The Romance Contract

Feb182014

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I’ve been e-mailing with Pam Regis, Argh’s Academic in Residence, about the romance contract, the agreement that romance writers make with their readers. From Pam’s first e-mail:

The unspoken contract in romance fiction is that the parties to the courtship will end up together. They’ll overcome whatever barriers there are to that ending-up-together and commit to each other. For most of the genre’s history, the outward sign of that commitment was marriage–no longer a requirement, although still quite common.

This is pretty basic; it’s the same as the contract that mystery writers make with their readers: The ending will see this mystery solved. That sense of justice restored and narrative completed pervades much of storytelling; at the beginning, the stable world of the story is plunged into chaos and at the end, justice and stability are achieved again, albeit not necessarily the same stability. In the romance, that justice is emotional: good, flawed people find each other, make mistakes, grow, and in the end commit to each other and form a stable relationship, a bond made possible because they’ve fought the good fight.

But the reader can’t follow the good fight unless that contract is in place. That is, just as a mystery reader has to know who the detective is and what the crime is, so a romance reader needs to know who her lovers are. Even if the romance in the story is relegated to the subplot/B plot, that contract has to be in place. Romance readers don’t need the romance resolved right away, and in fact the harder the romance is to navigate, the better the romance plot because stress causes adrenalin which makes people vulnerable and impulsive which leads to more emotional upheaval; a romance under stress is a perfect example of emotional escalation. But readers do need to know who the parties to the romance contract are. Before the contract, the story is just a lot of people running around screwing up personal interactions. After the contract, those same screw-ups become barriers to and escalations of a clear plot. If you’re going to write romance, even as a subplot, you need that contract.

I’d asked Pam about Arrow because it’s currently hurtling toward one of the biggest train wrecks of romance writing I’ve ever seen. Here’s what she said about the Arrow romance contract:

Fulfilling this contract presupposes that the reader/viewer can tell who the parties to the courtship ARE. So, in Arrow, the audience easily identifies Oliver as one of the parties to the courtship–he’s the protagonist whose life changed while he was cheating on his girlfriend with his girlfriend’s sister: cue shipwreck, island, superpowers. Not to mention abs.

But who is the other party to the courtship? In romance (hetero and lesbian), readers/viewers focus on the female, for all that male romance characters now share point of view and have detailed character arcs. So, who is she? (Oliver seems to be hetero, so I’m not asking who he is, although the homosocial aspects of superhero fiction are pretty interesting. I’m also not asking who they are, because the assumption seems to be that this will not be a menage, although with these writers, who knows?)

So, who is she?

Of course, Arrow isn’t a romance, it just has romantic subplots, but even those need a romance contract. Take the Oliver/Helena romance. The contract was established early, supported by the connection they made due to their matching pathologies and then broken by the fact that Helena was a lot crazier than Oliver. It wasn’t a long romance, but it had a clear contract, a clear arc, and an understandable ending. Nobody ever asked during that subplot, “Who is she?” “She” was Helena.

Here’s Pam’s analysis of the Arrow romances:

We have Laurel: the barrier here is that Oliver slept with her sister. Your term, “bleah,” seems a bit mild here. Nothing like destroying a romantic relationship and a family in one go.

We have Felicity: the IT girl who, when she showed up, the viewers said: “That one.” I recall that one of the commenters on Argh reports thinking, “There she is” when Felicity arrived. So the part of the romance contract that requires a viewer to be able to identify the parties to the courtship seemed to be fulfilled for many viewers: Felicity from IT was it. Writers of fan fiction proceeded to write Oliver/Felicity scenes.

Ending the introduction of potential female parties to the courtship here would have left the I-know-who-is-in-the-courtship requirement of the romance contract fulfilled. The writers of Arrow, following the romance contract, would pursue the Felicity relationship, presumably inventing many barriers to its ultimate fulfillment.

But then Oliver kisses Sara. Now who is Oliver courting? Viewers don’t know anymore. They thought they did, but now they don’t.

This for me is the real problem with the Sara kiss: it breaks a contract that many viewers made with the writers and that the writers seemed to acknowledge in later Oliver/Felicity scenes. When you add to that the original contract the writers did make with the viewers, the Oliver/Laurel contract, it puts the writers in the shoes of that guy or girl who flirts with you, tell you that you have nice eyes, promises to call, and then makes out with somebody else at the end of the bar. It’s not that anybody is expecting Oliver to show up with a ring and propose to Felicity or Laurel, it’s that the writers are flirting with too many love interests simultaneously. If they pick a lane, if for example, they make an Oliver/Laurel contract and fulfill it, finishing that romance plot,and then make a new contract with the viewer for an Oliver/Felicity or an Oliver/Sara romance, the viewer can still keep a grip on the story. The length of the contract isn’t particularly important, either; there just has to be a contract.

A romance plot that refuses to identify the parties to the contract becomes a story with blank spaces that the reader has to fill in. This is why writing romances with more than one possible love interest can be such a dicey proposition: if a writer asks the question “Which one?” readers will answer, and if they pick a different love interest from the one the writer chose, the ending of the romance will be a failed catharsis of Biblical proportions. It may seem reductive that the reader has to know the players in a romance up front, but it’s as absurd to have a romance that leaves the identities of the lovers uncertain as it is to have a mystery that’s not sure if there’s been a crime or who the detective is. So if you leave those blank spaces in the text, the reader fills them in. Again, Pam’s take on this:

So the viewers who also write fan fiction, who have identified Felicity as Oliver’s intended, rescue her from her cheating suitor. They pair her with “anyone but Oliver,” including, for a perfect pay-back, Sara. Felicity and Sara both cheat on Oliver–with each other. These fan fiction writers react to the violation of the romance contract by writing scenes that restore romantic justice to the built world of Arrow. But Arrow is primarily about justice of another sort–saving innocent lives, saving the city–warrior justice.

Arrow’s writers have got a lot of courtship possibilities in play for Oliver. And it seems they are perfectly willing to introduce a new romantic element without much set-up: Oliver kissing Sara.

Are they adding characters to the mix, then waiting–not very long in the internet age–to see what the fan base thinks of the reconfigured relationships? To what extent can they violate the romance contract and still keep viewers?

At what point does viewer input make the viewers co-writers of the narrative? That’s the ultimate question.

For me, the writer not the academic, the ultimate question is more practical: at what point does the lack of contract mean that I lose control of the story because the reader rips it out of my hands to make it go in the direction she wants, abandoning my book to dream/write her own fantasies? At what point do I destroy my own narrative by making the teasing of expectation more important than actually telling the story? If I’m going to switch love interests, how much rage can I overcome in my reader to make her invest in the second love interest?

If requiring a contract seems to limit a plot too much, remember that a romance contract is between the writer and the reader, it’s not between the characters; they may not even be aware there’s a romance in their future. That means that both characters in the romance plot can see other people, have other romances (which complicate the arc of the contracted romance), delay acknowledgment of the seriousness of the relationship, pretty much do what they want, as long as what they’re doing doesn’t destroy the future of the relationship that the writer contracted with the reader. Their experiences are part of the romance arc, so the writer has to make sure that those experiences with others move that contracted romance plot, that the things the lovers learn from the other relationships inform the true love story. That means a writer has a lot of leeway even with a contract in place.

Therefore, knowing the contracted love interest on Arrow would clarify the Oliver/Sara kiss because viewers could tie it to the contracted plot; how they’d tie it would depend on who the love interest is. If the writers are abiding by the original Oliver/Laurel contract, they just ended that romance arc; “You slept with my sister twice” is not a segue to a happy ending. If they’re planning long term for Oliver/Felicity, viewers can adapt what’s happening to that romance: Oliver is denying his feelings for Felicity, Oliver is keeping the Arrow team on a professional basis, Oliver hasn’t caught on that he’s in love with Felicity, there are any number of explanations a Felicity ‘shipper can come up with to resolve that action as long as she knows Felicity is the other half of the romance contract. But if they’re planning an Oliver/Sara relationship, they have a problem because there’s no contract; that is, the romance wasn’t foreshadowed in any way that the viewer could say, “Oh, there she is, the other half of Oliver’s romance plot,” so an out-of-the-blue kiss just leads to a general “WTF?” The idea of teasing the reader/viewer with a knowing “wait and see, we have a plan” just doesn’t work in a romance plot. The romance reader is good with insurmountable odds and will wait a fairly long time to find out how the lovers will resolve everything, but she is not good with not knowing what the hell is going on.

Bottom line: To tell an effective romance narrative, you need to establish that romance contract.

Filed in Writing

243 Comments to 'The Romance Contract'

On February 18, 2014 at 1:00 am Jenny said...

This is the second e-mail that Pam and I swapped:

PAM: So, if romance is not the contract they are working from, what is the contract? Is it soap opera–but at warp speed–with plot points, including romantic plot points, stepping on each other’s heels? Sort of plot for plot’s sake, driven by the co-writing fans?
JENNY: I compared it to soap because of the over-the-top emotional arcs, but I think they’re trying for action-adventure superhero stuff, which traditionally has used women as sex objects or as death fetishes, killed to provide the hero with emotional motivation/vengeance; that last one is called fridging because the Green Lantern once found the body of his girlfriend in his refrigerator.

PAM: Is it porn? Many women for one central man. (Seems wrong.)
JENNY: No. The purpose isn’t erotic; if anything, it’s characterization for the hero, kind of sexual fridging. If fridging a woman supplies motivation, having sex with one supplies reward: if you’re a hero, you get a lot of busty chicks.

PAM: Is it tragedy? Are these women in a death-spiral? Will the show’s writers kill or exile a main female character? (Do the show runners have the guts to kill main characters? Is that where it’s headed? Do the fan fic writers kill or exile female characters? Is that where they’ve taken the action?)
JENNY: They’ve already killed a much-loved main character, so death is not a problem for them, especially since it can be reversed on this show. Plus the aforementioned fridging. I don’t know about fan fiction, I’ll have to ask the Argh People. There are some fan fiction experts in there.

PAM: Are the show’s writers just romance-illiterate/tone deaf? Do they just reset Oliver romantically from time to time so that they can start another romance, or feint as if they are going to, only to reset him again?
JENNY: Yes to “tone-deaf.” I’m not even sure they’re resetting Oliver since the original set, the Green Arrow/Black Canary romance, which is canon and would have been Laurel, is still not resolved, although I don’t think even the Lazarus Pit could resurrect that romance now.

PAM: One thing that I haven’t factored is the source text for this show–the DC comics Arrow.
JENNY: It’s a source, but they’re not slavish about it, probably because DC’s been telling stories about the Green Arrow for forty-three years and retconned the hell out of him.

PAM: Sherlock does shout-outs to Conan Doyle. Arrow does shout-outs to the DC comics Arrow. The Sherlockverse is bigger than the current BBC show. The Arrowverse is bigger than the current show. So, some viewers inhabit a bigger imaginative space than that provided by the show, or the comics, or…what, the Broadway show, maybe (think Spiderman).
JENNY: I don’t think there’s the common knowledge of Green Arrow canon the way there’s common knowledge of the Sherlock canon. The people who are familiar with the Green Arrow get an extra kick when things from the canon show up, and they show up with regularity, so that’s fun. But I think there’s a pretty clear idea that this is another version of the Green Arrow, that it is, in a sense, another retcon, and so I think most viewers are interacting with these characters, not an amalgam of the comic characters and these people.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:04 am Julie H. said...

“I don’t think even the Lazarus Pit could resurrect that romance now.”
- Jenny

And I just choked on my ice water. Thanks, Jenny. (wipes monitor dry)

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:32 pm Eleanor said...

Re: Fan fiction killing/exiling female characters–Yes. All the damn time. I’m not certain with Arrow (not far enough in to comfortably read any fanfic because there will definitely be spoilers), but it’s a pretty common way to get around canon romances. I’ve more seen it in Mary Sue fics (author inserting herself) than ones that keep to the original world, but it still happens. You either make the barrier character die a horrible death, send them on a long trip, or marry them to someone else. You see it a lot in Harry Potter fan fiction–Hermione is free to have a romance of her own because Ron married someone else, Harry is free to pursue his homosexual interests because Ginny turned out to be a lesbian, Pansy went nuts and had to be put down so Draco is free to fall for Neville.

Given that pretty much everyone in the fandom seems to be rooting for Felicity/Oliver, I seriously doubt there’s going to be any fanfic getting rid of her in favor of a Sarah/Oliver thing. I could totally see people getting rid of Oliver to give Felicity a happy ending, because you do occasionally see people using their fic to punish the character they think betrayed their favorite. But yeah, from a fan fiction standpoint, I really doubt Sarah is getting the manwhore prize that is Oliver Queen.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm Jenny said...

“You see it a lot in Harry Potter fan fiction–Hermione is free to have a romance of her own because Ron married someone else, Harry is free to pursue his homosexual interests because Ginny turned out to be a lesbian, Pansy went nuts and had to be put down so Draco is free to fall for Neville.”

I laughed out loud at this. Thank you, I needed a laugh today! (It’s freaking snowing again. AAAAAAAAAAAARGh.)

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm Bonnie C said...

“Draco is free to fall for Neville.” Um, yeah. Imma not touch that one and let it ride… lolol!

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:29 pm Georgia said...

I really wish I were this smart.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:12 am sara said...

This was actually meant to go on the other Arrow post about Protagonists, but since that’s closed, I am posting here, since it’s kind of related:

So, I know polls and online articles probably don’t mean much, but last Valentine’s Day, television websites who featured “couples” all had Felicity and Oliver–should they or shouldn’t they, couples who need to hook up already, couples who should kiss already, etc. What does it say about your show when the couple that is supposed to be your epic love romance is completely excluded from all Valentine’s Day articles and your one-time-guest-star-turned-regular and main lead manage to end up on everything written about the show on what is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year? (I actually hate Valentine’s Day with a vengeance, but it’s supposed to be romantic–although I’m not sure what’s romantic about paying 4x more for flowers, chocolate, and basically anything that has a heart on it).

I am really confused about all the conversation surrounding Oliver’s supposedly love for Laurel following Heir to the Demon. I say that not to encourage argument, but because it really has me stumped. If you were to look at the story completely objectively–assume the canon doesn’t exist; assume you have just met the characters on this show since the pilot episode and so the only history we have is what the show runners have put on the screen–how are more people not rooting for Laurel to take an ax and take a swing at Oliver? I don’t even like Laurel and if she was the one who gave Oliver the black eye that has been teased on Stephen Amell’s Facebook page a few weeks ago, I’d be all: “YOU MISSED THE OTHER EYE.” That meme was spot on: he says all these things to Laurel and each time, he goes off and does something that says something completely different. The words coming out of his mouth might be “You’re the most important person in the world to me,” his actions say, “Actually, it’s my dick…”

The Oliver-Sara hook up is almost a jumped-the-shark moment for me (I think they did turn some viewers off–we’ll see what the ratings look like next week–but I did read about a group of fans who just said, “We give up.”). Apparently, six years changes nothing. It has also made the canon love story unredeemable in my eyes. I can’t get on board with it. The next episode can feature amazing chemistry between Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy and I’d still be on the “Hell NO” team. They have managed, in three seconds, to make me hate Oliver AND Sara–and I liked Sara before this happened! If they ever tried to sell this stunt as a way to slow-burn Oliver and Laurel’s romance, I’d stop watching. I’m on board with a particle accelerator turning Barry into Flash, with the Mirakiru turning Slade and Roy superhuman, with the Suicide Squad, heck even with the Lazarus Pit resurrecting BOTH Tommy and the Count, but to try to sell me a story where Laurel would go back to Oliver? Yeah, I can’t suspend my disbelief for that.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:11 am Julie H. said...

I think, Sara, that you raise another really good point about the relationship (or is it lack of one at this point) between Arrow The Action Plot and Arrow The Romantic Plot. By having one (the romance) so ill-fitting & uncertain, it’s impacting the Action side in unexpected ways, namely that Oliver Queen – the hero we’re supposed to like – is getting chewed up and spit out. Flaws I get. We’ve talked about that. But this isn’t flawed. It’s unlikeable, non-relate-able ick territory that makes a viewer like me take a huge step back and say, “Wait. I thought you were a guy I wanted to get to know better and spend more time with. Now I’m catching whiffs of deep jerkdom.” The romance shenanigans they write for him makes him look like a bad person rather than a tortured, flawed hero. Instead of showing me he’s learned and changed from his ordeal, they tossed him back 5 years to show me he’s still the same thoughtless, insecure, careless putz. The only flaw this shows is in the storytelling not the character.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:36 pm J said...

I don’t relate very well to the criticism that this shows that Oliver hasn’t changed. Oliver has clearly dramatically changed in terms his naivete and much of his self-absorption, but in many ways he has also become darker, and we are still watching him progress. He is still capable of doing bad things and making bad choices. He wouldn’t be very interesting were that not the case. There’s a balance when repeating past mistakes between character regression and consistency. I don’t think this necessarily represents regression. His love life is an area that continues to be messy and that he hasn’t been able to get right yet.

While this hookup with Sara has echoes of past mistakes, they’re also both in a VERY different place than they were when the Queen’s Gambit went down. Oliver and Sara who have both been tortured and had to fight to survive fall into comfort with each other for different reasons than pissed-at-her-sister Sara and commitment-phobe Oliver. The two of them getting together would actually make a world of sense were it not for the tragically dysfunctional back story.

I did feel that it came out of nowhere and I don’t know where they’re going with it, but I’m optimistic. And I still like Sara and I still like Oliver, even though they’re both pretty messed up.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm Jenny said...

I agree with all of this, except for one aspect: I thought Oliver had learned some empathy through suffering. He definitely took responsibility for Laurel’s suffering. And yet when she’s at her lowest, when she’s drowning in booze and pills, lost her career, pretty much going down for the last time, he sleeps with her sister, not because Sara is the great love of his life or even the great love of this week, but because he’s feeling bad (because the mother he’s been lying to has been lying to him) and it’s going to feel good. If Sara-Oliver had been set up a romance, then they have a right to happiness. But it was pretty much presented as “We’ve both had bad days, lets have sex,” even though the repercussions from that are going to be painful to other people. So he’s still self-absorbed. I’m sure he’ll feel guilty about the fall-out, but guilt is easy. Doing the right thing is hard, and he’s the hero, he’s supposed to take the difficult path and save people, not the easy path that hurts them. But mostly the hit is that this make him dumb as a rock. I actually sat up at that point in the show and said, “Really, Oliver? REALLY?” because it such a dumb thing to do.
So yep, he’s changed dramatically since the island, I agree. But that scene still put an arrow in the knee of his character.

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On February 20, 2014 at 4:54 am Sarah B said...

”I can’t get on board with it. The next episode can feature amazing chemistry between Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy and I’d still be on the “Hell NO” team. They have managed, in three seconds, to make me hate Oliver AND Sara–and I liked Sara before this happened.”

Yes, yes, yes, to all this, and to the original post. You have all articulated so well the reasons for this knot I’ve had in my stomach since I watched the last ep, and the visceral response I had to certain spoilers for next week, featuring O and the Lances.

I know that the show wasn’t written as the Olicity love story. I think Felicity all came about as a result of Emily and her brilliance as the character and her chemistry with SA. That caused the writers to scrabble around trying to think what to do with the IT girl that made so many of us sit up and go ‘Ok, now we’ve got a show.’ Even if we get Olicity, it will take time, and I’m happy with that. They can both have romantic relationships as barriers to the final ‘happy ending’. I’m not even saying there has to be a happy ending. My favourite ever tv couple were Spuffy and they sure as heck didn’t ride off into the sunset together. But, much as I wanted to kill Joss Whedon for not allowing me the fulfilment of that ‘romantic contract’, what he did made sense and was true to the characters.

And that’s what is bothering me. The best extended stories have characters that evolve and grow (again, see Spike on Buffy. Masterly character development over several years). Arrow is a superhero story, but isn’t it also about redemption and how we can be the best versions of ourselves? Maybe that’s too moralistic or preachy, but I don’t think Arrow would be attracting such a diverse audience if it was just about action sequences and SA’s abs, spectacular as both things are! Shows have to have depth and heart, which I think Arrow shows signs of, and which I think are epitomised by the dynamic of the original Team Arrow threesome.

And I get that Oliver was selfish, thoughtless and a jerk towards women before the island, and those parts of him might resurface from time to time. He’s still human. But I think the manho storylines are being overused to the point where no amount of gratuitous salmon ladder scene watching will be enough for me to like him or think he deserves a good woman. If he’d hooked up with Sara as they are so alike and were lonely and sad, then I’d get it. But the thought of them trying to be a couple, and seeming to be oblivious to how that will affect S and F, is just nauseating. If there had been a build up to it, then maybe it could work. But it came out of left field and, coupled with the ‘I can’t be with someone I care about’ nonsense, makes O seem cruel and S selfish. And I was really liking her. It just seems contrived and not part of where they were going, when you see the intensity of the Olicity scenes prior to that episode. I know part of my annoyance is I love Felicity, but this storyline, where they will be exploring S and O as a couple for several eps, is a mistake, I think, of epic proportions.

Please let them, at least, not have F being jealous or pining after him. If she turns into Miss Moneypenny, having to watch Bond, Oliver Bond and Pussy Galore be all lovey dovey in the lair, then I’m done. I’ll go back to my Buffy DVDs and watch S7 while weeping into a pint of Chunky Monkey.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:01 am Julie H. said...

Jenny (and Pam! Thank you, Pam!) this nails exactly, for me, how and why I developed that “viewer romance contract” with Arrow’s Oliver and Felicity. When Arrow established that romantic subplot part of the show, I started looking for Oliver’s other half. The Oliver/Laurel one was crossed off exactly for that “bleah” factor immediately. Oliver and Helena died for obvious reasons. Even Oliver/McKenna held no lasting appeal. I really thought I’d never find one and then Felicity showed up.

I’m one of the people that had that “There she is!” moment when Oliver met Felicity. She showed up in that diner with the book, asked if she could trust him, and for a moment he dropped all pretense and jackassery and had a scene of honest, clear connection with her. Ding Dong! the Romance Bell rang loud and clear! There she is! There she is! That’s the women for Oliver (and he for her)! Yay! About time! Woohoo! That was Episode 12. 12! More than halfway through the 1st season.

But in that scene I met a version of Oliver I actually liked as a romantic hero. Here was a female I felt suited him. It was that single moment where I identified my parties in this courtship. Sold! Bring it! Making that identification (regardless of how long I’d have to wait for them to actually get together and the junk the writers were sure to throw in their path) really grounded a huge part of the show I’d felt until then was just pointlessly flapping around.

You are totally right that, for me as a viewer, having that romantic contract helped me adapt to where the show went after that. It felt like there was a direction on all fronts now. You listed all the things I – as a viewer – understood as the episodes unfolded (Oliver not getting exactly what his feelings for Felicity were becoming, Felicity trying to deny what she was starting to feel out of fear of wanting the unobtainable, both trying to keep the team professional, 3rd parties, etc) and I was all settled in for a nice, long story with all sorts of obstacles getting in their way before they ultimately got together. That’s absolutely 100% dead on for how I felt and interpreted what was going on on my tv screen.

Then came that last episode and that WTF Kiss and BOOM. The writers totally blew apart that “grounded” feeling I had. Not in a good, fun, OOooh way but in a what the bleeping bleep was that? What are they doing? Why are they blowing this *again*?

Now I don’t know what the heck is going on but I NEED to know. I need to know what the point is with this romantic subplot and I need to know soon because this constant, pointless romantic flip flopping feel is getting annoying and frankly it’s tiring me out. Pick a lane. Clue my viewer GPS and let’s get this show on the road already.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm J said...

I think it’s interesting that you had Felicity pegged as The Love Interest from episode 12. I LOVED Felicity from her first appearance, and when she started showing up more, I said YES, this show needed the balance this character brings to the table. That scene in the diner was definitely a big moment for me where I really saw the chemistry and started shipping it. But I settled myself in for the long and frustrating life of a crack-shipper. I really thought it would never happen, Felicity would just be the nerdy IT girl.

Then season 2 happened. In the first episode we had a shirtless Oliver on top of Felicity. Then when they crashed through that window and Oliver frantically tried to see if she was ok, my stomach flipped. It became so clear that Felicity was becoming *very* important to him. I think the show finally solidified the Romance Contract with the “someone I could really care about” line. It told us definitively that Oliver was looking at Felicity differently, that she was on his mind, but that he was consciously not going there. They established the feelings and the obstacle. Before that point there was chemistry and speculation, now there were clearly feelings. And since then the show has been strengthening it with scenes that grow their connection, comments from other characters about their feelings for each other. Even in the last episode we had a tender, emotional moment between the two of them.

Arrow isn’t a show that sets things up without paying them off, and there has been MASSIVE set up between them. I don’t know when they will pay it off, but because of the fast-paced nature of the show, I suspect that a longer wait means a better payoff. We’re looking at likely a 5-7 season show; there are necessarily going to be other relationships for both of them if there is a long plan for the pairing. In that sense, I think the way you execute these romance contracts has to be a bit more open for TV than, say, a novel.

I don’t know how all of this is going to play out, maybe it will be awful, but I just don’t feel like it’s awful yet.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm Jenny said...

I agree, but they’re sending mixed signals. Oliver’s said variations of “You’re not going to lose me” to Laurel, Sara, and Felicity. He’s indicated to all three of them and about all three of them at different times that they’re crucial to him. The Laurel ‘shippers aren’t delusional; there was a clear contract there that was reinforced over and over again. So I’m going to need a clearer contract before I start thinking there’s a plan here because Oliver stares deeply into everybody’s eyes. That may be because he’s myopic, but the impression I get is that they haven’t picked a lane yet.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:13 am callistawolf said...

Great article, as always!! I love this insight, especially from the view of a romance writer (which is something I’ve aspired to be for ages and ages now, but for now am doing the fan fiction thing).

I can definitely answer the question about killing off characters in fanfic. It happens ALL THE TIME. With the reveal of Slade at the mid-season finale, a lot of people thought maybe there would be a mirrored “you must choose” moment towards the end of the season, with Slade making Oliver choose between two women again, much like Ivo did with Sara and Shado on the island. Sometimes its Sara and Laurel, sometimes its Laurel and Felicity, I think I even saw Sara and Felicity.

I wrote one of these, and I had it between Sara and Laurel and Sara was killed. This was before this last episode and it was a hard thing for me to write because I genuinely liked Sara’s character. But I wanted to play with that a little, use that as motivation for Laurel’s transformation to Canary (as the writers seem to keep hinting is still going to happen eventually).

I’ve even read fics which kill of Felicity (sometimes in the “choice” scenario, sometimes in a different way altogether) but these are often angst-fests that mean to show Oliver’s regret at letting her go, I think? I don’t know, those are hard to read because I’m a Felicity shipper at heart!

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:44 am Jenny said...

Thank you for clearing that up. It’s interesting that even fan fiction fridges women for hero angst (ARGH), although I keep thinking, too, they set up that Shado/Sara thing so they could echo it later.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:41 am Greta said...

I hope they won’t go for a re-enactment of the choice Oliver made on the island, since this possibility is such a predictable one (and has been overused by fan fiction writers to a massive degree) and I hope that the writers surprise us with not going there.
Other than that, if I may add as a fanfiction reader that when female characters get fridged in fanfics it’s mostly as a tool of emotional revenge towards Oliver and how he’s behaved towards Felicity.
[Additionally, may I just add that I’ve adored your books and how happy I was to read your stance writing-wise on another favorite thing of mine: Arrow. Your cohesive and valid arguments are a joy to read. They exactly express what I’ve always found wrong with the romance sub-plot in Arrow but could never put into words as beautifully as you do. Thank you for that.)

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm Eleanor said...

Oh whoops, should have checked if someone else had answered already!

For future ref, once I get all caught up on Arrow: are your stories on fanfiction.net? Because I would really like to read some Argh people’s Arrow stuff.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:57 pm Jenny said...

Actually, multiple answers are good, especially on stuff like fan fiction where we don’t have many people who know the topic.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:48 am Ash said...

Currently on the Fan Fiction front I am following one story where Sara was the love of Oliver’s life – they had a daughter and Sara died. Felicity is in Community college having given up her MIT scholarship to look after her Grandma who requires expensive cancer treatment. Dr Rebecca Merlyn (Tommy’s mum) arranges for Felicity to became Oliver’s daughters nanny to help Felicity pay the bills and because Oliver’s tyke is a handful. (I’m getting warm fuzzies – because Oliver is a devoted single dad trying to juggle being CEO and big brother and still have the stigma of his parents being up to no good) – This story also commenced before 2 x 13 aired

There are also two other stories I am deeply invested in that has Oliver as a Dad to twins. In one story the mom was Helena and her father knocked her off and Oliver is trying to keep his boys safe. Que Felicity on the intel. There other is one where he met Felicity randomly before the Gambit left and knocked her up. He’s started his Arrow agenda and just found out he’s a Dad.

