Chemistry. The most elusive concept to grasp, the most impossible element to fake, and the most important factor in how audiences perceive relationships. Chemistry has been stumping show runners and casting directors for years because you can't write it in, you can't force it, and you really can't sell anything without it. That is why chemistry tests are such a vital step in casting love interests on TV shows and movies. But the power of chemistry is not just limited to love interests, it applies whenever you put two actors on screen and expect them to interact, and Arrow hit the nail on the head when they put Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey in the same scene.
Arrow started with Oliver Queen at his most solitary. He was alone when he was discovered and "rescued", and he continued to be alone when he landed in Starling City and started carrying out his plan of executing everyone who wronged SC based on a list his father left him before taking his own life. Oliver was so alone, in fact, that he had to voiceover his thoughts because he had no one to talk to and if they had him talk to himself we would be worried about a different kind of crazy; the kind that would land him in a white jacket instead of a green one. He had everyone he had known and cared about "pre-island" around him, but no one had a clue what he was really doing in his spare time. Every little smile and every little moment of pleasantness he had with his family or with Tommy seemed to have a forced edge to it because of what he'd been through and what he was hiding. That was important at first to allow us to witness the true extent of the damage Lian Yu did to Oliver. But, at some point, it got old because when your protagonist is doing nothing but axing off people, you want to get to know him to justify his actions to yourself. Justify the killing spree he's on. Enter: John Diggle.
John Diggle was first introduced as Oliver Queen's bodyguard aka someone restricting Oliver's freedom to come and go as he pleased. I was personally hoping for Diggle to fail at his job at first. I mean he was just in the way, right?... And that's where chemistry comes into play. In just a few scenes, you could see how great John and Oliver's interactions were, and how their bickering could actually inspire a great deal of character growth in Oliver if directed at his more... morally grey activities. Oliver dodging Diggle almost added an element of lightness to the show, something that was entertaining to watch that didn't have iminenet darkness looming all over it. Then once John joined the team, he provided a strong moral ground that was very missing when Oliver was on his own.
John Diggle is a good man. It seems very odd to state something so simply, but he just is. It's apparent in every action he takes on the show; he's just a good person and a good friend and an all around good individual whom you should listen to because he has yet to be wrong. John Diggle coming on board and supporting Oliver on his mission is one of the main things that got me to accept it so much more. Once Diggle joined him on his crusade, checking names off the list stopped being the act of an angry son who's suffering from severe PTSD and became an actual mission to rid Starling of a corrupt system, even if Oliver was still going about it the wrong way (baby steps). His interactions with Oliver became more honest and provided more space to give Oliver a slightly lighter tone that Stephen Amell pulled off flawlessly. He managed to find the perfect balance of delivering a witty line that can make the audience smile without forgetting the impending darkness and doom all around (I may sound dramatic but I almost needed therapy after that first season okay? It's a dark dark show).
Speaking of the show being too dark, let's move onto the final element of this triad. Felicity Smoak.
This scene. There is so much about this scene. From the simple mise en scène of the way it was set up (which I don't even think was completely intentional since Felicity was only really meant to be a guest on like one episode) to the utter and complete synchronization of Stephen and Emily's line deliverance. Everything about this scene was exactly everything the show was missing.
First of all let's get the mise en scène out of the way since I, again, don't think it was entirely on purpose, but to me it adds an extra element of serendipidity when it comes to this relationship (and also I'm really weird and I like to analyze colors and stuff).
As I stated before like a million times, Arrow started off very dark. So dark that I remember going back and checking the parental guidance rating on it multiple times. It wasn't just in the plot or the storyline, it was in the overall feel of the show: in the shadows that overtake the majority of the shots, in the fact that your protagonist is one of the most tortured characters I've ever come across, in the fact that every character has an immoral secret that makes everyone's state of outward composure feel precariously on the edge of exploding into chaos. Post-Island Oliver basically has no element of lightness to him, and obviously in film and television this is delivered through visuals. Oliver was in dark neutrals pretty much that entire first season. The whole show barely had any color to it, which makes it difficult to submerge myself into it sometimes when I'm binge-watching. It's just so bleak it makes me want to go outside remind myself there's still color in the world. But in this scene, from the moment the camera pans onto Felicity's working space, I was hit with like a "whoosh" (this is my onomatopoeic delivery of the phrase 'a breath of fresh air'). There's actual color in the Arrow-verse. Look at all those yellow and bright pink file folders. LOOK AT HOW PINK HER SHIRT AND LIPSTICK ARE. Even her pen is red. It was like an alternate universe within Arrow. Even the walls. The walls are bright turquoise. There's so much color in that one shot.
