Arrow: Salvation

"We're not the same."

Lots of character growth and important team building in this episode. It is clear Oliver is changing, albeit slowly, but it's very cool to see.

For me the first clue that things were changing for Oliver was when he asked for validation of their mission from Felicity. It's as though she has become his moral compass. When the mission failed and she said that she had no one to talk to, couldn't imagine pulling someone into this life, Oliver didn't immediately know what to do. He gave her a platitude about how a part of what they do comes with loss. However, it was telling that Oliver came around, and offered to be someone she could confide in by the end of the hour.

That one step in the evolution of his character was even more evident in his mini-arc for the episode. Oliver started out almost zen-like about relationships because of how things ended with McKenna. He had, at least on the surface, accepted that being Arrow meant a life of sacrifice and solitude, but he realized that that wasn't what he wanted so he finally opened up a door for Laurel, which she reluctantly walked through. I think that these changes are indicative of a frequent theme on the show. The writers keep bringing characters that mimic Oliver's earlier actions, which force him to see those actions as a mirror of himself. It's gradually making him rethink his methods, turning him into a true hero through experiences instead of being some vague ideological paragon of virtue (sorry, Clark) from the get go.

The Savior, aka Joseph Falk, was a good example of this. He was a smart man turned insane by tragedy, and was believable as a broken monster. The distance between Oliver and Joseph was clear in the moment when he asked Arrow, "How are we any different?". If the same question was asked at the beginning of the season, I don't think he would've been able to say there was one. I love that the show isn't shying away from that morally gray start to his heroic career. Oliver's ambiguous methods are constantly being judged by his allies, just like we the viewers have from episode one. What really makes me happy is the writers aren't backpedaling, either. They are dealing with what he's done head on.

Oliver's parkour scene over rooftops and cars was fascinating. It showed the team in action, and was very intense. Our Arrow gang is starting to coalesce, and Felicity is getting to see firsthand what it means to be a part of that. The fact that they failed was even better, because even with Oliver literally kicking in doors, they weren't fast enough. That was a good growth moment for the team, and stated clearly that they don't always win. For a superhero show, that's pretty bold. The good guys are ambiguous, and the bad guys don't always fail.

On another front, the look and tone of the episode was very dark, almost as if Chris Nolan had his hand in its direction, with Savior's Joker-esqe shaky cam interrogations being the most disturbing. I also really liked the idea that The Savior was hiding on a subway, that was a clever plot device to keep the characters guessing. It does raise an interesting question, though. Does Starling City no longer have a functional subway system? Why do I think that's going to be plot point that'll be important later on?

The Island stuff was once again relegated to supporting plot, with the continuation of the negotiation of the Rocket Launcher circuit board on the Island. It was a nice way to bring in Shado. I'm looking forward to seeing Slade, Oliver, and Shado interact. Maybe she's the reason Oliver and Slade fall out, assuming they do at some point down the line. Her introduction was a bit unexpected; I didn't think it would happen this soon. Unfortunately, they lost the circuit board, but at least Shado says she knows Fyre's plans. Also her hostage plot served as a nice parallel to Roy's situation. It went against type too, because I expected Roy to go all hardcore on his kidnapper, but instead they had Shado do that.

I found Roy and Thea kissing to be marginally cringe worthy, not because I dislike them as a couple, but I had the impression the writers were going to build them up a bit more slowly. She was smart enough to walk out on him, though, when he admitted he was going to rob a local liquor store. The scene where he showed her he wouldn't hurt anyone by getting rid of the bullets was a good set up, too. Although as soon as he pulled out the gun, I knew he was going to be kidnapped. It was kind of brutal too, Savior knocked Thea down pretty hard, it was believable. Still, why didn't he go all kick ass on him?

The Glades is coming into focus finally, which made me realize how well set up this show is. First they introduced the players, slowly, both villains and allies. Those relationships were established with small encounters that built on each other. They have also been setting up the Glades little by little so that we have a firm grasp on the situation there, and a bit about the people that live there. It's like this is an elaborate game of chess, this entire season has been setting up the board. Very good world building. Plus now the Arrow gang knows the List has to do with the Glades.

The Laurel subplot seemed almost like an add on at first, but the emotional component to it was unexpected. Dinah and Quentin working together to find the girl in the picture with the hat, who turned out to not be Sarah, seemed like a massive time sink and not really important -- except it turned out to be character building for Laurel. If I remember correctly, she wasn't even on speaking terms with her mother at the beginning of the season. It was Dinah's breakdown that got to her. The admission of guilt, and her entirely irrational reasoning about why she left, and the blame she placed on herself for letting Sarah go with Oliver, was classic survivor's guilt.

