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Salvation - White House Down - Review: Heroes Everywhere

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***Warning- This review contains spoilers

Summer is the time when fans of big-budget, blockbuster action movies flock to theaters for the latest adventure thrill ride. This summer they can save the price of a ticket because for the best explosive action and suspense they need look no further than their television screens and CBS's summer hit, Salvation. In, White House Down, the show's latest episode, there was more nail-biting suspense, explosions, action, plot twists, romance and adventure than there is in most of the films in theaters this summer. And guess what, they've done it better, on an infinitely smaller budget, with great writing, great acting, great stunts….and oh, yeah, they pack everything into 45 edge-of-your-seat minutes. (That's the average network drama run time minus commercials.) Kudos to the show's writers who have kept fans guessing with tautly and cleverly crafted scripts all season.

When we last left #TeamSalvation, aka Grace (Jennifer Finnigan), Darius (Santiago Cabrera), and Harris (Ian Anthony Dale) the world was literally going to hell in a handbasket. Faux President Monroe Bennett (Sasha Roiz) was rallying his militia to take the White House. Grace had a video of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court's tie-breaking decision that named President McKenzie (Tovah Feldshuh) the rightful President. But, she can't send it out to the world because Darius has convinced the President to shut down the internet to prevent Bennett from inciting more chaos.

As White House Down begins, Grace is saved from being blown to bits with a rocket by Detective Carter (Ashley Thomas). When Grace shows him the video he steps up and makes it his mission to get Grace and the video to the White House, just mere blocks away. It becomes a virtual mission: impossible when they discover Bennett is now staging an all-out coup, giving his troops on the streets two directives – take back the White House by force and find Grace Barrows and the video. Grace and Carter form an uneasy alliance, and ironically, she saves his life by taking a bullet for him (thankfully she's wisely wearing Darius' bullet-proof shirt) in a parking garage. Later he takes one for the team protecting Grace and teaming with Darius and Harris to protect the White House. Thomas has been a great addition to the cast this season and shines in this episode. He shows Carter to be a man of principle and duty. One must wonder what he will do when he learns the woman he almost got killed protecting is the very person who killed his sister?

Another stellar cast member this episode is Tovah Feldshuh as President McKenzie. With the White House under siege, her character remains cool under fire. Feldshuh adds the perfect amount of steely determination to voice and fire in her eyes when she declares to her Secret Service agents, Harris and Darius that she is NOT abandoning her post in the Oval Office despite moles from Bennett's group infiltrating the White House and giving his militia access to the West Wing. You believe she is the President when she orders Harris to take Darius to the underground bunker, she is fully prepared to die protecting the country and never forgets if she is gone there must be someone ready to take her place. Her defiance in that final stand against Bennett when he has taken the Oval Office and captured Grace, Darius and Harris are admirable and inspiring. McKenzie was perhaps the most heroic of all the characters this episode.

But, she wasn't the only one. Jillian (Jacqueline Byers) proves herself pretty bad-ass by using the Dark Web to communicate with the team working on Darius' rail gun project (Remember? With all of this going on they're still looking for a way to stop the asteroid from crashing into Earth). She kept her cool and used her wits. Byers was given the opportunity to stand out and she nailed it. Again, thank you to the writers of Salvation for making the women of this show smart and resourceful.

And thank you too, for giving us the great men of Salvation, showing us there are different ways to be heroic. Harris shows us that he's not just the Secretary of Defense in name only. When escorting Darius to the bunker, he takes on Bennett's well-armed militia with a hand-gun, a steely determination, and pretty impressive hand-to-hand combat. Yet, he's not so entrenched to his duty that he goes along with yet another of Darius' seemingly wild plan to leave the White House to rescue Grace. Yet, once they rescue Grace and return to the tunnels leading to the bunker, he's all business and finds a safe place for her and the Vice-President as he leads a few men to retake the White House. Ian Anthony Dale may at times show Harris to be frustrated with his circumstances, but he always does his duty and proves to be the man you want to have your back when the chips are down. He and Santiago Cabrera play off one another beautifully in this episode when they form their uneasy alliance to save a woman they both care about in their own way.

Cabrera has a strong episode as Darius. He has been a delight to watch as Darius has been slowly changing this season. He's very Vice-Presidential when he reluctantly acquiesces to the President's wishes to go to the bunker. But then, on the way when he's literally at crossroads in the tunnels, he acts like a man in love, risking everything to go save a woman he cares about. Yes, they all realize how vital it was to get Grace and that video back to the White House where they could broadcast it to the world. However, when Darius made that decision to go get Grace one suspects he was thinking more about the woman than the video. Later, the writers again take advantage of the wonderful chemistry between Cabrera and Finnigan with a sweet scene in the wine cellar where Darius and Grace are stashed for protection. You realize how observant Darius has become when he tenderly tries to coax Grace into telling him what is torturing her. (Aside-The writers excel here again never letting us forget that Grace is a woman on the edge. One suspects they're going to have her fall completely apart at some time later in the season in a masterful piece of writing.) Later, you see the pragmatic Darius as he negotiates with Liam (Charlie Rowe) and Alycia (Melia Kreiling).

Speaking of Liam, he goes a long way this week in redeeming himself as a character. Charlie Rowe is great at delivering snappy, snarky quips to Alycia when she tells Liam she needs his help. Then, he is passionate and forceful in convincing her that he's not the one she needs to be talking to but Darius, after learning that turning off the internet has caused ReSyst to lose control over the warheads they were using as leverage. Like Thomas, Kreiling has been an excellent addition to Salvation. You see her character fighting with herself when she must make a deal with the devil (Darius) via the Dark Net by agreeing to broadcast Grace's video after Darius helps them get the internet back to prevent a nuclear disaster. Although they were never on screen together, the friction that crackles between Alycia and Darius is palpable and shows some intriguing chemistry between Kreiling and Cabrera. It will be interesting to watch when the two are in a scene in person rather than by phone.

For 45 thrilling minutes, the writers of this week's episode of Salvation had viewers holding their collective breaths wondering just what would happen next. They've been doing just that all season. The stories they are telling are gripping and timely and are infused with an uncanny connection to the world we live in now. They have been the breakout stars of the show this season and making viewers excited and anxious as they wait to see what's next has made Salvation a must-watch show this summer. You need no further proof of that by that one final scene of this excellent episode. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to our original dilemma of saving the world from an asteroid, they throw in an almost throwaway shot of a drone watching Bennett being arrested in the Oval Office and then flying away. If Bennett was able to get so many infiltrators in the White House, couldn't someone else have people planted inside? Who was watching? Is it ReSyst, or has someone new entered the game? And where exactly was Harris’ new girlfriend during all this, flying a drone perhaps? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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