Overwatch has left the building.
Fans of Arrow and the Oliver Queen/Felicity Smoak love story were shocked by an Tweet from Emily Bett Rickards earlier this year announcing that she would not be returning for the final season of Arrow.
No reasons were given why Rickards is leaving the show before its swan song, by either the actor or the producers, but the questions remain: will her character be missed, and will the show suffer in her absence?
Rickards' character started off as a tech employee at Queen Consolidated, but Felicity proved to be so popular with fans, especially “shippers” who clamored for an Oliver-Felicity pairing, that her role expanded to series regular in season 2.
Since then, Felicity has become the tech-genius member of Team Arrow (assisted for a few seasons by Curtis/Mr. Teriffic), and a more integral part of the cast dynamic with each passing season, eventually becoming the team’s remote eyes and tech support as Overwatch, while they were on missions.
Her on-again, off-again romance with Oliver has been a rollercoaster ride at the center of Arrow, one that finally had a happy ending with their marriage in Season 6. Felicity became stepmother to Oliver’s son William, and she took on more than her share of parenting while Oliver was serving as mayor or Green Arrow.
The current season of Arrow has been featuring a subplot that takes place twenty years in the future and focuses on a grown William, as well as the surviving members of Team Arrow, searching (successfully!) for his stepmother. The storyline has also seen him begin a difficult relationship with a feisty, young blonde woman, who has been revealed to be Mia, the future daughter of Oliver and Felicity.
A few episodes later, present-day Felicity told Oliver the news that she was pregnant.
So, we know from this season's flash-forward adventures that Felicity gives birth and is still alive 20 years in the future, so the writers cannot kill her off, as happens in dramatic fashion in many tv series when an actor chooses to leave.
This season, William’s maternal grandparents threatened to sue Oliver for custody on the basis that he could not provide a stable, safe environment for the young man. Oliver grudgingly agreed to let him go; so since William has already been removed from the storyline, there won’t be any need for Felicity to continue as stepmother.
Next season, the writers will most likely create a reason to simply place a pregnant Felicity out of danger for the duration.
Her tech skills could be replaced by bringing Curtis back, but his character left the show earlier this season. Perhaps the team will recruit Alena Whitlock, the former Helix hacker who Felicity hired as chief technology officer at Smoak Technologies this season.
In my opinion, Felicity has become the heart of Arrow. She has been a constant beacon of hope, faith, and positivity…she’s been the glue holding the characters in this show together, reminding them to be their best selves, and to never give up on each other. I am thankful that they will only have to do without Felicity for one season. Any longer than that, and I believe the show would truly suffer.
As an actor, Rickards has been the most complete performer on Arrow, with scripts demanding the widest range of emotions possible, from deep sorrow to comic humor, and from fear of death to extreme anger. She has played them all expertly, acting with her entire body, always managing to add that extra little “something” in every scene. She has been a joy to watch.
Felicity and Emily Bett Rickards will be missed.
Arrow airs Mondays on The CW.