Gold acting stars to Alex Kingston. Unfortunately, her subplot is over.  I'm sad to see her go without her character really doing anything, but she can come back thankfully. Again, set up for the future, I think. The ripples she made in Laurel's life might have a more immediate consequence, because Laurel finally let Oliver in a little by agreeing to see him socially.

Bits:

Felicity is clearly smitten with Oliver, but is being discreet about it, this week it was her staring at Oliver working out.

Did they already establish that Slade was ex-military?

Moira's in trouble, she literally has blood on her hands now by sacrificing her friend Frank to save herself and her family. She even apparently convinced the Dark Archer not to kill Frank's daughter. Bet she dies, anyway. Malcolm isn't the forgiving type.

Roy serves three purposes, as a new ally for Oliver eventually, a face for the Glades, and a romantic interest for Thea. Roy getting rescued was a good set up for him maybe heading down the path of a hero. Hero emulation, plus having people care about him.

Along with Frank the accountant from the Dark Knight, there were three distinct references to that movie. The district attorney being captured and killed on camera by Savior was a nod to Harvey Dent, and the camera work itself was like the Joker's video interrogation of one of the fake Batman's.

The symbol on the little book with the List always had to be something specific. The fact that it's the map for the Glades is kind of perfect.

Quotes:

Dig: "You've been spending a lot of time under that hood the last couple of weeks."
Oliver: "Keeps my ears warm."

Felicity: "Oliver, no offense, but do I tell you how to sharpen your arrows?"

Oliver: "Where's Diggle?"
Felicity: "I asked him to leave me alone, in my loud voice."

Oliver: "This is the thing with what we do. Sometimes we lose."

Oliver: "I don't want to be on an island anymore."

Very layered and well thought out episode. I think it's the best one they've done so far.

4 out of 4 Doors left unhinged.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

14 comments:

Nadim said...

J.D. I loved this review and I love what you said about world-building. Although a lot of times this year I felt like Arrow wasn't as great as it should have been, I've realized that they've done a superb job of building up this chess board as you said. I'm so pumped for the final stretch of episodes and the finale in particular. I have a feeling they're going to be quite great because the writers have firmly established all the players and things are starting to collide.

And is it just me or was the final Laurel - Oliver scene insanely touching? I can't believe how MUCH I'm rooting for them. I realized how much I'm invested in the relationship (I was sure I wasn't). That's a great achievement, that the show's endgame couple are this likeable together! Excellent.

P.S. I didn't love The Savior though. He was much too disposable but I guess he served his purpose and The Dark Archer is our real Big Bad (who just gives me the chills whenever he's on screen btw).

Patrick said...

I definitely agree that this was one of if not their strongest episode to date, and definitely seems to be the beginning of the "home stretch" when all the pieces start coming together for the season finale.

So Roy & The Hood have now met, and Roy may have found the spark of inspiration he needs to begin charting a new course for himself. Does he try and seek out The Hood? Does he try and become a self-appointed guardian of The Glades? I'm curious to see what happens next.

I must admit, I saw Frank being the fall guy well before it actually happened, though I thought it would come from the triad member's end, I didn't think Moira would be so cold as to sell out her friend so directly. I get that she's desperate to protect her own family, but....damn. Like with Roy, I'm very curious what the future holds for her character. I just hope they don't kill her off anytime soon. I really like Susanna Thompson, and I'm glad she's finally got a regular gig on a show that seems to have legs.

The stuff with Laurel's family was sorta "meh" for me, since it seemed to exist only to introduce Laurel's mother to us, and perhaps push all three of them forward a little in their healing process. Though, for all we know that woman who was actually the one in the picture could come back into the story at some point, maybe she's connected to Fyers & whatever was going on out there on the island.

Of course, the highlight for me again was Felicity. Specifically, the interactions between her & Oliver. JD, I'm not sure if she's actually smitten with Oliver like you say in your review, but I can certainly see how one could make that argument. When she was staring up at him in the beginning I'm sure it was at least partly to admire his physique(I mean, I'm as straight as they come and even I gotta admit Steven Amell's a handsome fella). But I was actually expecting her to make some snarky comment about his unorthodox exercise techniques. :) This episode also showed Oliver behaving towards Felicity in ways I was hoping to see ever since the Dodger case when she had the bomb collar around her neck. Felicity's got no training for this kind of work, so whether it's being in harm's way herself or just dealing with life & death situations through her monitor, it's GOT to be taking a toll on her. It was nice to see Oliver recognize that and take a little time to help her deal with it all.

I think the only thing I was actually disappointed with in this episode was that they cut out a moment they used in last week's preview, when Tommy told Oliver to "kick his ass". You can pretty clearly see the edit where that line originally was. When Oliver tells Thea to stay at the club with Tommy, then heads downstairs. The edit clearly shows that Oliver talked directly with Tommy before leaving, but they cut it. After the progress those two made last week, it would've been nice to see Tommy show him a little support right there.

