty much me sitting up in the stands criticizing the way they execute a triple axel while they’re down on the ice actually executing the triple axel. If this were a novel, I’d be going back to foreshadow everything that’s happening now; they can’t, so they patch.
            I think next season is going to be interesting because so much of their discovery work is getting done now. When you write a novel, the first draft is all discovery; you write it to discover who your characters are, how they interact on the page, and there are always surprises and the story always shifts. I’ve studied several TV series in the past six months, and almost every one used the first season and usually the second as discovery, adapting as they went, adding characters, dropping characters, but mostly honing characters. Once they had their world and characters figured out, they could play with them, arc them, throw new things at them, explore them, but first they had to discover what happened when what the writers wrote met the director’s vision and the actor’s interpretation.
            I can see the same thing happening with Arrow; the big difference with Arrow is that these writers are plot junkies, which I love. They put five or six episodes worth of plot into forty minutes every time. So the amount of story they’re juggling while they do discovery is just enormous.
            Meanwhile, I sit over here and say, “That looks like a patch on the triple axel.” Yeah, it was, but they still hit the triple axel.

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          3. LOL Jenny, I know what you mean. Arrow’s a great show and I have no clue how the writers do what they do. I think anybody who turns out a tv show and turns out as many episodes as they do is amazing. I’m definitely translating what I learn by looking at Arrow into book mechanics. One of the things I love that they do is write the show as if this season is going to be its only season. They don’t sit and spin around in circle (Vampire Diaries!) and the action is always amazing. If it’s one thing I can say about Arrow, it’s that it’s never boring.

            I see the same thing about shows in their 1st and 2nd seasons and fiddling with what works and doesn’t work. I’m really excited about season 3 because I thought the improvements going from Season 1 to 2 were awesome. They made so many changes I was hoping they would. So now I’m dying to see what they have up their sleeves for 3.

            So yeah, as much as I pick at things that don’t work for it, it’s always with the goal of finding out why so that when I write something I can try to avoid doing the same. Of course that doesn’t mean some other reader won’t pick it up and say Hey, I don’t like that. LOL. Ah the problem of personal preference & story. 😉

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          4. I know. I watch every episode, completely caught up in it, and then when it’s done, I take it apart to see how they did it (after I get past the “Oliver, you idiot” part).

            I love taking story apart. It’s so damn hard to do well, I want to learn all I can.

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          5. “I love taking story apart. It’s so damn hard to do well, I want to learn all I can.”
            – Jenny

            I think that’s when I know I really, really like a show. I want to dissect it and look at everything about it to understand the how and why of it all. It’s funny when it’s a show where you like the characters but not the plots. I have that happen with Elementary all the time. I like the characters. I find them interesting. I think the Holmes/Watson partnership is really good and I loved that they went an unexpected way with it — he totally admires her and is supportive and encouraging — and yet some of the stories, the pacing, etc., leave me kind of Eh about it. Then they turn around and blow my mind with the Big Plot stuff (Irene Adler/Moriarty, and this season whatever Mycroft is up to).

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  30. For me, I saw hints that Felicity had clearly some sort of issues connecting with people. She clearly liked her computers more than humans and making comments like “Like I said before people keep secrets, but computers don’t” or “you are a Oliver’s driver who fights crime with him at night, not everyone shows their true face to the public” not to mention the fact that she was only in the team to find Walter but she wanted to return to her boring i.e. isolated life as a IT specialist. That failed though because she got attached something I think she was trying to avoid. Attachment means caring, caring mean investments are made, which then means your heart is open to hurt or losing those you love. Those are the fears she has. I think her even trying to keep the team together as best she could was a hint. After John left she tried to get him back, when Oliver left she tried to bring him back as well so her family was not split up. Not to mention her devoting all her time and energy into computers since she was a kid. A form of escapism and computers were something safe for her. To have the ability she has she needed to spend all her time and energy into it. So it was clear, at least to me, that this person had serious issues when it came to people, and opening her heart to them. A lot of trust issues and fear of abandonment was I got from it, so I already figured that one or both parents deserted her in some way.