Then Oliver comes in, in his 3 shades of grey neturality, and stands against Felicity's turquiose walls, and I swear you can just openly see the contrast in their characters in that one shot, the contrast that ends up playing a pivotal role in Oliver's journey and growth into Season 4 Oliver Queen/Green Arrow who cracks jokes and smiles when he wants to and actually talks about his feelings (I really love Season 4 Oliver Queen).
The one thing that made Felicity and Oliver's interactions so demanded by everyone and so anticipated by the show's viewers is the same thing that made his friendship with John Diggle the perfect bromance: chemistry.
Stephen Amell has commented on that scene multiple times. In this specific interview he talks about how the little smile he points in her direction when she's doing her Felicity thing is a break from character. It's real. It's genuine. That's all you ever really want from an onscreen interaction. This level of sincerity, that these lines genuinely make him smile; they made Stephen smile and in turn gave Oliver a feeling of lightness that he had yet to have at that point. Felicity Smoak always felt to me like that one vital missing puzzle piece that you accidentally stumble upon while looking for something else. They weren't looking for her, they knew the show was missing that one last element and they knew they were gonna have to fix that at some point but they weren't necessarily looking for that one element at that particular moment. And yet the stars all lined up for them and they accidentally found the most perfect fit for the team. It's almost impossible to predict how chemistry would go till you actually see it in action and it was mentioned by multiple EPs how the minute that scene was viewed in the dailies, Emily's role as Felicity was taken into a whole new level. The minute they saw it they knew, this is "it", this is the one thing that's been missing.
And so, Felicity Smoak got more than one scene. She actually became his "go-to" IT girl, and we all started wondering how he ever got anything done without her because IT is hard and she's a genius. She was also the first person he actually flat out apologized for dropping an "Ollie" line on. Because she isn't someone from his pas who sees him as Ollie, she's someone who came to trust him as Oliver. Post-Island Oliver. Tortured Oliver. Grown up Oliver.
Then finally, she joined the team. And thus, Team Arrow was born.
I will always especially love how he revealed himself to her. He's Oliver Queen, he knows a lot of people at Queen Consolidated, and out of everyone, he chose Felicity Smoak to trust enough to reveal himself to her. He chose her. He chose to reveal his identity to her. Not only that, but even this early on, Oliver knew what a valuable asset she is to have on his team. He's always been clear about how important her part is to him doing what he does. So she joined Team Arrow, giving us our favorite trio. But even as she joined we got a distinct sense of who Felicity is, clarifying that she was only joining to help Walter, a man whom she barely knows but he was nice to her so she wanted to do everything in her power to save him, including signing on with a vigilante who shoots arrows.
And so the back and forth started.
"And though she be but little, she is fierce." Felicity Smoak does not take s*** from anyone. Including the scary arrow-wielding neighborhood vigilante. Even when he's mad and in her face, she has no problem standing up to him (literally in this scene) and speaking her mind. This has always been one of my favorite parts about their relationship within the team. She never allowed him to overwrite her morals.
I'm only in this to help Walter. Not to be an accessory to orphaning little kids.
In this scene Felicity's role on the team is abundantly clear, she's not just here to be his tech girl. No, she's here to be exactly what the scene frames her as, a little bit of light and color splashed across the dusky background of the lair: she's here to be a guiding light. She will not sit idly by and type away on a keyboard, she will have valuable input that she expects people to listen to because she is the smartest person in the room. Felicity doesn't see killing as anything but a very last resort, and she's not okay with her help being used to facilitate murders that can otherwise be avoided. Obviously, completely ceasing to kill had to be motivated by something huge (like his best friend dying. Bring Tommy back please), but Felicity joining the team was the beginning of Oliver seeing that there is another way.
Has it ever occured to you you could do some real good in the city?
And that was the first moment Oliver Queen as a hero was suggested. Just the 3 of them there. The Original team. And then again when it was official. When he actually wanted to be a hero. This is the team that first saw him as one. Just those 3.
"How do I look?"
"Like a hero."
Oliver Queen would not be the man he is right now - the Green Arrow, Starling City's mayoral candidate, a man who is finally happy after years of nothing but darkness and torture convinced him he would never get that again - if it weren't for those two in his life. His rock and his light. His brother and his fiancée. It is this gripping dynamic that caused the audience to grow so attached to the characters and their fate. Oliver Queen was not the most relatable character, but as the protagonist he had to be. Grounding him with those 2 relationships allowed the audience to see a different side to him that caused people to come to truly care for him and his fate. Having those two inidividuals come to care for him as a best friend/brother and a fiancé allowed the audience's level of care for Oliver to develop. Everything on the show revolves around Oliver Queen, and in terms of Oliver Queen's non-familial relationships, these two grew to be the most important and enlightening to the audience in regards to his character. Arrow landing such a perfect balance and chemistry between the 3 characters that make up the show's main team is the reason the show's audience is so invested, and why the show's success only continues to be more and more palpable across every platform.