Arrow "Salvation" Review: And an Island Never Cries

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 28, 2013

Arrow S01E18: "Salvation"

A beaten up Roy

It's not uncommon in superhero narratives for the hero to confront a copycat of some variety, an individual who notices that the hero is cleaning up a city and decides, "Hey, I can do that, too." All you need are a costume and some gadgets, after all. (This has even sort of happened in real life.) Inevitably, the hero will confront this person, and explain that what he's doing isn't for amateurs, or find out that the copycat's reasoning is misguided and/or some sort of reflection/refraction of the hero's own catalyst for donning a mask and becoming a vigilante. The hero, regardless of the conclusion of the story, may appear reflective about his methods as he realizes that his mission has made him a symbol of the city he protects, and with that realization comes a certain degree of responsibility. Then, in the next installment, it's back to beating up muggers and stopping super villains from poisoning the city's water supply.

With "Salvation," Arrow offered its particular spin on this narrative as a former resident of the Glades kidnapped people who had, to borrow Oliver's phrasing, failed the Glades in some way: a slumlord, an ADA who didn't seem interested in prosecuting criminal activity in the area, and, of course, "gangbanger" Roy Harper. The self-styled Savior then broadcast his victims' final moments on the web before shooting them. (There were a few more victims planned, as you can see on the show's pretty lousy attempt at a website tie-in, Glades Betrayed. It was essentially just a gloried countdown clock to tonight's episode.)

The Savior

Like Helena, the Savior was something of Oliver's making, though Oliver was of course not as directly involved in the Savior taking up a cause. It was Oliver's presence as the Hood that provided the realization that Starling City needed saving, and that the Savior was not alone in his desire to do something. All three—Oliver, Helena, and the Savior—were motivated by grief over the loss of a loved one, and they set out to do what they can to fill that void. Oliver goes around yelling at (mostly) rich people and killing people. Helena wanted to dismantle her father's organization and then kill him. The Savior wanted to avenge his wife's death by cleaning up the Glades. But without Oliver's activities, did any of it happen? 

Oliver on the island

The episode ultimately wasn't interested in that question (which is too bad, because it was an interesting question, and another popular superhero narrative), preferring instead to shift the focus to Oliver's struggle to escape a metaphorical island, to remove himself from his isolated state of being. That was a running concern this week; Diggle said he'd become a bit too obsessed recently, and the Savior experienced his own feelings of loneliness in both his life and his goal of cleaning up the Glades. The melancholia also surfaced in Roy's plot, as he insisted that no one would miss him if he died and rejected the idea that Thea seemed to genuinely care about him. Even Felicity got in on the action, lamenting that everything she experiences as a member of Team Arrow can't be shared with anyone.

I do feel like this was something of an oddity, however, since Oliver has made legitimate attempts to try to have a life outside his activities as the Hood. You all probably know by now that I love good thematic work, but I also want that thematic work to be build on a solid foundation of character work, and "Salvation" sort of stumbled on that front. We can read Oliver's break-up with McKenna as a motivator in his uptick of hooding up, but it just didn't feel like it was something that the episode wanted to consciously acknowledge.

But hopefully Arrow will at least follow through on the episode's final development of Oliver reaching out to those around him. He offered Felicity a safe space to share her emotions about what she's experienced (though I'd go to Diggle with that sort of thing long before I'd go to Oliver), and he also asked Laurel to basically hang out. I did really like that scene between Oliver and Laurel. Once again, Stephen Amell really hit the right notes, and even as the scene cut from him trying not to break down to a shot of his back, as he turned, there was a consistency in his "trying not to let this get to me" face and his "oh, someone's talking to me, I need to be happy" face. We've all made that face at some point or another, and Amell landed it. Laurel's "Why?" at the sudden invitation was body blowing, but surprisingly appropriate, so the episode won points for consistency in its character actions.

If there's one big thing that I did really love about "Salvation"—and on the whole, I did like the episode a good deal—it's that, again, the Glades rose to the forefront. As an audience, we've known that the Undertaking is very connected to the Glades for a while, but now Team Arrow is aware, and it will hopefully keep that plot moving forward a bit. I also appreciated how the Savior's case allowed this development to happen. It made for good narrative connective tissue.