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  31. I’m wondering if they’re not patching story. That is, these scripts are really complex pieces of plotting, and then all of a sudden somebody comes in a drops a bomb of back story–”Laurel called the cops on me,” “I have abandonment issues”–and it feels so clumsy.

    This is exactly what it feels like to me. I think there tends to be the response to Arrow that goes along the lines of “Wow, I did not see that coming” and that is often regarded as a good thing, but when you look back at the set up, you can see that the seeds were planted all along. With almost everything regarding Sara, I have felt very much like, “Huh?” She drops the bomb about Laurel calling the cops, and before she said that, I never quite saw that in Laurel.

    With Felicity, I’m with Sam–I saw the abandonment issues coming since Season 1. When she agreed to help save Walter, I thought: “This girl’s clearly got some daddy issues.” Otherwise, I just couldn’t see why it would matter so much to find him.

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    1. Sara, I think maybe the problem with that situation (the Sara comment about Laurel thing) feeling so “Huh?!” is more about that it takes all the information we were given in a season and a half and turns it on itself. We thought we had all the info and understood how the situation went down and now, in season 2, new info comes and it confuses us because we’d accepted the Season 1 information as presented. And I have no clue if that makes any sense. It did in my head. LOL.

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      1. On February 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm Julie H. said…
        “Sara, I think maybe the problem with that situation….”

        I think you’re right. I went back and rewatched the Lance family scene right before the end of 2×13. First, Katie Cassidy owned it, which also thought when I watched it live. Second, I’m still “WTF!” with the Ollie-Sara hook-up; as a viewer I know more about what happened to Sara than Laurel, but I have greater contempt for her. If Sara the romance antagonist is deliberately being written as emotionally immature, self-centered, petty backstabber, then they’ve sold it to me. But I don’t think that’s the intent of the show runners; they want us to feel sorry for her.

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      2. Julie, I get what you are saying, and I agree. The other stories were set up better than Sara’s in my opinion. It does feel as if they changed her a bit mid-stream. We were given a story in season one & we went with it only to have the story change. Given that another actress played Sara in season one, I have to wonder if the whole Sara story came to be after the first season.

        Wednesday cannot get here fast enough. I can’t wait to see what they throw at us next.

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        1. I’m still reading and catching up, but I wanted to insert a quick comment in here regarding the Sara of S1 vs Sara of S2. It is a known that Felicity took them by surprise. It is also known based on a comment from EP AK that they went into S1 (and maybe even a general outline for further) with a good plan, yet when Felicity happened they had to trash that plan and come up with another.

          In February 2013 three things happened — Arrow got early renewal for S2, EBR was made a regular and the show runners gave Tommy his notice (death at the end of the season) even though he stated in this interview he had been expecting to go on to S2, prob based on the original plan that had now been trashed.

          Planning for S2 was already going on at this point, and I think it was SA that said in March or April of 2013 the show runners came to him and told him what was planned for S2 as far as the island goes — they had that already worked out! The majority of Sara’s time on Arrow has been on the set of the island, of course there is going to be tweaking, but they knew she was going to be there.

          So they knew in March or April of last year that Sara would survive the boat sinking. In episode 1×21 it seems as though they may be setting things up as they show it is clearly Laurel pushing Oliver into making the next step of getting an apartment. But none of that relationship seemed gold from the get go LOL. I went back and watched the dock scene again and it was just SO WRONG! LOL I mean Laurel is walking up and he has her sister on the phone and is telling her to go around the block because “your sister is here” yuck yuck YUCK! Sorry, I went back to view that for another purpose and ended up stuck in that YUCK!

          Anyhoo, the gears were already in motion by the time episode 21 was shot — they knew Sara was coming back.

          As for Felicity/Oracle/Sara, I have yet to see any basis on screen showing me that Sara’s level of computer know-how is equal to that of Felicity’s. We have been told that Felicity has been building computers since she was 7. Not taking apart toehold appliances and putting them back together — tinker toy play. She states in episode 1×14 that she’s been building computers since she was 7. That to me is meant to imply above average intelligence. She is also exceptional at probability, math and numbers in general, and as she states in episode 1×21 she knows her way around a casino (I hope they expound on this some more!)

