I guess I’ll start by answering the question of why it took me so long to watch this beloved late 90s/early 2000s show. At first, it was just because I was watching Felicity on the ABC app. I had to sit through commercials (which I pay extra on Hulu just to avoid), so I found it slow and hard to get into. Eventually, I gave up on it, waiting for the day that one of the streaming services would pick it up. Luckily, Hulu picked it up, which allowed me to keep binging.
Once I started binging it on Hulu, I found myself developing a pattern. I would get really into about 5-10 episodes, and then somebody (usually Felicity) would do something that would annoy the ever-living crap out of me, which led me to stop watching the show for a period of time.
And I say it was usually Felicity because I found her to be one of the most infuriating protagonists I’ve ever seen on television. I understand why people find her to be one of the most refreshing and relatable characters, especially when it comes to college students portrayed on television. She’s flawed and awkward and confusing, but also real and caring and compassionate.
I also understand that college is a time where you can make mistakes without any real judgment or consequences; I, myself, just finished college a year ago and still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that I can no longer chalk my mistakes up to solely being naive and in college.
But, in my opinion, there was almost too much focus on her mistakes. Felicity’s naiveté became an easy cop out to get her out of things, and it made the show seem melodramatic at times.
Her selfishness became unbearable to watch after awhile. I mean, in the first season alone, she was exploring things with Noel but would have dropped him in a minute if Ben had told her he was even remotely into her. Keep in mind this is exactly what happened in the season one finale when she chose road tripping across the country with Ben over spending the summer in Germany with Noel. And how many times did she screw over her friends, especially poor Julie, while she went about doing what was best for her and what she wanted? Answer: too many times to count.
On the other hand, the best part of the show was, without a doubt, what it is arguably most known for: the love triangle between Felicity, Ben, and Noel.
Ben, my personal favorite of Felicity’s men, is the reason the show existed. The pilot shows Felicity following Ben all the way to New York for college just because he wrote a cheesy message in her high school yearbook on graduation day. And had Ben been a massive jerk, the show wouldn’t have worked. But they end up developing a friendship through their first year of college, which, of course, leads Felicity straight into Ben’s arms the first chance she gets.
And then, throughout the four years the show was on the air, she chooses Ben again and again and again and again.
Yes, Ben was broody, unreliable and full of his own insecurities. But the reason I always wanted him to end up with Felicity was how much of an impact they had on one another. I loved seeing them grow and evolve, both as individuals and together as a couple, in the time they were with one another. I really believe that Felicity pushed Ben to be his best self and vice versa.
Also, the way Ben always hugged Felicity WITH EVERYTHING HE HAD killed me, in the best way, every time. He just had so much love to give and I wanted him to give it to Felicity every time.
But I also understand why people thought Noel was a good choice. He proved to be the safe and reliable choice time and time again. He was always there for her, even when he should have cut her out of his life for good. But it was so clear to me after season one that Felicity’s heart was always going to be with Ben and that Noel never stood a real chance. It was why I was relieved when they finally wrote Noel a real alternative to Felicity in Zoey and also why I felt simultaneously outraged that it had taken them so long to do so.
I want to end this “binge report” by talking about the controversial way the show itself ended. The WB initially gave Felicity a 17 episode pick-up for the last season. However, after one of their new shows failed to successfully launch, they went back to Felicity creators JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves and told them they needed to make five more episodes to fill the gap in the schedule. Thus we have the story of how they ended up with the infamous time travel episodes.
Part of me wanted to skip these episodes and just go straight to 4×22; did I really need to see Felicity go back and see what life would have been like with Noel only for her to pick Ben once and for all? But in the end, I’m glad I didn’t skip those episodes, as it helped me realize the actual series finale fails to deliver the emotional and satisfying punch that “The Graduate” (4×17) did. The last moments of episode 17 show Ben, in Palo Alto, telling Felicity, “You’re right. It was my turn” – a moment that brought the series full circle as Ben had now followed Felicity across the country. Beyond the fact that Ben and Felicity end up together, it was beyond satisfying to see Felicity pick herself first and still ultimately end up with the guy of her dreams.
Besides 4×17’s happy ending, one of the reasons I hated the time travel episodes was that it didn’t fit the tone of the series. Felicity, up until that point, had felt whimsical and free and positive. The time travel episodes felt dark and heavy (the use of a sepia filter to differentiate the alternate universe didn’t help this either).
However, the biggest thing I have an issue with from these episodes is the fact that Elena LITERALLY COMES BACK TO LIFE. She dies at the beginning of 4×18, before Felicity travels through time, and then magically reappears at Noel’s wedding in the last moments of 4×22. Did nobody have questions about this? What is the catalyst that brings her back? And how does Tracy, who we hadn’t seen since the beginning of season 4, end up back in the picture? My guess is that there are a couple of deleted scenes lying on a cutting room floor somewhere that explain this mystery. But alas, fans will never know and they will never be considered canon.
Overall, as much as I feel like I’m criticizing the show in this post, I did enjoy it for the most part. The love triangle lived up to its iconic expectations, Sean’s docuventary never failed to bring a smile to my face, and any scene with Richard was always a highlight. I’m glad I experienced a show that is beloved by many, but I’m fully ready to close this chapter and move on to the next show on my list.