"I don't like the idea that somebody dangerous is out there... somebody else."
Before reviewing the episode in question, although this all certainly pertains to "Salvation" as well, it's worth taking a step back to mention that Arrow has grown into one of the most enjoyable action-adventure series on television. Well, network television. Not to dismiss the likeable ensemble or the much improved writing, but the gritty and realistic superhero adaptation really shines when it comes to the shooting and staging the action sequences. ”The Huntress Returns” definitely didn't disappoint in that department but this week's "Salvation" might be the most action packed episode to date. Oliver was also forced to re-examine his proximity to the proverbial line as well as how to handle those who cross it. It's obviously a common theme in superhero stories, especially for those like Oliver who firmly fall into the category of vigilante rather than savior a la Superman. Although, 'savior' certainly opens up its own can of worms, as the villain of the week not so kindly pointed out.
"You knew she was going with him?"
Not everything about "Salvation" was action packed or, well, all that interesting even though I do think the Lances' thread highlighted Laurel's strength of character and conviction to doing the right thing even if it's hard. A moral compass that might come in handy for a future costumed hero... if they decide to take that road as part of the ongoing world-building. I didn't think for a second that anything would come from the girl's photo in respect to actually finding Sarah but it was a convenient way to introduce Dinah Lance (Alex Kingston) and explore their family dynamic further. Not something I necessarily think was necessary for the series at this point, even with the revelation that the mother we just met/don't really care about knew about their daughter's dalliance with Ollie all along. Again, the real take-away from the drama was how well Laurel handled the situation and the Central City name drop as Dinah's current home. For those who don't know, that's where Barry Allen aka The Flash lives.
"There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect my children."
The references may just be cute nods to the comic book source material, however, I hope that Arrow acknowledging the existence of other famous DCU locations is part of a larger world building project where we eventually see the introduction of other crime-fighters (after they develop more hometown heroes, more on that later). In fact, it was only a few week's ago that the series showed Deadshot in "Dead to Rights" hiding out in Blüdhaven, the temporary home of another superhero, before Moira's hit on Malcolm didn't work out so well. And speaking of Moira Queen, her storyline in "Salvation" was not always that engaging but it has the tougher task of playing the serialized conflict (what I like to call the long game) and, to be fair, was certainly not without its moments. Especially when it came to the dramatic payoff with her betrayal of Frank and the Black Archer taking care of business. She said there wasn't anything she wouldn't do.
"I find you guilty. *BANG! BANG!* There are plenty more people who need to answer for their crimes against us. So, who's next?"
And one of those Queen children she protected with her betrayal was busy getting into trouble as well as her bit of world building. Well, world building through her relationship with Colton Haynes' bad boy. The importance of Roy Harper and 'Speedy' to the superhero side of the series may not be immediately apparent for those who only watch the show and have never read any of the Green Arrow books on which it was based (not a judgement) and in the interest of not spoiling the journey, I'll just leave it at those links. What should be clear to everyone, however, is that we're witnessing yet another origin story as the troubled youth from the Glades finds another way to live his life as well as at least one person who would miss him. Although it seems like Tommy is pretty concerned for the kid that works for him that he might know. I'm a big fan of the Thea and Roy relationship, mostly because I'm curious to see how the former being dubbed 'Speedy' plays out.
"I don't want to be on an island anymore."
As always, the episode cross-cut between the contemporary action in Starling City and the flashbacks, this time the thematic link or emphasis waa on highlighting Ollie's character (in the "principles and integrity" sense) and how his efforts as a vigilante are different than others who take up the violent fight. The action picks up on the island with Slade and Ollie right where we left them last week, trying to make a deal with Fyers after stealing his missile guidance chips The Rock-style. There was also a renewed emphasis on the sacrificial father as Yao Fei isn't able to keep up with the rest of the rebels thanks to the gunshot he took to the leg after the inevitable betrayal by Fyers. He first tries to create a rift between the new mentor and student but when that fails, Fyers pulls out all the stops by threatening to kill Yao's daughter which only results in a violent disagreement and all but the aforementioned father getting away. The crafty mercenary managed to win in the end since the distraction, no matter how it played out, was all part of his plan to get the chips back.
"WE'RE NOT THE SAME!"
I guess at some point I should get to Oliver and his battle with the villain of the week named the Joker. Sorry, wrong comic book adaptation, even though almost every single installment of Arrow is indebted to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, from the aesthetic to the storytelling as well as his penchant for cutting across time. Don't tell me that the Savior's handheld video and independent broadcasting approach to murder didn't remind anyone else of the famous Batman villain's rampage in TDK. Or tell me, if that's how you really feel. As always, the comparisons to Nolan's Batmans are always made with love since there's a reason why there were so successful not to mention the obvious similarities in the two heroes that lends itself to the 'realistic' depiction. And this week's episode, as I said, was really great. The way that the villain was mostly presently added a level of intensity to the sequences, especially when they were spliced with the hero and team desperately trying to track him down.
"... the undertaking, whatever the plan is, it's all connected to the Glades."
It's quite impressive if you think of it actually, since "Salvation" managed to feel action-packed even though Arrow spent a lot of his time hunting down a voice hiding behind a camera. And not doing a great job with the hunting thanks to the clever subway trick (although someone would have to notice an old subway just running around the abandoned tracks). But nobody fools the Smoak for long and she eventually sets Arrow on a collision course with the Savior's train just in time to rescue Roy and set his origin story in motion. Oh. Dig was there, like, the whole time and even though he didn't make his way into the recap his banter with Ollie is always appreciated. As is his ear for underground locomotives. Oliver also learns a little life lesson about loneliness and decides to reconnect with the people he cares about starting with his ex-girlfriend who happens to also be the current girlfriend of his best friend. No drama there.
Arrow returns with Episode 19, "Unfinished Business," next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. The business that needs finishing is with Seth Gabel's Count.