          With Sara, she could have learned “surveil skills” in the tech world, but there hasn’t been any background given that she has the genius level skills of the oracle.

          I agree with the whole sentiment that when I like a show I want to dissect the hell out of it 🙂

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          1. In fairness to the writers, the YUCK in the “go around the block” was intentional; they were starting Oliver as weak and horrible as possible for the greatest possible character arc. But yeah, that was a super-bleah for me, too.

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  32. Another thought about some aspects feeling clumsy. Oliver’s statement a couple of episodes prior, “Your’re right, I do have a blind spot when it comes to Laurel”, didn’t really resonate with me. I realize it bothered me when he said it because he linked it to not having Diggle’s back in season 1, which was Oliver’s choice. For the writers to have him link it in that way to Laurel’s judgement about Sebastien Blood comes across as deflecting blame to Laurel for his bad judgement and unreliability. So the writers are characterizing Oliver as a self-absorbed dumbass.

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  33. I agree that the character of Sara has had some retcon this season in order to make her more sympathetic to the audience especially in support of the romance subplot of O/S this season. In S1, Sara’s character was presented as a selfish party girl who joins Oliver on the ship having few qualms about it and it’s effect on Laurel (should Laurel find out). The action is presented as more unplanned “carpe diem” moment- i.e. Laurel wants to move in together, Oliver freaks out, calls Sara to say ” Hey come with me on this cruise”, and Sara drops everything to quickly pack a bag and take advantage of the moment. She did tell her mother when Dinah came home early and caught Sara packing her bag that she was in love with Oliver and this was her chance, but she clearly didn’t care that she was betraying her sister. Now for S2, they have changed the character in that they show Sara as having doubts about going on this trip because it would be a betrayal of her sister. In fact, she only goes after she and Laurel have a fight. Oliver’s invitation is no longer last minute but more planned out, insinuating that Oliver and Sara’s affair started before the Queen’s Gambit cruise and that Sara was feeling guilty about it and so having doubts. Sara isn’t heartless now she’s conflicted. I understand why they want to make Sara more sympathetic, what surprised me is that they make Laurel unsympathetic at the same time. First she’s mean to Sara when Sara tries to point out that moving in with Oliver might not be such a great idea because of his playboy ways. Next we find out she called the cops on Tommy’s party to get Sara out of the way so she had a clear path to go after Oliver. I’m not sure why the writers made that choice. To me they didn’t have to tear into Laurel to make Sara more sympathetic.

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    1. I don’t think the retcon of Sara made her more sympathetic to the entire audience. The retcon – that is, Laurel called the cops on Tommy’s party – comes across to me as very high school. The writers want viewers to be sympathetic that she pulls the stunt again because the excuse now is Laurel is still angry with her after six years. My question then is how long did Sara carry around the grudge about the party. It just goes round and round and the effect is to tear down both women for a character that drops his pants in the blink of an eye and said he was too drunk to remember the party in question.

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      1. Not to mention it’s shady and really strange timing to choose to tell this petty high school story when you’re trapped and fighting for your lives. That girl should seem like a stranger to Sara, so much has happened since then.

        IMO this is knowledge Sara would’ve dropped on the QG, sometime during those conversations where’s she’s hinting at Oliver to tell her they got themselves somethin’ real and he’s all “Nah no worries, Laurel will never find out,” and she’s clearly thinking she wants Laurel to find out so they break up.

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        1. That’s a really good point, and possibly why it seems like such a bomb of back story, just dropped in there. “Ivo is going to kill us, and oh yeah, my sister did a really crummy thing to me three years ago.”

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  34. Actually, after reading through everything, I’ve changed my mind: I would have to agree there is retcon for Felicity as much as there is for Sara. I’m trying to remember when it is I caught on to Felicity having daddy issues, and it wasn’t in Season 1 (I just re-watched the first season, again, but I already had information from the second season). I saw the episode when she says she will help save Walter around the same time to producers said there would be more info on Felicity’s backstory. THAT’S when I thought: Oh, agreeing to find Walter is going to tie in to her dad somehow. But that was during the second time I watched, it wasn’t my first impression.