The reason why I am eagerly awaiting updates to these stories is in part because these versions of Oliver are trying to live with and move on from his past mistakes and be a good dad. These stories are also heavily weighted towards developing the relationships between Oliver and others, with the action coming in second.

I’ve also wanted to write some Olicity but my Felicity ends up looking like Pepper Potts, so I need to work on that. For those interested in demographics or profiles I am in my late 30′s and come from the land down under. (Australia if anyone didn’t get that reference)

And completely for Fun – I don’t know if you’ve seen this picture but I laughed, and after 2 x 13, I do think Oliver needs to become something else (Although not necessarily this) http://magaivebr.tumblr.com/post/76530354012/jbdolicity-lmao-thanks-for-sharing

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:15 am OnlySlightlyNeurotic said...

I keep trying to tell myself not to be heart broken with the aftermath of Heir to the Demon. Arrow was never meant to be a romantic sitcom. But oh I wanted it to be. I wanted Oliver Queen to be the hero and find a romantic partner that he could make himself worthy of. I do not feel that this is Sara Lance. One of the executive producers have said that they don’t give the viewers what they want, only what they need to keep watching. Around 80% of us (according to the TV Guide recent poll) want Olicity – myself included. So they tease us with what we need by highlighting the great chemistry between Oliver and Felicity. I have written that romance contract in my head and have it signed and sealed already. Up until this point Sara Lance was a very popular character on the show. I think that the writers were hoping that her popularity would be enough to forge forward with her as a viable romantic partner. I felt that the kiss at the end of 2×13 was completely out of left field and I was devastated with destruction of the romance contract I had already written in my mind. I even felt bad for Laurel whom I’m usually fairly apathetic for. I have little faith in the writers at this point.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:50 am Julie H. said...

Arrow might not be a romantic sitcom but Arrow does and is utilizing a romantic subplot in its show, and by doing that, they still establishing that romantic contract with me. It’s not the Big Focus but it’s still an element of the experience for the viewer, just like the romance subplot in a novel. :)

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:22 am Jenny said...

Subplots can make or break a story because they have (or at least should have) a huge impact on the main plot.
In this case, the main plot depends on Oliver having grown and changed because of his suffering on the island. That’s shown in the main plot over and over again: he’s smarter, he’s stronger, he’s braver, etc. Then the Sara kiss comes along and he’s the same idiot he was when he got on the yacht. That undercuts everything the main plot has been building for him. It’s not that he has sex without love or that he’s cheating on Laurel or Felicity, neither of whom has a romantic relationship with him, it’s that he’s doing the same idiot thing he did six years ago. For a guy who spent five years learning to control himself, that’s a major character hit.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm OnlySlightlyNeurotic said...

I agree with both of you. It is such a character hit. I worry that since I was (am) a viewer primarily interested in the romantic subplot it is going to be awhile before I can “trust” Oliver again. It is not as though he has really done anything wrong except on principle. I am going to have to push my Olicity cravings to the back burner because at this point it is not in Felicity’s best interest to get into any sort of relationship with a man so emotionally flawed. I guess the writers can recover from this depending how they deal with the next few episodes. This has been a very angst filled season for Felicity and I cringe anticipating her reaction to all of this. I hope the writers allow for her to deal honestly with this all.

If I was able to wait out 9 seasons of X-files to finally fulfill their romantic contract I guess I can wait awhile longer with Arrow to fulfill mine :)

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:13 am Angelia Flores said...

I agree with you 100 % OLICITY ALL THE WAY…The chemistry is THERE1 They have EVERYTHING they need to be a couple! I was flabbergasted by the kiss between Sarah and Oliver…it through me for a loop…Felicity MUST show him what he is missing SOMEHOW! I believe he is in denial…Felicity is going to be heart broken! But they are in my marriage contract for ARROW…she is THE ONE! I did not start watching Arrow for the romance but part of the story but NOW Felicity and Oliver draw me towards it…if the writers place Oliver in a relationship with another woman which causes Felicity to be pushed away…I truly would not be able to watch this show any longer…maybe it is going to take a near death experience for Oliver to wake up to who his true love is!

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:18 am Mel said...

I’m a bit behind, have only seen a few eps of S2 so far. But yup. Ollicity all the way. She knows the real him and isn’t afraid to call him on his crap. Plus he is better because of her. Laurel equals no way no how. Too much insurmountable baggage. I can deal with Ollie stumbling around being a bit clueless and not realizing that Felicity is right there but dear God, let them not drag that out forever and ever and endless URST. Though TV is generally a bit crap at handling romances, so I am bracing myself for them to train wreck it. But it would be cool to see them dealing with the extra problems that a romance brings for once.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:31 am CJ said...

Don’t get why the Laurel/Oliver romance contract is the only one ended by the second Sara/Oliver hook up? Why would Felicity be interested in him anymore knowing he’s betrayed the so-called love of his life twice, with her sister? Shouldn’t that shut the door on her feelings for Oliver, knowing how he treats women? Not only that but he’s pretty much betrayed Felicity /lied to her/led her on with the “I can’t be with someone I could really care about in ‘that way’” line.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:40 am Jenny said...

Because seeing the man you love betraying someone else is not the same thing as being betrayed by the man you love. In fact, I’d think from Felicity’s POV, it’s just Oliver being an idiot again because there was no blood in his brain, rather than seeing it as a betrayal. He’s not in a relationship with Laurel, so he’s not cheating. I’m not saying she’d shrug it off, I don’t think Diggle would shrug it off, it’s such a dumb move, but it’s not going to have the same degree of impact on Felicity that it would on Laurel.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:25 am CJ said...

“He’s not in a relationship with Laurel so he’s not cheating.”

Exactly. So what happened in 2×13 is really more hurtful to the Sara/Laurel relationship.

In terms of Oliver/Laurel, it’s just a crappy thing for Oliver to have done. People do crappy things to each other all the time. Oliver himself tends to treat everyone in a crappy way at one time or another. In terms of Oliver and Laurel, is it forever unforgivable? I don’t think so. Not when she’s forgiven him for worse things he’d done. I’m not saying that whenever she does forgive him she’s going to want to get involved with him romantically right that second.

Hopefully that will be the farthest thing from her mind while she finds her way back towards her sister and towards getting her Black Canary self together because, right now, that’s more important to Laurel’s character than the romantic contract.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:55 am Jenny said...

We may just have different thresholds for what we consider unforgivable.

If I’m madly in love with a man and I find out he’s sleeping with my sister, I think I’m pretty much done with him. I’ll probably forgive her because she’s my sister and I love her, but him? Not so much.
But okay, I REALLY love him, so I forgive him.
Then he does it again.
Here’s the thing: I deserve better and I know it. If he loves me, he won’t sleep with my sister. Even if we’re not in a relationship, if he loves me, he won’t sleep with my sister. The fact that he’s doing my sister pretty much tells me that he doesn’t love me. And I deserve somebody who loves me.
I think Laurel does, too.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:33 am Sam said...

Thank you once again Jenny (and Pam) for an insightful post. I hope this reply comes right under your post. I 100% agree. I did not buy their romance with that kind of back story from the start, but I knew if Sara/Oliver slept together again, it would be that nail in that coffin. Now I am wondering if Oliver even has one ounce of respect for Laurel because I do not think he loves her at all. Not just sleeping with Sara again, but trying to find happiness, love and a relationship with Sara. Also considering that in flashback, their affair wasn’t a one time thing. It was continuous. I would think Laurel, if she had any self-respect would never want to be near Oliver again, I could not even fathom a friendship ever happening because this man literally has zero respect for her. So that last thirty seconds basically erased anything Laurel/Oliver related in Season 1. I no longer buy that he was sorry, or wanted to be forgiven, or even really wanted Laurel back because he just went right back and did the same thing again. It wasn’t even Sara that lunged at him, it was Oliver initiating the first move by lunging at her. There is no way Oliver/Laurel can come back from that and the writers even trying it would be painful to watch.

As far as the romantic contract–It doesn’t seem like they have one and that is where trust issues come into play, because when they do have Oliver with someone, through their whole relationship I’ll be questioning what kind of nonsense they’ll do next that’ll leave me with another, “WTH”, much like the Sara/Oliver hook-up did. When I can see a clear endgame, then I can become invested because all those obstacles are just leading to the people I know the writers are pointing towards. Booth and Brennan was given as an example. They need to either stop teasing people or be clear about what they want. So far, I saw an interview where one of the producers said that the burgeoning romance between Barry/Felicity was one obstacle they tossed Oliver/Felicity’s way and that another would follow in short order (this being Sara). This was in response to a question about when Oliver/Felicity would hook-up. This does sound to me like they are trying to throw obstacles in their path to prevent the writers from “going there” with Oliver/Felicity. Whether I believe them or not is another question though. But, the thing is they are playing with all the current women. We have little things with Laurel/Oliver — Laurel saying we can’t be together and Oliver looking hesitant, then you have him saying, “you are never going to lose me”, then you have all of the Oliver/Felicity teasing, which there are so many, especially in the first half of the season, and now you have Sara/Oliver. It’s giving people whiplash and causing confusion. I just want to know what is going on because right now that contract is in a big pile of mess. Fix it show, please.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:17 am CJ said...

I guess I’m just confused on how one goes from having this opinion of Laurel (culled from your How Do You Solve A Problem Like Laurel Lance post):

“And that’s where the disconnect happened because all of Laurel’s good qualities have a flip side. She’s smart, but she’s arrogant, thinking she’s always the smartest person in the room. She’s tough, but that toughness creates distance, which makes her cold. She’s brave, but that makes her dismissive of people who are less brave. She’s relentless, but that also makes her unforgiving. In short, she’s an amazing woman, but nobody you’d want to see in a relationship with anybody you cared about.”

To this opinion of her:

“And I deserve somebody who loves me. I think Laurel does too.”

Because the Laurel you described first, which is the complete opposite of the way I see her, is the complete opposite of a Laurel you now say deserves love. The Laurel you describe, again not the Laurel that I see, is a pretty icky human being.

The first Laurel you describe isn’t good enough to be “The Girl” for hero Oliver in your conclusion to that post and the Laurel in “this” post deserves better than Slept-With-Her-Sister-Twice Oliver.

It seems like the view of Laurel changes from episode to episode, or in this case, post to post just so it keeps her on the opposite side of Oliver.

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On February 18, 2014 at 8:48 am Jenny said...

CJ, I think everybody deserves somebody who loves him or her, and nobody deserves betrayal and pain.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm Andrea said...

And Jenny, not only he’s sleeping with my sister, he’s also rubbing it on my face with no regards of what I feel.

I just.. I honestly don’t know what the writers had in their brain when they planned the show’s pilot. I thnk they may have wanted to keep elements of the comics in the Arrow/Canary (or Laurel/Oliver) relationship with the cheating theme, but HOW AND WHY would they EVER think cheating is a cool thing and easily forgiven? It makes me constantly think about how the male brain works because it’s just not possible for them to have thought that out and “oh hey it’s sch a good idea I’m sure they can overcome that”

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:48 pm Emily said...

And as a reader or viewer, a female character who doesn’t believe that she deserves better than a guy who could cheat on her twice with her sister, and isn’t smart enough to read that as “He doesn’t love me”, doesn’t have my interest in any way shape or form. I can buy into a character who makes mistakes, but I’m not interested in anyone that masochistic and dumb.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:54 am CJ said...

As far as I’m concerned, the writers had picked a lane/romantic contract at the start of the series. That lane was Laurel/Oliver even whilst he was dating Helena and McKenna.

They built up the romantic contract with dialogue (I see the way you look at her), actions (chats over ice cream, plans made for coffee so they could try to reconnect, pictures held onto through hell and high-water because she was his reminder of home), Oliver always putting Laurel’s safety before that of anyone else.

But, oh! People want Olicity. We better go there. Oh, people like Sara. Let’s try that, too! And look how that’s worked out. It’s only been since the writers have started making contracts they obviously didn’t plan on that things have gone completely off the rails. That’s because they’ve let the romantic contracts be made at the whim of the viewer instead of sticking to their own outline.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:41 am Jenny said...

I agree, the original contract was with Laurel.
But you point out the problem when you say that people wanted other romances. If you offer a contract to readers saying “This romance will be between Oliver and Laurel,” and the majority of your readers say, “No, how about (fill in the blank here),” it’s not about the fill in the blank names, it’s about the failure of the original contract. If the romance contract works, the reader/viewer will grab on to it and follow it to the end. If the viewer rejects it, sticking with it is just story suicide. I understand that a lot of people were perfectly happy with that contract, but I also understand that a lot more people were not, including most reviewers. The problem was not that the Oliver/Laurel romance was torpedoed by a very few vocal Felicity fans, the problem was that the contract was rejected by the majority of Arrow fans. I don’t think that Felicity has to be the love interest, but I also don’t see any way that Laurel can be after this. He’s sleeping with her sister, the sister he betrayed her with six years ago. How can there possibly be any love left there? He clearly doesn’t love her, he’s sleeping with her sister. Why would she want that relationship?
I think Laurel deserves a good man who will treat her with respect, stick with her through the bad times, choose her above all others. That man is not Oliver Queen.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:19 am CJ said...

But the reader doesn’t dictate to you, the book writer, who the contract should be between do they? If they did, your books would be a mess. Granted, your books are romances and I dare say one might get bad reviews because the reviewer didn’t connect with the couple but bad reviews don’t mean you re-write the book.

So why should the viewer get to dictate who the romance contract on a show, a show not about romance mind, should be between? They shouldn’t. I think Arrow is proof of that. The romance attempts outside of the initial contract have screwed up plots and characterizations. This is because the writers are trying to serve more than one master when the story they set out to tell should be the only thing they seek to serve.

There’s also nothing proving the actual majority of Arrows viewers are Olicity shippers. They are just the loudest. Other opinions are constantly being shouted down/shouted at and harassed. I don’t comment on any of the more public sites like EW anymore because of it. If you look at other boards though, genre and regular TV boards you also see that the average Arrow fan in those places don’t care all that much about the romances anyway.

Maybe I’m wrong but I just have a hard time believing that most people watching an action show are just into it for a romance when there are actual romance shows they could be watching instead. I also find it hard to believe the claims I’ve seen made that, if there was no Olicity/potential for Olicity, people would stop watching Arrow in droves and the ratings would tank especially when even non-genre sites are calling it the best comic book show ever and one of the better shows on TV right now.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:30 am Jenny said...

Oh, I don’t think the majority of people would stop watching if the love interest isn’t Felicity. As you said, it’s not a romance story, it’s action-adventure.

“But the reader doesn’t dictate to you, the book writer, who the contract should be between do they?”
Because I write novels, they can’t; the story’s done by the time they read it. If I wrote series novels, or serialized pieces of my novels the way Dickens did, then I’d respond to fan feedback, but only if I agreed with it. From what the show runners have said (“Felicity solved a problem we didn’t know we had”), they weren’t going against their own instincts in using Felicity more, they saw that she was fixing a problem, and brought her back more often to keep that problem at bay.

As it happens, I’ve gotten fan feedback that I’ve looked at and thought, “If I’d gotten this before the book was finished, I’d have changed it.” And I’ve absolutely made major changes in my books following what beta readers and my editors have said. You need that feedback on your story because as a writer, you’re blind to its flaws. By the time you’re showing it to people, you’ve fixed everything you can think of and you need fresh eyes. I wouldn’t want the millions of fresh eyes Arrow has, but the idea of getting feedback as you tell a story and changing the story accordingly is pretty standard in any kind of writing.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:22 am sara said...

I think the difference is a book ends. You know how it ends, and just as importantly, you know WHEN it ends. With a television show, you keep going so long as the ratings are there. When Stephen Amell was asking about the differences between the comics and the show, he answered that they take elements from the comic that helps their show, but the latter is fluid–it needs to keep moving. It adds a different, more complicated aspect to storytelling.

I do think Olicity is a significant fan base, and that there are more Oliver-Felicity fans than Oliver-Laurel and Oliver-Sara. On Valentine’s Day for two years in a row, Stephen Amell has teased Olicity on Facebook or Twitter. Last year, he sent out a tweet that said, “Hey guys, there’s only 1 L in Olicity.” This year, he put out a meme of Diggle looking at fighting Oliver-Felicity with “I ship you guys so hard.” On Valentine’s Day. Add to that, as was pointed out, even DC Comics tweeted that Olicity-themed vine. There was nothing about Oliver-Laurel or Oliver-Sara. Those are pretty telling signs about the Oliver-Laurel love story, or lack thereof.

I think it can be really hard to accept that the romance contract has changed. I still remember when I watched Dawson’s Creek (in my defense, I was a teenager…and I only saw the first season) and I heard that the fan base started clamoring for Joey-Pacey in the latter season. I was up in arms, even though I had stopped following the show, because “It’s called DAWSON’S Creek, not Pacey’s Creek!” To use the terms above, the romance contact–for me–was signed, sealed and delivered. I bought into the Dawson-Joey epic romance, and I felt cheated out of it. But a few years ago, once I had emotionally recovered, I watched the last few episodes again, and I understood why they chose Pacey. I can’t say I liked it, but I understood that character-wise, it made sense. It wasn’t fan pandering–it was storytelling, and with television, it is a more fluid medium. So many shows ended up going in a different direction from the original plan.

I think as a writer, criticism is always hard. When Arrow received backlash for Laurel’s character and the Oliver-Laurel love story, the producers admitted it was hard to hear. They’ve come up with a great show, save their romantic subplot. The truth is, any direction they take that isn’t Oliver-Laurel is going to be deemed fan pandering because the original contract was never with Felicity or Sara. I think what’s really hard for people who tuned in and bought into the original contract is accepting that quite possibly, the producers and writers have accepted the perceived weakness in their story and changed the romance contract as a result. It’s much more convenient to label it as fan pandering than to consider that maybe they changed the story because they saw that it was better than the original plan. As a writer, I agree with Jenny: you can’t get me to go in a direction just because people want me to, I would have to believe and agree with it.

I didn’t sign up for the romance angle either, but if they go back to Oliver-Laurel, I am done. Isn’t there a saying? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” To write this story once and have Laurel forgive him–clearly, Oliver’s the moron. But if they do it again, I’d be sitting there thinking, “Oh, well apparently, Laurel’s a moron too.” I’m just not interested in seeing two idiots go at it, no matter how good the action scenes are.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:26 pm Julie H. said...

I don’t think people would stop watching Arrow if the romantic interest wasn’t X character either. But they would, I think because I would, stop watching the show if Oliver becomes a character you no longer want to spend time with, and this undecided romantic waffling & recent choices push him closer to that territory and that’s just a shame and so unnecessary.

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On February 20, 2014 at 5:09 am Sarah B said...

I do wonder if the viewers had responded better to the Laurel character, where we’d be now? I know the actress playing her gets a lot of flack and is unfavourably compared to Emily BR and Caity L. But I can’t think of anyone who could make Laurel likeable, the way she’s written. I got the feeling they wanted the endgame to be Laurel and Oliver, or, at least, had thought that could be it. But the fans were so clearly against that, that they had to do a course correction, and now they’re floundering somewhat, unsure as to whom to make the other half of that romantic contract, if they want the show to last for a lot more seasons. I certainly think that the ‘Laurel as Mrs Q’ idea is as dead in the water as the career of the Sochi snowflake fail engineer! I can’t see any way to make us want Oliver to end up with her. I don’t enjoy her scenes, even though I love her parents. I will admit that I am nervous as to how these next few episodes will play out, as I just can’t watch S and O making goo goo eyes at each other!

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On February 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm Julie said...

When you talk about original contracts it makes me think of Dawson’s Creek where it started with Dawson and Jen, but it was established that Joey had history and connection and fan momentum (cue fade out of Jen). And so everyone made the contract with those two, but what they didn’t see coming was Pacey and Joey, the writers admit that Dawson and Joey were supposed to be together in the end, but the fan’s and ultimately the writers couldn’t deny the chemistry and the rightness of P and J. Sound familiar to any other show we can’t stop watching, blogging, obsessing over? But I do think like in any relationship you have to see what’s working, do they better each other, challenge each other, push each other and still have a basis to remain even at the most basic friends. I don’t see that they have done that with Laurel and Oliver, even the friendship in the past couple episodes has seemed odd and almost out of place. Something that could have made sense doesn’t now.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:18 pm Kelly S said...

“I think Laurel deserves a good man who will treat her with respect, stick with her through the bad times, choose her above all others.”

It could (should?) have been Tommy.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:15 am Angelia Flores said...

I don’t think he cares about Sarah ‘in that way’ I though about that statement too…as I am sure will Felicity…but I think he is TRYING to subconsciously or consciously away…he has NEVER really had a true, sincere love…Sarah is from his past and he can relate to her, not love her…Felicity KNOWS him and still,loves him, secretly, and that is what we, the viewers get to see…Oliver got over Laurel, Shade, Helena, etc, etc…but henSOULD NOT be bale to get over Felicity…he went from playboy to Arrow…he is finding himself …and he NEEDS Felicity…and as we see…he LOVES FELICITY…The writers are going to have to make it work so that he can love Felicity and be with her without Arrows enemies finding out how much he cares…because they would use her against him….it can be done!

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:43 am sara said...

The romance reader is good with insurmountable odds and will wait a fairly long time to find out how the lovers will resolve everything, but she is not good with not knowing what the hell is going on.

This is it, exactly. I don’t like being played. I don’t like not knowing which direction they are going. For example, for awhile, I followed Bones. I liked the characters well enough, and I still watch it sporadically. But in Bones, I knew that it was just a matter of time. They’d date other people, but at the end of the show, there could only be one outcome: Booth and Brennan together. So, while I no longer follow it regularly, I don’t feel like the show led me on.

Another example is Veronica and Logan. Duncan was supposed to play her main love interest, but once the show runner saw the response to Logan, they made a choice. Duncan left in the second season and Logan became the MAIN love interest. Even when Piz came along, you always knew Logan was her epic love. Of course, the movie is out in a month and could completely prove me wrong, but that was one of those relationships where–whether or not they end up together, they already have me convinced it’s an epic romance.

Which brings me to the next point: I don’t see Oliver and Laurel as an epic romance, not even in the past. I was re-watching Season 1, Episode 3 (and this time I am doing it without placing pressure on Laurel as a love interest, but as a character) when Thea tells Oliver that Tommy and Laurel were sleeping together while he was gone. After Laurel beats up Max Fuller at the nightclub, Oliver says, “Laurel…” And she responds, “Tommy and I don’t need your blessing. And I don’t need your forgiveness.” You know what I felt when she said that? YOU GO GIRL! But at the same time, the only emotions that came across for me was her coldness and anger. I’m rooting for this version of her–the one who knows Oliver is a dick. Against Tommy, there is more warmth, and certainly more humor (A few episodes later, he says, “You look lovely.” She responds, “Well your vocabulary has increased from hot and mega hot.) Those two. So cute. Oliver and Laurel, not so much.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:56 am Sofi D said...

I actually clapped (truly I did) after reading this, because of how on point everything is. As a big fan of romance in books/tv/movies for the longest time, I know how to maneuver my way through it as it is being told, and certainly, clearly knowing who “endgame” players are, no matter if they are 2,3, or 4 characters — it’s probably the first thing I look out for. Then I can just ride the waves from then on out, no matter how big and frequent those waves are.

I have seen the outrage that have come out after the Oliver/Sara kiss from the last episode and I must say I share the utter disappointment. Not because it wasn’t an Oliver/Felicity kiss (team felicity, I am on), but because there was absolutely no build up to it. The previous episodes have been filled with Oliver/Felicity “moments”. And while I did/do not expect them to kiss soon, I had thought all those moments were in place because the writers were leading us up to a major shift in their relationship. At this time, I felt as a viewer as I was being teased for no point at all, which is probably the thing that I hate the most, in real life and in all things fiction. :) Because at the start of that last episode when Oliver tells Sara “Your family needs you…and so do I”, the biggest ‘uh-oh’ popped into my head, and I knew that by the end of the episode Oliver would be with Sara (because of all the spoilers hinting that he would be romantically involved with a character that has already been introduced). Given all the Oliver/Felicity build up from the previous episodes, it just felt like they pulled the rug out from under me. I asked myself if I was still watching the same show, I felt lost and had no idea what was going on. I wouldn’t have minded an Oliver/Sara pairing if they had just made it so like it did not come from out of nowhere. And this is what has upset me — again not that it wasn’t Felicity that Oliver was groping at the end — but that it has left me very confused, and in the biggest WTF mode ever after watching that last scene. I truly hope the coming episodes make up for it.

Disclaimer: English is not my first language. Apologies for any errors in my grammar and spelling.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:45 am Jenny said...

Your English is fine, no worries.

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On February 20, 2014 at 5:19 am Sarah B said...

Yes! You’ve said everything I was thinking. The ‘so do I’ moment also made me go ‘oh dear’ and then watch the rest of the ep in trepidation.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:57 am shida said...

For me, romance is totally not a thing I really bother whenever I pick up a drama to watch. I mostly watch serious drama (NCIS,Criminal Minds, CSI, Person of Interest) where romantic plot is not that necessary, so when I first came across Arrow, I go like oh it is Green Arrow superhero (which the only DC comic that I’m not really familiar with), first impression was this look good and one question popped up in my mind; if this is a superhero story, who is this guy love interest? So after about half an hour in the first episode(?) they shown Laurel, the suppose to be love interest and my first thought goes “Oh crap, I don’t like her” and “how am I gonna go through the whole season if she is the main love interest?” but i still put some hope and keep continuing, thinking along the way maybe I will like Laurel/Oliver but up till episode three, i ended up liking Laurel/Tommy instead the other way around. Tommy kinda balance Laurel out and she is bearable to watch.Then in episode 3, comes in Felicity Smoak, and like you I go “ooooooo I like her!” “I like the two of them” and at that time I did not know that she is only a guest star for one episode, in which I hope this show, i can still be invested in. There is a girl I like seeing Oliver with. So I was really dissapointed when I haven’t seen Felicity anymore for few episodes until she returns again in episode 6 and there a continuity of Oliver/Felicity scenes. I like watching how Oliver reacted with her before she joining the crusade and how he reduce his wall when he invited her to be part of the team, where you can actually watch most of Oliver bad/good personalities shown to her without him worrying about her leaving him. The diner scene between them was definitely the moment of me thinking “Shit, I ship these two so hard and I want Oliver to be with her” period.
This is definitely the first time I am investing myself in a romance plot just because I can definitely see how Oliver & Felicity romance can work, if given the right time and plot, it can turn out to be something really good.
The writers really did a good job with how they handled Oliver/Felicity so far but the last scene in 2×13 between Sara/Oliver makes me think, in the future the writer might ended up ruining it just like the other. To be frank, I like Sara/Oliver friendship post-island, but the kiss at the end of the episode spoil all the feeling I have on them, thinking how they mess up Sara/Oliver friendship in the span of 3 seconds. I love Laurel/Tommy relationship but they sunk the ship when they killed Tommy at the end of the season. With these kind of messy romantic plot, I am worried on how they going to show us and handle Oliver/Felicity (if they are going to go for romance for these two).
I love Arrow; I like everything about them except for Oliver kissing all the women in the show (minus Moira, Thea and Felicity) and the romance plot. I love Felicity so much that I am willing to drop the show if they are only planning on giving a short-lived romance and ruined whatever relationship she have with Oliver.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:43 am shida said...

I forgot to add these…
I am willing to drop the show if they are only planning on giving a short-lived romance with Oliver and ruined the current strong relationship she have with Oliver or just simply ruin her character, as far I now realized, I am invested in her character more compare to the romance plot.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:26 am Lara said...

Are we being asked to wait to sign up to a more balanced romance contract? I ultimately think the Arrow writers are headed towards an Olicity outcome, the popularity of that couple is constantly growing, but I also realise that there is a huge DC comics fanbase out there who inevitably every time Stephen Amell or ArrowCw posts on facebook, says Olicity can’t be the final outcome as Black Canary is destined to be Arrow’s wife/love interest etc. So in the DC comic world Arrow and Black Canary marry and most importantly divorce. What I think people gloss over here is that out of respect for the Black Canary/ Arrow relationship in the comics, the Arrow writers have to show them getting together at some point and breaking up, the so called “marriage and divorce”. If Oliver and Sara get together the comic fanbase is happy, if after a few episodes they realise their feelings aren’t deep enough or they have feelings for other people then the comic book fans are taken on that journey of acceptance, through Arrow and Black Canary’s theoretical marriage and divorce. If the writers ignore this completely then the die hard comic fans surely will never be fully on board. The fact that they made the hookup so horrible and unbelievable from my point of view helps end the relationship easily. I don’t want to feel any romantic connection between Oliver and Sara and hopefully they won’t provide us with longing looks between the two, it would be better with no deep emotional connection, as a viewer I don’t want to identify with those characters as a romantic couple.

