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Performers Of The Month - Readers' Choice Most Outstanding Performer of November - Emily Bett Rickards

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The article was written by Donna Cromeans, Aimee Hicks, and Ellys Cartin. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

There is something quite satisfying in watching a performer that you first noticed and began watching come into his/her own. Such is the case of Arrow's Emily Bett Rickards. This talented performer took what was originally planned as a one-episode performance and has created one of the most iconic characters on the show. At first, Felicity Smoak appears to be a meek, mild, super-intelligent IT girl, but as viewers are learning there is great depth and grit beneath the surface. This season the writers and producers have rewarded Rickards with one of the meatiest storylines on the show, by illustrating Felicity's descent toward a darker side. Her character is a woman who has had everything she holds dear taken from her and is now finding it in herself to fight back and get it back. In this episode, Due Process (7x6), she expertly shows us just how far Felicity is willing to go to free her husband. In this performance which has earned her the title of SpoilerTV’s Readers' Choice Performer of the Month for November, this is a woman who has been pushed to the brink and is teetering on the edge.

Since the first part of this season, Emily Bett Rickards has mostly been without her normal scene partner Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow). While they have teamed her up with the usual suspects her story shifted largely to working opposite of Katie Cassidy (Earth-2 Laurel Lance/Black Siren). That set up a rather unique dynamic as both of their characters were one-time enemies who hated each other. They found common ground and forged an unlikely but extremely powerful friendship. Together they are a force to be reckoned with, both the characters and the actresses. Rickards has shared more scenes with Cassidy than in prior seasons combined. They are terrific scene partners as they have a very natural dynamic together volleying lines off one another. What is beautiful about their dynamic is that they have managed to convey the power of Felicity and Laurel's new alliance/friendship while also keeping a bit of the tension from their past interactions.

The first scene that Rickards was in during this episode really showcased that. Throughout the early part of the scene, Felicity seems hopeful because she feels like they are just on the cusp of something. Rickards conveys this nervous energy full of what may be. Then there is a gradual shift as Felicity picks up on the fact that Laurel doesn't currently share her enthusiasm. In a blink of an eye, almost mid-sentence, Rickards shifts Felicity from hopeful to concerned. Then moments later she is fighting to get through to her friend because she needs Oliver to be represented by Laurel. It is a testament to the hard work both these actresses have put in this season that this dynamic feels natural, that Felicity would be able to crack through Laurel's stubbornness and get her to keep helping. Rickards is firm in her line delivery and it's easy to see why Laurel is inclined to listen to her.

Theirs is an interesting dynamic that goes on to drive a lot of important parts of this episode and it was crucial to remind the audience of that dynamic. Rickards was critical to this scene working and to setting up the tone of this friendship. Felicity and Laurel have come to rely on each other and need each other to succeed at what they are both driving towards. Felicity saw that she was about to lose Laurel's help and jumped into action. Rickards was extremely convincing. By the time the scene ended the two heroines were on the track of Silencer and heading off to go after Diaz (Kirk Acevedo). Rickards had to balance a lot in this scene and shift gears multiple times, yet she did it in such a way that the scene flowed perfectly and did its job to set up all the major things to come.

Felicity leads the way investigating the warehouse where they believe Diaz and the Silencer are hiding out. On the surface, she is her usual self, even throwing down a joke to get things started. The line is one that Rickards would usually deliver with a nervous chuckle or worried tremor in her voice. Here though she says it like it's an expected statement that Felicity is making to present the "normal" version of herself to Laurel and Rene/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez). She strides right into the warehouse, without any real cover or protection. There is only eagerness to find her target. She conveys Felicity's hyper-focus and awareness by her responses to what happens next. ARGUS and the police raid the warehouse, as they are inside it. She barely acknowledges their entrance, carefully analyzing all the surrounding details. She finds the silencing device and disables it. After everyone flees the building, as a bomb goes off, Rickards looks back at the fire with a stricken expression, establishing Felicity's consternation and anger that this isn't over yet.

Rickards keeps Felicity's fury on a low boil in the next scene. Diggle (David Ramsey) and Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) reprimand her and the others for their actions. She shows that Felicity isn't going to be chastised. Her character stands front and center, back straight and arms at her side. It's defiant. She could be humble or defensive, with arms crossed or leaning against something. But instead, she's coiled and ready to storm out. Rickards puts a sharp edge in her voice when her character is asked to explain how she did something.

As she delivers a clever techno-babble line, her jaw is set slightly to the side. And while the eye roll that usually accompanies that facial expression is absent, it is there in her voice. When one person decides this important conversation is a time to bring up their missed birthday, Felicity explodes just a little bit. Rickards keeps her outburst restrained, organized, and furious. She rapid fire announces that there will be a party and demands that they take more action tracking down Diaz and his cohorts all in one breath. Everyone else barely responds, continuing their own separate arguments, but Felicity's mind keeps working. We see her gaze slowly turn to Anatoly (David Nykl), with a flicker of contemplation in her eyes. Even as other voices crowd out Felicity's, Rickards makes sure to keep the audience tuned to what Felicity is thinking.