    Here’s the thing: a few posts ago, Jenny said something that what was interesting about Felicity is that she seems so normal. Oliver is a mess. Diggle didn’t have an easy life, either. He’s been through the ringer, having been a soldier, losing his brother, etc. But Felicity–she was the normal one. And I remember thinking that in Season 1. That’s what I found fascinating about her–she seemed like someone I wanted to hang out with. She wasn’t tortured, or dramatic, or bitchy. She seemed well-adjusted. I could imagine her having a completely normal dysfunctional family (in the anti-Lance, anti-Queen way). When I take that into account, I’m a little confused about the backstory they’ve now given her, especially if they plan to make one–or both her parents–the big bad. That’s the complete opposite of the background I thought Felicity had when I first met her.

    So, one of the reasons I flipped on that point is I watched “Prisoners” tonight, and as I’m dissecting the story, the writing, and the characters, I’m seeing all the little things that foreshadowed the ending of the movie. I’m not going to spoil it, but when I put everything together, it was an “A-HA” moment, and when I watch Arrow, I have a lot “WHAAAT?” and “WTF?” moments–I still enjoy the show, but I DO wonder what the writers were thinking.

    The flip side of all this, however, is that people can have the same background and still turn out completely different. So, Felicity being who she is based on the background they have now given her makes her more awesome to me. She’s had it rough, but she’s come out seeing the best in people. It might be retcon, but it’s the kind I can live with.

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    1. On February 23, 2014 at 1:08 am Sara said…
      “Actually, after reading through everything, I’ve changed my mind: I would have to agree there is retcon for Felicity as much as there is for Sara. I’m trying to remember when it is I caught on to Felicity having daddy issues, and it wasn’t in Season 1 (I just re-watched the first season, again, but I already had information from the second season).

      …Felicity–she was the normal one. And I remember thinking that in Season 1. That’s what I found fascinating about her–she seemed like someone I wanted to hang out with. She wasn’t tortured, or dramatic, or bitchy. She seemed well-adjusted. I could imagine her having a completely normal dysfunctional family (in the anti-Lance, anti-Queen way).”

      Sara, I’m nodding in violent agreement with you about this. How well-adjusted Felicity – and smart and quirky – is what made me love the character. I’m not sure why they’ve decided she needs a tortured back story to remain interesting. Sure she can have flaws and insecurities and the usual dysfunction of most families, but I don’t need father abandonment issues and a difficult mother to find her interesting and engaging.

      I like that they’ve given her a nemesis; I just wish it wasn’t being linked to her abandonment issues a la her place in Oliver’s life because Super Sara with her new super computer skills ((*eye roll*) is taking up space in the cave. Again, my current anti-protagonist kick is obvious. I’m finding it supremely annoying that other characters – mainly the women – are being torn down to prop Oliver and excuse his repetitive mistakes.

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      1. When you have a cast full of over-the-top, extra-colorful characters, many with almost super-human skills, all of them with soap-opera level emotional conflicts, having one normal character grounds everybody else, acting not only as a foil, but a placeholder for the viewer. I agree, one of the big strengths of the character of Felicity is that she wasn’t involved in any trauma-drama, she was for the most part happy, healthy, and active. It was always a relief to see Felicity, a nice sunny space in the darkness.
        But if they leave Felicity there, she’s going to stagnate; if all she is the chirpy computer geek who has a crush on Oliver she’s not going to be fun to watch any more. One very small thing that annoyed me this season (very small, but still annoying) was that even though she’s arced to be more confident and more aggressive and more relaxed/on an equal footing with Oliver, she’s still making mistakes based on her not being confident. I loved that early scene in the office where she told Oliver she was not going to be his assistant and make coffee: she was strong and sure and completely on an equal footing with him. And then she did one of those stupid “I love spending my nights with you,” the kind of thing you blurt out when you’re nervous, and she wasn’t nervous, she was mad. Completely cut all that great anger.
        So I want Felicity changing as she grows within the story, I don’t want any more of those dumb slips because she’s not that character any more, I want more of the stuff like the running coffee conflict.
        Having said that, I do not want her going down the same dark drain that the writers have sent Sara and Laurel down, so I agree with you on that completely. They need to develop her character, but they don’t have to make her tortured to do it.