I hope they are just trying to balance the relationships, we saw Oliver apologise to Felicity and we understand he is jealous of Felicity’s connection with Barry, at this point does Oliver think Felicity likes Barry more than him? I think so, especially after the “Not really feeling like dancing with you Oliver” scene and leaving for 5 weeks. He is still messed up emotionally and I wouldn’t want Felicity in the middle of that just yet. Perhaps his upcoming conversation with Laurel will close that chapter for good. Maybe to get to a point where Oliver and Felicity can get together, they have to first deal with their own “other” relationships and admit to themselves they have feelings for each other. What’s Felicity’s take on Oliver/Sara, I think she likes Sara so she will understand and in her mind she knows that she should feel happy for them as they’ve been through hell and have found some sort of comfort with each other but I also think it will bring out some jealousy on her part, I’d like to see more of Felicity being jealous and see how it impacts on her relationship with Oliver. Are they asking a lot from their viewer to be patient and see where this goes, yes probably but so far I’m still here waiting and watching.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:59 am thecatbastet said...

I’m not so sure that marriage and divorce must be literal, though, especially since you’re talking superheroes that started in the 1940s vs a tv show set in the present.

Laurel and Oliver had a committed relationship. Check.
He cheated on her a lot. Check.
Their relationship came to a train wreck (well, shipwreck) of an end. Check.

Many couples in 2014 never marry but live together their entire lives and raise families together. I don’t think there’s a need to take it so literally. Canon has been attended to. And the only time the GA has been in live action tv, he barely met the BC and ended up married to the blonde nerd who wasn’t even a character in the comics. And he did this on the CW.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:05 am Lara said...

I agree, by saying the Arrow writers have to show them getting together at some point and breaking up, the so called “marriage and divorce”, I didn’t mean it literally. That would kill the story completely for me.

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On February 18, 2014 at 9:06 am marissa said...

Looks like you might not have to worry about DC fans disliking Olicity! On Valentine’s day DC conics tweeted, “there’s nothing sweeter than an Olicity moment.” There was a link attached to that which featured a video of Emily Rickards sitting underneath a framed poster of Arrow that had a speech bubble saying #Olicity on it. And remember this was in the DC headquarters… the DC headquarters has a picture of Olicity, let that sink in. Also, many comic fans have been interviewed and they say that they don’t have a problem with Olicity and many are convinced that it will be endgame. I mean if Sara really was the main love interest they would not have her be with Oliver in season 2, Olicity is the only couple that they have initiated a slowburn romance with.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm Andrea said...

” but I also realise that there is a huge DC comics fanbase out there who inevitably every time Stephen Amell or ArrowCw posts on facebook, says Olicity can’t be the final outcome as Black Canary is destined to be Arrow’s wife/love interest etc”

Funny, I have seen a LOT of comic book fans rooting for Felicity and Olicity. I don’t think it’s the comics that really drives people’s desires. A lot of fans of the comics also are perfectly fine with Sara being the Black Canary because she has all the qualities her comic counterpart has.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:46 am Sasha said...

I think that if the writers were testing the waters, so to speak by pairing Oliver with Sara and that was the justification (last minute decision) for the no-build of this relationship then they wouldn’t have had Felicity tell Oliver the truth in the same episode. So Felicity becomes more rootable and Sara less (no-build coupled with the whole sister thing didn’t win her any fans) doesn’t make sense if this was the intent. You would have to try to equal the playing field.

Oliver’s just confused (don’t get me started on him) and Sara’s just pissed at her sister again. I think there was no build up because the writers didn’t intend for there to be. No build up means no investment.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:16 am Sasha said...

For me, as far as the romantic subplot, Season 2 has been building up Oliver and Felicity and putting to rest Oliver and Laurel and I guess now Sara. After Season 1, I wondered if they did dare go with the more popular pairing how they would explain and extricate themselves from the whole destiny/epic love story that they clearly set up. While we the viewers knew Laurel wasn’t the one for him Oliver will need to come to this conclusion for Oliver and Felicity to work. I’m thinking sleeping with “the great love of your life’s” sister again might clue him and her in on the fact he doesn’t love her and never really did.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:45 am Sam said...

You know Sasha, I can’t say that the thought didn’t cross my mind. That they were trying to kill two birds with one stone and clear about that whole mess before attempting at anything Oliver/Felicity related. However, I just can’t say because this show in regards to any of it’s romances has been so off the wall that I can’t say or believe this to be the case. At the end of the day, I doubt they even know who they want for endgame or have a long term clear idea of direction one way or another, and they are just going day by day or season by season. Heck, Season 4 may have a whole different love interest all together, you know? But whether it’s Felicity or not, they need him with someone that is new and fresh and doesn’t have the back story that he has with the Lance sisters. Swapping sisters, so degrading and gross. How is this supposed to be a romance? Do these writers know the definition of the word?

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:30 am Ash said...

Before yesterday I had never thought the term ‘contract’ applied to me as a reader or viewer. There was simply what I liked or what worked and what I didn’t like/didn’t work. So this post has been very educational.

And I now have a explanation as to why I have a very short attention span for anything that screams ‘love triangle’ or pseudo love triangle. I need to know who to cheer for pronto. I don’t do well with being strung out or with the characters ping ponging between each other for years on end because in my world view that’s no way to live through life. Even if the romance in the C plot.

My biggest hope in the romance department with Arrow for the next couple of episodes is that Felicity says something like ‘I was having a bet with myself over if you two would get back together and it looks like I was right’ or at least doesn’t pine.

Because even though this is Arrow – I really want Felicity to have her own life/love regardless of if it is Oliver (and he really needs to earn it if it is him)

Some meaningful Roy/Thea wouldn’t go astray either (one of my favs with them was when Roy gave her the boxing gloves) oh and we get to see some Layla/Diggle in epi 16 – hopefully thats a long term stable relationship (even if most of it happens off screen).

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On February 18, 2014 at 8:50 am Jenny said...

Pam just pointed out in her last e-mail that all narratives make a contract with the reader:

Every narrative makes a contract with the reader. Lots of terms that we use to describe the parts of narrative contribute to this contract–plot itself is a sort of contract, including the plots of non-genre fiction. Motif. Characterization. The laws of the built world. Retconning or not–that’s part of the contract too.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:09 am Willow said...

Let me start Jenny, by saying, I love your articles on Arrow. For me you articulate what is going on in my mind so well and I greatly admire that. Let me also say I am an avid romance reader and understand exactly what you mean by the ‘Romance Contract’. However, I respectfully disagree that this contract has been broken. I am of the opinion that Sara is the relationship that will make Oliver grow into the man we want him to be…that he needs to be for a women like Felicity. We need another serious relationship to make us question our chosen endgame, because that is what makes good TV. Sara on paper is a better match for Oliver but in the end, they are just too similar and will eventually either amicably split or implode fantastically.
So I say to you, yes, she is a serious threat to Olicity as endgame but that is all she is, a threat. Hopefully, the writers will continue to demonstrate the chemistry and special bond that exists between Oliver and Felicity, should that disappear…well then, then I will really start to worry.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:13 am Relce said...

Hi, I have been obsessing over Arrow for the past few weeks, and your posts, and the discussions, are very interesting.
Thinking on ‘Heir to the Demon’, I was reminded of a Farscape episode; season 4, where Aeryn comes back to Moya.
Hypothetically, if one were to put Oliver/Sara at par with Crichton/Aeryn, the stakes in both episodes are the same, and both guys react in the same fashion; “need/want you more” and “not going to lose you again.”
In reality, the two relationships are entirely different. What is perfectly believable in Farscape is totally out of the blue in Arrow.
Had the writers given signs in the flashback scenes and during CL’s previous appearances, the last scene might have made a little more sense.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:24 am Relce said...

Edited to clarify: The comparison is more about the feelings and desires of the protagonists (out of nowhere in Oliver’s case) than the last scene.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:06 am itsarrowsophia said...

This was a really interesting post, because I’d never really thought of the romance contract before and it makes so much sense now, so thanks for that.

I think that is one of the issues in Arrow at the moment – they haven’t decided who we should be rooting for, so we don’t know.

There was no build up whatsoever between Oliver and Sara ahead of 2×13 – so it made me frown when out of nowhere Oliver was being all, ‘I need you’. I thought, ‘since when?!, you’ve been fine without her since she left!’. As soon as he pulled out ‘romantic face’ earlier in the episode, I knew that it would Sara that he’d be revisiting a romance with, which made me eye roll.

I’m not a huge fan of Sara at the best of times – I find her humourless. And she’s not that interesting because she’s basically just another Oliver, so there’s not much conflict or contrast there. And now, I have issues with her because she’s violating Felicity’s meaningful role as the only female in Oliver’s life who knows who he really is. That gave her a weight before, and now it’s compromised. And that’s before we even get to the questionable moral fibre of someone who slept with her sister’s boyfriend, and then 6 years later, does pretty much the same thing again. And I’m not just scowling at Sara for that by the way, I’m giving Oliver significant side eye too, don’t you worry.

My worry is that the writers will continue to tease the Oliver/Felicity viewers, but ultimately won’t have the guts to go against canon and have them be endgame. I’m a little worried that they might find themselves resolving that little issue by doing something to sacrifice or compromise Felicity – either her very life, or the qualities that make the audience like her so much. They mentioned earlier in the season that Slade would try and corrupt her – I have to worry that they’ll make her no longer such a desirable romantic partner for Oliver in some way, or even worse, kill her off in a distant season finale so Oliver can wind his way back to Laurel by the end of the series.

But that’s all a long way off – for now, let’s just say that at best the Oliver / Sara hook up left me cold. At worst, it made me nauseous. Either way – it’s difficult to root for a couple, when as the final scene of the last episode opened and Oliver was beating the living daylights out of that dummy shirtless, I literally had the thought, ‘he’s going to bang whoever walks into the Foundry in a moment – regardless of who it is’. That’s not a romance contract, it’s just compromising your characters.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:34 am Marre said...

Although I don’t think this has been mentioned, there are many similarities between Oliver/Felicity on “Arrow” and Chloe/Clark on “Smallville”, CW’s first superhero show. It is clear that Chloe in some ways served as a template for Felicity, along with a few other similar somewhat quirky and socially awkward IT-specialist characters in contemporary television. Chloe also occupied a similar position as Clark’s friend, who knew about his secret identity and who had a longstanding crush on him. If we add her computer expertise, we see that there are many similarities between Chloe and Felicity.

And if I many digress a bit, we have heard much about Laurel’s flawed characterization in these discussions, but very few posters have mentioned that the writers really haven’t succeeded that well with Felicity’s character either. What I mean is that they haven’t given her much depth or back story, despite the fact that she has been more or less a regular since the first half of season one. In fact, it was only in the last episode that we got a little tidbit about her family, something which immediately made her a lot more interesting in my eyes. I’m going to borrow a description of Felicity that I found in a recent discussion about the female characters on “Arrow”, just to show that not all “Arrow” viewers watch Felicity through the very positive lens that we see in the discussions on this web site:

Felicity is 100% a tv trope, and though she’s a very well received and loved trope it doesn’t change the fact that she is still just a stereotype.unquote

I know that Felicity is much beloved, both by the webmistress and many posters, so I don’t expect anyone here to agree with the above statement. However, from the perspective of a fan for whom Felicity is no more special than Thea or Laurel, I would say that the writers could have done a better job with Felicity, especially if they intend her to become the show’s leading lady. As I see it, the writers haven’t really taken her character portrayal much beyond using her computer skills as a Deus ex machina device to move the plot along or place her in various semi-romantic situations with Oliver. For example, we have learned nothing about her private life and we have very seldom seen her in any relationships apart from her companionship with Diggle and Oliver in the Arrowcave. That’s why I loved her in the Barry episodes, because she got to interact with someone else, and I think Emily really shone in those eps, probably because she got to do something different from being on Team Arrow.

Anyway, to return to the similarities between Chloe and Felicity, one could also refer to the fact that the “Chlark” (Chloe/Clark)ship was a very popular non-canon pairing in the Smallville fandom, just like “Olicity” (Oliver/Felicity) is in the “Arrow” fandom. Of course, nothing really romantic ever happened between them as far as I know, and Chloe eventually ended up with the “Smallville” version of Oliver Queen, while Clark ended up with his canonical partner Lois Lane.

Now, if there is a difference between these two popular fanon ships, I would say that the main difference between “Smallville” and “Arrow” is that when “Smallville” was aired, the social media were not yet as important as they are now. What I mean is that the social media explosion (twitter, FB) has made the “Arrow” TPTB and marketing department much more aware of/sensitive to online fandom trends than the “Smallville” TPTB ever were. This awareness is very apparent in how the “Arrow” showrunners and actors talk about the show (teases, interviews etc). For example, they throw out twitter teases about upcoming kisses, or dialogue teases like “You will always be my girl”, which set the shipper fandom afire and generate much Internet chatter.

As anyone involved in the “Arrow” fandom knows, there is a huge online fandom push for an Oliver/Felicity romance. In fact, you can’t go to the official FB page or even Stephen’s FB page without seeing hundreds of posts about Oliver/Felicity: “Olicity forever”, “Olivity FTW”, “I want Olicity” and so on and so forth… As CJ already mentioned, the oliciter fraction of the fandom has become so dominant, especially on the abovementioned FB pages, that those who hold a differing opinion often simply refrain from visiting or posting on these sites and choose to congregate on more general “Arrow” forums instead. I’m not saying that posters shouldn’t be able to express their preferences…however, when they choose to promote their ship by continuously criticising or even “bashing” the other female characters who they feel stand in the way of their OTP (Laurel, and lately Sara), things become ugly, and they become even uglier when the actresses are being attacked and cyber bullied. This cyberbullying has become so frequent on the CW “Arrow” official FB page that most of her fans or people who simply find this behavior distasteful and saddening just stay away, which makes the Olicity dominance even more noticeable. Of course, it’s a small minority who behaves this way, but it is a very vocal minority….

The popularity of the Oliver/Felicity pairing has been picked up by Internet media outlets, which thrive on web site hits. I think that need to generate hits is the main rationale behind all these online “most popular couple” competitions, which often include “Olicity”. The people who run these sites know that the Felicity/Olicity fans will visit the site continuously (because on most sites you can vote as many times as you want!), thus bringing them lots of hits..which in turn brings in lots of advertisement dollars. This may sound cynical, but I would still say that this is the main purpose behind these “most popular couple” or “who should get together” polls.

Now, the main difference between the “Smallville” TBTB and the “Arrow” TPTB lies IMHO in the way they handled the online popularity of their fanon ships. I have the impression that the “Smallville” showrunners were less aware of (or less eager to cater to) the preferences of the online fandom than the “Arrow” showrunners. This meant that they didn’t push “Chlark” very hard. They did tease Chloe and Clark a bit, but they didn’t really use it as a marketing device the way the “Arrow” TPTB are using “Olicity”. I would also guess that the “Arrow” writers are more willing to proceed with a more serious Oliver/Felicity romance, either to cater to the online fandom, or because they actually agree with the fans that Oliver and Felicity are their best option as a romantic couple. Of course, the whole Sara debacle was a bit of a surprise for those who hoped for a continuation of the Olicity slow burn, but I still think it remains to be seen how the writers will deal with their fandom popularity…I mean, there are hopefully several seasons left.

Now, I’m not a romance writer or a television screen writer, but my guess would be that Oliver won’t be seriously involved with any of the show’s main female characters for quite a while. I get the impression that the “Arrow” writers operate according to the common wisdom that the anticipation of a romance/love affair is often more enticing than the romance/love affair itself…at least on television! Right now he’s supposedly having a love affair with Sara, but I’m not sure if that relationship will last more than a few episodes….and then we’ll have to see how the writers will get themselves out of the Sara/Oliver mess! The other reason why the writers don’t or won’t put as much emphasis on romance as the online fandom does is that “Arrow” is primarely a superhero action show. Not only that…it is a superhero show where the “hero” until quite recently was portrayed as a serial killer. I would say that a man who only last year would not hesitate to break a man’s neck if it served his purposes is not exactly boy friend material, at least not by real world standards! Maybe it’s actually a good idea if he stayed away from the women in his life and focused on his crimefighting activities!

I hope this made some sense…

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:19 am Jenny said...

We’ve talked a lot on here about the need for Felicity to be more than an extension of Arrow and the bat cave. The comparison to Chloe/Oliver has been made, too, so we’re with you.

I agree that most of the internet chatter is probably white noise, which is why we don’t deal with it here. What we do is take the story apart to see how the narrative works (or in this case, doesn’t work). While most of us have preferences for a love interest for Oliver, it’s not the basis for our discussions, we’re just trying to figure out how story works in general and how it works in Arrow in particular.

But I do have to disagree with the idea that the viewers who find Felicity the best choice for a love interest are just more vocal than the others and that’s why Felicity gets all the ink. The show had problems before the introduction of Felicity gave Oliver a space to lighten up and show some dimension to his character. Ignoring fan chatter, simply analyzing the story on the screen, brought me to the realization that this show desperately needed a character like Felicity, and that that’s one of the reasons why her fan base is so vocal.

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On February 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm Marre said...

I do agree that the show needed a character like Felicity…but I don’t agree that she necessarily has to be Oliver’s love interest or endgame. I could write a dissertation why an Olicity romance wouldn’t work narratively (for me!), but I don’t have the time right now!

I’m interested in narrative techniques, so I think the discussions on this site are very interesting. However, I also think it’s important to point out that in this day and age it is hard to filter out or disregard the online chatter, especially when it comes to shipping.

Big online shipper fan bases like Klaroline (Klaus/Caroline, “Vampire Diaries”), Sterek (Derek/Stiles, “Teen Wolf) and a host of other fans of (often non-canonical or slash) pairings use the Internet to promote their couple, and sometimes they get results, as is obvious in the “Arrow” writers’ handling of Oliver and Felicity. If they hadn’t gotten such a positive response to the Oliver/Felicity relationship, I don’t think that they would have focused so much on the prospect of a possible romance.

On the other hand, the shipper fandom is also used/exploited by showrunners and commercial interests. The writers/showrunners “tease” romantic developments just to keep the shippers hooked, like they have done with Olicity, but there is no guarantee that they will follow through in the end. The Oliver/Sara hook up is a perfect example of this…even if the writers eventually broke the contract, they succeeded in keeping the Olicity shippers hooked all through the season two Isabel/Oliver/Felicity triangle and the subsequent Barry/Oliver/Felicity triangle. Fans were lead to believe that “Oliver was jealous of Barry” and that “he was discovering his feelings for Felicity”, but when it suited the writers they opted for a last minute hook up between Oliver and Sara instead…

As for the online media, I know from a good source that showrunners don’t pay much attention to all these “most popular couple” polls, mainly because they represent a very small sample of the audience and because they can be rigged so that the same group of fans vote hundreds of times each. And yet Olicity fans and other fanbases spend hours of their precious time on these polls, because they think that if Olicity or Klaroline gets 85% of the votes, the writers will push their pairing. I would say that the only ones who gain by all this Internet activity are the sites who organize the polls, and that’s a bit cynical IMHO.

I think my point is that writing for a commercial TV show on a youth-oriented network is very different from writing a romance novel, and that screen writers sometimes think more about keeping the viewers hooked than following a clear narrative line. This is only a guess on my part, but I think that this may be one reason why romance contracts are broken and the protagonists sometimes behave out of character.

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On February 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm sara said...

I agree the polls can be rigged, and the show runners wouldn’t pay attention to the results (dammit, I shouldn’t have spent the last 8 hours voting repeatedly for Olicity! I’M KIDDING!). I think my point is more that they consistently exist, featuring more Oliver-Felicity than Oliver-Laurel (I’m surprised Oliver-Sara hasn’t made it on there yet, but that’s just a matter of time). These aren’t fansites either—these are TVGuide and Eonline. When you compare the other couples that are on these same polls/articles, they are couples that from shows who set out to distribute romantic contracts, which is not what happened with Felicity. Like Jenny has mentioned, this points not to the strength of Oliver-Felicity, but to the weakness of Oliver-Laurel. If you can’t get websites that focus on television to give your original romantic contract any attention, you’ve clearly done something wrong.

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On February 19, 2014 at 6:10 am Marre said...

I think it depends on the showrunners, really. For example, the Eric/Sookie ship has been huge in the “True Blood” fandom for years. There are hundreds of Eric/Sookie tumblr and FB pages and the Sookie/Eric pairing regularly gets 80% of the votes in online polls. However, as far as I know the “True Blood” showrunners didn’t make any major changes in their “romance contracts” in order to accomodate the Eric/Sookie fandom.

And then you have all the huge online slash ships (with the approporiate portmanteu names!) like “Destiel”(Supernatural), “Merthur” (“Merlin”) and “Sterek” (“Teen Wolf”). These pairings are often much more fan popular than the show’s canonical couples, at least if you look at online polls and social media like tumblr, although they may never have been INTENDED as romantic pairings. Of course, these ships will never sail, because the writers really can’t set up any romance contracts that would turn two straight men into a gay couple. They do include quite a lot of teases and hints in the script to entice the slash shippers, implying that there might be more than meets the eye. Some people call this queer baiting, while others are happy with the romantic bones they are thrown, because it will feed their fan fiction/gif set fantasies. Funnily enough, the many fans who support these ships may not be gay or bi-sexual themselves, but there is apparently something so fascinating about two hot guys with (friendship) chemistry that they start imagining a love story between them…

As for the “Arrow” writers I think it remains to be seen what they will do romance-wise. Although the original blog post didn’t really address the question of endgames, I get the feeling that many of the posters would like to believe that Oliver/Felicity will be endgame (presumably after Ollie has slept with half the women in “Starling city”!;-)). Those shippers who support Laurel/Oliver (and there are at least a few of those remaining) cling to the canon argument, and believe that Oliver and Laurel will end up together, just like Lois and Clark did, regardless of whether they are fan popular or not.

I think it’s more prudent to expect temporary romance contracts at this point, or maybe several semi-romantic storylines running parallell…which can be very confusing and aggravating to the shipper fandom, but which is probably more tolerable to those viewers who see “Arrow” more as an action show.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:22 pm Jenny said...

My approach to this is that story is story, no matter what the delivery method. It’s true that telling a story in a visual medium is vastly different from putting on the page, but the basics of storytelling still apply. I think the contract with the reader/viewer is one of those things, the protagonist/antagonist dynamic, building a community, so many storytelling aspects cross over media lines. In both book publishing and TV series, story is sometimes sacrificed for commercial reasons, and it’s always a bad idea; in both book publishing and TV series feedback from early viewers/readers can be crucial for shaping a successful narrative. If your protagonist acts out of character, you have a problem, no matter what medium you’re using. If you break a contract with a reader/viewer, there’s a loss of trust that kneecaps your story, no matter what medium you’re using. It matters.

Also, those fans you describe as wasting precious time on those polls are spending their time doing something they enjoy. They’re having fun, they’re talking about the polls in their communities, they’re investing in something they care about. It’s not something you or I want to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s something they shouldn’t do. If they’re having fun, where’s the waste?

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm Andrea said...

I’d like to point out that, before episode 3 aired and the viewership was introduced to Felicity, they were already filming episode 12 or 13 (it was somewhere halfway through the season) and Felicity’s creentime was slowly increased long before the fans had a chance to react. When Emily and Felicity joined the show, the cast and crew themselves must have realized that she was the thing that was missing and we, fans, only saw something they had already figured out.

What I mean to say is, Felicity’s screen time wasn’t increased because of fans being vocal, it was increased because the people making the show realized they had hit jackpot with her. Olicity is only a consequence of it, being backed up by many people, fans and interviewers, journalists, and basically anyone from the media.

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On February 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm fiveandfour said...

“I think it depends on the showrunners, really… However, as far as I know the “True Blood” showrunners didn’t make any major changes in their “romance contracts” in order to accomodate the Eric/Sookie fandom.”

I think there are a few significant differences between the Eric/Sookie pairing and the variety of pairings that Arrow is exploring:
1. The Eric and Sookie pairing is canon from the source materials, so the showrunners had a template for them as a couple to work from.

This is an obvious problem for Arrow since they re-interpreted canon before the story even got started and short of giving nearly every character a raging case of amnesia, it’s difficult to see how this one can be brought back to canon-land.

2. The Bill/Sookie romance contract was seen through to a conclusion before the Eric/Sookie one truly began. It allowed the audience to go along with the proposal, build up, action, and denouement of the Bill/Sookie romance and – crucially – believe in each of those stages.

There are so many stops and starts working at the same time with Oliver that it seems like the writers don’t even understand what contract is in its proposal stage, which is in its active and working stage, and which is concluded. It is undermining the audience’s ability to believe that these writers aren’t like a person’s worst nightmare of a remodeling contractor: full of good spirits and hearty promises when the work is proposed and the contract is signed, then never seen again once the kitchen has been ripped out.

3. The Bill/Sookie contract had a conclusion that was relevant and believable within the context of the arc of the overall story as well as within the context of who each of those characters were as people. Further, the nature of the conclusion took each of them in a direction that made sense for each of them – the story went on to utilize traits we learned about them from their romance in a consistent way in other areas.

At the moment, it seems like we’re supposed to be believing that Oliver is working hard to improve himself and to only take actions that are worthy of the goals he has set for himself. But now, instead of thinking him as working towards a positive goal that it’s worthwhile for me to be invested in, I’m thinking of a U2 lyric: “I must be an acrobat to talk like this and act like that”. He’s up in the air and all over the place and I didn’t sign up to see a circus act.

4. Once the truth about Bill became known, it undercut our support of him as a viable partner for Sookie as well as our belief in him as a good guy in general. Our lack of belief in him due to the results of his failure with Sookie were woven into the other plots. A question mark for how he acted in the romance made for a question mark for everything else he did for the entire run of the series.

Do the writers want the audience to see Oliver as a big question mark for the entirety of this series or do they not see that’s the danger they’ve created? Question marks work for characters that are meant to be tricksters, not for characters that are meant to be straight as an arrow. (Sorry. Bad pun, but it’s all that came to mind.)

5. The seeds of the Eric/Sookie pairing were planted long before anything came of them. To mix metaphors, the writers put down some bread crumbs in advance of that pairing going anywhere; a trail was established so going in that direction didn’t cause the audience whiplash. Further, they proposed a new romance contract to the audience and built a case for it before implementing it – it wasn’t thrust on the audience with no advance warning of any kind.

It’s my belief that it is possible to figure out what is and isn’t working in a story then work to build on that knowledge to make a better story, especially in the medium of television. I’m ok with the story taking a different shape and direction than what I originally anticipated and I’m ok with investing some of my native intelligence with the materials the story-tellers are providing in order to “get” the full scope. However, that new shape needs to make sense, that new direction needs to be earned, and I don’t like adding my native intelligence to their raw ingredients and getting a stupid, insensible, WTF-filled chimera of an end product.

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm Chris said...

Slightly offtopic:

Online reaction is definitely a relatively new response to entertainment. But it was absolutely, positively, around during the Smallville days, even though this was pre Facebook and pre Twitter. Livejournal alone had several communities devoted to it; the old and dying rec.arts.newsgroups had several communities; Delphi Forums had several nasty flamewars, occasionally directly with showrunners or other production staff. A lot of this conversation was horribly nasty – sex and drug rumors about actresses, death threats and so on. So I don’t think the online/fan/shipping conversations have changed that much (if only); more that they’ve moved to new spaces.

I agree that showrunners routinely dismiss individual polls, and they should. Multiple polls, however, are a different story: showrunners from other networks have said that they do pay attention if several polls on different sites show a trend.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm Marre said...

You know, I never took an active part in the “Smallville” online fandom, so most of the things I know come from “Arrow” fans who were avid SV fans back in the day (there is a lot of overlap between these two fandoms!) and from reading various articles etc. Here is a very good analysis of the politics of shipping in the SV fandom:

http://tvsurveillance.com/2010/05/11/shippers-and-anti-fan-fans-in-smallville-fandom/

I brought up the example of Chloe and Clark versus Oliver and Felicity, because they are both non-canon pairings in a show that also features a comic book canon couple with a long and convoluted comic book history. Also, I have heard so many stories about how the various shipper fractions reacted to the on screen action on “Smallville”, stories which are very similar to how the “Arrow” online fandom deals with such issues as the introduction of Sara as a new “love interest”.