But the other reason I loved it is that it pushed Arrow's Oliver closer and closer to that notion of social justice. I talked about it a bit when Roy was first introduced, so I won't rehash my thoughts, but I'm very eager to see how Arrow plays this card, and what ramifications it might have for Oliver's mission going forward. At this point, Oliver stopping the Undertaking and saving the Glades means potentially big things for the focus of Season 2, and I like that the show seems to be building toward the classic representation of the Green Arrow character as opposed to starting there. Provided that's the goal, of course.

Dinah and Quentin

Let's close with the Lances, as they too fed into this isolation theme. They've all been estranged from each other since Sarah's death, and Dinah's (continued) conviction that Sarah was still alive brought them back together, or at least it brought Quentin and Dinah back together. While Laurel decided to reveal the truth of the matter in the worst possible way—by having the woman in the photo be at CNRI and springing it on her parents in public—that this sudden family love was ultimately based on a falsehood meant it wasn't going to last. But it did bring them together long enough that Dinah's guilt over not doing more to stop Sarah from getting on the boat in the first place didn't split them all apart again. I'm not sure how much of Dinah we'll see going forward, but I'd rather the whole thing result in Quentin and Laurel having some new conversations.


– I saw Moira's betrayal of Frank as soon as he mentioned that he's the one who paid for the Triads to take out Malcolm (idiot). I do love how the show, and Susanna Thompson, has made Moira ruthless but genuinely sympathetic. 

– The island stuff was fine. I enjoyed Shado beating the crap out of Fyers' men and then Fyers himself. And she's got the inside track on what's happening with that missile launcher (they picked a terrible hiding place, clearly), so that's moving on. I do find it interesting that since "The Odyssey," the island flashbacks have become their own plot as opposed to parallels with the main action. That's not a criticism (entirely), but I do like symmetry.

– Also: Manu Bennett does a fantastic confused face. I mean, look at it! It's great.

– "Why do you have a gun?" "Because I’m no good with knives."

– "I asked him to leave me alone. In my loud voice."

– "Should be home in a flash." Funny, funny, funny. (Remember: Central City's the home city of the Flash.)

– Let's talk transmedia storytelling for a moment: This week's digital Arrow comic has Diggle reaching out to a woman he knows who has super-extensive intelligence connections, and he asks her to investigate Lian Yu. I'm sort of frustrated by this. The comics are, according to the show's producers, canon. This allows them tell some stories that they otherwise wouldn't be able to (Oliver and Diggle head off to Russia at one point), but this particular development feels like one that probably should've appeared in the show. Goodness knows it would've given Diggle something to do, but I'm also wondering if this thread will surface in the future somehow.

For the record, I'm generally not a fan of transmedia storytelling. While I've enjoyed the comics and how they've illuminated certain things, like why Quentin became an alcoholic (it was cliched, but it also made me like Quentin a bit more), I also don't feel comfortable discussing them in these reviews because I'm not sure how you'd all respond to me casually mentioning anything that occurs in them, or treating them as common knowledge. They're not really spoilers, and so far they haven't really impacted the show in any real way, but I feel like this most recent issue is something that has the potential to do so, so let me know how you feel about me bringing it up, even if it's just in a notes section like this. It'll save some of you 99 cents, at least.

What'd you think of "Salvation"?

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  • abdulay31 Apr 02, 2013

    Great review to an amazing episode with so much character development, it really begs the question whether to justify Oliver's actions considering more copycats will come forward to imitate him. To those familiar with the comics, i thought Roy was supposed to be some kind of a sidekick with amazing fighting techniques as mentioned by the reviewer a few episodes back

  • ChanX95 Apr 01, 2013

    I keep waiting for something really big to happen in Arrow but it never does. The story is coming in dribs and drabs which is rather frustrating.