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        1. Jenny: “They need to develop her character, but they don’t have to make her tortured to do it.”

          Someone posted this quote from the actor who plays Felicity:
          “She’s a regular person with an extremely high IQ and she’s a bit socially awkward…Her ability not to give up and to keep trying is really appealing, as is her honesty and vulnerability. I’m just glad that people relate to her, because in the first episode [I played Felicity] I really related to her. I just like the way she handled [her first meeting] with Oliver.”

          There’s also a meme out there with a caption to the effect that the “Arrow show runners love that we love Felicity, but they don’t fully understand why we love Felicity.”

          When I first read that Felicity would meet her “opposite number” in the Clock King, I was looking forward to watching her being challenged. Now, with the “space in Oliver’s life/Super Sara angst”, not so much.

          And I’ve been so over the sexually-laden verbal faux pas they keep writing for her since before the coffee-conflict.

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          1. Now, with the “space in Oliver’s life/Super Sara angst”, not so much.
            – Anna

            Oddly enough I think I’m okay with them introducing this because Felicity needs some kind of internal conflict. The girl needs some kind of focus and development and I’d rather the show take a shot and see what happens than them leave her where she to just… sit.

            Arrow has a tendency to lean heavy on the action plots and the emotional follow up to stuff often suffers as a result. So I’m willing to give the writers some room on this to see how it actually plays out instead of looking at all the ways it could go “bad.” But then I’ve never been one who thought Felicity should save herself in this scenario. I’ve always thought the resolution wasn’t for Felicity to show/prove/learn that she can’t rely on her team and can do it all herself, but for her team to show they’re there for her, care about her, and won’t abandon her even when she’s “failed” (and by failed I mean ‘failed’ ala the Clock King bests her in the beginning of the story), while at the same time letting Felicity see for herself that she’s capable of way more than she even thinks.

            I think it’s important for Felicity to prove to herself that she’s capable of that “more” (and I firmly suspect she’ll be an active player in thwarting the Clock King in the end, though of course Oliver is going to show up at the end for the save like he always does for everyone because at the end of the day the show is Arrow) but I still think the team needs to come together to overcome the bad guy together. Otherwise I think it defeats the whole community/team aspect I think the show is trying to pull together not push apart.

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          2. Krissie and I just had a long breakfast talk (french toast at the diner, OMG) and we were talking about contracts with the reader (thank you, Pam!), and if you’re trying to make an Oliver/Felicity contract with the writers, how you react to the Sara kiss depends a lot on whether your perception is that the writers have accepted that contract or not. If you feel that the writers have agreed to a Felicity/Oliver contract, then Sara doesn’t matter. Oliver’s not in a relationship with Felicity so there’s no betrayal, which means that Sara’s just a complication, something that will make the Felicity/Oliver story more interesting, up the emotional content, and most of all, move that story forward. But if you think the writers haven’t accepted the contract, then Sara is a real threat, they may be offering a Sara/Oliver contract, and if you’re a Felicity ‘shipper, that’s upsetting.
            I think the reaction to the teases for the episode are along the same lines. If the writers are contracting with the viewers to make Felicity a fully developed character on the same level with Oliver and Laurel, then this is good. But if that’s not the unspoken agreement, and this is another way of using Felicity to give Oliver somebody to rescue or to create jealous tension in the bat cave to make things more complicated for Oliver, then no.

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          3. “There’s also a meme out there with a caption to the effect that the “Arrow show runners love that we love Felicity, but they don’t fully understand why we love Felicity.”

            This is key, I think. One of the big tip-offs was in the way they changed what she wore.

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        2. This is what I like about Felicity and EBRs delivery of her performance. She can do comedy very well, but she can also do solid confidence and strength a beat later. I agree with you in that I love the scenes where she is arguing with Oliver. Case in point when he wakes up in 2×09 and starts going after her for bringing Barry in and she barks back going toe-to-toe. I want to start to see more of that and less of the not-so-confident Felicity, which is what I am afraid we might get in this next episode. I really hope not, because I do think she is gaining confidence and I find her less confident scenes awkward (for me the viewer).