In fact, the whole Felicity versus Laurel issue reminds me a lot of the shipper debates that raged between Chloe fans and Lois fans in the “Smallville” fandom, where discussions on fan forums, comment sections etc. sometimes to 90% seemed to evolve around the question who was the “bestest” girl for Clark: Lana, Lois or Chloe! I’ll focus on the Chloe versus Lois issue, since these two characters and their fandoms seem to have been most polarized, at least until Chloe hooked up with the SV version of Green Arrow.

Reading some of the comments on the CW Arrow page, fan sites and comment sections on various TV outlets, one gets a sense of deja vu, even when it comes to the kind of arguments that each fraction puts forth to support “their girl”:

According to the Felicity/Olicity fans, Felicity/Emily has much better chemistry with Oliver than Laurel/Katie, an argument that was also very prevalent among Chloe fans, who claimed that Clark/Tom and Lois/Erica had zero chemistry. Felicity/EBR fans also sometimes claim that she is a superior actress in comparison to Katie, who only has her good looks-an argument that Allison Mack fans made against Erica D. and Kristin Kreuk as well. Felicity is also hailed as Oliver’s confidante and loyal companion, who knows his secret and therefore has a special bond with him.…but the most common argument is Felicity’s popularity with the Internet fans. This was an argument that was often put forth by Chloe fans as well, especially in the early seasons when Lois/Erica was first introduced and when she quite negatively received by parts of the online fandom.

The Laurel fans, on the other hand, refer to the comic book canon and to Laurel’s role as the Black Canary, just like the Lois fans invoked Lois Lane’s iconic status in relation to Chloe and Lana. They also claim that Laurel is Oliver’s true love and that Laurel/Oliver are endgame, while the Felicity/Oliver relationship is or should be in the friendship zone. Many K.C. fans also feel that Laurel has been badly written so far (just like Erica Durance’s fans did in the beginning), but they are convinced that Katie will do much better once the writing improves.

Given what I’ve read and heard about the SV fandom, I’m just curious how the “Arrow” writers are going to handle the situation and to what degree fandom sentiments will influence the actual story. Whatever happens, I do hope that the “Arrow” showrunners will find a way to develop their stories in a manner that will save the “Arrow” fandom from experiencing the bitter and divisive Smallville shipper debates…although my experience from social media is that we’re already there, which is kind of sad for someone who just wants to enjoy a good superhero show.

As for the relation between social media and showrunners, I still think that the SV TPTB were less media-aware than the “Arrow” TPTB. One negative proof of this is the fact that they kept the Lana storylines and the Clana romance going long after the majority of the online fandom was dead tired of these particular plotlines. On the other hand one might say that they followed their own vision of their unfolding superhero saga, rather than letting themselves be too influenced by fandom trends and demands.

The “Arrow” showrunners seem much more attuned to the wishes and sentiments of the online fandom, which is both good and bad IMHO. The downside of their attempt to keep all various fandom fractions happy is that Oliver’s love life sometimes seem to be all over the place: in one ep he’s having “moments” with Felicity, in another he is declaring to Laurel that “he will never leave her”, then he’s having casual sex with Isabel, and now he has rekindled his old fling with Sara and God knows what will happen in future seasons. As far as I can see the writers aren’t following any contracts at all, although every shipper group will undoubtedly interpret the on screen action in their own favour. To me this flip flopping reflects badly on Oliver, who seems to be a much less steadfast and devoted man now than he was in season one, despite the fact that he is supposed to be on his way to becoming a true hero…But that’s just my opinion of course..

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:07 pm CJ said...

There were two episodes before Felicity was introduced. Two.

That’s hardly even time to let a show find it’s actual stride before you can honestly say this is a problem or that’s a problem. I’ll also point out the ratings consistently went down even after Felicity was introduced so she wasn’t this magic fix-it to whatever the supposed “problems” were like everyone likes to make her out to be.

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On February 18, 2014 at 9:52 pm Sam said...

Yes CJ, there were two episodes before Felicity was introduced. Yet, I felt disconnected with Laurel and to Laurel/Oliver from the moment that hit the screen. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t connecting to their main love story that left me cold. Then Jenny described the first meet scene and I realized through her analysis what was so wrong with it for me. (Which btw, thank you again Jenny for your insights on that. It cleared a lot of what I was feeling, but not understanding why I was feeling that way.)Then added to the back story and their chemistry falling flat and I was left utterly disappointed because I knew about the GA/BC love story and knew this was going to be the main ship, so I wanted to enjoy it , hoping the writers would not follow suit with the comics because Ollie/Dinah were toxic and Dinah as kickass as she was in the hero aspect, her character kept taking hits because she kept taking back a cheating, disrespectful Ollie. It was toxic and I did not want a repeat of that on the show and I was let down when they had Ollie cheat on Laurel with her sister. I told myself I’d give it a year and see how it went, and if I’d change my mind then the whole triangle began and it made me cringe. The romance aspect kept taking a nose dive. I was offline during Season 1 mind you. I didn’t think much of Felicity. I liked her alot, but she was not on too much during the first half, and I instantly connected with her charm and character, however, I did not think she would actually be an important main part of the show. She was having short scenes scattered here and there (again I wasn’t online so I had no idea she was blowing up at that time). She, to me, fixed a lot of things and made me enjoy the show especially during the latter half when she was in on the team. She brought a light, wit, humor, to a dark grim show. But one character, especially one who is not a main player (she is a side-character right now) can not change ratings one way or another. But in Season 1 they kept playing up this triangle with Laurel/Oliver/Tommy which kind of made (once again) every player look bad especially your main one–Oliver. I think that also turned off a lot of people (I certainly wasn’t enjoying it.) So for me my gut told me Laurel is not someone I connect with and Laurel/Oliver is not a relationship I like –I found that out in the first episode. Which is why when Felicity appeared and their cute first meet happened, I saw a viable romantic interest, because Oliver came off as someone more likable in that 3 min. scene, yet I knew that nothing would happen because she wasn’t Dinah. So my gut, still to this day, has been spot on. I didn’t need a year to figure out this relationship and this character were not working for me and I *think* that a lot of people also felt the same way. Although, to my defense, I did take a year to change my mind (like I said before) and still felt the same.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:43 pm Sara said...

The producers themselves said Felicity fixed a problem they didn’t know they had.

You’re right. There were only two episodes. I stopped watching after the second episode (heck, I didn’t get past the first episode of Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like–and I don’t like a grim, tortured hero, a toxic, “epic” love story and a female lead who I found arrogant and cold.

I read about Felicity, and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. She hooked me. I’m as invested in Felicity’s story arc as I was with Oliver’s (I couldn’t care less about his story arc after the last episode). Other people tune in for different reasons, and may find different problems with the characters or the story, but for me–Felicity DID fix the problem I was having with the show.

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On February 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm Katie said...

I fell off Smallville pretty much as soon as it stopped following Gilmore Girls, but I remember liking Chloe. My issue with the romantic subplots on that show were partly due to the common-knowledge nature of the Superman canon. I didn’t invest in Lana or Chloe because I knew after he graduated high school Lois was going to show up. Granted, they could have departed from the canon, but the clear set-up of a romance with Superman’s canon high school sweetheart suggested to me that they planned to follow the path I was familiar with.

I think Arrow had a leg-up over Smallville in that respect with the Oliver/Laurel relationship – that canon foundation was there to build on, and it made the contract that much easier to make. The problem is they overdid it with the bad backstory; it crossed that unforgivable threshold for too many people (not all, but still a significant number). They led with that, and, for me, they never sufficiently demonstrated Oliver and Laurel happy/in love/in any way good for each other. There was just guilt and anger. It was a pretty depressing love story. I don’t think so many people would have latched on to Felicity if they’d put more effort into showing those people why Oliver and Laurel should be together, instead of only telling them “it’s an epic love.” This is all subjective, but I just didn’t see it with Oliver and Laurel, I only heard other characters say it. Even in the flashbacks, I didn’t get their relationship. Have to go with Quentin on that one; Laurel clearly deserved better than him.

I agree that Felicity hasn’t been developed outside of her relationship with Oliver as much as she should have been. I think that’s why I enjoyed her interactions with Barry; it was a new situation to explore with her. She has a lot of unrealized potential. I suspect that’s a function of them playing catch-up with her in a way they didn’t have to with characters like Diggle, who were planned parts of the story. I think they recognized that Felicity added something good to Oliver’s character (not strictly as a love interest, but as his friend) and have had to flesh her out in a way they never intended to. So I’m looking forward to having them work some of her history into the story when the show comes back.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:14 pm TK said...

I binge-watched [most of] Smallville a few years ago. Never participated in fandom outside of Chloe/Ollie, but — while I’m sure parts of fandom did ‘ship Chloe/Clark until the very end, that contract *within the show* died a very good death mid-way through the show’s run. The Chloe/Clark/Lana high school triangle was a very real thing. The Chloe/Clark/Lois triangle? It really didn’t go anywhere. By S7, Lois/Clark was DEFINITELY the new contract [Lana left], and by then Chloe was dating — and later married — to Jimmy Olsen. [And then he died, and Chloe/Ollie happened it was my very favorite thing that ever happened on TV, but I digress.]

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:29 pm bt said...

What I find interesting about this “Olicity” thing is I have a feeling it’s pretty diverse. I agree, I think we have a contingent that maybe be young and what many think in their minds as “shippers” (full disclosure: I am new to the shipper term, so I only know what I have been told, and that is they tend to be young people). But, I am noticing a lot of older people (myself included) that are very interested in the Oliver/Felicity development and are fans of the relationship. I doubt we are vocal, or out there saying “Olicity forever” (and I just learned what FTW means (after googling it just now!)), so I am definitely not saying that (haha). My point is, I am intrigued by the demographic of the Felicity fans, because while I agree there is a large segment that include young, active, vocal, people, there is another “quieter” group that really enjoy the dynamics as well. Many times I have seen Q&As where the people asking about Olicity are people who say, “my daughter and I” or “my grandmother and I” or “my husband and I” love Oliver and Felicity…so I do suspect it crosses a lot of different demographics, which, to me, is very interesting.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:33 pm Jenny said...

‘Shipping knows no demographic. One minute you’re a perfectly rational adult, and the next minute you’re obsessing over abs and boob-window dresses. It’s insidious.

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:37 am bt said...

Ha! That is definitely what I am learning. We are all susceptible!

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On February 19, 2014 at 1:35 am Julie H. said...

So, so true. I know lots of women who ship who aren’t “young girls.” Who doesn’t love a good love story? And I’m also hearing more and more stories about guys who are into Arrow who like Oliver and Felicity together too, so it is not “just a girl thing.”

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On February 19, 2014 at 6:44 am MC said...

You are right about the demographics for Olicity being diverse. While there does seem to be a large number of fan girls, I do see a lot of fanboys as well. Many are on Facebook. It does surprise me a bit. I myself am a 40 something mom. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan girl, which there is nothing wrong with, but I do love Felicity and Oliver. I think they have amazing chemistry.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:10 am BeijingDoll said...

I just want to tell you (again) that I absolutely love your posts and how you put words to all the thoughts I have in my mind. THANK YOU. I’m a Spanish journalist but I have always wanted to be a script writer, yeah, maybe in another life ;) Anyway if one day someone organize a seminar, workshop or whatever event with you as a teacher please let me know, I will be the first on the line. Best, BD.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:40 am Chris said...

For any non-native speakers of English here, I don’t think you need to apologize for your English. I’m the one that doesn’t have a good excuse for not knowing how to spell yet :)

Anyway, my sense is – and I definitely, absolutely, could be wrong here – that the writers are still following the Oliver/Felicity contract. The last episode had a couple of Oliver/Felicity moments — although yes, it also had a Laurel/Oliver moment, and I agree with whoever said that Moira’s comment about Felicity’s feelings came out of the blue given that they haven’t shared much screentime, and in one of those previous times Felicity was happily dancing away with Barry. Still, it was on screen. Plus, that producer interview about the obstacles that would be thrown between Felicity/Oliver — Barry as one, and a second one coming up, suggesting that the producers at least during that interview (things may well have changed since) were thinking of Sara/Oliver as an obstacle to Felicity/Oliver, rather than as something that was standing on its own.

To me, the problem is not the obstacle, but who they chose as an obstacle and how they got to the obstacle. Typically, shows use someone who is either very obviously there for only a few episodes (Helena and McKenna last season) or, if the shows want someone who will last longer, someone sweet and funny who has a lot in common with the romantic person, who could be viewed as a real threat if we didn’t know what the endgame was (that doctor Beckett was dating in Castle, Hannah on Bones, Emily on Friends, at least initially). And who is not hurting anyone except for the romantic rival.

That’s where this breaks down for me: Sara does have a lot in common with Oliver, and a past with him, but it’s a very negative one. More to the point, the hook-up hurts people outside of that romantic contract. I suspect Felicity will feel something — left out, hurt, whatever – but she’s not dating Oliver, and she’s not the one betrayed here. That would be Laurel. And the obstacle should only impact Felicity/Oliver, not someone outside that pairing – worse, someone who might be hurt by that pairing as it is.

The related problem is that Sara is not a temporary character who can easily be removed from the show: she’s been in pretty much every episode this season, either in Starling City or an island flashback; she’s the ex of the lead, the sister of one main cast member and the daughter of another cast member. Beckett’s doctor guy only interacted with Beckett; Riley on Buffy eventually became friends with the rest of the cast, but his main connection was Buffy. So when those rivals left, the rest of the cast could continue. Removing Sara (again) has repercussions for other cast members. That’s not usually what happens with the romantic rival.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:52 am Jenny said...

I think Moira’s had ample opportunity to observe Felicity with Oliver, and some of it has been pretty obvious. That scene where he comes in with blood on his cheek and she says something about “Who taught you to shave?” and wipes it off with her fingers shows that pretty clearly, in her comfort in touching him, the affectionate banter, the undercurrent of possession that’s there. There’s an intimacy to their interactions (not sexual) that telegraphs how close they are, and Felicity clearly admires him. I can see where Moira would look at her and think, “She has a crush on my son” since she has no idea they’re fighting crime together at night. Plus, Felicity has a crush on her son.

You know, when she finds out how they’re spending their nights, that’s gonna leave a mark. I love Moira.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm CJ said...

“I think Moira’s had ample opportunity to observe Felicity with Oliver, and some of it has been pretty obvious. That scene where he comes in with blood on his cheek and she says something about “Who taught you to shave?” and wipes it off with her fingers shows that pretty clearly, in her comfort in touching him, the affectionate banter, the undercurrent of possession that’s there.”

Moira was still in prison when that scene happened. Isabel was the one who observed that moment and she saw it as inappropriate and tacky… because it was. It actually brings her stated conclusions about about Oliver and Felicity’s relationship in To Russia With Love into a clearer focus, though.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm Jenny said...

I thought that was at a party at the Queen house. Thanks for the catch, CJ.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:54 pm Sam said...

Jenny there was a party during the 2.08 episode where Felicity said “Good evening, Queens” and told Oliver she needed to talk to him, he then caressed her arm and led her away to have a private conversation. As well as Moira being back at QC after being released from prison, so she did have ample opportunity to see the interactions between Felicity/Oliver. (offscreen as well as the little onscreen we did see esp. 2.08) Heck, Barry noticed it in 2.5 seconds during the 2.09 episode with the little private side conversation that ended with “I’ll come back”, “Promise me”. Now I have to ponder if Moira/Barry have noticed, what the heck is Diggle thinking because he spends hours upon hours with them. Lol. Obviously he suspects something going on with Oliver hence his “I don’t think you had a problem with Felicity’s performance until she met Barry Allen”. So he knows, and Oliver knows he knows, but Felicity is still clueless to it all. Ahh, so complicated.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:57 am Katie said...

I recognized the Oliver/Laurel contract in the pilot immediately, without prior knowledge of the comics. While I wasn’t violently opposed to it, I wasn’t invested in it either (he slept with her sister – enough said). All I got from that contract was apathy. But I still understood what was promised, and since that wasn’t why I was watching I was prepared to accept a good action-adventure show with an unfortunate romantic subplot. Felicity’s addition as a regular gave me a contract I wanted, and while I still would have been prepared (if extremely disappointed) to accept her as only an obstacle to the Oliver/Laurel contract, they deliberately developed that relationship as a viable long-term option. While that’s a subjective observation, Laurel’s lack of presence for the first part of the season was a signal that they had decided to switch lanes. That switch made sense, because they SET IT UP. If they wanted to make an Oliver/Sara contract, they had every episode this season to lay groundwork for it (if we count the flashbacks as an opportunity), and they didn’t do it. In the beginning it would have been possible for me to dislike the romantic subplot and still like the series as a whole, but by having Oliver repeat what they have shown me to be the worst screw-up of his life is damaging the protagonist, which damages the show as a whole.

I know they’ve acknowledged that they previously treated romantic subplots as something they stop the action to deal with, as something separate from the main story, and they said they wanted to fix that. Apparently their idea of fixing that problem is to have Oliver sleep with a another vigilante who is less of a homicidal maniac than Helena. Just because she can participate in the action part of the crime-fighting does not mean it’s automatically “integrated into the body of the series.” They are backtracking on their protagonist’s character arc. That is not integrating the romantic subplot into Oliver’s story, it’s undermining a lot of the good work they’ve done telling the story so far. They need to decide on a romance contract because this drunken swerving through three different lanes is causing damage to the main plot (Oliver’s arc into a hero).

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm katyL said...

This bit is key for me:

“Their experiences are part of the romance arc, so the writer has to make sure that those experiences with others move that contracted romance plot, that the things the lovers learn from the other relationships inform the true love story.”

But it does seem hard to pull-off well in series, so I give big kudos to the writers who get it right.

I think of Maddie & David from Moonlighting or Sam & Diane from Cheers. Other people are involved in their lives but from the beginning we know these couples have something even when they’re not together yet. But then Mark Harmon came along for Maddie and was the first real threat to Maddie & David. Or was he, was Maddie herself really the biggest threat to the David/Maddie relationship ever working? And on Cheers, Shelley Long left and Sam had to move on (but did he ever really?). Not to mention Frasier who finally gets his own match in Lilith only to lose her.

Have to put some thought into how I feel the writers of those shows did or did not get it right with their romance contracts.

Think Ross & Rachel on Friends ultimately worked, though–their story had many of the elements you mention of characters who the audience knows from the start will have a romance, but they go through stages of not knowing themselves, then coming together, having hurdles, breaking up, etc. but ultimately are unable to deny the pull they have & end up together.

But it’s hard. Someone here brought up Being Erica the other day and that show too introduced a character, Kai, as a good match for Erica then had him sleep with her sister. (Seems to be a lot of that going around.) Erica & Kai weren’t “together” at the time and Erica had another boyfriend, but still they had feelings for each other & if Kai is supposed to be “the one” it matters & changes how the audience sees him. Or at least it did for me. Lots of interesting writing on that show, but that bit changed my view of them as a potential couple. Was that breaking the romance contract? Maybe not completely. But it definitely dented it.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm Marissa said...

Laurel Brown who is a writer for zap2it (website that writes about TV shows) very recently got a tweet from an Olicity shipper saying that they were upset over this whole 2×13 ending with Oliver/Sara. She says she is convinced Olicity is endgame, thoughts?

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:59 pm Julie H. said...

And I wonder if it plays like that for some people, like me, who watch what Arrow is doing with these recent choices and thinking: wow that knocks off Chick A and Chick B from being Oliver’s other 1/2. Ick! But look, Felicity and Oliver’s relationship is still there and good. Maybe they’re trying to wrap up these other options and set a course for….

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On February 18, 2014 at 8:41 pm Sam said...

Marissa–I think she is guessing just like any other viewer would. I doubt she knows for sure. Like I said before, I don’t think the producers know an end point at this time and are going season by season. As far as Laurel/Oliver–IMO that is dead in the water. They added a back story from hell, and then decided to (this season) take a major dump on it, just to add more to that pile of crap. There is obstacles to overcome, then there is this. It just makes Laurel look stupid if she takes him back, and even less relatable. What sane woman would take back a man who disrespected her continuously throughout their relationship, asked to be forgiven, and then continued said horrid act with your SISTER, reopening that wound? I’d question everything about that relationship and if he even loved me at all. And if we are supposed to start to find Laurel likable, or root for her in some capacity (if that is what the writers are trying to do) hooking her up with Oliver would just erase all of that because as a woman myself, I would not and will never let a man like that into my life again. Not ever. So if Laurel did, I would think she had no self-esteem, no self-respect and was insane and a moron to boot. That does not make the audience adhere to a character, whom you want us to like.

Same goes for Sara/Oliver– this couple makes each person look selfish, cold people to a person they (as far as the show says) “care” about. Care is in quotes because no matter what the show says, I don’t think either like Laurel at this point or respect her in any capacity. They come off as two horrible people, which chips away at the people the audience thought they were becoming and they become less likable.

So I guess if you view it in terms of this, the only viable option is Felicity, which is why Laurel Brown could say something like this. Yet, we don’t know what the producers are thinking. To them Sara/Oliver could still be viable, and the sister swapping could be deemed as a macho “men will be men” deal. I know some dudes fantasize about being with sisters (not that they go ahead and do it, but it’s probably on a wish list somewhere). Heck, to them Laurel/Oliver could still be viable as well. It all depends on where their mindset is.

As far as Smallville, their Oliver Queen ( whom I found to be more likable, interesting with his wit and snark than this Oliver Queen who is so closed off and grim in comparison) ended up with the high tech nerd Chloe Sullivan. I’ve seen some gif sets that parallel certain scenes between Felicity/Oliver and Oliver/Chloe. They also started out as a friendship/side-kick/partnership that turned to more later on. Chloe as well had trust issues as did Oliver. So I find they closely resemble Oliver/Felicity than Chloe/Clark IMHO. Chloe and Oliver as individuals (their characters in comparison to Oliver/Felicity) were vastly different, but them as a couple, their partnership, their trust in each other, their friendship, the same eye on the prize goal in the hero game was similar. Clark IMO never looked at Chloe the way Oliver has with Felicity. The show runners never spoke about a potential romance between them or underlining feelings. It was all about Lana for Clark and for the show runners until Lois came around. Not to mention, I felt that Allison Mack (Chloe) was vehemently against a romance with Clark and wanted that to remain a friendship. Also, Lois/Clark can not and should not ever be compared to Ollie/Dinah. They are miles apart in my opinion.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm Cassandra said...

I feel betrayed as a viewer, and as an Olicity ‘shipper, because now I get the sneaking suspicion that even though they should be truly playing up Stephen and Emily’s chemistry for all it’s worth and making a real go of things, they’re just using us. And they’re using Stephen and Emily in a way, because even though they get paid to do what they’re told, they have such an amazing chemistry that I feel is going to go to waste. With them, they can (and have, till this point) something really deep and epic if they do it right, but that tacked on, horrifying ending to HttD has made me question everything.

All season, it has come off like Oliver and Felicity are developing and fighting feelings, and Oliver is becoming a better man because of Felicity’s admiration and belief in him. I’m all for it, and it works on every level with them. She is the only woman in his life he doesn’t treat like a plaything, and she is honest with him at every turn and is not intimidated by who he is. She knows more of him than anyone else on the show, with the exception of Diggle, because he’s there for most of their scenes. So all this build up in episodes 1-10 this season (and, to a lesser extent, right up till the last minute of 13) has been carefully crafted to look like the Oliver/Felicity relationship is going somewhere, and then BOOM! With no explanation, totally out of nowhere, all of Oliver’s character development goes straight out the window, and he’s dumb Ollie from six years ago again.

How am I supposed to trust these writers when everything Oliver’s ever said to Felicity that was meaningful now seems like a line or a lie, and I feel like I’m being used for ratings because they know Olicity is highly popular and marketable, but something on which they never had the intention of following through? That’s what makes me angry about this whole debacle.

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On February 18, 2014 at 1:58 pm Kate said...

This is my first foray into online conversation about a television show. I appreciate the focus on story and the tone you have set for this board. The fan boards scare me since people can be vicious.

Your post about the romance contract made me think of JK Rowling’s latest statements regarding the Hermione/Ron pairing. She admits that Ron might not have made Hermione happy in the long run and that perhaps Harry could have. This seems to have touched off a fury amongst the fans. In the HP series I never shipped Harry with anyone. Instead, I focused on the friendships, the generational conflicts, Harry’s search for family and belonging, and the intricate world Rowling created (plus, I was too busy shipping Snape with just about anyone including myself to pay attention to a HHR triangle).

That said I have had conversations with friends who believe that Harry and Hermione are much better suited than Ron and Hermione. They point to passages in the book (moments in the woods, dancing, common understandings, a shared Muggle past) as evidence. Rowling did not fully developed Ginny Weasley as a character so she and Harry never truly sparked. From the beginning it was clear to me, however, that Hermione and Ron would end up together – perhaps Rowling set up such a clear romance contract that I did not even see it? I simply took their ultimate pairing for granted. For me, it would have been jarring to see Harry and Hermione end up together.

As for Arrow, I think the romance contract is between Felicity and Oliver. I used to worry that they were not “endgame” until I re-watched Season 1. As you have noted, theirs is a perfectly designed romance. From the moment Felicity is introduced she and Oliver start to build a relationship one small step at a time – almost like the writers were following some sort of playbook.

Re-watching “Odyssey” [1.14] put any fears I had to rest. I kept noticing that Felicity remained covered in Oliver’s blood for the duration of the episode. An odd choice since washing someone else’s blood off of your chest would typically be a high priority for most people. I can’t help but think the writers were sending us a message, at least that these two would share a bond, at most that she would be “the one.” We can never know how much the writers had planned and how much they adapted on the fly (we are not watching Mad Men here) but the remaining episodes of Season One and certainly everything we have seen in Season Two suggests that they know exactly where the momentum lies when it comes to their hero’s love life.

In light of this, pairing Oliver and Sara together for now makes perfect sense. They are two lonely damaged people who share a wretched past and hopefully now, some great sex. Sara is Black Canary. The canon has been fulfilled and the diehard comic fans cannot say otherwise. Sara is an obstacle in the Felicity/Oliver romance contract, because there is scant evidence that the contract is between Sara and Oliver. As for Oliver ending up with Laurel, that pairing would be utterly nonsensical from this point forward.

Must return to grading papers now…

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On February 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm Andrea said...

I’d like to comment my opinion on the fact that I see Oliver/Sara kiss as just an impediment to Oliver/Felicity and yet another proof of how badly built Oliver/Laurel was. I don’t see their kiss as a proof that Sara is the “it” girl. If anything, it brings about the same problems of before, and a relatinship between Oliver and Sara is simply bound to fail.

Plus, since they happened so soon, it’s obvious it’s not going to continue. In having Oliver and Sara kiss and try out an already doomed romance, they kill two birds with one stone: get Green Arrow and Black Canary together for the comics fanboys/fangirls, and add yet another barrier between Oliver and Felicity, postponing their romance.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm thecatbastet said...

I really see this pairing as a typical friends to lovers story, but since this is a tv show and not a romance novel, we’re seeing every single step of the development along the way. In a romance novel, this would be taken care of very early on. The friends part of their relationship would be the past, and we’d meet them at the turning point. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the hero – in this case, a hot billionaire who can get any woman he wants – has had other relationships since meeting his eventual endgame woman.

As to why Sara specifically and why Sara right now…right now, he’s just come out of a lot of upheaval with his women (mom, and in a roundabout way his sister, since there’s been disturbing news there). Earlier that evening, Sara, who had died twice in front of him, almost did again, and then didn’t. There’s a lot of adrenaline there. And then, well, she showed up. And Sara…she is so safe for him.

For Oliver, there are two kinds of women: the ones he’s disappointed, and Felicity. He has already disappointed Sara, failed Sara, just like he’s disappointed all the rest. It’s not so much that he needs a reason to have sex with Sara that night as it is that he needs a reason not to. He’s not ruining a relationship by bringing sex into it, with Sara. He’s already done all the ruining on that front that he can.

But with Felicity…I think that much of Oliver’s hesitancy there is actually about not believing he can keep her safe from him and his failings *within a relationship*. The one serious relationship he’s had (unless something else happened on the island) was with Laurel. Now, an observer can see that he was very young, very spoiled, and also simply not a good match for her, so that his instincts were good. Instead of getting engaged and moving in together, they needed to end it, and so he did. It was just his tactics that were bad, but understandable. Ollie wasn’t the most confrontational sort of guy, at that point. The first ten cheating incidents didn’t have the effect they should’ve – she stuck around – so he nuked it by making the eleventh the one person she couldn’t just write off and forgive. That was Ollie, trying to end something that wasn’t right for either of them, and not having the nerve to just say it to her face. Anyone but Oliver can see this.

