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Arrow 1.18 "Salvation" Review: No Man Is An Island

     If I could give out my own television awards at the end of the season, Arrow would win for most consistent writing. And best stunts. And best new exercise performed by Stephen Amell...This week’s Arrow, “Salvation,” was written by Drew Z Greenberg and Wendy Mericle and was directed by Nick Copus. Copus also directed “Trust But Verify” which also featured some amazing stunts, so it was great to have him behind the camera again. Greenberg is new to Arrow, but past credits include Buffy, Firefly, and Smallville to name a few and to prove he's got the pedigree. Once again, I find myself asking about how much of the season has been plotted out by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg. Each episode delivers a little more of the backstory of the Island while still taking us forward in the present and weaving a theme through multiple plot lines of the episode. This week’s theme is isolation.
    The opening scene featured Oliver (Amell) doing what looked like a horizontal pull up. The scene is beautifully shot from the perspective looking down on Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) looking up appreciatively. The team is gearing up for Oliver to go after one John Nichols, a corrupt slumlord. Oliver asks Felicity if she’s okay with his going after Nichols, and Felicity says absolutely, so some time has passed and she’s become comfortable with what Oliver is doing.
    Once again, the episode examines what Oliver is doing. One of the things I really like about the show is that it never allows the characters or the audience to simply become complacent about what Oliver is doing. Felicity is bemused when Oliver is determined to save Nichols, who he was about to threaten, when Nichols is kidnapped by the “Savior” (Christopher Redman). As Oliver points out, others don’t exert the same control as he does. This nicely picks up on last week’s episode when Oliver was trying to limit the collateral damage caused by The Huntress. And he’s not wrong. Oliver is trained for this, and Diggle (David Ramsey) even comments on how calm Oliver is. When the Savior says he is just like Oliver, Oliver quickly points out that he isn’t anything like the Savior – he doesn’t kill people in cold blood. But it is a very fine line. In many ways, this story thread is paralleled by Moira’s (Susannah Thompson). Moira has a very dubious moral line when it comes to protecting her family. Is she right to set up Frank to be killed in order to save her own family? At least, in the end, she does plead for and save Frank’s daughter Amanda.
    The episode also sets up a nice parallel between Oliver and Roy (Colton Haynes). Oliver tells Diggle that he is focusing on work and resisting any entanglements because he gets everyone close to him hurt. Ramsey and Amell continue to have terrific chemistry and the diner scene is terrific as Diggle mentors Oliver. Diggle tells Oliver, “You’ve been home for eight months and haven’t left the Island yet.” Oliver tells Diggle that he’s used to isolation, but that doesn’t mean that he really wants it. And in fact, Oliver has Diggle and Felicity – and now Tommy (Colin Donnell) – who all know his secret. However, it’s Laurel (Katie Cassidy) who he tells he wants off the Island. It seems inevitable that the Tommy/Laurel/Oliver triangle can only end badly.
    Laurel has also recognized that she’s isolated herself and even though the quest to find Sarah ends badly, she welcomes her mother, Dinah (Alex Kingston) back into her life at the end of the episode. The scene in which Dinah confesses her own guilt over Sarah’s death to Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and Laurel is very powerful, and Cassidy’s performance in particular is stunning – she easily wins emotional scene of the week.
    Who else caught the Easter egg shout out in Dinah’s last scene this week? She says she’s going to catch the RED-eye back to Central City and will be there in a “flash.” The Flash, who wears red, lives in Central City in the DC universe...
    Just as Oliver is really down on himself, Roy doesn’t fight it when the Savior wants to execute him. Roy tells him “no one is going to miss me. I’m just a waste.” Roy is only echoing Thea (Willa Holland) calling him a waste earlier in the episode. The Hood insists that Roy deserves a second chance to prove himself, and it seems by the end of the episode when he pulls an arrow out of his pocket that Roy is on his way to trying to redeem himself and to becoming Speedy or the Red Arrow. Roy, of course, is also an isolated figure – like virtually all the marginalized people living in The Glades. Thea represents a connection for him, with not only another person, but also a family and a mentor.
    Felicity is deeply shaken by the death of the DA, which she feels responsible for. Rickards continues to turn in wonderful performances. Felicity tells Oliver that she is feeling very isolated, and by the end of the episode, he reaches out to make a connection with her too, telling her she can always tell him about her day.
    The flashback scenes show Fyers (Sebastian Dunn) getting the upper hand again. Oliver does quickly figure out why Yao Fei (Byron Mann) apparently betrayed him, but they rescue both he and his daughter, Shado (Celina Jade), only to lose Fei again. Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson is a perfect parallel to Diggle, so Shado makes an interesting parallel to Felicity. The best fight scene this week is the one on the Island, and Copus gives us a great view of it. The best overall chase scene, however, is Oliver chasing the Savior through the city, demonstrating mad parkour skills as he jumps literally everything in his way! Definite props to the stunt team and Amell - who is VERY visible in almost every shot - again!
    I had a few minor logic quibbles in the episode – such as why would a city decommission an entire subway system and still have running cars in it? Though it was a super cool place for a hideout and viral broadcasts. And why did he target Roy in particular? I did think the reveal at the end that The Glades was the source of the mysterious logo was also a bit anti-climactic and obvious. However, these are all very minor quibbles on my part. Overall, it was another great episode, tightly written and character driven. What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.