          But could it be that as she lets people in and starts becoming attached, that that vulnerability opens herself up having her confidence effected? If she is used to isolation, that is where her sure footing would be, but if she is going into knew territory with regards to personal relationships (friendship or romantic) she might be less confident. ? o.O

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          1. That’s a good distinction.
            I want to see her become sure enough to become more vulnerable. (I get confused about where I’ve written what; I think the vulnerability-within-community is part of a lecture for the McDaniel students not a post here, but I’m not sure . . . ARGH). You can’t show vulnerability until you trust the people you’re revealing yourself to, which is one of the things I did like about Felicity saying, “I have abandonment issues” to Oliver; it showed she was confident enough in him to be vulnerable. And I would buy her feeling threatened if someone else came into the bat cave with the same skills she has; anybody would wonder if he or she had just become redundant if somebody who could hack AND fight showed up. So there are a lot of great possibilities there for moving her arc AND the story forward. That’s key in all of this emotional upheaval: it has to move the story forward.
            But if they’re just kneecapping her for drama, regressing her character, then no.

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    2. Going off of Sara’s post re Felicity, retcon, and the whole she’s normal, happy character…

      At the same time, every character needs conflict and change or they do become one note. I don’t know that they’re going to go super dark with her back story and I don’t think they need to, though does anybody have a non-dark origin story in comics? But I definitely think they’re introducing the idea of her parents to bring them into the future plot and use the darkness of them there, now, in the present, for Felicity (and everybody else) to deal with in the present.

      Now watch, I’m totally wrong and her dad is some big super hero and mom is his sidekick and it’s that whole I was a hero thing that tore their marriage apart and missions that made Felicity feel abandoned. See The Mummy 3 (horrible movie, don’t really see it, but if you did see it – and can’t unsee it – then you know what I mean about the whole kid growing up to feel abandoned because mom and dad were off playing hero to the world).

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      1. I am thinking along the same lines as you Julie in that I think Felicity experienced her darkness — her crucible if you will — already. At first I thought maybe she was going through it now, but she is already a rock, a pillar of strength. I think she went through something already, probably not traumatic but something that made her as strong as she is in her character moral bearing.
        ==================
        The above caught my attention, but I came on here to post something else. I was curious about the development of Felicity’s character. EBR has stated in previous interviews, about how connected Felicity and Oliver are — in a if he cracks, she’ll crack way. For those of us who favor the Felicity/Oliver eventual pairing, wouldn’t they need to Break that connection in order for Felicity to have solid development on her own? A big part of me says yes, but I wanted to get a writer’s perspective rather than just my assumption. I’m just curious if there is a written or unwritten rule that breaking apart to build would need to occur.

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  35. Jenny, in regards to the whole romance contract thing, there was an interview with the EPs where Marc Guggenheim said that anybody wanting to see Oliver and Felicity get involved romantically, Barry was a huge impediment to that. He then added that they were throwing another impediment at them in fairly short order, which I am now assuming he meant Sara.

    If we’re going by his statement, which I do so cautiously because these writers change their tune like I change clothes, then it would seem like Barry, Sara, etc., are merely roadblocks to Oliver/Felicity which would seem to indicate that the romantic contract is between them, wouldn’t it?

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    1. It would if the EPs weren’t deliberately sending mixed signals. Back when I was still reading that stuff, one of the EPs said they had a short game plan for Felicity and Oliver, not a long game. Which could still mean that Felicity is a roadblock in the original Oliver/Laurel contract. Which is why having a clear contract is important.

      Krissie and I were talking about this at breakfast and she mentioned Fast Women, a book I wrote in which my heroine has sex with somebody other than the hero before they enter into a relationship. Krissie said, “So, did you switch contracts?” and I thought about it and remembered that the first scene in the novel was the hero interviewing the heroine for a job. The second scene was the hero telling his partner about the interview, discussing the heroine in non-romantic but personal terms. The third scene was the heroine telling her friends about the job interview and rejecting their suggestion that he might be a possible romantic interest. Those three scenes to me set the romance contract strongly enough that no matter what either of them did, the romance reader knew they were the endgame.
      Which I think is why the romance contract is important: If you know the endgame, you can concentrate on how the characters are going to get there. If you don’t know, you end up speculating on the different options instead of enjoying the story.