But to Oliver, this is proof that he’s a Bad Boyfriend. His father, he knows now, was a Bad Husband. I don’t think he thinks a woman can trust him in a relationship.

The manwhore hero is always avoiding intimacy, and the manwhore hero in a friends to lovers tale is doing so by locating all his emotional intimacy with the heroine, while distributing sexual intimacy widely. But what I don’t think Oliver has noticed yet is that he actually is in a committed relationship with Felicity, and he actually is not a manwhore.

Every night he is with the same woman, a woman who knows everything about his life (if not every detail about his past). He trusts her and she trusts him. Neither of them gets up to anything the other doesn’t know about, and they keep each other fully informed about their presence at all times (and when she doesn’t, he gets antsy). He is present, loyal, and engaged with her. He is already doing *all the hard parts of a relationship*. This *is* the heavy lifting. This *is* what Ollie was avoiding. Ollie thought he was avoiding sexual fidelity, but that was a smokescreen. It was intimacy. This is intimacy. And he’s good at it.

He’s no longer even bothering to be a manwhore. Oliver has slept with three women in the last year, and all of those were for Reasons. You know what Oliver is bad at? Billionaire Playboy. He’s bad at that. He’s good at being with Felicity.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:11 pm Sure Thing said...

I’m just gonna sit here. And read this. Y’all are awesome at analysis.

Hello Argh people.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:29 pm Jenny said...

Hello, Sure Thing! Missed you.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:43 pm Kelly S said...

Hi Sure Thing! Nice to see a regular on here. I’m skimming thru the 118 comments which are enough to throw off the replies, so hopefully this lands in the right spot and you see it.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm Heather said...

I think my biggest problem with Oliver/Sara is it was so out of left field. We knew he’d be in a romance but considering after Isabel, he told Felicity that he couldn’t be with someone he could really care about, the fact that Sara wanted to make up with her family(why isn’t she trying to make up with her sister then, or spending more time with her parents instead of riding Oliver’s dick?). People can complain about how fans are hating on Sara when they didn’t on Barry, well, here’s the difference. Sara is betraying her sister. Again. With the same guy who’s the reason she was stuck on an island. The reason her family broke apart. Plus, people aren’t taking too kindly to the fact that she and Oliver lied to Slade about Shado. Barry was utterly harmless. He and Felicity had cute flirting. They didn’t screw in the foundry where anyone can see. Where other’s work. Barry didn’t ruin any character development. Oliver/Sara at the end of the episode made me lose some respect for them.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm Peter Craine said...

Has it occurred to anyone that everyone may be over-thinking this? The only reason that this blog exists is because there is a 3-week lapse between the previous episode and the next one a week from now. TV shows have the harshest critics because we only get a piece of the picture each week. I’ve watched enough of Arrow to know that the writers almost never unnecessarily introduce plot points just for the sake of shock; this Sara/Oliver hookup is part of a longer arc that the writers most likely have figured out at this point.

And just for the record, that kiss at the end was not random or out of the blue and it doesn’t indicate that the endgame relationship is between Oliver and Sara; just step back a minute and look at the context. Sara, after coming back from the dead, had just been disowned by the sister that she came back to Starling to save; Oliver had just learned of a huge secret his mother had kept from them all and decided that he was done with her. Both Oliver and Sara had just learned that people they loved weren’t who they thought they were; they were angry and sad and vulnerable, and the bond that they had, which has yet to be completely explored yet on the island by the way, is one that is tortured and broken and forged in some very horrible life-and-death situations. That final scene happened because they both needed comfort from someone who understood exactly what they both were going through.

And as for whether or not that relationship will last, I doubt it will. Two broken people can comfort each other but they can’t fix each other and I think that’s the point that the writers will nail home next week. Oliver and Felicity are complements in that have certain personalities, skills, and feelings that complete the other; that much is obvious and that’s why I’m still convinced that they are the endgame. Oliver and Sara are more parallels than anything else; they can find comfort in their combined brokenness because of their already-existing bond and history and that’s what they needed in that moment, but they are too similar in their problems that they can’t fix each other because neither of them has the solution.

Just because you cant see the “contract” doesn’t mean it’s not there, you just need to take everything into context and wait until you get more information before you jump to conclusions.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm Marre said...

I’m just amazed that everyone seems to be so sure about the endgame couple when the show is only in its second season! I mean, if I may refer to “Smallville” again, it took Lois and Clark six seasons to reach their endgame, from the fourth season when Lois was introduced on the show until they got married in season ten.

Even if we presume that “Arrow” won’t follow the comic book canon, I would say that any of the main women in his life could be his endgame…unless the writers feel compelled to make Olicity endgame just because that’s what the Internets or the majority of the (shipper) fans would like to see….

I’d also like to share something about the “Arrow” writers that I found online, and which I think is a pretty accurate assessment when it comes to “Arrow” and romance:

My point is that no one sat down to watch Arrow expecting it to be a show about romance so the writers might not be that great at writing romance because it’s not what they set out to do. For some viewers, it might be their favorite part of the show and that’s fine, but it’s not what the show was sold as so it makes sense to me that it’s a weak point for these writers, while the action stuff is really great.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:16 pm Jenny said...

I think the problem is that nobody is sure about anything in the romance plots. I don’t care what the endgame is, I just don’t want to be revolted by what the protagonist is doing right now.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm Jenny said...

Hi, Peter.
This blog has been in existence since August 2005, so nope on the hiatus being the only reason it exists. If you mean this blog post, nope, right now I’m obsessing about craft topics and the romance contract is one of them. Stop by Sunday, we’ll be talking about community and Leverage. Come back tomorrow, we’re talking about beats and Moonstruck. Check back a week ago, we were talking about saving a book that felt dead from rewriting.
What I’m most interested in right now is reader/viewer reaction to story. Something happened in an episode that people are talking about. I want to know how and why that story move made people react. As a novelist, I don’t get this kind of feedback, so it’s a kind of reader-feedback lab for me. I know why I felt revulsion at the end of the last episode, and I wanted to know if and why other people did. So we’re talking about it. Lots of different opinions here. Different opinions are good. We’re fine.

However this–”Just because you cant see the “contract” doesn’t mean it’s not there, you just need to take everything into context and wait until you get more information before you jump to conclusions.”– is where you lose me.

If can’t see the contract, I can’t know about it, and if I don’t know about it, there’s no contract. The writer-as-god approach only works if the reader/viewer trusts the writer absolutely, if that relationship has been so firmly established the the reader/viewer says, “Okay, I don’t like this, but I’ll stick.” Even then, that trust has to be rewarded pretty quickly; that is, the writer has to pull the resolution rabbit out of the hat as soon as possible or the distrust grows. Reading or watching story isn’t passive; it’s emotional and it’s collaborative, so telling readers or viewers not to get upset about what they’ve seen is not only patronizing, it ignores one of the most important things about storytelling: the reader/viewer gets to decide what’s working and what isn’t, not the writer.

The reason people stop watching a new series after one or two episodes or stop reading a book after the first chapter is usually because they’re not emotionally engaged enough to read on. They may dislike the protagonist, they may be bored, they may be turned off by some random detail, but they decide if they’re going to stay or go. But if they invest emotionally in a story, you’ve got them for the long haul as long as you don’t do anything to cause them to disconnect. That’s why it’s very dangerous for a writer to do something that breaks that connection and then say, “Hang in there, I know you don’t like this, but I’ll fix it later.” A reader is all too likely to say, “I don’t like this now and I won’t be here later.” That doesn’t mean writers can’t ever do anything unpleasant or tragic; I wept when Person of Interest killed Carter, but I’m coming back every week because I understood how that fit into story; I didn’t see it coming but it didn’t violate the emotional contract I had with the writers and they didn’t ask me to wait so they could make it right later. They made it right as it happened and I stayed connected.

You’ve accidentally walked into one of my hot buttons: Writers do not get to tell readers/viewers, “Keep reading/watching, it’s going to get good soon.” I see it over and over again with beginning writers, pages of set-up and back story and when I say, “This is all stuff I don’t care about, when does the story start?” they’ll tell me it’ll get good soon. No, it gets good on the first page and it stays good or the reader leaves because she doesn’t owe the writer anything. The writer invited the reader to the party, and it’s her responsibility to serve that reader, not reprimand her when she says, “I don’t like this part.”

So telling viewers to wait until they have more information ignores the fact that they have information, they have the show that’s in front of them right now, and a lot of them didn’t like it. Not only that, they know why they didn’t like it because they’ve analyzed it in detail, here and a lot of other places on the net. What I think you’re seeing as bitching, we’re seeing as analysis: how did this go so wrong? It was a great episode and then the last three minutes were awful. If the writers come back next week (or whenever they’re coming back) and say, “Okay, here’s what really happened,” the viewers still had an awful time. Whatever happens next doesn’t change that. It’s like being at party with that great guy Johnny and then suddenly Johnny gets drunk and throws up on the chips. Johnny may come back next week and apologize, it may turn out that Johnny was poisoned and it’s not his fault he threw up on the chips, but people who were having a good time at the party still watched him throw up on the chips and it would have been a much better party if he hadn’t. Plus from then on, whenever Johnny shows up, people are going to start getting nervous about the chips because, hey, they’ve been here before and they don’t trust Johnny.
So basically the rule for writers is “Don’t throw up on the chips and expect me to forget that the next time you put out the Pringles.”
Welcome to Argh.

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On February 18, 2014 at 9:15 pm Sara said...

Peter, I’m confused. You open your comment with: “Has it occurred to anyone that everyone may be over-thinking this?” and then you launch off to analyze why it is that Sara and Oliver got together–so, basically, the rest of us are overthinking this but you can go ahead and assume you know the reason WHY it happened.

Also, I’m not sure what record you think you’re going on, because this is a discussion, not a courthouse. People post their opinions, other people respond. We exchange ideas, and everyone is right–because everyone is entitled to feel what they feel, think what they think, ship whichever relationship they want. If I don’t think the Oliver-Sara kiss was set up and did come out of the blue, I’m right. I’m entitled to my opinion. I come here because I know I won’t get bashed or patronized for what I think.

Also, I happen to be one of those people who don’t see the contract. No one can tell me to see something that didn’t actually show up on screen. That, to me, IS overanalyzing.

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On February 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm wsk said...

I just wanted to thank you Jennifer for writing this. I am no wordsmith so to see my frustrations and feelings so wonderfully verbalised for me (something I was struggling to do for myself despite all my self analysis) was a huge relief. I am a huge fan of Arrow, but this description and explanation of a contract (not just from a romantic point of view, but like you said with mysteries, character, etc) between writers and viewers/readers relates to so many other tv shows/books/movies that I have watched/read and sums up some of the problems (if not all of my problems to be honest) I have ever encountered with some of these stories. Basically, what I’m trying to say in a very clumsy way, is thank you for taking all my messy thoughts and clearing them up for me.
I just hope when it comes to Arrow, that the writers haven’t been either using me as or are trying to manipulate me (use Sara to make me root for Laurel again) as a viewer. I feel like I can’t trust them after that last scene. Maybe they will fix it in the next episode – if they show us (they don’t need to show the characters, but us the viewers) something in the next episode that confirms that Felicity is the ‘she’ in the show’s romantic contract, then, like you said, I would be able to find a way to ‘explain’ the Oliver/Sara thing. I may still think it’s dumb etc, but I could live with it. But if they don’t do that, not only will I not know who ‘she’ is in the show’s romantic plot, I would also feel that they have been using me and manipulating me with Oliver/Felicity bones throughout season 2 and that would just feel to much like a betrayl to me. If they don’t want Felicity to be the endgame romantic partner for Oliver fine, I won’t like it, but fine (though really not sure who else they could have to fill that space out of the present female characters). But don’t then tease me with it. Not even a wee bit.

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm TK said...

This is a fascinating conversation. I feel like the romance contract on Arrow was broken for me from the pilot. See, Green Arrow became my favorite superhero on Smallville, and then I went back and read a good chunk of his comics, and an ever bigger chunk of Black Canary/Birds of Prey comics. And while I love both Oliver and Dinah dearly in the comics, I never connected with their romance [he kept cheating on her, and lying to her face about Justice League-related stuff]. I did, however, really love their romance/interaction in the animated series, Justice League Unlimited, and Young Justice.

So when Arrow was announced, one of the first things I hoped was for their romance to be done RIGHT for once — no cheating shenanigans, no lying about killing people when asked point blank by your wife AND fellow Justice League member [I'm still bitter, sorry]. When I heard it was gonna be Oliver’s origin story, I got even more excited: here was a chance for Oliver and Dinah to meet-cute in the pilot, maybe snark a little for a few episodes, then run into each other as vigilantes at night not knowing who the other was, and then, a few seasons and revelations later, create their little family of Green Arrow, Black Canary, and their many sidekicks/adopted kids in fighting crime.

Instead I got Oliver cheating on Laurel with HER SISTER even before the pilot started. That, right there, killed the romance contract for me.

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On February 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm Julie H. said...

TK, I find your input extremely interesting. Thank you for sharing that POV as someone with comic and even animated series knowledge.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm TK said...

No problem. I’m mostly a lurker, but I figured I started out from a different background than most people posting here. I keep seeing post all over saying that the show needs to be faithful to canon — I came into Arrow HOPING for a different canon, at least wrt the romance, because the GA/BC relationship in the comics felt so toxic to me.

And now that it’s paid off with Oliver/Sara jumping each other, it’s still toxic? Canon acknowledged, show, please feel free to move on from it asap!

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:57 pm bt said...

Okay, I was wondering about the canon. How great was the BC/GA relationship? Because if it was not epic, than okay, this may be why the TV version of the relationship is also so bad! I think there should be some acknowledgment that this Arrow is just different.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm sonrisaentejas said...

The formula for Arrow seemed, at the beginning, to be simple enough: rich spoiled manwhore goes to hell on earth, grows up, becomes a hero trying to right his and his father’s wrongs and make the world a better place. Along the way he also hopes to prove himself to the girl he wronged and win her back for good. Easy formula to follow…

Along comes Felicity – who was never supposed to be more than a one-episode character. Viewers could have been content with Felicity as a platonic, female buddy type of character. However, Felicity is a strong contender for the romance partner in many ways. She fulfills the “everyman” role – while she is very smart and has these super hacking abilities she is the character who has/had a normal job, provides many comic relief moments, provides much of the exposition of the plot including the suspension of disbelief, and is also able to provide the POV of the female viewer – she’s the only female character to actually voice aloud how unbelievably beautiful Oliver’s physique is. Even with all this, she STILL could have been seen as a platonic friend – but the writers began putting in many flirtatious, tender, and jealous moments between her and Oliver which caused the viewers to drop the contract between Oliver/Laurel and adopt the Oliver/Felicity contract.

All this could have been believable (and may still be if the writers, who get paid MUCH more than I do for this stuff, do it properly) if Oliver continued to seemingly want to become a better person. However, he is now involved with yet another female character – one who was suddenly introduced (to us the viewers) and is thrown into bed with Oliver after a five-year separation and before we have been able to become invested in her at all. “Atoning for my past spoilt slacker behavior? Check. Righting my father’s wrongs? Check. Making the world a better place? Check. Putting my playboy ways behind me and finding a good woman? Eh – that one’s not important, is it?” Listen up, Arrow writers – if are you writing an action show with a romantic subplot, it is. Because if it turns into Melrose Place you’re appealing to a completely different demographic and are not only going to lose the viewers who started watching Arrow but are not going to pick up the viewers who prefer a Melrose Place type of show.

While some may feel that a “romance contract” is not vital to a show that is mainly “action-oriented,” It simply speaks to the quality and investment a viewer has in the show. The same could be said for ANY contract – if it is poorly done viewers will stop watching. Good writing follows a clear progression and when it deviates for some reason a clear cause or purpose is given so that this serves to advance the plot. For anyone to say that the romance contract should not be vital to an action story is to say that a story should be successful and well-done in spite of an important portion of it being poorly-established or poorly carried out. If a romance is going to be included as a part of a story, it should be as well-written as any other part of the story.

In the end, Arrow can not tiptoe around the potentially major plot hole of our everyman character Felicity. Now that she has become such a well-loved character, and provides so much of the needed pov of the viewer, how can the writers give her the payoff the viewers expect? How do the writers of the show plan to reward her character – does she get the guy? Does she grow into an independent woman who in the end remains unattached (it worked for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, more recently, the VERY popular heroine of a soon to be released book-turned-movie)? What happens to Laurel – either of those same things? And what the heck happens to Sara and however many women they plan on throwing into the Arrow Cave? Again, the writers and producers of Arrow get paid much more than I to figure this stuff out. But as a viewer I hope that the quality of these plots and subplots does not ruin the quality of the show.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm Jenny said...

“For anyone to say that the romance contract should not be vital to an action story is to say that a story should be successful and well-done in spite of an important portion of it being poorly-established or poorly carried out. If a romance is going to be included as a part of a story, it should be as well-written as any other part of the story.”

Yep.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm Cassandra said...

I see a lot of criticism of people who enjoy ‘shipping, and who tend to make it their primary focus on a show. As someone who pre-dates the internet (I’m 31, but I didn’t get online till I was 17), but has been an avid TV watcher pretty much since birth, it took finding fandom to know I wasn’t the only one who ‘shipped almost like a religion. I was doing it years before I knew it had a name, and when I finally found “my people”, I was so relieved because sometimes it felt like I was the only one obsessing over these things.

I like Arrow for a lot of reasons. I like most of the cast (whether or not I like the characters they portray), it’s shot beautifully, and the action and stunts are some of the biggest and most complicated sequences I’ve ever seen on television. They go all in, all the time. I love superhero stories, and I watch pretty much all the movies and TV shows I can about them.

However, the thing in any story that keeps me coming back time after time is the characters, and their relationships are part of their lives. I am coming back to Arrow week after week to see how Oliver’s transformation is progressing, what is going on with Felicity, whom I adore, and what is happening with her relationship with Oliver. I can’t remember the last time two characters left me breathless just watching their intimate scenes together. And I love that. (It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been an avid romance novel reader since the age of 12, but that’s not really the point.) I care about Dig. I care about Thea. I want to see what crazy thing Moira is going to do next.

You can have crazy evil villains and jump off a roof as many times as you want, but in the end it’s the characters that are supposed to engage people. So if people don’t have favorites and they don’t ‘ship (not everyone does, but it seems like the majority have a preference), then how can they be engaged fully in the story? You can’t fully invest in an action sequence, but you can invest in a character.

So people get frenzied pretty fast when their favorite character makes a huge mistake that should be uncharacteristic at this point, or a ‘ship in which they’ve invested just seems like being jerked around. It’s beautiful and wonderfully constructed, you put your heart into seeing these two people together, then in one fell swoop that character you loved makes a heinous mistake you were sure of which he was no longer capable, and that relationship you’ve enjoyed witnessing so much is put in jeopardy.

Anyone who says well-written characters or fantastically executed relationships, romantic or otherwise, is not vital to “action-oriented” or “supehero” storytelling doesn’t know what they’re talking about. This is supposed to be a character’s journey, and a journey includes all of these things. Otherwise, we might as well be watching a show with the sound off. It would be just as meaningful.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:56 pm TK said...

Cassandra, your comment made me think of a couple of panels from last week’s Smallville digital comics. Barbara Gordon is asking Lois Lane for dating advice [while they're fighting thugs in a dark alley in Gotham, because they're that badass], and Lois’ response to “how do you date someone while being a superhero” is that you have to make connections, or all is for nothing.

Here, I screencapped the panels:
http://oi60.tinypic.com/u906a.jpg
http://oi58.tinypic.com/29e6ude.jpg

This dialog is pretty much everything I think about ‘shipping, explained in a few sentences.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm bethany actually said...

YES! Cassandra, you took the words right out of my mouth and then made them sound smarter. :-) For me the main problem I have with the Oliver/Sara kiss is that the show seemed to be portraying this awesome platonic friendship/crime-fighting team with Oliver and Sara, and I wish they’d stuck with that. Also, even though Oliver and Sara had sex pre-island and possibly on the island, they had not been presented to us as a possible couple at all since her return to Starling City. In fact, they showed Sara being emotionally and romantically involved with another character in the same episode! It really did feel like it was out of left field. Also it felt like a huge step backwards for Oliver’s character, and made me disappointed in Sara’s character for repeating an action that had pretty much torched her relationship with her sister. Maybe it’s NOT a huge step backwards for Oliver, maybe there is more to their relationship that we have just not seen yet, but the show didn’t tell us about that at all. It’s like Jenny’s example of the guy at a party throwing up on the chips, and later you find out it was food poisoning, not that he was drunk–but you still have the bad memory of him vomiting on the chips and ruining the party.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm Julie H. said...

Bravo and well said!

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On February 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm Meg said...

I appreciate this site and these “Arrow” articles. They are fun to read and gets me thinking about story and plot points and character writing etc. Jenny, you are great!

I never thought about “romance contract” up until now. Didn’t even know this idea existed. However, I see how this idea works in storytelling ie Jane Austen’s books especially. I can also see how superhero stories use this in storytelling all the time i.e. Spiderman/MJ or Gwen Stacey, Superman/Lois Lane, or Iron Man/Pepper. The only superhero that doesn’t have that epic love thing is Batman who is so very similar to our Arrow. (I get in the comics he is with Black Canary, but he is a playboy that is who he is.) He has a bit more trouble in the area of love like Batman/Bruce Wayne.

That being said, his story is messy, it is suppose to be. So the whole Sara hook up thing re-enforced the idea of Oliver = messy relationships. I would argue the romance contract for Oliver is not straightforward because his contract is messiness.

My favorite character aside from Oliver is Felicity. There is a very special relationship of the Arrow Team Trio Oliver-Felicity-Diggle. I think that is one of my favorite aspect of the show. Felicity in particular is someone I can identify with. The way she has been written has made me think of her as a friend. Which is something amazing. When a writer can make you feel like a character is your personal friend means they are doing something right.

When I read all the Olicity stuff, I can see why people want it etc. The first meet was amazing. Felicity brings out a softer and more humorous side to him which is great to see. She provides the show balance. Yet her romance with Oliver is not my first concern.I want her to be strong and awesome and grow and learn with or without Oliver. If the Oliver romance is the way to see more Felicity than okay by me. The writers have written Felicity in such a way that now I am super attached and don’t want to see her character hurt or ruined by the whole Oliver romance triangle thing.

Jenny also thanks so much for the last Laurel post. I knew I didn’t much care for her, but after reading through your post and seeing your perspective, I understand why her character hasn’t worked. I too want to see her go down a dark twisty path that will make her a lot more interesting to watch.

Thanks!

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On February 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm Teslin said...

I agree with you Meg about Felicity. She’s my favorite character too and I want to see her given her own storylines. I also don’t want her to be hurt by Oliver romance angst. While I do enjoy the Oliver/Felicity dynamic, my main feeling is that Felicity deserves someone who is worthy of her, someone who will make her happy and treat her right-whether that person is Oliver or someone else.

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:19 pm Marre said...

I know that we are not supposed to discuss such crass things as a show’s ratings and commercial viability on this blog, which is devoted to romance plots and which couple works best for “Arrow” (which everyone seems to agree is Felicity/Oliver). However, I would just like to refer to this rather sobering response from a TV journalist who has been covering the CW network shows for many years. This is her response to a question about fan reactions and their impact on writers and showrunners, which specifically referred to the question of the Sara/Oliver hook up:

anonymous asked:

A problem I have with the showrunners behind Arrow (execs, producers, writers) is I feel like they don’t see the audience response, like the comments on your blog, Jennifer Crusie’s, etc. All they see is a few select reviews (that rarely go in depth but judge everything on a surface level) and as such they’re not compelled to change anything but power on and keep making bad decisions, such as Oliver + Sara.

The only thing that matters is ratings. If the ratings don’t decrease and stay that way (it’s natural to have ups and downs from week to week), then as far as the producers, network and studios are concerned, the show is doing its job (to bring in an audience).

Now, I can imagine that if the writers totally abandon the (presumed) Oliver/Felicity slow burn/endgame scenario in order to pursue the already failed Laurel/Oliver romance, they might lose enough viewers to make an impact on ratings. On the other hand, if they keep things ambiguous or focus on action rather than romance, the follow through of this or that romance contract might not be as vital as some posters here imagine, especially since Oliver’s love affairs aren’t really the focus of the show anyway.

I’m not denying that many posters here have made valid points, but from the POV of the network I think that the allmighty dollar is a more important factor than the writers’ artistic choices when it comes to the romance subplots….

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On February 18, 2014 at 6:29 pm Jenny said...

“nd which couple works best for “Arrow” (which everyone seems to agree is Felicity/Oliver).”

No, no, no, no, there is NO consensus on here about which couple works best. There are a lot of differing opinions and those opinions shift all the time. And a lot of us are pretty much open to anything that we can believe in. I personally feel that Poison Ivy would be a good match for Oliver at this point, but that’s just me.

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On February 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm Jo said...

Hi, first time poster here. I’m not a writer (as will be shortly be made evident), but I’ve been enjoying the posts and discussion on Arrow.

I find this concept of the romance contract very interesting. I’ve been thinking about shows I’ve watched over the years, and how this fits into that. I remember watching Stargate Atlantis and believing for three seasons that they were writing John/Elizabeth, and whoops, no, apparently they were writing John/Teyla all that time. And then there’s watching shows like Buffy where the romantic contract for any of the characters changed frequently and sometimes without warning. And then there’s shows like Farscape and Bones and Castle that lay out their romantic contract in the beginning and follow it though to the end.

I think Arrow wanted to be the latter type of show, in the beginning. In spite of the cheating, I think we were supposed to believe that Oliver and Laurel were the loves of each other’s lives, and that eventually they would make their way back through the hurt and anger and pain and secrets to each other.

The only problem is….it went over like a lead balloon with the audience, even before Felicity showed up on the scene, and it continued to be increasingly unpopular, as did Laurel herself. So now the writers find themselves in a predicament. They’ve put a lot into selling the One True Love storyline in season one, and it’s just not flying. So do they keep with it, or do they try to extricate themselves from it somehow, by perhaps the gradual slow insinuation that maybe Oliver and laurel’s relationship pre-boat wasn’t all we were led to believe, that maybe they built it up to be something more in fantasy than it really was in reality, that maybe Oliver’s affair with Sara wasn’t just a random fling, that maybe there was some deeper feelings going on there.

I guess I’m coming from the standpoint of a viewer who was neither shocked nor dismayed by Sara and Oliver getting together at the end of the episode. A little surprised yes, but not terribly. I guess from where I’m sitting, it makes sense for them right now (note I said “right now”) and I don’t feel like they’re betraying anyone. Of course Laurel’s not going to be happy, but Oliver and Laurel have been over for a long time. And I think that’s one of the points of the relationship, not just having two people who’ve been through hell and back find some comfort with each other for a while, but taking a metaphorical sledgehammer to the Oliver and Laurel romantic contract, once and for all.

I think the real tension going on right now is that we do not know for sure what the writers are planning regarding Laurel and Sara. Laurel was supposed to be the Black Canary – where is that plan with Sara on the scene? The common thought is that Sara will die to set up her sister’s metamorphosis into Black Canary 2.0, but if that’s the case, why have the writers gone so far in developing Sara’s background, skills, connections, and even going to the extent of completely undermining the Oliver/Laurel relationship and setting up a connection with Sara in its place? I might be proven wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time) but to me, all of this screams that the writers are getting ready to write Laurel out, and instead of just killing off the character and our presumed Black Canary, they’re going to a lot of contortions to transfer everything that is Black Canary over to Sara, including the connection with Oliver. I’m not saying it’s the best way to have gone about it, it’s just what I think is going on.

ALL that being said, I don’t think Oliver and Sara pose any long term threat to Olicity as it stands. I think that they wanted to establish a deeper connection between Oliver and the show’s Black Canary, but ultimately I think Oliver and Sara will prove to be too much alike and too broken together to have a long term relationship. And with Laurel (as I’m guessing) out of the picture, and Sara in the (future) past, Olicity might in the end be the relationship that ends up lasting.

I’ve rambled on a lot – I’m sorry! Bottom line – I don’t think Oliver and Sara breaks any contract. I still think by the end of the season it will all make sense. Now if I’m completely wrong about everything, and Oliver and Laurel wind up back in each other’s arms by season, then I will throw up my hands and say I have no idea what they’re doing here! :) But right now to me it makes sense. And now I will shut up – promise!

