Processing Fictional Trauma: Monument Point Edition

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ARROW 4×21: MONUMENT POINT

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Going into this week’s episode of Arrow, I actually wondered whether there would be much trauma for me to write about. It was being advertised as episode 1 of 3 of the season finale, so I thought perhaps they’d leave the heavy hits for closer to the end.

I was wrong.

This episode was titled “Monument Point,” but could also realistically have been called “How Much Trauma Can Felicity Possibly Handle?” While all of the Original Team Arrow (OTA) is facing and dealing with inner demons and epic tragedy, Felicity bore the brunt this week by a wide margin. To spell it out, let’s recap. This week, Felicity:

  • Had to ask her father, who she has a massively strained relationship with, to help her and her team.
  • Had to then work with her father closely for a solid 24 hours while he kept bringing up their painful relationship issues over and over.
  • Had to also work with her ex-fiance, who she had avoided working with before Laurel’s death because she said it was too hard.
  • Got fired from a job which she loves, and which she took over because a dear friend trusted her with it. Oh, and let’s remember it also used to be Queen Consolidated.
  • Got shot at.
  • Wasn’t able to completely stop the nuclear attack, which then led to the death of tens of thousands of people — which happened through a choice she had to make to divert the landing location of the nuclear missile.
  • Honorable mention: Let’s keep in mind that, regardless of any of our feelings about Laurel, the character was a good friend of Felicity’s and she died very, very recently (which Felicity is still carrying guilt about).

 

Felicity Team

In other words, this episode forced Felicity to deal with trauma after trauma, trigger after trigger and to do so relentlessly, and without time to stop to accept comfort or to process it with people she loved. Now, Felicity has been through a tremendous amount of trauma in the past (how she got through Season 3 without a full mental break I’ll never tell you), and she has had times where the team was not able to save the day, but…. while we understand that she saved the world, based on Felicity’s response, I don’t feel that she will be so forgiving of herself.

Tweet 2

In the past when Felicity has needed help… when she is feeling guilty, angry, upset, or having a crisis of confidence, she tends to turn to the people she’s closest to to get support. Oliver, Diggle, Thea, Laurel… they’ve all talked her through difficult times. But now, when she is facing what is likely to be the darkest time of her life, her support system is splintered. Again, let’s recap:

  • Working with her father likely feels like a betrayal of her mother. With Felicity’s dad present, any topic of conversation with her mother would likely center around Donna’s worry and anger about Noah, not about Felicity’s trauma and loss… not to mention Momma Smoak doesn’t know the Green Arrow secret, so Felicity can’t be entirely honest with her.
  • Diggle is so far in his own head over Andy he can’t see much else.
  • Lyla is busy supporting her husband, who is at his darkest time as well.
  • Thea is captured.
  • Laurel is dead.
  • Oliver… her greatest supporter and the current light of the team didn’t have time to comfort her through this crisis (or more people would’ve died), and is now in a room with a super strength Damien Darhk, the outcome of which is unlikely to be good.

 

Felicity Upset

 

This leaves Felicity alone and emotionally isolated — a feeling that many of us have likely experienced and know is one of the worst feelings in the world… especially when it’s compounded by having just experienced a massive trauma. Research in the field of mental health tells us that social support can be one of the most important things in helping to heal after suffering a trauma. This means that Felicity’s current situation could be considered rather emotionally dangerous and ultimately harder to come back from. Obviously our heroes tend to cope with grief and emotional devastation better than your average human, but this event certainly has all the signs of something that will haunt and influence Felicity for a long time to come.

In watching fans react to this episode, people exhibited a tremendous amount of sympathy towards Felicity. But on top of that, there was also a lot of respect sent her way. People understood the impossible position she was put in, and the horrifying decision she had to make and many felt that that made her a bigger superhero than perhaps even Oliver. While he’s had to make major decisions in the past, even he has never had to make the split second decision to sacrifice tens of thousands to save millions. The numbers make the decision seem obvious, but logic often doesn’t affect emotion, especially in the event of a trauma.

 

Despite the respect, however, many people seem interested in watching their fictional heroes be tested, and it makes me think about why that may be. On the one hand, it can be helpful to see our heroes being heroes. It’s inspirational to see people taking tragedy and turning that into Tweet 4wanting to make a difference in the world. It’s something we can relate to and aspire to be like, and watching Felicity this week make a gut wrenching decision to save the world was much like watching Dig make a gut wrenching decision to save his family last week – it’s a terrifying thought, but it may be comforting to think that if Felicity and Diggle can make those kinds of decisions, maybe we can too – even if we’re not sure we want to. But I’m pretty sure that none of us can relate to a person that’s perfect. Therefore, it’s critically important in these stories that we see these characters fail once in a while, whether that’s through regressing to former bad habits or self-imposed emotional isolation. Because watching our beloved characters bounce back from trauma with no repercussions would be disingenuous… and it wouldn’t help us as the viewer at all. We need to see how these characters get through, what strategies they use, what strengths they fall back on, and what moral and emotional foundations finally bring them back to themselves. And we need to see that so that maybe we can use those skills, strategies, and foundations ourselves.

But for the sake of this conversation, let’s turn the tables. What would you recommend for Felicity to help her cope with the horrors she just faced? As a viewer that knows all about her life, if you were her friend and you could get five minutes with her, what would you encourage her to do? Is there anything she can do right now when the world is still facing imminent destruction by Damien Darhk who seems to be Malcolm Merlyn level evil on steroids? Or does she have to wait until they’re past this crisis?

How would you help Felicity find her light again?

 

Felicity

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Filed under Fangirling, Mental Health

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