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      1. “It would if the EPs weren’t deliberately sending mixed signals.”

        Yeah, that’s why I tend to read their interviews with caution and a spoonful of salt. It just seemed weird to me that he would refer to a pivotal relationship such as GA/BC as an “impediment” to another pairing.

        I’m cognizant of the fact that Laurel/Oliver could very well be the romantic contract that they stick to when all is said and done, but quite frankly, that scares me. Granted, my foray into writing never went further than fanfiction, but I love angst and most of my stories tended to sway in that direction. However, even I have a limit as to how much angst a pairing can sustain before I go from rooting for the couple to make it through to the other side together to wanting them to just kill each other and put me out of my misery, and sadly, L/O fall into the latter category, not because of my intense dislike for Laurel but because at this point I don’t understand why she would ever want to be in a relationship with Oliver ever again. It was hard enough to understand why these two people were ever in love to begin with in season 1, but it’s become doubly difficult to do so in season 2, especially since all of Oliver’s apologies and remorse for hurting Laurel by running off with her sister seems to have been nothing more than lip service considering the fact that’s he’s back with Sara again while Laurel is in the middle of a downward spiral.

        So yeah.. I’m not closing the door on L/O being the endgame here, but any reunion between those two has gone from “romantic” to “idiotic” in the span of two seasons, at least for me.

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  36. Jenny: “If the writers are contracting with the viewers to make Felicity a fully developed character on the same level with Oliver and Laurel, then this is good. But if that’s not the unspoken agreement, and this is another way of using Felicity to give Oliver somebody to rescue or to create jealous tension in the bat cave to make things more complicated for Oliver, then no.”

    My concern is that it’s the latter. I was familiar with the comics and the Canary relationship, but the possible romantic sub-plots were not the reason I started to watch. It was in the hope of a well-done action/adventure with developing characters. I didn’t fall in love with Arrow’s Oliver Queen. I found Diggle, Moira, Walter, Tommy, Thea and then Felicity – once she showed up – more engaging, so I kept watching. I didn’t care one way or the other about Oliver’s relationship with the Huntress or McKenna and not because I was convinced Felicity was his rom endgame; it was because I thought they have to give the protagonist love interests, so these are the flavour of the week(s) / whatever. Laurel I was apathetic about, but couldn’t see why she would want to get back into a romantic relationship with Oliver again given the toxic history. With the end of 2×13 and to state the obvious, I’m soured on Oliver Queen. I’ll wait it out a bit to see if I can continue watching just for the secondary characters.

    As for romantic antagonists generally, someone may have already made this point here: the fact that there are currently no other viable romantic options on Arrow for Felicity and Laurel is now another sore point for me. Smallville did this much better; Clark wasn’t the only romantic option for the women in his orbit.

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  37. First of all, I really enjoy your Arrow posts; it’s really interesting to hear a creator’s take on what the show is doing.
    I’m really curious about the back story thread in these forums, and I wanted to pose a question about back story and its relationship with source material/canon/world building.
    First, is back story the same as world-building? What is the difference? Is back story more character-particular than world building?
    Building on that, do you think there’s a difference in expectations across genres? That is, are speculative fiction (SF) fans more likely to want (or tolerate) back story? Do you think that this may push the Arrow writers or producers to include more than they might if they were writing for a different audience?
    The reason I’m asking is because I’m a big SF fan. One of the main reasons is that I love world building. The more well-developed the world, the better–I want to pick apart how the language works, understand how the history and magic and religion all shape the world of the story. And while I’m not into comics particularly, several people I discuss Arrow with do read the comics religiously and do the same for the DC universe. Much of our discussion revolves around the connection between Arrow and the Green Arrow comics. So to me, having the DC universe there is part of the appeal. Even when they diverge from the comics, I really enjoy being able to discuss how and why.

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    1. This is a great question. I’m in the early stages of book that requires a lot of world-building (it’s fantasy) full of characters with complicated back story so I’ve been obsessing on this.