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On February 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm Jinx said...

I’m very glad that someone has brought up the comics canon, because the thing that has always prevented me from checking out “Arrow” on television was my introduction to him back when he wore a strange curly beard, went off crimefighting a lot and neglected his young ward “Speedy.” Next thing you know, he comes home to discover young Speedy shooting smack and in a bad way.

This Green Arrow all of you speak of seems strangely different.

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On February 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm Christie said...

I think someone has already alluded to this. Having the Oliver/Sara kiss come out of nowhere does seem like the writers were going for shock value. Tricking the viewers into thinking the romance angle is going one way and it’s really going another. Have people talking. Get them outraged. It’s not too much of a stretch considering how the writers/producers play with fans’ emotions on social media and give misleading interviews. I get that they want to keep people on their toes, but, IMHO, they’re going too far. I mean, earlier in the same episode Oliver planted a tracer on Sara because… in his words: “she keeps disappearing on me.” How is this a way to build a romantic relationship? I’ve accepted the reasons why Oliver and Sara kissed. I just don’t know why it had to go so far as rubbing all this in Laurel’s face at the Lance family dinner. It’s unnecessary drama for drama’s sake.

It’s baffling how the writers have built so much trust and respect between Oliver and Felicity yet fumble so terribly on anything Lance sister related. I loved when Oliver didn’t question Felicity for one second about Moira’s secret. He didn’t even ask his mom afterwards “Is this true?” He already disowned her before he walked into the living room. All because of what Felicity told him. This is the main reason why I ship Olicity. They have unmatched emotional intimacy. Yes, Oliver loves Sara and still, deep down, loves Laurel, too. But I don’t think he was ever “in love” with either of them. He wouldn’t be swapping sisters — multiple times — if he did.

You may call me a fool or a glutton for punishment, but I’m not giving up on Olicity. I’m hoping in these upcoming episodes Sara will eventually witness Oliver and Felicity’s strong emotional bond and the way they act around each other. How will Sara react? Will she ignore it or will she confront Oliver or Felicity? And what about Digg and newly minted member Roy? Will they get pushed in the background?

I keep thinking to myself: This is barely the second half of season two. Oliver and Sara will come out of their angst-ridden haze, come to their senses and be the kick ass comrades in crime fighting they were meant to be.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:10 pm Jenny said...

“Having the Oliver/Sara kiss come out of nowhere does seem like the writers were going for shock value. Tricking the viewers into thinking the romance angle is going one way and it’s really going another. Have people talking. Get them outraged.”

I’ve been wondering about this, if this is going to turn out to be the writers playing, “Gotcha.” I did an essay when I was writing about Angel, and about halfway through I talked about good and bad Gotchas on that series. This feels like that although I admit I have NO idea what’s going to happen when the series comes back.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:32 pm Jo said...

I had not until this minute realized you were the one who wrote that essay – now I really feel foolish. I loved Cordy, and I ran across that linked somewhere years ago, and thought that you absolutely nailed it.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:10 pm Jenny said...

I loved Cordy, too. She was a great, great character.

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm Claire Rose said...

OOOOH!! I loved Cordy as well! I was so happy they moved her to Angel, because she added that “fun” that Felicity adds to Arrow. But BOY something went off the rail with that series o.O Will have to check out your essay though!

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:53 pm Julie H. said...

I’ve been wondering the same thing about all this. If the writers – who we all have readily admitted have a terrific tendency to pull that Gotcha! – do have something up their sleeves with all this and we find that out on 2/26 I’ll be among the 1st people to OooOoh over it. I’m really pulling for a good Gotcha! I think having a multi-week break between the last ep and the “here’s the reveal” ep just makes the timing kind of blow. So here we sit. And wait. Fingers crossed that this is gonna be a good Gotcha.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:14 pm Jenny said...

The problem is, a good Gotcha has an expiration date; it has to be by the end of the episode or it’s just poking fans with a stick. So they’re past their sell-by date already.

You know, I loved everything about that freaking episode except the last three minutes. ARGH.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:38 pm Julie H. said...

I keep telling myself: they have a plan. It’s gotta be a plan. Clearly I still want to trust the writers. And you’re right. That episode was so darned good but those last few minutes…. Finger in eye. I think the part I’m having trouble with, too, is that, in Season 1, I really had a hard time with Oliver and the romantic subplot toward the end of the season. I really disliked it and his character and the turn the story took. I told myself to wait and see what Season 2 tweaked. So when Season 2 happened, I really, really liked the adjustments. Now – at the same point in Season 2 that Season 1 started to swerve off the road – they’re doing this again. It’s bothersome to me because 90& of Season 2 has been so darned good.

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On February 19, 2014 at 2:01 am Christie said...

Julie H., I’m waiting for a good Gotcha too. Like “Gotcha! You guys really think Sara is more than just another one of Oliver’s flings just because she’s Black Canary? Really?” Then the show shifts back to our regularly scheduled slow burn with Felicity… until Barry Allen wakes up or (hopefully) Nightwing shows up.

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On February 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm thecatbastet said...

I could die happy if Nightwing showed up. No comatose nerd, that one.

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On February 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm MC said...

First, let me just say Jennifer that I love your books. Second, I think it is fantastic that you are a fan of Arrow and I love how you are analyzing the characters of the show as a writer. I have never heard of the romance contract before, but it makes so much sense to me now as I am an avid, eclectic reader. As I was reading the posts above, it amazed me how many people felt the same thing I did when I first watched Arrow. I am a nerd at heart. I love action movies with superheros and the romantic subplot. I was really excited to watch the pilot of Arrow. It looked really good, but after I watched it I had a lukewarm reaction to it. I don’t watch a lot of shows, so when I watch something I want it to have value. I love Bones and Castle. I gave up on it and after a few weeks I watched again. That is when I saw the scene with Felicity. I found that she made the show interesting, even with her small part. Arrow was so dark at first, her character was like a ray of sunshine. I also felt that something was off with the character Laurel and Oliver. For two people who are supposed to be love interests, their scenes were awkward, for lack of a better word. The scene that stands out in my mind where I saw potential romance with Felicity and Oliver was the scene where he was angry and he was leaving the foundry and Felicity locked the doors. He goes back leans over to her and tells her, ” You are not the only one who knows how to reboot my system”. I actually blushed. That is what I realized was missing between Laurel and Oliver, the chemistry. To me the chemistry between Felicity and Oliver has gotten better and better. To me they have the appearance of the romance contract. I have tried for almost two seasons to like Laurel, even when I should feel sorry for her. The best I can come up with is indifference. She was missing from two episodes and I didn’t even realize it until the episode was over, that tells me something. Sara I liked, but that last ending was out of left field. I thought they were great friends and they would never go there especially, after what happened years ago. Anyway, I was thinking about Felicity and Oliver and what make their scenes to great is that they have amazing body language and eye contact. They make you feel the scene and that is where the chemistry comes in. As much as I love “Olicity”, I love Felicity even more. I hope the writer’s do great things with her character. Andrew Kreisberg had a great quote that I will paraphrase, he said that he learned from Greg Berlanti (other executive producer of Arrow) when to have a good story and when to throw it out. I took that to mean that you can have a great story planned, but if it is not working than you need to change it.

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On February 18, 2014 at 10:44 pm bt said...

Wow, lots of discussion. It’s funny because when Heir to the Demon ended, my husband said, “Wow, that was a bad idea to have a 3 week break…too much time for fans to stew over what happened.” And I guess he is right! What I find interesting on a personal level is that this is a whole new world for me. I only learned recently what “shipping” is and what “fanfic” is and what intrigues me is that I learned about all that through my interest in the Oliver/Felicity pairing. It’s hard for me to articulate why (well, I know why, they are too darn cute) but I just love that match. The challenge for the writers, I think, is they don’t have as much freedom as writers normally would with regard to the “contract.” They have a canon to deal with and I think they struggle with the “Felicity Smoak problem” and they don’t know how to fix it. They could have just never developed the character and we’d be “stuck” with the Laurel contract (sorry, I was one of those who never felt the Laurel/Oliver romance). BUT, I think the writers, like the viewers, really like Felicity too, and didn’t want to give her up. They kept her on, developed a great character, and what ensued was that, of course, people want to see their favorite character end up with the hero. And I think the writers would normally go there, except for the Arrow canon. If not for the Arrow canon getting in the way, I would consider the contract signed, sealed and delivered for a Oliver/Felicity romance — and even allow crazy things getting in the way like Barry and Sara. But I think the confusion (at least for me) is that I feel there is a tension between what would be a good and natural development in a romantic relationship and knowing that there is canon looming over our heads. So what’s in the way is not a character that can be rid of, but the canon that has to be dealt with. And, I am sure some people side with Laurel, because her name is Laurel and they are all about the canon. As someone who knows nothing about how it’s “suppose” to turn out, I do get frustrated when people cite canon as the ONLY reason Felicity and Oliver can’t happen. From my perspective, if we know that Oliver/Felicity can’t happen, why would I even bother watching? I don’t mind going through the journey of “what will happen,” but if there is a set in stone end-result that does not seem to work for me, I really shouldn’t invest anymore time in it. But I think when Arrow returns, we might get more clues into where this is going. My husband laughs that I am reading blogs etc., (and posting!) about Arrow, because I have never really gotten that invested before, so I think there must be something good here that is causing all the interest.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm Sam said...

The thing is though they aren’t really following canon. Moira is alive and well, Thea aka Speedy is Oliver’s sister, Oliver’s mom is not supposed to be alive, Oliver is not supposed to have a sister. Oliver and Laurel did not meet as teens and fell in love before she turned into the BC, Diggle and Felicity did not exist (although I hear Diggle is added to the new 52?) Tommy is dead, he was supposed to be the Dark Archer, not his father, Slade’s whole story is different, Shado did not rape Oliver nor produce an offspring, even Oliver Queen’s personality is different (if you are looking for more of a similarity between comic Ollie and T.V. Ollie–Smallville’s Oliver is much closer personality wise IMO) Laurel did not have a sister who went to an Island and became Canary etc..etc..etc.. So they do pick some things up and change other things completely, they do not stick to canon and they have said so themselves. Even watching the first episode, you knew that this show was not following canon. So is it selective canon preference? Does he have to absolutely have to end up with either Laurel/Sara? I don’t think he does, especially with the mess they have dug themselves into concerning both women. So my question to the purists would be, does these other changes not have you up in arms? Are you not bothered by the fact that they have created a world that is not like the canon in the comics? Because these two worlds are so vastly different to me. So expectations to have things line up completely to the comics should have IMO been tossed out from watching the pilot episode.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:13 pm Julie H. said...

Those are excellent points, Sam, thank you for that. As someone who knows next to nothing about the canon source material, it’s interesting to know that.

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:08 pm Julie H. said...

BT, there is nothing like great discussion and analysis of story (character, conflict, romantic contract, etc) to really bring a whole new level to enjoying a show. I mean, we like Arrow anyway because there is so much to like about it, but when you start taking it apart to look at all the elements that make it that good story (whether they always work or not) it really gives you a different perspective on everything.

I love coming here to talk about all this for a variety of shows (really looking forward to the Leverage discussion) and that everybody does it really respectfully. :)

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On February 18, 2014 at 11:42 pm bt said...

Julie H, I know, I love this. I think I mentioned before, but this is my Arrow book club! I love hearing others’ perspective and to see that there’s a lot of commonality as well as differences. And not only respectful discussions, but SMART!!

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:17 pm Claire Rose said...

I’m right there with you bt. I never set foot on boards or ANYTHING before this show. I would comment occasionally on TVLine in regards to NCIS, but that was the extent. Now I come here to the Arrowhead book club LOL AND I’ve read a couple pieces of Fanfic to boot! Speaking of Fanfic, someone on here mentioned this one:
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10092158/2/Hive-of-Scum-and-Villainy
So I checked it out — I like it! I could almost see the H.I.V.E. portion of the story taking place on the show. It would be nice to have the Bruce Wayne part in there too, but that is HIGHLY doubtful. I will hope for Nightwing to get that part on the show … :))

Don’t worry, my husband laughs at me as well and knows that Wednesday night he flies solo on getting kids to bed LOL That’s okay though because then we watch it again when that job is done — Win Win (for me any way ;) )

You brought up some great points Sam because I have often wondered the same thing about this whole canon thing. So it’s okay that NONE of the rest of the story is canon, but because there is a girl named Dinah Laurel Lance, she MUST be BC and end up with Oliver. Even though in the comic universe their relationship sounded pretty screwed up as it is AND they divorced. And then in the New 52 they don’t even know each other. O.o
Oh well, to each his own. I have seen plenty of die hard comic posts on articles that are actually OK with Felicity and actually like her more.

There are theories that this pairing with Sara was done so to satisfy those canon people — I think I saw some mention it on here as well. SA said himself, that they didn’t necessarily “want to stomp all over canon, but they do what works”. So while BC is NOT Laurel, BC WILL BE with the GA for the short term … maybe … who knows, because we don’t have a solid contract yet. ::sigh::

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:17 am Teslin said...

I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s comments and also your original post, Jenny. I had never thought about the romance contract in a tv show context. I guess my question is “how will we know when the writers have made a romance contract with the viewers?” because right now I don’t think there is a romance contract happening on this show, which I can see now is a big part of the problem for me. I started S2 thinking it was Oliver/Laurel and then suddenly they were on the backburner and it seemed that Felicity/Oliver was being developed, which I was excited about. Then suddenly Sara is pushed to the front. I don’t know what to think-in some ways it does feel like the writers are teasing viewers as others have said.

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On February 19, 2014 at 1:02 am Jenny said...

I think the romance contract on Arrow was very clearly Oliver/Laurel to begin with, and that was good because there wasn’t any ambiguity. The romance itself didn’t work for some people but the contract was clear. I think most shows that successfully navigate romance subplots establish that contract early. Angel showed up in Buffy in the first episode, for example. She dated other people, but the contract was still clear. Penny and Leonard had a contract from the first episode of Big Bang Theory. It’s harder when the show wants to hold off on the romance and build the tension because they have to establish the contract and then wait to fulfill it, which might be what’s going on with Arrow. If fans knew that was what was going on, it would be less confusing.

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On February 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm Teslin said...

I hope you are correct Jenny and the writers/show do have a plan they are building toward. Right now, I don’t trust the writers.

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:28 am el7 said...

I love your posts that analyze story, and the ideas presented here about the romance contract, and the fanfic that results when fans feel that contract has been broken, are fascinating. I don’t read Arrow fanfic, but I do read a lot of fanfic, and I do see stories that attempt to fix the contract. I don’t see a lot of fridging, though, at least not the more literal interpretation. With long running series that pursue a One True Pairing, there are plenty of barrier love interests for a fanfic writer to choose from when figuring out how to shuffle the contract-breaking partner out of the way. Why traumatize the readers with a Character Death when you can just bring back the love interest from a previous season to carry the unacceptable partner into the sunset? Then the writer is free to pursue their own One True Pairing for the rest of the story. Another thing I see a lot with broken romance contracts is a crossover pairing. Fans of one story with a broken contract are likely to be fans of another story with a broken contract. With a little finagling (sometimes a lot of finagling) the two story universes are joined, and so is the crossover couple.

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:40 am Jenny said...

I love the idea of bringing somebody in to carry off the barrier love interest. It’s so efficient.

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On February 19, 2014 at 2:25 am Sara said...

I found this on youtube, and I thought the line towards the end perfectly summarized what we’ve been talking about: “In five minutes, the Arrow writers managed to screw two fandoms with one bang…” (I do think the Oliver-Felicity contract can be salvaged…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50ScGfpATxw

Hope it makes you guys laugh!

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On February 19, 2014 at 2:49 am Jenny said...

So tonight I watched that and the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer and my day is now complete. Thank you!

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On February 19, 2014 at 8:42 pm bt said...

Sara, great find. That youtube video was so funny.

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On February 19, 2014 at 7:03 am Kate B. said...

Thank you for an immensely enlightening piece. It resonated with me, especially coming fresh from a rabid case of OTP shipping gone sour. The pairing I loved so (also on The CW, sorry but not sorry) was also a windfall same as Olicity, but from their first interaction, the clamor for more was so deafening that social media, the male actor (also supposed to have a limited number of appearances on contract), and the writing pool were all on board the hype and lobbied for the pairing. But suddenly, the half of the OTP was made the lead on the series’ spin-off, thus an abrupt slaughter of the natural progression of plot, relationship, and characterization ensued until the male half was written off in a way that had me asking why the writers had no respect for the characters they themselves had made (They made love on the inane condition that he never set foot in town again by the way if you were curious to know). The EP made it quite clear that the pairing would now cease to exist, despite crossovers already being made between the two shows by the characters themselves. Though long suspected to be so, it was made glaringly and undeniably obvious then that the producers, writers, and the male actor had goaded this OTP’s shippers on without ever intending to follow through and would rather murder their characterizations than re-evaluate their original plan. This is precisely why I loved your quote on your Felicity piece (or was it the Laurel-centered one) about having a plan, but knowing when to let it go. Those writers were so plot-driven that nothing character-driven ever flourished in that show, I fear.

I hope the Arrow writers go where character growth leads them. In Oliver’s case, it may be to Felicity’s arms or not (though I hope Oliver would cease regressing and Felicity would be further fleshed out) but what would watching is keeping Ollie and Felicity true to their personal canons as established on the show.

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On February 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm Paula said...

Kate, I refuse to give up on Klaus and Caroline until both shows are cancelled! Talk about interesting characters made more interesting by the chemistry between the actors.

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On February 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm Kate B. said...

So I will I. But am taking refuge in fanon now, because I have no faith left in Julie Plec who basically made a magic baby and a poor attempt at Caroline 2.0 and assumed we would be satisfied with the switch. I cannot fathom how the show runners can be so ratings-hungry yet turn a blind eye to the dividends that good storytelling and plot progression would earn with regards to viewership.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:11 am Dayna said...

I love these posts and I love Arrow. I am not a writer but I learn so much about how writing works that I am starting to understand why and how some books, movies, TV shows work and why some don’t. I think about the things I learn from this site when I’m watching or reading and I realize “Oh, that’s why that’s working.” or more often I think “Writer(s) need to go read ArghInk, because this writing sucks.” And finally, I think tumbler is a great example of Olicity and why it works:
http://smoakingarrows.tumblr.com/post/75926027133

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On February 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm Sara said...

So, I made my husband read this article and then made him watch Youtube videos so we could have an in-depth conversation about romantic contracts and Arrow. These are important conversations for married people to have!

When I asked which “contract” he would sign (he refuses to call it a contract–I don’t understand why, since I will now be analyzing every romantic subplot in these terms from now on), he said the love interest he prefers is Felicity. In his words: “I can’t root for Laurel. I know I’m supposed to, but she is so self-centered.” He points out that from the moment she and Oliver share that first scene, her focus is on herself–how he deserved to be the one who died, how she couldn’t grieve because she was so angry. When someone is marooned on an island for five years, common sense dictates it wasn’t a good five years. Two episodes later, she tells him she and Tommy don’t need his blessing before even letting him finish what he is going to say (“She’s so presumptuous!” is how my husband put it–I actually liked her in this scene when I saw it again, but I was focusing on her as a character, not a love interest). The episode after that, she’s kissing him. Then, she gets together with Tommy, and she and Oliver share an awkward greeting hug during the Christmas party episode. I can’t get on board with it.

Let’s move on to her interactions with the Arrow. My husband raised a great point that I missed: At the beginning of the second season, Laurel calls SWAT on the Arrow. Later, the Arrow saves Laurel from the doll maker. After that, she calls him for help, and the first words out of her mouth were “You’re late.” No, “hey, thanks for saving my life back there.” It’s one thing for her to call out someone who’s helping her on being late; it takes it to another level of bitchiness when she knows he saved her life very recently. My husband put it this way: “Let me get this straight: THIS is the girl they want the audience to root for opposite their hero? Either the writers are really stupid or they’ve already chosen another love interest. It can’t possibly be Laurel.”

He points out that in the opposite corner, there’s Felicity. She’s smart. She knows Oliver is lying to her, but she helps him because she also knows he’s not a bad person. She trusts him despite all the crap he feeds her. When the Dodger snaps the bomb collar on her, her response isn’t “help me,” it’s “get away from me, this thing might blow.” When Oliver saves her from the Count, her focus is him: he’s hurt (and his focus is her–”it’s nothing”, because she is the priority). After that, she thanks him for saving her life AND she apologizes for getting herself into trouble.

Which leads me to the next point: How would a romance contract work between a protagonist we root for and another character who is not as easy to root for? I think Jenny raised this point before–you can have a character who is written as an antagonist and still have the audience connect with them. Spike was evil, but I accepted the romance contract with Buffy. He was all about self-preservation unless it meant saving someone he loved. I assume Kate B. is talking about Klaus and Caroline from The Vampire Diaries above (I haven’t seen an episode this season, but I know Klaus is the lead on The Originals). Again, Klaus is a serial murderer, written as Selfish (with capital S-E-L-F-I-S-H) and yet I understand why the fans would want him with Caroline. He’d unleash hell on earth, but he’d save Caroline from it. Both these characters are villains, but not when it comes to the women they love.

With Arrow, the romantic contract between Oliver and Laurel runs contrary to this–in present day, he’s an otherwise nice guy (things with Helena didn’t work out because she’s crazy; things with McKenna didn’t work out because she moved away; things with Isabel didn’t work out because it was meant to just be sex–but it’s Oliver who asks whether they should talk about it. Yet the one person he does betray is Laurel.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm Ero said...

(Newbie here, coming out of lurkdom to participate. And since it isn’t always clear to me who is responding to whom in the comments section, I am responding to Sara’s comment posted on 2/19/14 at 12:44 PM.)

I disliked Laurel from the get-go, but couldn’t quite pinpoint why, until I recently re-watched the whole first season. Then it became clear to me. I find her sanctimonious, and above all else, deeply self-centered to an extremely unpleasant degree. To add to the examples you mentioned, when she tells Tommy that the reason Oliver seemed OK with their relationship was because he already knew about it, and Tommy asked her why Oliver didn’t say anything about it, she replies “maybe it’s because he knows he has no right to judge me.” Not “us” but “me”. It’s all about Laurel, even though Oliver could have a reason to judge Tommy in all this as well.

The other example that struck me was when Oliver as Arrow saves Tommy, Laurel, and the kid from the hit-man, and Laurel tells her father “he” – Arrow – “won’t let anything happen to me.” Again, not “us” (Tommy is standing right there!) but “me”.

This is off-topic, but another thing I had noted – and remembered when I re-watched season 1 – was how objectionable most of the Arrow women were (I don’t count Felicity among the Arrow women here, as she was still a peripheral character at the time): Mackenna Hall, under the impression that Oliver’s time on the island is an appropriate first date conversation, and then getting butt-hurt when he doesn’t want to talk about it and going so far as calling him a bit of a jerk for it; Helena Bertinelli agreeing to join Tommy and Laurel for dinner despite Oliver’s obvious reluctance, and then getting bent out of shape and blaming him for it when it gets awkward, and Thea, who gets pissy at Oliver because he won’t spill the beans about his time on the island, despite having seen his scars and therefore knowing how traumatic it must have been.

All in all, I really didn’t like how most of the women were portrayed in that first season (I blame it on the writers being mostly (or all?) male), and I didn’t particularly care for the way Oliver just took the hits without saying anything. In fact, I am kind of annoyed at how Oliver feels like everything is his fault, all the time. He has a bit of a martyr complex, our Oliver.

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On February 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm Julie H. said...

Ero, those are interesting observations about season 1. I think that’s why I was so happy when Felicity Smoak popped up. She was written so different and her relationship with Oliver was so different and Oliver himself was different, too. I know it’s been said time and again but holy cow did Team Arrow (Oliver/Felicity/Diggle) coming together really save this show for me.

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On February 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm Ero said...

Oddly enough (after everything I’ve said) I loved the show right from the start, even before Felicity joined the team, but the writers certainly redeemed themselves with her. She is the antithesis of Laurel, selfless (mostly) whereas Laurel is selfish, although it didn’t really register with me until I read this part of Sara’s comment:

“When the Dodger snaps the bomb collar on her, her response isn’t “help me,” it’s “get away from me, this thing might blow.” When Oliver saves her from the Count, her focus is him: he’s hurt (and his focus is her–”it’s nothing”, because she is the priority). After that, she thanks him for saving her life AND she apologizes for getting herself into trouble.”

I’ll add to that the part where she is being held hostage by the Count and tells Oliver “not for me” when he is poised to “arrow” him.

She does have a petty moment when she makes that “How many women where on that island? Are you sure it wasn’t ‘Fantasy Island’?” comment, but nobody is perfect.

If Felicity had never been made a series regular, I probably would have still enjoyed the show. But now? If she were ever to leave the series, I think I would too.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm Julie H. said...

Sara, I think it’s all about what Jenny talked about before when you’re trying to make 2 characters (one of whom is more unlikeable than the other) — Vulnerability.

I’ll take Klaus and Caroline for this example because it’s such an extreme. Klaus is an out of control, power hungry, murderous vamp/werewolf hybrid. He’s all about power, strength, dominance and isn’t afraid to kill to get his way. He doesn’t care if someone is with him out of loyalty. He wants to bend them to his will and make them serve him. Hm. A rather unlikeable fellow. Enter Caroline. Because Klaus found her fascinating and he was drawn to her, he let himself show a side of himself he never had before: his vulnerabilities. He was tender and thoughtful. He let her see that beneath all that growling, fangy monster was a man who thoughtfully sketched her, who would waltz with her in a room full of people, who picked out a beautiful gown for her to wear. He allowed himself to be vulnerable FOR her. That’s sexy, sure, but more than that, it gives us something in him we can like and root for.

With Arrow, Oliver was presented in much the same way. Tortured, dark, stoic, remote, etc. We knew he’d led a tortured existence on the island and we want to like him. So when Arrow put Laurel in his path she is everything you and the husband mentioned but the difference is I find nothing that makes Laurel vulnerable to me. Nada. It’s why I think I fell for Oliver and Felicity in that diner/book scene: all the facades fell away and both characters were completely open, honest, truthful and most of all… vulnerable.

It was that moment that cracked Oliver’s shell for me and because he did it with Felicity (who I already loved), that Romantic Contract bell went off. That’s the couple I’m rooting for.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm bt said...

I completely know what you are saying sara, and feel the same way, but I sometimes wonder if we risk double standards here. It seems often times it is okay for the guy to be “bad” as long as he’s good and redeemable deep down inside. We see so often the “rogue” who learns to be softer and lighter because of love. His eyes are opened and love makes him “reform.” Isn’t that a popular line we see in romance novels? “Reformed rogues make the best husbands?” But we don’t see the same with female characters (or maybe we’re not as forgiving). They usually are good. (Or, maybe my experiences are just limited). I think that was why Jane Austen’s Emma was so interesting for her. Her heroine was kind of a snot, and spoiled. But we liked her anyway, because Mr. Knightly saw good in her and we love Mr. Knightly. So the question I have for those who don’t care for Laurel (including myself) is: Is she redeemable? Or is there a point where (to quote another Jane Austen character) “my good opinion once lost, is lost forever?” But as many have pointed out, characters can be very flawed, but the writing is such that we like them despite those flaws. For some reason we understand them, justify them, or identify with them. But we like the person to begin with. I liked Emma, (even though she was a flawed character) and therefore was able to accept her and want her to be happy. I have a hard time with Laurel because I never connected with her. Not because she was a flawed character (I think she was set up not to be), but because I had no connection with her. Maybe that’s what makes all the difference. And maybe that’s why it is so hard for me to explain it. It is just hard to define “I just don’t connect with you.”

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:42 pm Sara said...

Bt, that’s an excellent question. Personally, I don’t have a double standard–I think it applies to women as well, there are just less examples of them. Cordelia comes to mind–who didn’t love her? That scene when she catches Xander and Willow kissing? HEARTBREAKING. She is the “bad” girl who hooks up with the “good” guy. So I definitely think it goes both ways. Personally, what I look for in a love story is a combination of people who make each other better. I think that’s why the bad-boy-turned-good-guy (Damon in TVD comes to mind) is so appealing–I want to watch a show where people evolve because of love. That’s what gets my attention, makes me sit up and ask, “Where do I sign (the romantic contract)?”

I might be in the minority here (somehow, I think I’m going to get slammed for this!), but speaking from personal experience (and it absolutely depends on the people involved), but I DO believe love can change people. I’m a hopeless romantic that way. I DO think that when you love someone, it is possible to rise above your demons to be the best version of yourself. Ever read this essay: (http://sethadamsmith.com/2013/11/02/marriage-isnt-for-you/). I don’t necessarily agree with everything on there, but I love this part: “No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?…No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.”

