We will all agree that the crossover between The Flash and Arrow was a massive success. If the two episodes focused on the cooperation between the two teams and on what it takes to be a hero, these episodes showed a considerable change in the dynamic between Oliver and Felicity. It made me realize how differently Oliver and Felicity interact in the crossover. They are closer but more apart than ever, they share so much but talk so little. I wanted to go through the episodes we have had so far, covering the three seasons of Arrow broadcasted so far and reflect on what can be seen from the outside, how Oliver and Felicity physically express their feelings to each other and how they have transitioned from a really private to an obvious public display of affection. This meta will be a three-part article, each one of them covering a different season. Let’s start now with Season 1.
SEASON 1 – “THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT HER”
The season 1 of Arrow sets up the basis for Oliver and Felicity relationship. Not necessarily as a couple straight away but as two people who get to know, trust, appreciate and understand each other. The beauty of their relationship in Season 1 lies in the intimacy and privacy of their budding interaction.
“HI, I’M OLIVER QUEEN”
Two main scenes are typical of this dynamic in season 1. When they first met in 1x03 and when Felicity gave him the notebook in 1x12. Two crucial scenes for the development of their relationship, two moments they share in private, far from anyone who could know them. Being away from anyone’s sight makes perfect sense as Oliver tries to keep Felicity as far away as he can from his nightly activities in order to protect her. The less she knows, the safer she is.
Rewatching the 1x12 scene makes me realizes how natural, intuitive their attraction with each other is. Oliver thought straight from the beginning that there was something about her, Felicity felt like she could trust him without knowing him. They are attracted to each other despite any logic, any rational explanation. They try to explain it but they can’t, they just feel it. Their faces and looks speak for themselves. No physical contact is necessary to build the beginning of their journey together.
Their relationship in Season 1 relies on this. Two people feeling something, without really understanding what and without being able to put a name on it. If Oliver keeps his (physical) distance with her, it seems that the IT girl is growing on him. Oliver can’t help smiling when she’s around.
Then arrives the inevitable moment when Oliver divulges his secret identity to Felicity. Weirdly enough, this episode where Oliver is shot by his mother and where Felicity saves his life is the first episode where they touch each other. The first time Felicity lays her hands on Oliver, it’s literally to save his life. There’s no explanation required about the highly symbolic meaning of this fact. It’s in this episode that Oliver touches Felicity for the first time as well, when she agrees on being part of the team until they find Walter.
“ARE YOU IN?”
This, funnily enough, looks almost out of character when you know (with a three-year experience) the strength of their chemistry. Hold on guys, where is the complicity in this hand shake?! Where’s the heat?! This moment is however crucial in Oliver and Felicity relationship as Oliver purposefully resets their connection. Felicity is not a stranger anymore, she’s not a girl he can smile at and charm with his charisma. She’s a member of his team and as such, she deserves respect and protection.
For a few weeks, there’s no display of affection from any of them. They enter a total different dynamic in their relationship. They can’t let words or looks betray what deep down they may start to feel for each other. They are part of a team now and as such, they need to put some distance between them. The danger and the emergency of their mission take over and both of them lose the innocence of the first moments of their story. Like everyone does. It gets serious and there’s no place for bright smiles and long gazes.
As soon as Felicity joins the team, she’s exposed to danger and her life is threatened. In Dodger, the only sign Oliver shows towards Felicity is the well-known eyebrow lift but never during this episode has he expressed any sign of affection.
He always focuses on the mission more than on the members of his team. This makes sense as Oliver needs to shift his habits. From a solitary vigilante, he turns slowly into a leader. He cares for the members of his team but never can he show them how much he care for them. He can’t express his feelings, he can’t be weak. Oliver from season 1 is not an Oliver trying to figure out what is going on in his heart and in his head. He’s a vigilante who has a mission and only the mission matters. Felicity is not yet a love interest to him but a valued member of Team Arrow. Trust and consideration take time to develop between the two of them and it’s not without a few divergence of opinion.
The distance that Oliver puts between him and Felicity finds his paroxysm in the Return of the Huntress. In this episode, we understand the extend of the danger Felicity is potentially exposed to and the reason why Oliver doesn’t want her to get too close to him. At that very moment of their story, I can’t see Oliver seeing in Felicity a partner. Not just yet. This is too new, too fresh, he hasn’t evaluated the importance of her contribution and her impact in the team. This said, it’s pretty understandable. We have to remember that Felicity was only a temporary member of the team until they find Walter. Oliver couldn’t invest much hope and expectations in her when she could leave at any time. He couldn’t rely on her, create a need when he could lose her at any time.
During this scene, Oliver literally shouts Felicity out. Literally. He yells at her and tells her to leave. His purpose is to keep her safe, to keep her away from the danger and Helena. Unfortunately, by doing so, he loses control and shows Helena that Felicity matters, that he cares about her. He opens the door to his vulnerability.
When Helena finally attacks Felicity to learn when her father is being kept, Oliver lets his emotions take over and for the very first time, he cups her face. Out of relief. He makes sure that she is alright, that she’s not hurt. For the first time, he touches her to make sure she’s safe. This is a really intimate gesture. Touching someone’s face and allowing someone to touch your face is a sign of trust, of a form of intimacy between two people. More than just allowing him to reach for her face, Felicity grabs his hand. This sums up pretty well their relationship in Season 1. He cares and fears for her when she seems indubitably attracted to him.