Morgan India said...

I think they said that Slade was in the Australian version of the marines or something like that?

J.D. Balthazar said...

That's right. I totally forgot he said in his first scene that he was Australian marines or something like that. Thanks Morgan.

Patrick said...

I think he said that he & Billy were in the Australian Special Forces, actually.

I also forgot to mention, I loved the little DC Comics shout-out that Laurel's mom gave as she was leaving. She mentioned flying back to Central City, and how she'd probably "be there in a flash". For those who don't know, Central City in the comics is the home of Barry Allen, one of the men who has used the identity The Flash(the other two main Flashes, Jay Garrick and Wally West, were from nearby Keystone City). I always love those little touches on this show. :)

JK said...

Loved this episode. Actually, I think it's safe to say at this point that I love this entire show. It's been slowly but steadily creeping up my weekly "most anticipated" list, and is now sitting somewhere in the same ballpark as Person of Interest. (When is the next episode of PoI, anyway?)

I think "smitten" might be too strong a word, but Felicia does seem to be nursing a bit of a crush. I reckon it's been there since about the second time Oliver walked into her office, actually. I'd be rooting for them as a couple if I didn't know it was hopeless in the long run. Of course, Green Arrow and Black Canary aren't exactly Superman and Lois Lane...

Damn it.

What else? Hm. Wish Tommy'd been given a little more face time, but I'm not sure where they could have wedged him in without having him feel... er... wedged in. And I think I liked where they went with the "is Sarah alive" plot - though my first thought when the other girl showed up was that it was all part of some elaborate conspiracy. It says something about the state of TV today that the most surprising twists are when the million-to-one shots don't pan out, doesn't it?

Josie Kafka said...

Next PoI: Thursday, April 4th. Thank goodness! College basketball isn't my thing.

Freeman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman said...

Man, son. Laurel I am disappoint. What are you dong to Tommy son? First she's all diggin' The Hood, now she's all obviously reversing back into liking Ollie again. Seriously she gave him super saucy eyes as she walked away. Tommy can't catch a break here. Can't trust a person who falls for every nice Tom, Dick, or Harry that comes around. It also bugs me extra because it just seems inevitable that Laurel will get back together with Ollie. Maybe that'll be the thing that forever fractures Ollie and Tommy's friendship.

Other than that, strong episode. Though again, if pretty boy Roy is the hideous face of crime in the Glades, they're not doing a good job selling the borderline Gotham thing they're trying to sell to us.

Speaking of Gotham, they also had a "never in daylight" line in this episode in reference to suiting up. A line like that was said in The Dark Knight I if I remember correctly.

And Patrick, I chuckled heartily at the "back in a flash" line. I think it's also Barry Allen's catchphrase. Don't quote me on that.

celticmarc said...

Josie

Ditto.

TJ said...

Great episode! Much much better than last week's somewhat subpar ep.

Wondering though where they are taking the Roy Harper story. I see a lot of potential sister-caring from Oliver's side and I don't think he'd take in Roy that quickly. And Roy at the other end probably will try to blackmail himself into the Queen family when he finds out that Thea's brother is the owner of that arrow he's carrying.

And at the Laurel front - to me it's kinda certain that they are going to pair up Laurel and Ollie - making Tommy furious of course.

And the flashbackstory - when will it join the presence?? Or will it ever? It's a disturbing thought that Slade and Ollie could become enemies - I don't want that! I love them on the same team right now...

Agree with what JK said, this show has unexpectedly turned into perhaps my fave show of the week (maybe tied with PoI). I love it when that happens - and totally out of the blue...

ChrisB said...

I would never have guessed it, but this show has begun to really matter to me. I've always enjoyed it, but never really bought into the world. That has all changed in the past few episodes. I found myself really tense during this hour and cheering for Ollie when he showed Felicity some support.

Great review, J.D. I agree with you that the writers have done a superb job in setting up this world and getting us to invest in it.

Rish said...

By the way, did everyone miss the Flash reference?

Lamounier said...

Undertaking, underground... Is that why The Undertaking has that name? I can’t decide now if that’s poetic and clever or too much on the nose.

J.D., what you wrote about the world building on this show is spot on. In fact, I’ve been thinking how Arrow reminds me of Veronica Mars. Now, ok, the two series are very different. Veronica Mars had very complicated plots about more mundane subjects, while Arrow has more straightforward plots in a fantastic universe. But both shows feature a lot of rich people (and explore their corruption), focus a lot on families and their dramas, and take their time to build complicated chess games through, mostly, standalone episodes that also contribute to the larger story. Did Arrow Powers That Be take a few notes from our favorite teenage detective?