And this is where the Oliver-Laurel love story loses me. When you look at their actions in front of each other, I see Laurel looking out for herself, and Oliver looking out for himself. Sure, he says stuff like “I won’t ever leave you” and “You’re the most important person in the world,” but he also sleeps with her sister…twice. That is selfish–it’s about him both times. If it was about Laurel, he’d keep his pants zipped. If it was about Sara, he would have broken up with Laurel the first time before making his move. As for the second time he does it, I can only assume it’s for the sex, since I saw nothing to support anything beyond “I’m really horny right now.”

When you toss that on its head and analyze Oliver-Felicity, I see that statement above actualized: Love is about the person you love. In the first episode of the second season, she hits the gunman on the head to save Oliver. He responds by grabbing her and swinging out a window to a lower floor. Immediately after that, he moves her hair away from her face to make sure she’s okay. In the Count episode, their focus is completely on each other after the ordeal–that entire exchange was brilliant at setting up the ideal romantic contract, in my opinion.

I definitely think not connecting with a character has a lot to do with it, too. As Julie and Jenny have mentioned in the past, vulnerability is vital in character development. So it’s a double whammy–I didn’t connect with Laurel and I couldn’t understand her relationship with Oliver because it went against what I recognize love to be.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:21 pm bt said...

Sara, totally get what you’re saying. And I don’t think “love changing you” is a bad thing. Even Oliver acknowledges that it is a strong emotion and motivator. Maybe it’s less that love changes a person and more how you, as a person, respond to love and all it encompasses. I remember a line in Dangerous Liaisons where a wise older woman talks about how people “love” differently (she was referring to men v women, but I think we can make it general). She said some love in terms of how happy it makes them feel, while others love in terms of the happiness they can give. (I am rephrasing it horribly), but my point being, love is a huge emotion and if it “changes” a person’s action, it could be more a reflection of how that person responds to it as opposed to changing the person at their core. Either way, it’s an interesting journey to observe in characters.

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:04 am Georgia said...

Bt, I don’t know if you ever watched the UK series Press Gang (episodes are on Youtube, I think), but it’s a really good example of a “nasty” girl and a “nice” guy who are actually both very flawed characters who make each other better. I loved Lynda anyway, but I have friends who only liked her when they could see what Spike saw in her – vulnerability in action (and it went both ways).

I think you’re right about there being a double standard in place, though, because there’s an established societal pressure for women to be “the nice ones”. I think this came up in the comments about Protagonists last week, with The Blacklist and Arrow as the examples. It that “The Girl” thing all over again.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm Sure Thing said...

Bear with me, this be a ramble.

During one of the commentaries for Burn Notice season 1, the writer/director/producer (* guy) mentioned that somebody asked him if the relationship wouldn’t feature strongly because the MC and lead female – the on/off girlfriend – slept together. (I’m half asleep can’t remember names.)

His response was that he knows of relationships that had a similar chemistry where people did get together and it didn’t change the dynamic of the relationship. They were still often in the same patterns they communicated in prior and he thought his tv couple would be no different. Methinks it was the best tv decision ever. Way better than drawing out the sexual tension ala Moonlighting and then not knowing how to move forward post.

Arrow writers seem to not know how to do this. Allow for the partial resolution – acknowledgement of deeper feelings at minimum – and continue with situation unresolved. Either Olicity or Saroliver. Or both.

Ramble done. G’night.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm Jenny said...

Michael and Fiona. That’s an interesting comparison because it was always Michael and Fiona from the beginning, that contract was so clear. In the pilot, he woke up in that hotel room in Miami, and she was sitting there because he’d never removed her as his emergency contact. They fought all the way through the pilot and and then always had each other’s backs. I don’t remember how many gazillion seasons they had, but even when she dated other people, there was never a threat, it was always going to be Michael and Fiona. That’s a great example, ST.

You know, one of the many things I liked about Fiona is that she rarely needed rescued, and when she did, it was the kind of situation that Michael would have needed rescued in, too. And she came to his rescue any number of times. It really was a relationship of equals.

One of my favorite scenes from that show was Michael escaping from somebody with another very adept guy, and they got into a situation where they needed a diversion so Michael called Fiona. And the next thing you see is Fiona pulling up in a convertible with her sunglasses on, deadpan as always, and then a car explodes, and the other guy says,”Where did you get HER?” Fiona and explosives. What a woman.

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On February 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm Julie H. said...

I loved Michael and Fiona and yep, no matter what happened, I knew from Day 1 of that show that they’d be It for each other. Never a doubt.

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On February 19, 2014 at 7:47 pm Sasha said...

I think the Arrow writers are doing a wonderful job at writing the romance of Oliver and Felicity! It does boggle my mind that these are the same writers who wrote the “romance” of Oliver and Laurel, but whatever. I’m loving it.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm Jenny said...

In defense of writers everywhere, sometimes a story just takes a turn you didn’t see coming and you go with it. It sounds very twee that characters take over a story, but all your cold, logical planning can pancake if a character suddenly breathes deep and does something wonderful that you want to follow. If you want to make the story gods laugh, make an outline.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:28 pm Sasha said...

The way we were set to root for the two pairings are so drastically different. Oliver and Felicity does seem organic though. I just can’t for the life of me see how Oliver and Laurel looked good on paper (not to mention on tv). Out of all the choices in the world, Oliver sleeping with her sister? Seems like they’ve come full circle though:)

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:10 am Georgia said...

I think it’s Michael’s mother who tells another guy who’s fallen for Fiona: “Fiona and Michael. They love each other, and they hate each other, but it’s always each other.”

Summed it up perfectly.

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On February 20, 2014 at 6:19 am Katie said...

Love Michael and Fi. I stopped watching because the plot stopped making sense, but those two were always great.

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On February 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm Donna said...

I love this blog. I have to read every comment!

I only started watching Arrow this year, so still a newbie and it has me hooked.

From the pilot episode, I never felt that Oliver and Laurel were the parties to the romance contract. I mean I know that it was set up that way, but to me, the past history between them just made it a no go area. What went through my mind was “how could you ever think about being in a relationship with someone who cheated on you with your sister, with the end result that your sister died?” I did however buy into the contract between Laurel and Tommy and I felt they were good together (really missing Tommy I might add *sniff*) and I really liked their scenes together. There was warmth, something that was really lacking between Laurel and Oliver. Throughout season one, although there were obstacles in their path (namely Oliver), I always felt that Laurel and Tommy were meant to be with each other, to the extent that when Oliver slept with Laurel, I was so annoyed with him.

As for Oliver, for me I feel the romance contract is with Felicity. When she turned up, she was such a breath of fresh air and brought some warmth and humour to him. The scene when she shows up at the cafe with The List and put her complete trust in Oliver kind of sealed it for me. I think she makes Oliver a much better person (as does Diggle).

As for Sara, again, it is something I cannot invest in, basically for the same reasons I had with Laurel and Oliver. It feels too toxic (it just makes me feel “poor Laurel”). If they do go down this avenue for the long term, I will be disappointed.

BTW that Youtube video a few posts above was made me laugh :-D!

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On February 19, 2014 at 6:20 pm Sara said...

http://tvline.com/2014/02/19/arrow-season-2-spoilers-reader-questions-answered/#!12/time-ofdeath/

Hmmm…there was a discussion on the other posts about whether Sara could be Oracle. This opens a window, doesn’t it?

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On February 19, 2014 at 8:40 pm CJ said...

I was just coming here to share that since that’s been a theory I’ve held for a couple weeks. So excited now to see where they go with it.

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On February 19, 2014 at 8:44 pm CJ said...

And if Sara is Oracle, that leads to Laurel being BC II, just like comic book canon.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:16 pm Jenny said...

That would be great; it would give Laurel the breathing space to actually become the Canary, too. It took Oliver and Sara five years which we’re getting in flashback; SO much better to get Laurel in real time.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm Kate B. said...

Alternative theories have posited Felicity as Oracle, with her genius and computer skills as her qualifications for the post. A few spoilers for the S2 ending may support this position, with Felicity a possible casualty of the clash between Arrow and the season big bad that cripples her, thus wheelchair and voila! Oracle.

On to another topic, I am a bit wary of the Birds of Prey characters on the show all being past/present/future romantic interests of the protagonist. If ever they do band together for missions, the interteam dynamics are sure to be contentious.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm Jenny said...

Or hilarious when they compare notes.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm Sasha said...

What’s Felicity’s role if Sara becomes the Oracle (which is essentially her role without the name) and Laurel becomes BC? It would probably make more sense for Felicity to evolve into this.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:10 pm Jenny said...

Whoever ends up as Oracle is not going to be in the Arrow cave. Somebody else pointed this out earlier, cannot remember who so apologies, but I don’t think the Birds of Prey are going to be operating in an annex of the Arrow cave. I really want to see Oliver-Diggle-Felicity stay at the center of the series, regardless of ‘shipping, so if Sara ends up as the Oracle, YAY!

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:31 am CJ said...

Felicity’s role doesn’t change, as far as I see.

She’s always going to be heavily involved with Oliver’s missions. She’s also got to keep the EA job at QC. It also seems like she’s going to be popping in on The Flash every once in awhile. So when’s she also going to find the time to focus on Birds of Prey missions? That’s why, if TPTB intend to establish Birds of Prey as a team in the Arrow’verse (which they obviously do), Oracle can’t be Felicity.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:52 pm bt said...

I don’t know about Sara as Oracle. I am rather protective of Felicity and computer is her thing. So don’t mess with her computers!! It’s kinda like people saying it took Sara the island and many years to become Canary so no way Laurel (or Felicity) can just take some classes and do the same. Same thing for Felicity’s computer skills. She is an MIT graduate and very smart and skilled in that arena. Seems not right that someone can come in and SNAP!, do what she does. That’s her role with the team. I don’t know, I don’t like someone else taking that away. Also, why does the person who becomes Oracle HAVE to be in a wheelchair? I know that was the case for Oracle in the comics, but the Arrow-verse can really do anything, can’t they? Does Oracle need to be in a wheelchair? Finally, I read the TVline Q&A. Interesting that most of the questions concern Felicity. People do really care. SA’s explanation of Oliver’s “can’t be with someone I care about” comment and how that applies in light of the Sara hook-up is interesting. And I don’t know if I like the statement that Felicity just wants to make sure she fits in Oliver’s life now that Sara’s got a spot. Also interesting that SA says the others are just visitors in the Arrow Cave, and Diggle-Felicity-Oliver are still core group.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm Sasha said...

I don’t think she was permanently in the wheel chair. They could make it temporary.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm Jenny said...

She wasn’t. She started out as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (I think), then became Oracle when she was injured, and later recovered and went back to being Batgirl (I think).

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm Kate B. said...

Of course whoever Oracle ends up being does not need to be paraplegic. I was merely recounting other theories on who she ends up being and their corresponding justifications, so my apologies if it seemed otherwise. I love Claire Rose’s chair-bound metaphor!

And to respond to your post below, bt, if the showrunners think like that, doesn’t it nullify (show canonwise ) all our arguments on why an Oliver-Laurel relationship is now untenable? It paints a dark picture of Arrow’s future as a rational show if so.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:12 pm Jenny said...

You know, given this show’s pretty good track record on diversity, a handicapped recurring character is not a bad idea.

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:10 am Kate B. said...

Definitely agree there. With Arrow’s loose adaptation of comics canon, Oracle doesn’t need to be differently-abled, but having her (or another character) be one however temporary or permanently would make for progressive television.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm J said...

This is a really interesting insight. I haven’t read the comments, so I don’t know if I’m repeating anything, BUT.
I actually don’t think that the Sara kiss represents a failure to hold up the romance contract.
You mentioned Helena. Helena happened in the middle of Oliver and Laurel’s arc last season. The romance plot really happened between Oliver, Laurel, and Tommy last season. But there were smaller romances between them.
I think Sara is in the middle of Felicity’s romance plot. I think they have made a romance contract with Oliver and Felicity, and I think it’s safe to assume that it will be fulfilled in some way at some point. I don’t know if Felicity is THE romance story for the entire show (I hope so), but I actually have zero worry at this point that they aren’t going to pay off the emotional setup that we’re seeing. I don’t know where they’re going with Sara yet, and I imagine they are leaving some long-term options open at this point, but I do think they’re telling their story and not writing based on fan reaction. If they were fan pandering, dropping the Felicity romance arc is the opposite of what they would be doing.

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm Jenny said...

I think this is why the romance contract is so important. If we had an understood contract, then it doesn’t matter who Oliver kisses, it’s part of the journey. If we don’t have a contract, then it created confusion.

I used The Big Bang Theory in another answer. Penny and Leonard took forever to get together, then they broke up, then they got back together, and I think they’re apart again now (haven’t watched the last couple of seasons), but that’s still the romance contract for the show. It’s secure.

(The problem I had with the Sara kiss was more that it damage Oliver’s characterization; I don’t think it has an impact on a future Oliver romance.)

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On February 20, 2014 at 6:25 am Katie said...

Leonard and Penny were still together as of last week, but Penny is having serious life problems outside of her love life (and I’m personally about worried about her wine consumption); not sure how that will impact their relationship. But I don’t think it’s making it stronger at the moment. I’ve missed a few this season, so maybe I’m wrong about that. But Sheldon and Amy are awesome right now, and that’s what really matters to me.

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On February 20, 2014 at 4:08 am marre said...

Here is an interesting view on the latest developments, from an Olicity shipper, which differs somewhat from the majority of the opinions put forth on this site:

http://www.starpulse.com/news/An_Nicholson/2014/02/16/5_reasons_arrows_olicity_aint_happenin

I personally think it’s very difficult to know if there is indeed some kind of “Olicity” romance contract and if it will be fulfilled, especially since the writers have kept the relationship status between Felicity and Oliver deliberately ambiguous. Of course, viewers will always interpret the on screen happenings according to their own preferences and sentiments about this or that couple…

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On February 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm Claire Rose said...

Well, this is in response to Kate B, but there wasn’t a “reply” option. I just wanted to say that I hope they don’t go that route, and I don’t think they need to. Felicity is already practically glued to that chair in the foundry LOL That could be symbolism … I hope.

Then again, who knows with this group at the helm :/

On a side note, Team Arrow will be at Walker Stalker in Chicago. Emily Bett Rickards, Stephen Amell and David Ramsey are all going to be there! Woo hoo! I’m nowhere near there, but it’s still cool that they will ALL be there.

See? Before this show I would have been like “WHAT is THAT”? Well, I kind of still am. LOL I guess it’s like a Comic Con, which I knew about Comic Con from my sister, but I had no idea there were MORE of these things!

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm Jenny said...

The comments only nest for a couple of layers, so if you reply to somebody who replied to somebody who replied to somebody, the blog decides that’s enough indenting and throws you back out to the margin as a new comment.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm bt said...

this might cause some annoyance — Arrow question and answer on TVLine:

Question: Please tell me Sara/Canary isn’t going anywhere on Arrow. I’m loving her so much! —Joseph
Ausiello: If you caught sight of a certain TVLine editor’s Twitter background — which was snapped on his visit to the set last week, during the filming of Episode 18 — you’d see that Canary is alive and well. Thus far. Though her big sister Laurel may wish otherwise. Coming out of their icy reunion, “Sara is heartbroken,” Caity Lotz tells us. “For Sara to be like, ‘I’m not dead, yet [the fling with Oliver] is still that big to you?’ It’s heartbreaking that Laurel isn’t over that [comparatively] small stuff. Sara feels like her sister would rather have her dead!”

I know many are still feeling the betrayal, but Lotz seems to think the fling was “small stuff.” Interesting.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm Sasha said...

She meant the first time Sara and Oliver hooked up. She’s more angry at something that went down 6 years ago than her being alive.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:57 pm bt said...

That reading makes more sense. No, I understand that view, that if your sister came back from the dead, you’d be happy to see her again and forget all the bitterness of the past. I know many agree w/Laurel’s response, but I still have a hard time with it. I still don’t blame Sara for their parents’ break-up or the dad’s downward spiral. What if Sara went missing not w/Oliver, but b/c of some other misfortune, but those same things happened? Would it still be okay for Laurel to respond that way? It’s because of the Oliver connection that is causing the deep-rooted anger still. I do feel bad for Sara b/c yes, stupid/shameful for running off w/Oliver, but she’s had 6 horrible years as her punishment. True Laurel didn’t have it easy either.

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:26 am Sasha said...

Right, agree you both had it bad and move on, but then where would the story be in that, lol.

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On February 20, 2014 at 2:21 am Jenny said...

I’m editing this response because it’s making me think about this differently.

We’re talking about the Laurel vs. Sara conflict. Both characters have good reasons for acting as badly as they are, but neither character cares enough about the other to stay and fight it out, to say “This relationship is worth being honest,” neither cares enough about the other to find out why she’s in such bad emotional shape. If Laurel knew what Sara had gone through, if Sara understood what had happened to Laurel, they could stop fighting because they have no real conflict. One of the tests of good conflict is that somebody can win, and I don’t see anybody winning here because neither one has a goal. They both just feel really sorry for themselves. They’re not fun to watch fight.

Meanwhile back at the Queen mansion, two female characters I love are having another conflict. Felicity is trying to do the right thing as she sees it, give Moira a chance to tell her son the truth before someone else does it. Moira is also trying to do the right thing as she sees it: she wants to protect her children from the truth and save herself from disgrace. They both have clear goals, they both are absolutely honest with each other, caught in a conflict that neither can resign from, both of them are, in their own way, implacable, and one of them is going to win. I loved that scene because it was about something that mattered, there was something important at stake, it was a fight between two smart women, both of whom were being honest, determined, and unyielding. There wasn’t one moment in that scene where I said, “If she’d just do X, this conflict would be over.” That scene was a perfect piece of conflict.

In contrast, the scene between Laurel and Sara was just two people yelling at each other.

This is such a good show. Oliver, Diggle, Felicity, Moira, Malcolm, Slade, there are great characters on here with great stories to be told, and we’re spending story real estate on two of the most unpleasant female characters I’ve ever seen on TV fighting over hurt feelings. Can we please go back to fighting crime?

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:54 pm Sara said...

I think the fling is “small stuff” for Sara, who endured quite a bit over the last 5 years to survive. To her, she probably feels like she’s already got her karma (and then she does it again…which is why karma is putting her in a wheelchair, perhaps temporarily, as Oracle! Or so I hope, because I don’t want anything to happen to Felicity).

I was on some fan boards (I know, I should stop…I have children to raise! Or so my husband keeps reminding me. In my defense, one of them gave me the stomach flu so I am in bed right now) and the idea of Laurel turning into BC is not well received. Caity Lotz is a much more popular character, which tells me the chances of her surviving the season are pretty high. I like the idea of recurring characters, but dammit show, don’t pull a Grey’s Anatomy. I want to be able to remember everyone’s names, story lines, and who’s slept with whom!

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:09 pm Jenny said...

Yes, but that means Sara’s approach is “Your pain is small stuff because it wasn’t as life-threatening as mine.” It’s that stupid sister competition again. I keep seeing that scene of Laurel showing up to take Quentin home with such gentleness and love, not an exciting or fun thing to do, the daughter who cleaned up the mess that Sara made. Sara has convinced me that Laurel should be the Black Canary and I NEVER thought I’d say that.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:43 pm Sasha said...

I think the sisters are a means to move Oliver’s and Oliver and Felicity’s story along. (Maybe theirs too, but I’m not invested in them enough to care. I was through with Laurel after she said “You’re late” and Sara’s recent behavior has certainly made me think less favorably of her. I really don’t care what happens to either of them. I do think Sara has potential for me though, so for this reason I’m team Sara.)

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:47 pm Sasha said...

And by story I mean the romance contract. Before the new romance contract can be made clear, the old one has to have a clear end:) I think this will pretty much do it.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:57 pm Sasha said...

And then she belittles his AA group. I keep seeing scenes like that… and they keep showing scenes like that.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:14 pm Claire Rose said...

That is why I can only see Laurel turning evil and Sara remaining BC. BUT I would hope that the show runners keep her as recurring only. I say this not as someone who wants Felicity and Oliver to happen, but as a viewer who thinks it would make the show too top heavy.

She and Oliver are too much alike, and almost at the same point in their journey. I think Sara’s back story seems really cool with the League of Assassins and I would like that explored but we already HAVE Oliver’s flash backs. I think if Sara were recurring, these bits could be explored with her and tie into whatever arc they are working. But the two together all the time I think would take away from Team Arrow (exploring THEIR stories — *cough* Felicity *cough*) and Oliver’s journey. But that could just be me.

Jenny, what are your thoughts? Could someone with Sara’s backstory come in without throwing off the balance? We still have so much to learn about Felicity.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:15 pm Claire Rose said...

Oops, I need to refresh before responding LOL

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm Jenny said...

I think that the more they dilute Oliver-Diggle-Felicity, the weaker the show becomes.
You want a strong protagonist, and they have that in Oliver.
They’ve given him a tight community that in itself works as a protagonist; the heart of that series is the three of them working to save the city.
But the more they dilute that central three, the more focus diffuses, the more relationships the viewer has to invest in, and the less time they have to give to each character.
With the original community, they had three relationships/negotiations to play with it: Oliver/Diggle, Oliver/Felicity, Felicity/Diggle. Then there’s Roy, so now you add Roy/Oliver, Roy/Diggle, and Roy/Felicity. That’s six relationships. Now add Sara which gives you Sara/Oliver, Sara/Diggle, Sara/Felicity, and Sara/Roy; ten relationships you have to put on the screen as they negotiate in the Arrow cave. That’s a tangle of negotiations and relationships to navigate and you’re eating screen time without gaining anything because Sara and Roy are basically echoes of Oliver. Bring in somebody who has a different power–the Flash for example–and you still have a dilution problem but at least you’re not garbaging up the core community with redundancy.
And then, of course, add in all the stuff that swirls around Oliver all the time, his mother, the Lances, the antagonists coming after him . . . it would be a mess. Keep the core of the story Oliver/Diggle/Felicity and hang everything else on that.

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:04 am Sasha said...

Yeah, I was disappointed when Roy joined and now Sara. I think the showrunners are aware of how popular the Core three dynamic is. They seem tuned into what’s successful and what’s not. SA in the Q & A thingy did address this. He said something about Roy and Sara being apart of the little t not the big T(eam), which is Diggle and Felicity.

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On February 20, 2014 at 6:40 am Katie said...

This reminds me of the 5 Man Band concept on TV Tropes. Adding two people probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, but as you said, Sara and Roy are both too much like Oliver. I’d fight for Roy though, because with him you’d have Oliver (hero), Diggle (lancer), Felicity (smart guy), and then Roy would be the big guy. They’d still be missing the chick (and yeah that’s a stupid name, but that’s what they call that character), but I think Thea would step into that role.

There’s also apparently a Power Trio thing on TV Tropes, but I’m afraid to go look at it because I may not be able to get off that site for hours. That might be more appropriate for Arrow, with Moira and Quentin and Laurel in the mix (and also Sin?) and the time it devotes to the island story. The five person team seems more suited to shows that have fewer characters outside the core group (Leverage, Buffy). The Arrow cast is already too big for everyone tied to the crime-fighting to be in the 5 Man Band.

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On February 20, 2014 at 7:30 am Katie said...

So I braved the time suck of TV Tropes and found this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KnightKnaveAndSquire

Five Man Band is here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FiveManBand

Seems to line up with Diggle as Knight, Oliver as Knave (less than perfect fit there, but given his questionable methods in the beginning and his training, there are similarities), and Felicity as Squire (naivete and optimism, check). I think the Five Man Band is a more useful construct, even though there are only three characters here, but this is interesting. (I would call Oliver the hero, with Diggle and Felicity doing double-duty as the lancer/big guy and smart guy/chick, respectively). Now I want to go listen to the Storywonk podcast on this again…

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On February 20, 2014 at 4:54 am Sasha said...

I loved the Moira and Felicity scene! I like what Susanna Thompson, the actress who plays Moira had to say about the scene.

http://tvline.com/2014/02/19/arrow-season-2-spoilers-reader-questions-answered/#!2/state-v-queen/

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:54 pm Sasha said...

This is why I don’t sympathize with L in this situation. I felt she should have been happy her sister was alive first then get angry. Sara is hurt by L’s actions (not caring she’s) and proceeds to hurt her sister in return. This is not about Oliver for her.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm Jenny said...

Okay, I’ll stick up for Laurel.
Her sister betrayed her, she mourned her sincerely for six years, she watched her parents’ marriage break up and dragged her alcoholic father out of bars for years after that, both her lovers died, she’s so miserable and guilty and lonely that she became an alcoholic and she’s addicted to pills, and the one thing she was working hard on (and right about) ended up costing her the career she loved. Then Sara comes through the door with, “Hi, honey, I’m home,” looking fit and trim, the mere entry of her back into their lives healing her parents’ marriage (because Laurel wasn’t enough to do that), with no explanation of where she’s been or why the hell she didn’t tell them she was alive . . .
I’d have thrown the glass at her, too. The more I see of Sara, the less I like her and the more I like Laurel.

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On February 20, 2014 at 12:05 am Julie H. said...

I was talking about this with friends the other day and we all agreed our reaction at first would have been OMG! You’re alive! Yay! Yay! **hug hug hug draw back… slap!**

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On February 20, 2014 at 8:23 am thecatbastet said...

And dad and Oliver both knew about Sara for a long time, so that’s another Sara-secret being kept from her by arguably the two most important men who have been in her life.

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On February 19, 2014 at 10:55 pm Sasha said...

*alive

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm Micki said...

I gotta go back and read the comments, but I think Arrow is a real Rorschach test. Romance people will read romance things into it, adventure people will read adventure into it, and so on down the list of genres that Arrow crosses.

From the perspective of episode 19, season one, I think Arrow is a redemption story. Oliver is not only redeeming his father, but redeeming himself. The love interests only function as far as they teach him how to forgive himself. Helena has broken that romance contract good and hard be being so evil, so single-minded, so murderous. But she has taught him where single-minded revenge leads — he won’t follow that path.

Right now, for me, McKenna has bitten the dust. McKenna had redeemed herself — going from party girl to cop. Maybe that was all she had to teach him? That it was possible to reform?

Oliver has not climbed the staircase of redemption far enough to deserve any attention from Laurel. And Felicity is still the subordinate — so far, she hasn’t said no to Oliver in any significant way — there’s been a couple of times she’s tried to say no, but Oliver wheedles her into doing what he wants anyway. Sara hasn’t showed up yet.

(-: I wish season two would show up in the DVD store! I want to see where this winds up!

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:35 pm Sasha said...

You can get it purchase it online:)

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:51 pm Sasha said...

I seriously need to proofread before I hit the submit button.

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On February 19, 2014 at 11:54 pm Jenny said...

Me, too. Plus that damn auto-correct slinking through the underbrush to kneecap me. Fortunately, we don’t care about that stuff here.

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On February 20, 2014 at 1:21 am Kate B. said...

To everyone: How and how long can showrunners create, tease, and subvert expectations in the name of fueling the narrative on without the audience bailing on them, especially when it comes to romance?

Many top-billed YA shows do not seem to subscribe to drawing up romantic contracts with their audience and subject their characters on an equal opportunities relationship merry-go-around to sustain the show run instead, holding out on a viewer’s certainty on happily-ever-afters until the very last episode. Please do correct me if I’m mistaken on this.

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On February 20, 2014 at 1:38 am Baudolino said...

I don’t understand this dislike for Sara not telling where she was for five years. You have tons of material to not find her likeable, but getting on her for the most practical decision she might have made?
For the first five years she was: first, hostage in a ship, second, strandend on a island, third, in the hands of a guild of professional assassins who could have her head on a plate at every single error. Did you know that the HQ of the organization is on freaking Nanga Parbat? Try finding an embassy there.
In the last she escaped, but she was STILL on the run from said assassins…
So being a selfish brat doesn’t take a big part in this decision.
Did Oliver ever get a chance to call?
Af for the rest, being a shitty sister doesn’t call for being kidnapped, threatened with murder and rape, and being constricted to become a killer for survival.
Sara has done ( and still does) many wrong things, so does Oliver . But let’s not forget how both got dragged into something so horrific that left a professional soldier crazy (Slade ), many others expert martial artists dead (Yao,Shado) and left both of them shell shocked.
And as for the League stuff, contract killing is all fine and dandy if you are a sociopath, but now matter how big of an asshole you were before, becoming capable of killing someone like it’s a normal thing to do is insane. Look how broken and willing to die Sara was in the last episode.