From this episode, the dynamic changes slightly again and both of them starts to allow a bit more space for each other in their respective lives.
SHE’S MY FRIEND
Salvation deepens the status of their blossoming relationship. As Oliver and Felicity get to work with each other more closely, they get to know each other as well. They learn to know the difficulty of their mission and the consequences of it. Consequences on their private lives, on their minds and their hearts.
Felicity admits she doesn’t have anyone but can’t see herself sharing her new life with anyone. Oliver’s face is pretty reflective of his situation. Once more he keeps Felicity at distance. He doesn’t show her any form of indulgence or compassion. He lets her deal with the harsh consequences of seeing someone die by herself.
By the end of the episode, something shifts in Oliver’s mind. Felicity is not only a person who helps him. She’s a woman with emotions and for the first time, she triggers something in him, she harnesses this tiny bit of humanity that is left in him. Oliver touches Felicity’s shoulder and defines what will be their signature gesture, their very own way to express their feelings, to tell what the words can’t express. By physically reaching to Felicity, Oliver lets her in. As her partner. Why at this very moment? Maybe because he saw the impact of the life that they lead on her, maybe because his sister almost lost her boyfriend that night, maybe because he realized she was not like him, resistant to emotions, or that she needed him as much as he needed her.
If Felicity and Oliver’s partnership is now firmly established, it doesn’t mean that any of them would demonstrate any of their relationship in front of anyone. Yes, Diggle was there when Oliver touched her shoulder for the first time but it doesn’t mean that Felicity has any space in Oliver’s life. Felicity is part of Team Arrow but her connection to Oliver Queen is inexistent.
The Undertaking reminds us of that point really harshly. When Felicity interrupts Oliver and Laurel’s conversation, she confuses herself in excuses and states that she is nobody. At that point, this is very true in Oliver Queen’s world. Oliver Queen has no reason whatsoever to have a Felicity in his life. He’s a billionaire, back from the dead. Why would he reach out to an IT girl other than to set up his internet router? Oliver Queen and the Arrow are two separate personas and Felicity understands this. She’s not a part of this, of his world.
The Undertaking is once more one of these episodes where you can see a significant shift in Oliver towards Felicity. Through the episode, Felicity goes from “nobody”, to “partner”, to “friend”. For the first time in the history of Olicity, Oliver publically shows his connection with Felicity.
If the fact that she is his partner is not a new thing, she now enters his world, Oliver Queen’s world. As opposed to the Laurel moment, Oliver steps forward and introduces Felicity as his friend. Not as Walter’s employee. He legitimates her presence in his life. Considering that Oliver has worked hard to separate his two lives, this is a sign that the two sides of his life start to slowly merge into a complete blur that will lead to the well known identity problem in Season 3.
As the season 1 arrives to an end, we understand that Oliver is still deeply attached to Laurel. We understand as well that Felicity, if any proof was needed, has quite a crush on Oliver. Who wouldn’t fantasize on this Apollo with an immense heart and an intense look? In Darkness on the Edge of Town, Felicity gives away her attraction to him as she babbles in his arms.
The intimacy of the situation is noticeable as our two characters have never been that close to each other. We foresee the difference of feelings between the two protagonists : Felicity can’t hide she’s attracted to him in some way when Oliver is completely stoic. As usual, Oliver is focused on the mission and doesn’t give much away. And his heart and mind are still stuck with Laurel. He still hasn’t realized he is in the wrong and that this relationship won’t bring anything good to him. To be fair, this shows us that Oliver from season 1 is clearly different from the Ollie who left on a boat 5 years before. Oliver could totally take advantage on Felicity’s inclination for him. That’s something that Ollie could have done. But our Oliver cares for his partner, he cares for her safety. He doesn’t want to ruin anything between them and keeps things pretty straight forward.
Felicity shares these very same emotions for Oliver. She deeply cares for him and as Sacrifice kicks off we understand that she’s ready to do anything to protect Oliver. If no mention of his name is done, Felicity openly shares her vision of the Arrow with Captain Lance. She sees him as a hero and would do anything to ensure his safety, to make him reach the purpose of his crusade. She’s a now a connection to the Arrow for Captain Lance, connection that she doesn’t deny. She would prefer be arrested than giving him to the police.
Later, in the episode, when Oliver is about to fight his last battle against Merlyn, we catch a glimpse of what Oliver and Felicity relationship is at the end of the season. A pure trust, an infinite friendship and a limitless partnership. All of these go through the look they exchange.
The entire season 1 for Olicity is built around this : meaningful looks and partnership. Through an entire year, our two favourite characters learn to know each other, to trust each other, to rely on each other and to care for each other. As Oliver’s love life is past complicated, Felicity stands still and tries not to divulge anything of her burgeoning feelings. This is made easier by an Oliver who keeps his distance with her, trying to protect her from the darkness and danger of his life. However, they start developing signs of affection that will become theirs later on : long, eloquent looks and light touches. As much as they have kept their relationship private and somehow secret, the end of season 1 is indicative of the bonds that have been developed between the two. As sure as Oliver is about to see his life changed forever by the undertaking, he can now rely on someone new in his life, someone who will be there for him no matter what, someone who will prove him that he can be loved and love in return.