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Performers of The Month - Readers' Choice Most Outstanding Performer of December - Katherine McNamara

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

There is no getting around the fact that the version of Arrow that has entertained loyal fans for eight years is coming to an end. When any show begins the transition to its natural end, viewers start to wonder what its legacy will be. A new generation and iteration of characters are often introduced to mixed reactions from an audience waiting to see what emotional resolution will be awarded to their favorites. To honor Arrow the writers and producers chose to create a character to carry on the legacy of Oliver Queen – the Green Arrow. Viewers were wary at first when Arrow introduced Mia Smoak, the daughter of beloved original characters Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) played by powerhouse actress Katherine McNamara. While carrying the responsibility of living up to her parent’s spirit, McNamara got to create her own equally thrilling hero, which is no easy feat. McNamara quickly won over fans with her portrayal of Mia Smoak’s equally powerful fragility and strength. Her growth into the legacy of Green Arrow was cemented by the beginning of the passing of the torch from Oliver to his child in Purgatory (8x7). McNamara turned in some of her best work yet when Mia is forced to confront losing her father. For that performance, viewers voted her SpoilerTV’s December Outstanding Performer of the Month. McNamara joins a small but elite category of performers that have won Performer of the Month more than once; even more rare, she has won for playing two different characters on separate shows.

The Mia that McNamara presents here is one of the more stoic versions of the character. Having been whisked away to the unfamiliar island of Lian Yu, on the heels of a recent journey through time and space, Mia is unimpressed. McNamara portrays this through the quiet, watchful stance she assumes as Mia takes in her new surroundings. She stands to the back of the group with her arms crossed as Oliver explains to them that everything up to now has brought them here. The look McNamara lets linger on Mia’s face is unreadable but unmissable. When Oliver mentions a weapon that will help with the upcoming Crisis, something sparks in Mia. McNamara steps forward eagerly, showing us Mia’s investment in the positive possibilities behind the statement. It falls to Oliver to bring his daughter’s hopes back down to Earth. He asks for a moment alone with Mia and her brother William (Ben Lewis). We see Mia recognize his intent before he even speaks. McNamara draws back, her body posture defensive towards her father, protective towards her brother. When Oliver confesses to his children he won’t survive Crisis, the gut-punch cracks across McNamara’s frame, and she catches her breath. The moment flashes by, but it effectively establishes the weight of this impending loss. She reacts immediately with anger, snapping at her father that he’s giving up, and turning her back to him. The truth is though, at this moment, Mia isn’t truly angry, she’s scared and in denial that she will soon lose the father she just met. The way McNamara smooths her expression into cold stillness creates a tangible wall between father and daughter, the reverberations of which transfer directly to the viewers, ensuring that we need the reconciliation this episode must inevitably build toward.

One of the greatest joys of Arrow’s final seasons has been watching the relationship between the Queen children develop. Lewis and McNamara have crafted a moving sibling bond that will stand the test of time. That bond comes into focus again in this episode. As William works on configuring the weapon, Mia perches on a stool in the back, laboriously examining every inch of her knife’s surface. With each deliberate gesture Mia is making, McNamara shows that her character is purposefully trying to distract herself from the gravity of their situation while also wanting William to notice the dissonance in her voice and demeanor. He does notice her purposeful silence and walks over to her. McNamara lets Mia carefully unspool what she’s feeling. She feigns a callous attitude towards their father’s life-and-death situation, but her eyes are very attentive as she waits for William’s expected response. She is contrary, both wanting his sympathy and wanting him to help her be angry. When Mia turns around to face William, to deliver her faux superiority at being right about their father being untrustworthy, there is a slip in her bitter mask, an unspoken plea for William to echo her words, to feed that rage. He doesn’t take the bait, and Lewis delivers the most gentle, compassionate turn of his head. McNamara reels back at once, with Mia again turning her back on her family member and storming away.

Mia’s attempts to convert her feelings into detached resentment boil over when Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and the others return without Oliver. She unloads on the first familiar face, which happens to be Laurel. McNamara fills Mia’s voice with fear that is barely masked by rage. She says they (her and William) will go after him. Laurel’s authoritative voice shuts Mia down, as the former reminds her that William finishing the weapon is the priority. For a second, McNamara has Mia freeze up, disoriented by all the opposition, and she whips around to flee for the third time in the episode. In this respect, Mia is very much like her father. She is not good at sitting around and waiting. She itches for the action, if she’s fighting then she’s doing something to fix the problem. It should be mentioned here that McNamara deserves kudos for playing the physical aspects of her role, especially in the numerous complicated fight scenes in this episode. She sells the fights and her skills as an archer well.

Mia power walks away from William, swiftly collecting her weapons, ready to run into the forest. He steps in front of her, folding his arms, makes no motion towards her, and McNamara stops dead in her tracks. She could push right past him. She could walk around him. She does none of those things. Instead, Mia tells William she can’t leave Oliver to die, not after everything that has happened. There is both determination and desperation in her voice, but not once does McNamara indicate that Mia might disregard William. Earlier, she wanted her brother to support her anger, but on some level, she now needs his reassurances. When William tells Mia that he doesn’t want to waste their last moments with their father, it’s as if she deflates all at once. He urges her to not make the same mistake with their father that she did with her mother to remember that no matter how angry she got at Felicity, when danger was imminent her instinct was to help and save her mother. The tension leaks out of her face, both in the way her shoulders relax and in the actual tears that fall down her face.

The final scene of the episode is a true passing of the torch. Mia approaches her father and apologizes for not having been proud of him, for resenting him. There is a maturity and a resolution in her demeanor at this point. The Mia that first came to Lian Yu would have been, as Oliver joked, the first one on the rescue plane off the island. The one that stands here now is far different from that one. McNamara brings in the most grownup version of Mia here, carefully choosing her words, while also putting a quiet request in Mia’s stance. A wish for reconciliation. Amell’s voice cracks with loving pride as Oliver tells Mia that he can’t be completely angry at the island since his experiences there have brought him to this moment where he’s standing in front of his daughter. Happiness diffuses across McNamara’s face. She smiles, brings her shoulders up a little straighter, and Mia thanks her father for letting her be a part of his story. Something tells him she’s going to create her own stories. They hug fiercely. Their departure from the island is interrupted by the arrival of Harbinger to warn of Crisis. Mia instinctively moves closer to Oliver, that determined look on her face that McNamara effectively uses to show Mia’s warrior side emerging. It is at this point Crisis arrives on Earth-1 and Mia is where she wants to be, by her father’s side.

It is no surprise that Arrow fans are eagerly cheering for the CW to order Green Arrow and the Canaries, the spinoff continuation that will feature Katherine McNamara’s Mia Smoak as one of the lead characters. McNamara’s electric chemistry with all her costars, coupled with the love and dedication she pours into shaping her character, plus her commitment to the physicality of the role has given her the opportunity to build a beloved new addition to the Arrowverse from scratch. For all the reasons mentioned in this article, and all the dynamic performances she’s given on the show thus far, McNamara was voted December’s Performer of the Month by our readers.

The many different layers to Mia Smoak are revealed in this episode and the many acting choices and layers to Katherine McNamara’s performance have been discussed in this episode. Her portrayal of Mia Smoak’s equally powerful fragility and strength as she molded her own identity has opened the door to more stories for her character in a spinoff. What are your thoughts on this evolution of Mia Smoak? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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