So, after all of this, how can you expect to be any different than the screwed up vigilante/person she is right now? (Let’s not forget she had a difficult time being a decent person before)

For the sister mess, I fully recognize that Laurel suffered a lot.
Ant that was, moslty or partly, because of Sara.
But is what she went through somehow worse or damaging for the psyche than being thrown in a life or death situation or having to kill to survive?
It’s different, but at this point it’s clear Laurel is not the only emotional mess.
Sara almost got herself killed to save her mother and regain the little humanity she has left by saiyng a big go to hell to the league, got suicidal not once, but twice, but she is the ONLY cause of everything negative that’s going on?

I know that Sara never fully apologized and she has to gain whatever little trust is left for her, I know Laurel has every right to be angry, but she has been watching over her family since the start of the season. She saved them multiple times (from bad guys or OD alike), so painting everything she does black is not a rational reaction.
And Sara sooner or later has to make amends, it’s only that right now she can’t really bear it. And look, I’m not justifiyng her at all,
but It’s like if a POW returned home from the horrors of war and had to deal with his angry son for being an awful father: they both (him and her) lack the mental and emotional resources to fully recognize their own fallings, let alone triyng really to connect with those who they have wronged.
That’s exactly what’s happening with Sara.
After six years of well, horrific circumstances, she might have developed a sense of guilt, or became more mature in a way, but a part of her will always be stunted. Her being a better person right now means to stop killing and protect her family the only way she knows (punching out bad guys), so triyng to become what she wasn’t in the first place (that is a considerate person, or a good sister) will not come naturally to her, much like Oliver is still struggling to develop empathy and any kind of normal relationship.
They were both fucked up before, what exaclty do you expect right now, whene both are emotional time-bomb?
So yes Sara was a bitch, and still has ways to go, but blaming everything on her,and not as an emotional reaction, like laurel did, but as a cold reflection, like some fans did, is blowing things over proportion.
Whatever happened later of her getting on the yacht was tangential, her bad decision was betraiyng Laurel, not the mess that happened later. The succeeding events were a bit out of her control.

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On February 20, 2014 at 2:15 am Jenny said...

“I don’t understand this dislike for Sara not telling where she was for five years. You have tons of material to not find her likeable, but getting on her for the most practical decision she might have made?”

No, no, in terms of Laurel. In terms of Sara, it was a smart decision, but Laurel doesn’t know any of that and Sara’s not explaining.

Sara comes home, Laurel’s been carrying the can for her for six years, she says, “Where have you been,” Sara says, “I can’t tell you, can’t you just be happy I’m home even though I slept with your boyfriend, destroyed our family, and am now refusing to tell you anything about what happened to me? Can’t you be understanding even though you lost the man you loved in a huge disaster, had your career taken away from you by a crooked politician, and are trying to cope with alcohol and painkillers? Oh, and by the way, I can’t help you with that last bit because instead of staying to try to work this out, I’m going to go sleep with the guy I betrayed you with six years ago because I’m really upset that you’re not welcoming me with open arms. You bitch.” The thing about POWs coming home is that their families know they’re POWs. For all Laurel knows, Sara was at Club Med.

I don’t think it’s so much blaming Sara as saying that Laurel’s reaction is justified. I think they’re both horrible, to tell you the truth, but if I were in Laurel’s shoes, I’d be yelling, too. And from a writer’s standpoint, I’d send both of them somewhere else really fast because they’re both so unlikable that they’re poisoning the show. They either have to make peace with each other or one of them has to go because the cat fight is taking screen time away from Oliver/Diggle/Felicity and fighting crime.

“Did Oliver ever get a chance to call?”
As I remember, he phoned home in the first season when he got to the base and Laurel answered and he hung up. Which was odd since he could have said, “Help, I’m trapped on an island,” but I’m probably remembering that wrong. I definitely remember Laurel picking up the phone and saying, “Hello.”

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On February 20, 2014 at 3:19 am Jenny said...

All of this has made me think of something else:

Do we ever have this kind of conversation about any other characters on the show?

It seems as though all the viewer complaints center around Laurel and Sara. I’m not talking about arguing who you ‘ship, I mean when we talk about what actually happened on the show, the stuff that is problematical is Laurel and now Sara centered. Moira’s done some vile things but we don’t complain about her (I’ll defend that harpy to the death). The Count tried to kill Felicity and I want him to come back from the dead. It’s not as though we want everybody on this show to be Nice.

Why is the contention always around Laurel and now Sara? Or am I wrong and there was controversy around other characters, too. I know Julie was upset with Oliver for ditching Diggle, but I think she moved past that. (Let it go, Julie.)

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On February 20, 2014 at 4:27 am Sasha said...

For me it’s trying to make sense out of something that just doesn’t make sense. In the words of Felicity Smoak…. Mysteries need to be solved. “How do you solve a problem like Laurel Lance?” Did this question ever get answered? I still ask myself what they are going to do with her. Now Sara is being dragged down into a story about hurt feelings. While this may make sense for Laurel’s trajectory it doesn’t makes sense for Sara. She’s suppose to be the female equivalent of Oliver. Can you picture Oliver dealing with this mess? Just seems dumb for Sara to do as well. Seriously, I expected her to be the bigger person, which is why she went down in my estimation. This whole storyline was dumb in the pilot and it’s still dumb. Everything else is great and we’re back to that again? Argh… Anyway, if it means we never have to go back to this again and this can be put to rest I can deal with it.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:08 am CJ said...

Oliver is the cause of the mess though. The least he can do is help in the clean up.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:19 am Jenny said...

Nope, everybody in this mess is responsible for it. Every character in this subplot has free will, nobody was forced to do anything. So Oliver is a jerk for asking Sara on the boat and Sara is a jerk for going. Now Laurel is a jerk for not welcoming her sister back and Sara is a jerk for not explaining what’s happening. Nobody in any part of this subplot is behaving like an adult and it makes them all look bad.

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On February 20, 2014 at 5:35 am Sam said...

For me, as I can’t speak for anyone else, I admit I put more pressure and react harshly with Laurel and Sara because they are supposed to be heroes (well one of these two are-depending on which one lives and which ones continues as the true Black Canary.) Moira was introduced to us as a morally grey sometimes dark character. So when she does shady things, you expect it, sometimes you cheer it on because it adds a element of fun to the screen and stuff gets interesting when Moira is being Moira. Plus, the actress sells it really, really well. The Count is a villain. You want your villains to be treacherous, devious, disgusting, and lots of times psychologically screwed up (I’m looking at you Joker, ha!). So when they are killing people, being awful human beings, and trying to bring your hero to his knees before offing him, you expect it and hope he loses, but still like to see him try. I’m of the team that sometimes the villains are as important or more important than you hero. You need a good villain or villains opposite your hero that can thwart him at every turn. I think that is all the fun of action shows. Batman has his Joker, Superman has his Lex, Green Arrow has his Merlyn so on and so forth. Villains are the icing on the hero cake :) However, Black Canary is a hero, she seeks truth and justice, of high morals, a good person. So when two ladies who are supposed to fill the hero role come off as people that do horrible things to one another, you question their morals and them as heroes. Laurel, I can’t see as Canary. She does not embody the character nor do I think the actress can fill that role properly. However, Sara I thought fit the role like a glove, and it helps that the actress can pull off stunts that are hardcore. Now, they add a back story from hell. First, you think, “Okay she was a idiot, childish, selfish kid who let her hormones drive her into betraying her sister. She paid for that with everything that happened as the Gambit sunk. Fine. Now she is supposed to be better, more in control, learning from her mistakes, trying to make amends. Great. Hero in progress. ” Then the writers turn around and have her repeat an action that regresses her back to a juvenile, selfish, no self-control child, something she was supposed to have grown out of, something she was supposed to learn from, she does again. So her character, and her growth take a hit. So then we say to ourselves, is this being a hero? Is this act something a hero in the making would do? So we judge her because we expect better from our Canary, well I do. I don’t need her to be perfect, but I need her to realize this is a really crappy thing to do to your sister, your blood, and it’s disrespectful not only to Laurel, but to your father and mother. One act blew your family apart and also changed your life forever, and you repeat said act? Not just repeat but try to romanticize it? and then carry out a full-fledged relationship? This act not only hits Sara but Oliver as well. If we can’t trust our heroes to care about others then are they really heroes? Because with this they are going to hurt a lot of people around them. Being selfish that way, is that a hero trait? Because honest to god, I find it repulsive. I would not want to be around people that can hurt someone they say they care for. If that is how you show you care, well my god what will you pull on those you hate? If I knew about this whole story and I was close to Oliver/Sara, I would rethink my friendships with both, because I’d be afraid they’d pull some shady stuff on me. I would not trust them because they have a tendency to treat people they say they love like crap. I expect more from my heroes which is why I am more critical of their actions and their choices, while those of Slade, Moira, The Count, The Doll Maker, Sebastian Blood are held to a different expectation, that being they need to be the best darn villain they can be. Destroy things, kidnap people, try to kill, try to manipulate, play games, hurt your hero etc. They are supposed to be the fun evil that you root to lose, but hope they have lots of fun and action along the way. Then I look at Diggle. He is the kind of man Oliver should aspire to be. Felicity is the kind of woman Sara should aspire to be. Not talking about fighting skills, but at the heart. Diggle is a man of honor, of a code, of wisdom, he’d never betray Oliver, or hurt him in any way. Felicity is the same. She is all heart that girl. And I suspect these two will be side-eyeing or shaking their heads when they find out about the Oliver/Sara hook-up, because it is gross and crosses so many lines that just should not be crossed. That is my two cents on the matter and really these writers just screwed up big time. *sigh*

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On February 20, 2014 at 6:59 am Katie said...

I’m more on Laurel’s side with a re-watch of that scene, but my initial response was “Why aren’t you at least a little happy she didn’t drown?” I think that was partly because it was preceded by the scene in the hospital where “hallucinating” Sara made her so happy. So when she screams at her later, all I can think is, you loved her when she was dead, but you hate her guts for being alive. And that seems petty to me.

It doesn’t help that this came on the heels of her being condescending and obnoxious about Quentin’s AA group, and she also yelled at him when he tried to calm her down with Sara. I think my real problem with Laurel right now isn’t so much her reaction to Sara, it’s that I don’t like the way she’s hurting her father. Her mother I don’t know that much about, although she seems nice enough. But I love Quentin, and this is incredibly painful for him. Yes, he put her through a lot when she was trying to help him get sober, but he’s come so far since the first season. His previous bad choices don’t give her license to repeat his mistakes or throw them in his face when he’s trying to help her the way she helped him. She doesn’t always have to be nice (she was fairly nice in season one when she wasn’t with Oliver, and I was kind of bored by her), but I don’t want the meanness directed at one of my favorite characters.

Sara…my problem with her is my problem with Oliver right now. They both should have known better. All this talk of crucibles and becoming stronger, better people, and then they do the same stupid thing they did before. Argh.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:05 am CJ said...

“I think my real problem with Laurel right now isn’t so much her reaction to Sara, it’s that I don’t like the way she’s hurting her father. Her mother I don’t know that much about, although she seems nice enough. But I love Quentin, and this is incredibly painful for him. Yes, he put her through a lot when she was trying to help him get sober, but he’s come so far since the first season. His previous bad choices don’t give her license to repeat his mistakes or throw them in his face when he’s trying to help her the way she helped him.”

It bothers me too how Laurel is treating Quentin when he’s trying to help her. I think what might be missing from our thoughts on the subject is… Laurel’s not herself right now. It’d be different if she was completely sober and just saying “Screw you, dad.” But she’s in such pain and, obviously, under the influence of the things she is using to try to dull/cope with her pain. I think Quentin, while I’m sure it hurts him, completely understands where she is coming from. He’s been there, after all.

All that said, I think he deserves plenty of the scorn she’s been heaping on him.

His whole speech in Tremors about, “I miss you so let’s have dinner,” was ultimately about tricking her into going to an NA/AA meeting. Look at that from Laurel’s POV. Can you see how that would 1) piss her off and 2) hurt her feelings? Yeah, you sure miss me Dad that instead of actually spending time with me and listening to me, you drag me somewhere so other people can listen to me instead.

Just like instead of taking her home after she got arrested, he wrote her off and left that mess to Oliver to try to clean up. He completely abandoned her when she needed him. Meanwhile, she scraped him off of how many barroom floors when he was drunk?

In Tremors, there’s another WTF Dad moment, when he says, “Do you think you’re the only one who has lost someone?” How can he even trot that line out, Tommy notwithstanding, when he knows he could have given her someone she lost back? Instead, he continued to let Laurel think Sara was dead when he knew better!

So, I kinda think Quentin is reaping what he sowed when it comes to how Laurel has been treating him.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:15 am Jenny said...

You’re right. I hadn’t seen that before because I like Quentin and Laurel (and Sara) isn’t fun for me to watch.

Which I suppose means that characters you like can get away with murder and characters you don’t like have to toe the line. I keep thinking of “A Scandal in Belgravia” where Irene Adler is objectively a terrible person, and yet I love her and root for her, and the CIA guy is trying to keep the world safe and I cheer when Sherlock throws him out the window. The CIA guy is an abusive, murderous creep, but he’s fighting for the right side, and yet, go Irene.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:18 am CJ said...

In the end, they are only “problematic” to the romance aspect of the show and that’s not even the fifth most important aspect of the show for most people.

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On February 20, 2014 at 5:32 am Ash said...

Re: Other problematic characters – I know from occasionally checking out other fan spaces and the Arrow after Show on YouTube that some people aren’t really drawn to Roy (to grr and smash) or Thea (what is her role in all this?/Bratty teenager)

But at this stage neither of them have really done anything to upset the Arrow’s inner circle. Nor are they particularly polarizing characters in my book. (But ooh couldn’t we have a great discussion if Roy says stick you to Oliver spills all to Thea, she then tells Oliver – you’re not my brother and looks for Malcolm)

There have also been the odd comments around Felicity’s nosiness or her right to question Oliver about Isabel. A few thought her confrontation with Moria last epi was uncharacteristic etc – but they tend to be in the minority. No real chatter about Dig other than some think he’s going to get fridged or that he’s being wasted as a character.

But again none of the above IMO would have the effect of poisoning the show / distracting from the good parts like the current Laurel/ Sarah emotional response.

The promo’s / spoilers coming out now seemed aimed at realigning expectations into something less messy for most characters (eg Felicity just wants to make sure that she still has her place in Oliver’s life – as opposed to a Jealous girlfriend) This link is to the TVline article which includes the previous reference. http://tvline.com/2014/02/19/arrow-season-2-spoilers-reader-questions-answered/#!1/thescientist/.

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On February 20, 2014 at 7:13 am Katie said...

Oooh, all Diggle for a whole episode! Can’t wait. It’s encouraging that they actually use the phrase “Joss Whedon model” when talking about season-long bad guy arcs, but I’d have more faith in that if Malcolm had stayed dead. I don’t know much about Oracle except for what was in that WB Birds of Prey show, but does the stuff about Sara infringing on Felicity’s computer territory lend some support to the Sara as Oracle theory?

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On February 20, 2014 at 8:54 am Abby said...

Jenny, first off let me start by saying that I love reading your blogs. They’re always so insightful and thought provoking.

Since we’re talking about romance here, I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something SA said in the recent Arrow Q&A about why it was okay for Oliver to be with Sara but not Felicity. The whole “My life is too dangerous to be with character A, but it’s okay to be with character B because…” has always been one of my most hated tropes because it ALWAYS makes the protagonist look like an idiot, and in this case Oliver is no exception.

From what SA said, Oliver feels like he can be with Sara because she can defend herself whereas he would always have to worry about Felicity, but as I read that, I couldn’t help thinking.. “Well where do the feelings come in?” because shouldn’t that be the basis of all romantic relationships? The emotional aspects, the feelings?

Yes, Sara can defend herself, but she’s not immortal, so why is it somehow okay for Oliver to put her in danger by being with her? Wouldn’t it affect him if something were to happen to her?

On the flip side, would it hurt him any less if something happened to Felicity if they weren’t in a relationship? Would he say “Oh, well she was just my friend/partner, not my girlfriend, so I’m not as devastated as I would be if we were together?”

I’ve never been able to follow this line of thought when it comes to this particular trope, and I’d love to hear your take on it.

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On February 20, 2014 at 9:10 am Jenny said...

If Oliver were a real guy instead of a TV character, I’d say it was a way of avoiding overwhelming emotion and sticking to situations and relationships he understands and can control. But he’s a TV character so who knows? I thought it was cowardly when he said it the first time. “I’m a hero and I rescue you all the time because the bad guys know you work with me but if I had a relationship with you, the bad guys might . . . . Wait.” It’s up there with “My sister’s a bitch.” “My mother’s a bitch.” “SEX.” (Paraphrasing there.)

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On February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am Abby said...

This is what boggles my mind about that comment. Felicity is in danger anyway. She was working as his EA when those hoods stormed QC and opened gunfire on them, and she was working as his partner when she got kidnapped by Count Vertigo (R.I.P.). She could have died in either of those situations, and they weren’t in a relationship, and I’m willing to bet good money that Oliver would have been just as devastated if something had happened to her then as he would be if they were together.

It also doesn’t paint him in a very favorable light on the Sara front since it comes across like he’s more willing to put her in danger, to risk her life, than Felicity, and isn’t that what all great romances are about? *sigh*

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:09 am Jenny said...

That was my second reaction after “WTF?”
The writers just had the character say he couldn’t be with anybody he cared about and then put him with Sara. Sorry about that, Sara. It’s another disconnect that makes the reader/viewer pull back and say, “Wait a minute, didn’t he say . . .” and then have to figure out a way to justify it.

Basically, the Lances need to go to Disneyland for a couple of months so Oliver can go back to fighting crime. I miss crime.

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On February 20, 2014 at 9:10 am marre said...

Since the blog about the “problem of Laurel Lance” has apparently been closed for replies, I will post something here that suggests that Laurel’s story on “Arrow” is not over, as at least some posters on this site have predicted. Katie Cassidy will represent “Arrow” at the Calgary Con:

tinyurl.com/ohybdcu

This is right after the ending of the filming of season two, which will be over by the end of April, according to Stephen Amell. Now, I presume that some posters here will not be that enthusiastic about seeing Laurel continue her journey on “Arrow” in season three, but one shouldn’t forget that there ARE actually quite a few viewers (although they may not be very numerous or vocal) for whom Laurel Lance is not a problem, and who will enjoy watching her (eventually) become Black Canary. These are the same viewers for whom the closed team of “Team Arrow” (Oliver, Felicity, Diggle) is not the absolute heart/center of the show, whose balance must not be changed or disturbed. I, for one, will in fact enjoy seeing both Roy Harper and Sara in the “Arrowcave” in the future…the more the merrier!;-)

I would even say that for some “Arrow” fans it is not so much Laurel, but more the whole “Olicity” phenomenon that is becoming a bit of a problem, mainly because parts of the online Olicity fandom have a tendency to make literally everything on the show about Felicity and Olicity. I am not talking about the posters on this site or posters on more general discussion forums (where the Oliver/Felicity relationship is not really a hot subject), but mainly about the shipper-dominated tumblr fandom. I will take the liberty to quote a tumblr post which draws parallells between the “Teen Wolf” Sterek fandom and the “Arrow” Olicity fandom.

The original poster mainly talks about fan fiction, but there is also some discussion about how every plot detail or character on “Arrow” is seen through the prism of either Felicity or the Oliver/Felicity relationship in tumblr discussions. This means, among other things, that Diggle’s role on the show is largely reduced to being an Olicity shipper (although there is very little on screen evidence that Diggle has any burning desire to see Oliver and Felicity romantically involved). Here it is:

I will preface this by saying this is my opinion – I don’t expect anyone to agree or share it, and I know when it comes to fandom favs how incendiary the emotional response can be to say the least :)

I like the Urban dictionary definition of a trope as an ‘often overused plot device’.

The way I mean it though when I wrote the post is more tvtropes.org definition of a cliché. They make a very good distinction between tropes and clichés:

“[…] a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.

Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom… you know it when you see it. Tropes are not inherently disruptive to a story; however, when the trope itself becomes intrusive, distracting the viewer rather than serving as shorthand, it has become a cliché.”

Within the Sterek fandom, packmom!Stiles began as a trope, and became a cliché. The same goes for Spark!Stiles, and any other number of representation of the character where he served as the authors voice (esentially becoming a Mary Sue or Gary Stu disguised as a canon character), rather than the character’s own. The majority fandom representation of the Teen Wolf characters (at least the most vocal parts) has little in common with their canon counterparts that sometimes I feel like you can just slap original names to them and go ahead and call it original fiction.

A cliché is a phrase, motif, trope, or other element within an artistic work that has become common enough to be seen as predictable, tired, overused, and generally unfavorable.[…]”

They way I experience fandom is through it’s fanworks. Specifically fiction. If I was any decent writer capable of finishing something I don’t believe I would experience the space as negatively as I am, as it is I depend on the work others put out there to get my fandom fix. The problem inherent in that is that fandom participation is a personal experience. The things people write about are the things they like and want to see and rarely does it jive with what I like and want to see. If the fandom is diverse, then there is no problem because sooner or later you will find your niche where other like minded people like to play. But when the fandom is young and has a juggernaut that dominates the fandom space, like Sterek in Teen Wolf, or Olicity in Arrow, the space can quickly become toxic.

Every single scene, every single episode review I have seen recently in regards to Arrow has been through the eyes of an Olicity fan (be it an official publication or a fan-review), often times it is at the expense of everything else that is happening in the show. The only thing that is being talked about in the fandom space is Olicity. More than 90% of the stories being written in Arrow is about Olicity or has Olicity in the background. It’s as much of a hassle trying to find fic sans Olicity as it is to find a fic sans Sterek. What Olicity writers have going for them is that they are not as problematic as a lot of Sterek writers are known for.

But here’s the thing; I liked Felicity Smoak as a character when she was the quirky tech genius of Queen Consolidated, ferocious in her independence and hilarious in the unintended innuendos she kept making all the time. Then the writers became obvious in their pandering to the fandom and those moment don’t come of naturally anymore, but rather scripted (which they are, but they don’t have to actually seem that way!). Felicity’s awkwardness comes of as forced sometimes, and I hate, I hate, how petty the writes have made her when they basically reduced her to the female romantic interest in spirit since she definitely isn’t in canon.

The show is supposed to be about Oliver’s journey and evolution after the trauma of the island, not whether he will hook up with Felicity Smoak, and when every fan question directed to the actors and the showrunners is about Olicity’s will-they-won’t-they merrygoround it feels like they are missing the point or at least reducing the story they are trying to tell to nothing more than daytime soap opera melodrama.

It’s disappointing is all I am saying.

I’d like to be able to go into a character tag and not have Olicity invade it. I’d like to be able to read a character meta about, for example, Laurel and not have it be a character assassination to justify Olicity. I would like to read a fic about Roy’s integration to the team and not have it be an excuse for him to point out Olicity feels. Please. unquote

To be honest, I share many of the above poster’s sentiments. An obvious reply to these complaints is that Felicity is such a beloved character and that Oliver and Felicity have such wonderful chemistry that the majority of the fans have taken them to their heart, and that is a legitimate answer. However, when the public discourse, at least on some social media/media, focuses so much on a character/relationship that is in reality only a part of a large canvas of characters and relationships, it becomes both misleading (in terms of what the show is about) and a bit tiresome…at least for those of us for whom Felicity is just another supporting character.

I know that I’m a dissenting voice in this comment section, but I hope that I have managed to express my dissent in a respectful manner. If the webmistress considers this comment disrespectful or inflammatory I presume that she will erase it.

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On February 20, 2014 at 9:53 am Jenny said...

We have to close the post to replies when it gets over 200 and some because the blog breaks. This site isn’t really designed for 300+ comments and the gears start to jam. So if it gets too high, I close ‘em down. People who have been here awhile may remember some of the debacles we’ve had in the past.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:05 am Jenny said...

You’ve been very respectful, no worries. Do you feel like this is a problem on this blog? I read the comments on the Dashboard, not on the actual board (I’d never find anything), so I don’t know if there’s an Olicity problem on here. If there is, we should definitely talk about it. If there isn’t that problem here, there’s nothing we can do about it. I know what you mean, it’s why I stay off the fan boards and why I’m rabid about policing the comments (although everybody has been fantastic).

What I found last night as we were talking about Laurel/Sara is that I was getting caught up in considering characters as people instead of characters. It’s really easy to do on a show you like. But for the stuff I’m really interested in, the writing, getting emotionally involved in the characters (when I’m not actually watching the show) is nuts. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong in the Laurel/Sara argument, for example, but the impact the argument had on me as a viewer is something I really want to analyze. Why did I dislike both Laurel and Sara for arguing, and enjoy every minute of the Moira/Felicity wrangle? I need to take both of those scenes apart and play with them to see what happened. I don’t think it’s character because I tried replaying the Laurel/Sara scene as I remembered it in my head with Moira/Felicity and giving the Moira/Felicity argument to Laurel/Sara, and it was the scenes not the characters that I liked or disliked. So once I get caught up on work, I’m going to dissect both of those scenes. Something key is happening there.

But basically, as long as we’re talking about whether a character is good or bad or ‘shipping somebody, we’re not talking about writing, so it creates a kind of white noise that makes it harder to see what’s actually happening in the storytelling. And I’m as guilty of that as anybody.

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On February 20, 2014 at 9:32 am Paula said...

I agree that the Sisters Lance are the biggest problem with the show — and I’d like the show better if they both would just go away. Neither is a well written character in my opinion.

That said, I would argue that the writers did show some happiness on the part of Laurel about Sara. When she was in the hospital, Laurel told her father about her “dream” about Sara. It was obvious that she loved her sister when she was talking about the dream, but then Sara appears . . . and it’s back to being what it always was. Sara is the center of attention.

In the flashback Laurel is having a conversation with her parents, then Sara comes in and it’s all about Sara. Then Laurel is sharing her dreams with Sara. Sara’s response is to point out that Oliver sleeps with everyone. (True – big man whore) It’s not that Laurel had a crush on Oliver, but she actually thought they were in a relationship – and she was practically planning the wedding. There’s no excuse for what Sara did – and that lame “secret” about Laurel’s allegedly calling the police because Sara had a crush on Oliver is about the stupidest plot device ever. It’s no where close to setting an epic relationship between Sara & Oliver — especially when in the very same scene Oliver says he was too drunk to remember Tommy’s parties much less Sara at the parties.

Back to Laurel – I suspect that she might have had the “Welcome Home” moment if Sara had shown up to visit in the hospital or at the apartment with some explanation of where she’d been and why she hadn’t called. BUT what does Sara do? Create a big dramatic scene for the reveal. She chooses to kill herself in front of the mother who thought she was dead rather than facing the consequences of the choices she made. What kind of person kills herself in front of her mother?

To add to all of that, Laurel is an addict. Addicts do and say crazy things. They don’t react the way sober people do. They react with emotion — and that’s what Laurel did. I’m not a fan of Laurel, but I think she was spot on for where the character is in her journey. I suspect she’ll eventually come to understand some of Sara’s actions – not sure that she will ever forgive her.

As for Sara, I find her less sympathetic than Laurel. Yes, she endured some horrible things, but the only reason she was in the position to endure those things was because she betrayed her sister. Eventually she ends up in the League and falls in love with Nyssa. And she betrays Nyssa and the League. (Not really taking up for the League, but Sara did swear allegiance and she did betray that vow.) that tells me that Sara has no honor. She had no code. She’s a total mess. Sadly, I think for all of his man whore ways, Oliver deserves better than Sara. Does he deserve Felicity? Nope. No yet. Maybe one day, but not today.

If, however, they try to sell her on being a computer genius, then I’m not buying. As someone said above, it took Felicity years to get where she is. (Doesn’t she say in 1.14 that she started taking computers apart at 7?) We are supposed to believe a college dropout who has been combat training many hours a day for 5/6 years can get to be the same level of computer genius as an MIT graduate who started as a child in just a short time? Sorry, but I’m not buying it. (On the other hand, if becoming Oracle means that Sara goes away soon, then I can live with it. Anything to get her off the team.)

Jenny — Oliver did call Laurel (I think in 1.14) and she answered, but Slade stopped him before he could say anything as I recall.

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On February 20, 2014 at 10:21 am Jenny said...

We’re way over 200 again, so I have to close the comments. Really, you wouldn’t believe how bad it is when the blog breaks, not to mention I have to face my webmistress/business partner and say, “Uh, we broke the blog again,” and that’s not fun. Go post on Arrow Thursday. Thank you.

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