After the group dismissed Laurel, Felicity ran after her into the hallway setting the stage for another critical scene. This scene would play in reverse at the end of the episode when Laurel had to talk Felicity down from something irrational. Laurel was hyped up with rage and anger at being dismissed from the team effort to get Diaz despite all she had done. She was ready to run out and likely do something stupid and irrational. Felicity chased after her and with real emotion surging through her voice she got Laurel to stop and listen. Rickards was on point in this scene. As Felicity ran after Laurel it was clear that she cared. This was all about saving Oliver for Felicity, but Rickards performance made it clear that at this moment it was all a tiny bit about saving Laurel as well. Felicity may not have liked working with Laurel at first, but they have forged a real friendship and even at this moment where they are on the cusp of success, she didn't want to completely disregard Laurel. Felicity made Laurel a promise to make sure she was told as soon as they got Diaz. Just like in the first scene of the episode, Felicity managed to do what almost no one else can do, get through to Laurel and make her understand and see alternative ways of approaching a situation. Laurel couldn't be in on the action, but Felicity made sure that Laurel wouldn't be left out completely. She talked Laurel down at this moment so that later in the episode Laurel would repay the favor. The two actresses shouldered the weight of the scene together, but the emotional beats relied on Rickards. She had to deliver the emotion and heart that showed how deeply intertwined these two are in this mission and she nailed it. The inflections of emotion in her voice conveyed so much and brought great meaning to this scene. From this point on Felicity was about to go through a whirlwind of emotions. Rickards started to show the strain Felicity was under in this scene and that doesn't let up or falter once throughout everything that follows.

She continues to fully utilize every second that Felicity is on screen. During a planning session at ARGUS with Diggle, Curtis (Echo Kellum), Dinah, and Anatoly, she works in several meaningful details to give us clues about what Felicity will do next. Anatoly is talking about an old associate named Pyotr Roslov (Bruce Blain). Felicity listens, and, as she does so, at first her arms are crossed, and her eyes shut. She doesn't make eye contact with anyone else standing around. Instead, Rickards shows she is deep in thought, formulating something. When Felicity speaks again, it's to lay out the mission objectives. She turns and looks Anatoly right in the face. He makes objections, but she informs him he won't be able to travel because he could be on the no-fly list. She keeps Felicity's voice clear of any malice or sinister intent and states this "enthusiastic suggestion" in a manner-of-fact way, arms still crossed authoritatively. Echoing the earlier moment where she listed off the mission objectives, Felicity lists off Anatoly's individual mission objectives. At the very end, Rickards changes up the inflection in Felicity's voice, making it just a little more pleasant. Even Anatoly notes that she is backing him into a corner and comments that she has changed.

Her response is an interesting mix of tones on Rickard's part. The tones don't line up with the words, and that feels like a deliberate choice to show Felicity's mental processes again. "Well" has a relieved undertone to it. "She couldn't catch Diaz" comes with a slightly smug current, inner appreciation that she is tougher now. "Maybe this one can" is more serious, and her eyes soften just a smidge at the end, suggesting she's contemplating what might happen if "this one" can't get the job done.

Felicity's priorities have been made clear, and Rickards demonstrates her new near-ruthless dedication. They send Anatoly in undercover, a dangerous situation that quickly escalates. Felicity only focuses on the mission. She chooses to tell Anatoly there is no immediate danger, without any hesitation, then calmly watches her screen without any sense of urgency. When Diggle must go in to rescue Anatoly, his helmet captures footage of a badly bloodied Anatoly lying unconscious on the ground. The footage also shows the flash drive he was sent in with near his hand. Rickards takes a deep breath and exhales. Unmistakable elation and not one thought for the man badly injured on her overwatch, this is not the compassionate, selfless character the audience has come to know on the show.

Rickards presents an unapologetic Felicity when Diggle confronts her over endangering Anatoly. While recognizing there was a chance that Anatoly could have died, Felicity reminds Diggle all the lives the data they got will save. She finishes that line with a self-congratulatory smile that is tinged with relief at knowing her own strength can be enough. Adjusting to Diggle's serious tone, Felicity apologizes but again defends herself. Rickards keeps any trace of regret out of her performance here. She plays the scene as though Felicity is celebrating a personal victory. She gushes to Diggle while radiating elation at the successful completion of the mission. When John won't partake in her attitude, she gets irritated. Rickards narrows her eyes and closes her mouth into a tight line, as Diggle berates her. She shows Felicity is mad that her contribution isn't being recognized. Her delivery of the line that follows packs sincerity and confidence. Felicity isn't here to hear cautionary tales. She's here to win this, and now, she knows she can.

