‘So, that happened’:
The disappointing payoff for Olicity
If you’re a shipper, you are prepared to wait in agony for your One True Pair to get together.
The actual moment can be tragic, as when Angel lost his soul with Buffy. It can be dramatic, as when Buffy and Spike literally brought down the house. It can even be private, as when you first notice Black Widow’s gold necklace has a tiny arrow on it.
Ideally, it doesn’t happen in a setting so drenched with orientalism, sexism, colonialism and Islamophobia that your reaction turns more ugh than squee.
Arrow fans have been waiting three seasons for Olicity to happen, during which the chemistry between brilliant blonde Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and smoldering superhero Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has only gotten better.
This week our One True Pair got naked in Nanda Parbat, and it was — actually, it only ranked as maybe the fourth or fifth most romantic moment of the show. Even Felicity’s awkward/cute hookup with Ray Palmer was arguably hotter.
I blame the buzz kill on Nanda Parbat, the remote mountain hideout of the League of Assassins that seems to have more corporate jet traffic than O’Hare.
A lot about the League is problematic: It manages to appropriate both Persian and Japanese culture while being run by a white guy, for instance. A white guy with a made-up Arabic name, Ra’s al Ghul.
The League appears to have infinite financial resources and its members can appear anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice, but at home, they prefer candles, medieval dungeons and decor straight out of “The Son of the Sheik.”
Men who join the League — and they are overwhelmingly men — give up their identities and are willing to die for Ra’s because … frankly, I’m not too clear what they get out of the deal. But I am clear that with its minions mindlessly carrying out the insane bidding of their leader, the League stands in for Al Quaeda and the Taliban with a good dose of Ming the Merciless.
Anyway, Ra’s needs an heir. The Daughter of the Demon, Nyssa (played by biracial actress Katrina Law), is skilled, ruthless and wants the job. Instead, he chooses another white savior and ruins his life until Ollie agrees to take the position.
In fact, the Moment only happens because Ra’s tells Felicity to go to Oliver and bid him goodbye forever, which kind of undermines her agency in the whole thing.
So, yeah, that happened.
Arrow’s writers have had to walk a line between updating characters and serving the base of fans who zealously protect the comic book canon.
They have generally tried to portray women and people of color not just as girlfriends and sidekicks, but as strong, complex characters deserving of their own arcs. They haven’t always been successful, but the effort has drawn them a diverse base of new fans.
In contrast, Ra’s al Ghul seems like something tossed to the comic book geeks so they will stop asking when Canary is going to put on her fishnets.
Ollie and Felicity belong in Starling City, where her technical expertise puts her on an even footing with his martial art skills. The League of Assassins belongs in the dustbin of history.