Friday, June 13, 2014

In Praise of the Women of Arrow

by Sara N.

Now that the sun has set on the 2013-2014 television season, let's take a little time to praise the show with some of the best female characters around.

It's no secret that Arrow is a cracker jack superhero program, with all of the action, humor and lovingly sculpted abs a viewer could want. But what makes it extra rewarding to watch are the immensely appealing women.

First, let's start with two sides of the world's least annoying love triangle: Felicity Smoak and Sara Lance.

Errbody loves Felicity. She's smart. She's spunky. She's Oliver Queen's Girl Friday who's got the brainpower to engineer solutions to his tech and communication requirements and the beating heart (and functional eyes) of a woman who pines for him without being a soggy drip about it. (We also owe her a debt; she's the one who made sure the rebuilt Arrowcave had a salmon ladder so Ollie could continue his shirtless workouts. Millions of viewers thank you, Felicity.)

Sara's smart, too, and she's got a physical toughness that Felicity doesn't. She survived her stint on the island and ended up in the League of Assassins before making her way back to Sparrow City. She's conflicted about her past — as a killer, as a woman who stole her sister's boyfriend, and as a daughter who let her family think she was dead. She's torn up about her violent history, but she's matter-of-fact about it instead of whiney. She owns up to her past, gets her business done, and tries to move forward with her life, both as Sara and as the Canary.

Sara and Felicity's best scenes came in "Time of Death," season 2, episode 14. As Felicity watches Sara, Ollie and Diggle comparing scars, she quietly bottles up her jealousy and feelings of exclusion. And when Sara comes across Felicity working out alone in the Arrow cave, she smoothly steps in to help Felicity in her attempts to become more like the rest of the group. The subtext is obvious but unspoken, and Sara's quiet kindness and Felicity's strong-jawed determination made me love them both even more.

Seriously, how often have you watched a love triangle and felt equally about all the participants in it? Sara and Oliver fit; they have the shared survival experiences and the masked identities that make them an evenly matched pair. And Felicity and Oliver have chemistry and obvious deep feelings for each other. I like them all, and as much as I want to see Olicity happy, I don't want to see it at the expense of Canarrow.

Next, let's consider Laurel Lance. We can all agree that for the first season and a half, Laurel was THE WORST. She was boring and then she was an alcoholic, and whether drunk or sober, she was always yelling at people or putting herself in danger. But the last half of season two saw Laurel evolving. She stopped drinking and blaming everyone around her. Toward the end of season 2, Sara confesses that her superhero identity is the Canary, but that she's done too much bad to be a hero. Laurel responds, "If you're so far gone and so irredeemable, then why would they know you by such a beautiful name?" It's a gorgeous scene of forgiveness and acceptance following sororal betrayal, and I'm shocked to find myself actually interested in what's to come for Laurel next season. With Sara out of the picture, will she pick up the Canary mask?

The other women in the show are more of a mixed bag. Moira Queen made mistake after mistake throughout her life (what's a little confused parentage among siblings?), and although she apologizes for them, she doesn't prostrate herself before her unforgiving children. She moves forward with her political ambitions, even as her family crumbles around her.

Thea Queen was mostly a trial this season, and while her anger about her father not being her father is understandable, her sulking was interminable. Season 2 ended with her riding into the sunset with her sketchy biological father, Malcom Merlin. Here's hoping she returns as the Speedy we all deserve.

The smaller female roles this year were also interesting. Isabel Rochev seemed to have been motivated by a desire for revenge against the Queen patriarch for sexual indiscretions, and her mastery of Ollie in the boardroom and the bedroom (heeeeey ooooh!) were impressive. And because she was played by Summer Glau, you know her fighting skills were fierce. Street kid Sin is tough as nails but otherwise a cypher. We've seen hints about her backstory, which would be ripe for exploration next year.

In short, here's hoping season 3 is as strong as the previous two, and that we'll continue to enjoy one of the best female casts on television.

And also more of this. Because reasons.

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  1. I happy the two bit fluzzy sara lance is gone and I don't blame laurel for her anger towards sara or Oliver because they both deserve it and a whole lot more from laurel and in fact Hitler doesn't to be stuck with someone like sara and Oliver like laurel is force to.

  2. I can't stand Sara - she has no redeemable qualities I can find. Admittedly, with all the trauma in her life it's pretty justified, but she still annoys me.

    Laurel has grown on me this season. Last year I spent a lot of time ranting about her to my (very disinterested) sister - this season, she was replaced as least favorite character by Sara.

    Who I'd really like to see more of is Sin - to me, she had the right combo of vulnerability and kick-butt street smarts.

    And of course Felicity... Who doesn't love Felicity? I'm not sure if I ship Ollicity, but their current relationship brings out my inner fangirl. I think she's fun because she's A: A total nerd and still hot, and B: She's a character who can be a tough strong woman without having to physically kick butt all the time. It's surprisingly rare in fiction.

  3. They also help to hide any sort of weakness of a dress plus they all follow the current fashion trend, which makes everyone to accept them.