  • bleumystique Mar 31, 2013

    Yeah, the whole isolation thing, I found that odd too. Ollie has been making efforts for weeks now, to not be isolated, so that coming up felt misplaced, or contrived, as perhaps another attempt to draw the other points together or something. I mean with all of the developments happening, with Tommy being in the know, with Felicity joining the cave, the fact that he seemed happy enough dating McKenna for that time being, and was seemingly over just didn't feel like it fit to say that Ollie has been isolated and stuck on an island. He's reached out and accepted too many people sine the earlier days, to be called isolated. I think isolated is a strong word, perhaps he's shifted from being a more extroverted individual to more introverted given his time being away for so long and a new set of priorities, a mission, and secrets to keep, but that still wouldn't have made sense coming from Diggle, because he didn't Oliver before the island.
    -So I love Diggle. I love him so much because that man just oozes cool, but he really, truly needs more stuff to do. Right now, he's like Yoda. He's acting as that wise but still cool uncle guiding his sometimes impulsive vigilante nephew with a newfound heroes complex, and his quirky yet endearing geeky niece. Like, I love him. I love his role. I like that he isn't just some sidekick, but I'd also love to see him just do...more. Do something. He's capable of it, and for all we know he's probably doing stuff but they just aren't showing it, which is a shame,and a true waste of his character.
    -I am a Felicity fangirl. I loves me a fiere and geeky chica. Gee, I wonder why....anyhoo,LOVE her. She's been such a refreshing and fun addition to this show and I love that we get to see more of her. She sort of gives us this layman's view of what's going on in the cave and I love that. I like some Follie moments. (is that what they call these two? I don't even know). My girl has finally moved passed gawking at all of that shirtless mancandy, God bless her, to just doing her thing and hanging with the boys, which I love, but sweet moments where Ollie isn't yelling at her to find something instantly, and he takes the time to actually think about how all of this affects someone like her, love that. So I loved their little moment, even though, I kinda agree, that I'd be more inclined to go to Diggle with my emotional rambling than Ollie. Diggle's more of listener, and Oliver always comes across like he's in a rush. Which, I suppose he is.
    -Hearing Roy say that no one would miss him, kind of sucked. Made my heart hurt a little, but other than that I'm still waiting for the talented Colton to be amazing....or do something.
    -Moira is...I don't know quite how to describe her really, but if it's at all possible to be the barest hint of i intrigued and bored by a plot line, than that's how I feel about Moira. Maybe it's more impatience to see some more action there.
    - Whereas the Lances. I just don't even care.

  • Acrobit Mar 31, 2013

    I guess that since Diggle's become suspicious of Oliver's mom, he decided to do her job for her. It's back to the same crap: Oliver's spent a week without a GF, so someone needs to get in his face about how lonely he's gonna be, only it's Diggle, y'know...the incorrigible ladies man. Yes, they made Mckenna's pro tem as bland and as forgettable as the next one will be, but it just friggin' happened. How about we let Oliver put a little focus into his work to not obsess about his GF that almost got shot in the crotch with a shotgun? Just askin'.

    I don't see how Moira is sympathetic at all. All kinds of criminals, mobsters and dictators have children, and they'd likely all think of them or mention them when they think they're about to die, but this is the woman who hired a mafia of assassins to kill a guy in her way...with no questions asked, and no rules in place. Honest, hard working minimum-wage employees working at a banquet? Eh, kill them and use their uniforms. Wutevs. Husband being held hostage who'll likely be killed and thrown in the river once Merlyn isn't around to pay his goons? Eh...'evs. Even Merlyn holds the picture of his son every once in a while.

    How is it that no one ever recognizes Oliver anywhere? Aside from kicking in every single door in an unrealistically empty building, he was also across a busy street in broad daylight like Planet of the Apes. Isn't he still a billionaire playboy? I do accept that cell-phones, texts and cameras are the bane of any soap, but really, there were a ton of people out there. No one saw him? No one brought it up?

    I did like Laurel's "Why?" like most of us. It was refreshing to see her actually surprised that someone would want to spend time with her. I could've taken it as phishing for a declaration of love, but it just really felt like surprise. Yeah, liked it.

    But of course it was also in there with her acting like a pouty 4-yr. old at her parents earlier. Apparently, it sucks to see your parents spending a pleasant moment together...right after you force them together. How old is this character supposed to be again?

    I dunno, this episode didn't suck, but I liked it less than the last episode, which I didn't like. I think it was Diggle again. It was just especially annoying. Guys don't have these talks, and if we do, it's because our own GF's won't leave us the hell alone about it...*and* our friend's been single for at least a good three years.

    I mean, Loneliness Brotalks? really?

    Diggle: "Bro, you've been single for what, six days, bro? You've been off that five-year island for eight entire months, bro, and what, only two GF's, bro? That's not a way to live, bro. And don't worry about me, bro; labs count as social lives."

    I don't wanna hate that guy, but they need to pump his balls back up, and keep him off of Oliver's.

    (I had a little more, but eh. It's already Saturday.)