Rickards reverts to a softer side of Felicity when she checks in on Anatoly. She apologizes for not getting him out sooner, with her hands clasped in front of her in a conciliatory gesture. It prompts Anatoly to remark maybe she's not "New Felicity" after all. In fact, he thinks less of her for the apology. She is in the distance for most of this scene or blurred out, as he remarks on how being ruthless is needed to catch a madman and that apologies are like wishing for a mistake to be undone. Felicity wonders if he doesn't regret working against them with Diaz before. He says regret and guilt are demons to be lived with, a trade to get what one wants.

When Felicity is confronted with the question of how badly she wants to kill Diaz, there is a noticeable shift. For the first time in the scene, the focus is just on Felicity's face. She unequivocally declares her desire and says it quietly but matter-of-factly. It sounds impersonal and clinical, but her tone and her expression are thoughtful. Rickards makes it visible that Felicity is not acting irresponsibly. She's just determined to see this through whatever it takes, to protect everyone and everything she cares about.

Later, the team has successfully captured Diaz with the help of the new Green Arrow. With Diaz behind bars, most of the team are excited by their win. Felicity though is quiet. There's a little moment where Rickards looks up with wistful sadness in her eyes, as everyone else is cheerfully talking about the capture. She manages a couple small smiles but doesn't engage with the group. Diggle asks Felicity how she feels. Throughout the episode, Rickards has made Felicity speak bluntly and definitively. But here she lets her voice trail off a bit when she acknowledges Diaz’s capture. She looks down and slightly scrunches her mouth before adding, "What could be better than that?" in the quietest of voices. She makes it an actual question instead of just a phrase, letting the audience know what to expect next.

With Diaz behind bars, the "old" Felicity would normally let justice take its course. But, this "new" Felicity knows better. The justice system has failed her and her family, taken everything from her, even her faith that good will win. Giving Felicity a cold, clinical air about herself, Rickards succeeds in showing Anatoly that Felicity is and can be ruthless. Keeping her features emotionless she regains his respect by treating their transaction as purely a business proposition. They both have something the other needs, for Anatoly, Felicity gives him a new American identity and ticket to the Maldives. In exchange, he gives Felicity a loaded weapon. Normally, in Rickards' hands, Felicity is the light of hope that shines, but here in a scene shrouded in darkness, she closes that light off, becoming nearly as dark inside as it is outside. This is a cold, determined Felicity who has decided a course of action and the determined look on Rickards' face says woe be to anyone who would try to stop her.

The final scene in which Rickards excels in this episode comes in perfect juxtaposition to the earlier scene with Laurel in the hallway. It again highlights the solid acting dynamic that the show has established between Rickards and Cassidy, except in this scene there is a distinctive role reversal. Viewers are expected to suspend belief for a second that someone would be able to bring a loaded gun into a heavily guarded police station, much less get access to the holding room where the city's most wanted criminal is being held. This isn't just anyone we're discussing, this is Felicity Smoak, hacker extraordinaire, and new best friend to Star City's new DA, Laurel Lance. But most importantly this is the Felicity Smoak Queen who has been driven to the end of her rope. She steps into that room with a single-minded mission. The source of all her pain is sitting right in front of her handcuffed to a chair. She knows he's been there before and has walked away. For her, it ends here, the law has let her down time and again and there is only one way to end her pain, and that's to end Diaz. Every ounce of Felicity's pain and despair is there in Rickards' eyes and on her face as she points her gun at Diaz. There's a steely determination to her posture and Diaz may doubt she lacks the courage to pull the trigger. The audience knows that Felicity has been pushed and put through things that would break a lesser person and does not doubt for a second that she could take that final step into total darkness. Ironically, it's the cynical Laurel who steps in and in a rare display of her own brand of caustic compassion convinces Felicity to stand down by telling her she's made a deal with the Feds to release Oliver in exchange for Diaz. It's a beautifully performed moment by both Cassidy and Rickards. Laurel, bringing Felicity to reality and stopping her from doing something completely irrational. Cassidy's Laurel has gentle put pragmatic tone while reaching Felicity with the only thing she knows would work, news of Oliver's freedom. There's another marvelous shift in tone and demeanor from Rickards as Felicity, at the news Oliver is coming home, she completely lets go, the hard edge to her voice gone, and the light that has been missing from eyes for most of the episode begins to shine through her tears. It's a powerful scene and both actresses nailed it.

Her incredible performance in Due Process is a testament to how much both Felicity Smoak Queen and Emily Bett Rickards have grown. Both possess admirable traits of strength, courage, and loyalty, that it's no wonder that fans easily voted her SpoilerTV Performer of the Month for November. This article has attempted to discuss the depth and nuance of her major scenes in this episode. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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