      World building and back story are different.

      World building is basically context and setting; some of the setting will have back story (these are the wars that were fought, this is when they built this monument, this is where the rivalry between these two countries began), and if you want to get nit-picky, everything in a story is world-building because it contributes to the willing suspension of disbelief so that the reader can cross over from reality into the world of the story. But I think you’re defining it more specifically as “This isn’t an analog of our real world, this is a completely different time and place in which the writer has to make up reality from scratch.” In that case, world building is general and epic and forms the back drop against which the story plays out. Middle Earth. Discworld. Wonderland.

      Back story is events that happened before the story started. If you’re talking about Arrow, a big part of Oliver’s back story is the island stuff. If you’re talking about Leverage, the back story is the death of Nate’s son, Nate’s marriage to Maggie, Eliot’s Terrible Thing He Did he knows he can never atone for, Parker’s series of abusive foster homes, the last one of which she blew up, Hardison’s Nana, along with every rotten thing the marks ever did. Back story is, in short, The Stuff That Happens Before The Story Starts. So every story has back story, but most don’t require world building except in that general sense of “this is the world the protagonist lives in, this is her family, this is where she works” kind of thing.

      SF and Fantasy usually require tons of world building, in much the same way that historical novels require tons of research. I’m not using the word “require” lightly; you have to do that work. The key is to leave 99% of it off the page because it doesn’t move the story forward. There’s a terrible temptation to put that information on the page because you worked so damn hard on it, so go ahead and do it in the first draft. Then in the second draft, cut everything that isn’t essential for the reader to understand the story as it’s unspooling RIGHT NOW. That means if your story has magic in it, you have to let the reader know that as part of the story contract, but that’s all you have to do. If something magic happens or is referred to on the first page, you’ve done all you need to do, you don’t have to explain how magic works or why one of the characters can do it, if it happens on the first page, the reader will accept it the way she’ll accept that the character has brown hair and a lisp. The thing to keep in mind is that what the reader really wants to know is what the character is going to do and what’s going to happen when he does it. It’s great that the world around that character is fascinating, the reader loves knowing about it, but only in the context of the character’s story. If you stop the story to describe the world, you’ve stopped the story. I know that sounds obvious, but really, you’ve stopped the story. The reader showed up for story not a tour of the world. (The choice of POV has a big impact here; you can get away with a lot more world in omniscient than you can in third limited.)

      Take, for example, Discworld. I love that world, I own maps of that world, but the reason I love it is because it’s the place where amazing stories take place and where some of my favorite characters of all time live, and they could only have taken place, only live in that world. There are other fictional worlds that are fully and completely realized that I have no interest in because I’m not interested in the characters who are standing in it.

      Which brings us to the DC world. That world exists in full and contradictory glory in the comics. When DC and Marvel bring those stories to the screen (big or small), it’s like translating the stories from English into German. You can tell the same stories, but they’re going to change because the way the languages are structured is different. So the DC universe is the backdrop for Arrow (although limited because different studios own different characters who own different pieces of DC real estate), and there are parallels in the different versions because that’s what makes the Green Arrow stories the Green Arrow stories, but they’re different because the medium is different and because the time the writers are working in can be forty years apart. Arrow would be crazy to walk away from the DC universe, but they’d also be crazy to hamstring themselves by tying the stories slavishly to it. So they’re doing the smartest thing they can: referencing it at every opportunity possible but then updating and shifting the context to tell the best stories they can. It’s so much more fun when the Big Bad is somebody from comics; when the woman at the Bronze Tiger’s cell door said, “I’m Amanda Waller,” there must have been a country-wide hive-mind flash-thought: “OMG SUICIDE SQUAD!” That’s just fun. But it’s not story and it can’t support story because Arrow has to stand on its own.

      I’m rambling. Somebody asked for a back story post so that’s coming up as soon as I have time to think about it. I’m not nearly as familiar with world-building, but I’m studying it now, so I’ll be better able to talk about it much later. Great question, incomplete response. Sorry!

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  38. Okay, we’re close to 300 comments here and that WILL break the blog. So I’m closing them down. You are invited to migrate to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster post, after you admire the poster, of course.

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