  • bleumystique Mar 31, 2013

    The Moira paragraph literally made me LOL. Word.
    -It was complete surprise, and one of the few moments where Laurel seemed sweet and normal or whatever.
    Yes, this definitely made me chuckle as per usual. As always, a pleasure reading your comments...bro. lol

  • Acrobit Apr 01, 2013

    Thank you for that, as always. I was gonna rant about the Chinese dude. Not that he was killed (because he was doomed as soon as he appeared on camera--er, collaborated with Moira), but because Merlyn--the evil billionaire super-genius, who made an effort to say that he was looking into the person or persons who tried to kill him--has the guy killed outright without interrogating him. I was gonna talk about how it was truly one of the dumbest things this show has done so far, and how that would be saying a hell of a lot.

    I *possibly* might've added that it would've made more sense if Moira had poisoned the doomed spy just before Merlyn caught up to him, letting Merlyn keep his intellect, and removing more of the illusion of Moira being a decent human being, because let's face it: she would've killed him if Merlyn hadn't.

    But nah. Sometimes, you just gotta roll with the duh, so I won't say anything about that.

  • KayWatkins Mar 30, 2013

    Yes. Please share what you've been reading in the transmedia storylines:-)

  • dragon22a Mar 30, 2013

    This episode was mostly character development for me. Oliver coming to terms with being alone, Moira feeling how far she has fallen, Quentin and Laurel coming to terms with Sarah's death all over again, Roy seeing a different way of life and possibly being set on the path to joining Oliver in his crusade, Felicity learning that sometimes they are going to fail, all really character driven developments.

    The Savior was almost a mere device to move some of these character developments along while still giving at least some action and conveniently revealing more about the undertaking. I was expecting someone more theatrical. Sure, the use of the internet was pretty interesting, but given that even in this realistic comic book series you have had theatrical villains, I was hoping for a bit more. He was not even really inspired by Oliver, he was already on the path to this. He just claimed he was the same as Oliver near the end. I would have liked him to be someone who claimed he was doing just what Oliver was doing but better sort of like the Reaper from Batman Year Two or Rumor from The Batman.

    The Island was interesting this week. I am still thinking that Slade is going to turn against Oliver or perhaps already has. We will have to wait to see how Shado shapes up as a character.

    At first I thought Pao Mei was going to be the one who trained Oliver, then I thought it was Slade who has tought him some moves, but it seems it may be Shado. Beyond the whole tatoo thing that they share, her fighting style is similar to Oliver's and it is possible that she is as good an archer as her father is, more than able to teach him. Of course, it could be a combo of the lot of them. I am hoping for a Shado vs Slade fight to see who is the better fighter.

  • Whedonrules Mar 30, 2013

    Just glad to see Crixus lives! Hopefully next season is the Slade season cause I'll take more Slade over After-School Special in the Glades almost always. Kind of difficult to get into the main conflict of the episode when you know how its gong to end. Couldn't they have just left the Colton Haynes contract announcement quiet a few days? Susanna Thompson was very good in this episode. Hoping they are soon going to make Laurel more interesting; this story moved that in the right direction. It was completely plot manufactured to move in that direction and Oliver and Laurel still have no discernible chemistry - but now we know where the show is going with these two. (She still has more chemistry with Dad, Paul Blackthorne, than either Ollie or Tommy which is weird.) Hopefully everything moves in the right direction with the events of this episode.

  • stevei Mar 29, 2013

    I would hate it if Time Warner made me buy a digital comic just to keep up with the plot line of show, even if it is one of my favorites. If they start doing this on a regular basis I will stop watching the show rather than buy the comic!

  • tv_gonzo Mar 29, 2013

    I liked the episode quite a bit. I agree with you however that Arrow always spells out certain things for instead of giving us the opportunity to find them out ourselves. This week Oliver buries himself in his hooded dealings and Diggle tells us exactly that. After his encounter with the black archer he was reluctant to hood up and Diggle told us that. We never got a chance to see Oliver being somewhat afraid or eager to change into some green leather. We always get the information right in our faces.

  • Alastor7800 Mar 29, 2013

    One thing was really weird in this episode. I can't believe medias would allow a gangster to broadcast anything live especially if they know he can ends up killing someone. It seemed to irresponsable to believe.

  • abdulay31 Apr 02, 2013

    Yep even though the Starling city seems the kind of world where a gangster is tuned in for news stopping important issues. The warning by the newscaster that they don't know how things will unfold is a major wtf

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