Last season, Arrow viewers critical of Oliver's relationship with Felicity Smoak constantly complained that the romantic elements of their character story had taken over the show. This season, fans of "Olicity" are mad that they've had next to nothing explaining the nature and reasons behind their breakup between seasons -- and showrunner Wendy Mericle has heard all of it, and knows how difficult it is to balance the differen story elements that she says make the show what it is.
Tonight on Arrow, Oliver and Felicity did something they haven't done a lot so far this season: they addressed the elephant in the room that is their breakup, and showed at least a little spark of chemistry between them.
“It is a challenge. That’s what makes the show what it is,” Mericle said of the balancing act she and the other writers have to attempt every week. “Everything we’ve heard in the press is that the people who love it this season were the ones who didn’t like it that much last year. It does make you aware that you really can’t please all of the people all of the time, so what I try to focus on is what’s right for the characters, what are the best stories to tell, and when is it right to bring in these other elements?”
Tonight's episode was billed as "Team Arrow vs. Team Felicity," with Helix attempting to free an ARGUS prisoner that Oliver and company were trying to protect. Ultimately, Felicity "won," but not in a way that brought anyone much satisfaction. Helix left her behind, citing her relationship to Team Arrow as a liability, which meant that she helped free a potentially dangerous black hat hacker in exchange for the information that Prometheus was -- RIGHT BEHIND HER, something she likely would have figured out a minute later anyway.
It was the first time in a while that Team Arrow had to go into a dangerous mission without Overwatch support, and ultimately it all collapsed when Felicity put herself between Oliver's gun and the bad guys. For his part, Oliver not only failed to protect the asset, but came up empty when he tried to talk Felicity out of helping Helix by appealing to her on a personal level -- something that will likely come up in next week's Olicity-heavy episode, "Underneath."
For Mericle, the challenge of deciding how much Olicity versus how much Team Arrow action to include every week enriches the show, but it's not unique to Arrow.
“I think that it’s true of any series that you’re constantly balancing the action stuff with the character stuff, unless you’re on a true character series, which there are honestly very few of these days,” Mericle said. “I think that the bigger thing is always telling the right story for where the characters are going, and we do try to allow the natural progression of where Oliver would be and where Felicity would be emotionally and psychologically at this point in the series and season,a nd let that dictate it more than anything. I think that’s part of what makes the show successful is having all of these various angles. It’s a crime series, it’s a superhero series, it’s got all this action and it has this character component as well. It’s what the show is, and it’s very much in the DNA of it.”
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. The series returned from a mini-hiatus this week to burn through the final episodes of the season, which ends in late May.
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