A lot of people do a lot of killing for a lot of murky reasons. Superheroes!

By Adam Carlson
March 28, 2013 at 04:01 AM EDT
Cate Cameron/The CW
S1 E18
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The conventional wisdom is that Arrow is getting better by the week. (We even wrote a story about it, on newsstands now!). The conventional wisdom, in this case, is right — at least judging by tonight’s “Salvation,” which was as meaty and dimensional as anything this season. Every plot kept step with the other and, for a few wonderful minutes at the end, Stephen Amell almost cried. But more on that later.

First, have you heard the story of Starling City’s slumlord? He’s a bad guy whose badder hand with wiring caused the deaths of several people — and it’s too bad the proper authorities are tied up with a lack of motivation or proper evidence, Oliver grumbles while working out half-naked. No one else in the lair notices because they have more important things to focus on, like slumlords who are apparently killing people. Oliver preps his Arrow-gear and checks in with Felicity: Is she feeling good with all of this? She nods.

It’s too bad, then, that when Arrow shows up to Mr. Slumlord’s apartment (I’ll just call him John) he finds that it’s already been ransacked and Joe is gone. All that’s left is a knife, conspicuously un-sunk into the backs of any intruders.

Oliver worries back at the lair: Who could it be? And it isn’t that John is just gone, either. He was taken. Oliver worries: Can Felicity see if the guy had any enemies? This kidnapper is dangerous, after all, and he definitely won’t have Oliver’s “restraint.” But also, he worries, why is she making that face at him? Is it because she’s having trouble keeping track of his evolving ethical standards for superheroism? Oliver worries.

Stop. Dig is taking Oliver out to dinner. He worries too much.

But first — flashback! Oliver and Slade continue negotiating with Fyers about getting off the island in exchange for the circuit board.

On the other side of town and with the lights way down low, we find that Thea and Roy have fast-forwarded their relationship to that stage where one of them will probably tell the other that they’re moving too quickly. Not to be! Instead we hop tropes when one of Roy’s friends shows up — Thea takes that as a cue to preen; Queens, amirite? — and hands off a mysterious paper bag that has a gun in it. (Good for you, Thea, getting your nose dirty with some investigating.) Why the gun, Roy? “Because I’m no good with knives.” Thea frets at this sudden swerve toward criminality so he takes all of the bullets out of the gun, even though he’s still committed to robbing a liquor store. Thea wants him to reconsider the choices he’s making but, like, really — the red hoodie was Thea’s earliest warning and that was already episodes ago. Naturally, she storms out.

At Casa de Lance, Laurel finds her dad and River Song mom reunited in the cause of finding Sarah, who can also be called “mystery hat girl” because it is literally the only way they have to identify her to any and all other authorities. Isn’t it great that her parents are reconciled? Ummmm.

NEXT: Bros being bros, plus a murder

Bro diner dinner! Oliver is starving and, in between bites, wonders, “Are you waiting for me to finish before giving me the lecture?” Dig smiles (this friendship, y’all). The highlights: He’s worried that Oliver is spending far too much time hooded and far too little time doing anything or anyone else. There’s little time to develop this further, though, because an electronic frenzy overtakes the restaurant residents in the form of a video link, shared with Ollie c/o Felicity. It’s intended for any and all Glades residents, and look: It’s our scum bag from the top of the hour, here bound and bloodied and being read a list of reasons he’s terrible. Who’s the ominous voice doing the reading? The answers come not at all. Instead, because Joe-the-slumlord is unable to muster much of a defense, we get two bullets and another dead body. Bang bang.

The bad news gets worse: Mystery Man is just getting started on his righteous crusade. Who’s next?

Back at the lair, Dig digs up some NSA info on “The Savior,” a digital savant so savvy he hacked himself “right off the radar.” Oliver urges Felicity to work her magic on the double but this is Felicity and there’s no need to be rude. Or as she puts it, “Do I tell you how to sharpen your arrows?”

The time is already up, and The Savior has a new victim in the form of an ADA charged with the inability to charge or convict anyone else. He has just minutes to convince our deep-voiced vigilante, our not-Oliver, to spare him. Tick tock.

Separately, on a ledge much higher off the ground and more shrouded in mystery, stands Moira, preparing to meet with Frank about their botched assassination attempt on Malcolm, the debonair and diabolical. Frank asks, Might Moira consider sending her family out of town for a few weeks, just until they’re sure that their comrade hasn’t discovered any betrayal? She doesn’t actually say yes. Ambiguity alert?

Separate from all of this — which now includes two different major plots about murderousness — are Thea and Laurel, just talking “almost woman-to-woman” about bad boys and the science thereof. Laurel’s advice? “Run.” She’s cut off by a call from the Chinese Embassy and an apparent address to the maybe-Sarah.

Meanwhile, not-Oliver’s been found! Sort of! With a lock on his location (again c/o Felicity), Oliver speeds off on his motorcycle. (No Hood, Dig asks? It’s the middle of the day!) Much fruitless searching, a bunch of scared blathering, and a few bullets later and we come to this: The Savior is able to be in several places at once, because Felicity wasn’t able to get a legitimate lock on him once; and the ADA is dead; and Felicity saw it.

NEXT: Roy interrupted

Oliver returns to the lair to find Felicity alone. “I’ve never seen anybody die,” she says. But that’s the cost of doing business, Oliver says. Well the cost of business is high and how could anyone even think of dating on top of all of it?

We’ll return to developing that particular idea (noticing a theme yet?) after our regularly scheduled flashback. Oliver and Slade meet with Fyers and his men in the forest and exchange words like “boat,” “circuit board,” and “honest.” Then the soldiers drag a woman from the trees and our duo realize they’ve been had. Fyers wants the circuit board, see, or he’ll kill his hostage, who is also Yao Fei’s daughter. How will Oliver’s principles look then?

It’s back to Laurel, then, and more about the maybe-Sarah. Her parents arrive, as asked, to run into the woman who Laurel tracked down through the embassy. It isn’t Sarah and is, instead, just a brunette who lived on an island for six months. The island was called “Salvation.” Dinah breaks down in tears and flees.

Thea, late of fleeing herself, flees in reverse to Roy’s house, just as he’s on his way out to the liquor store. She’s shocked he’s still going through with that (does she not pay attention when anyone else brings up the word “money”?) and he’s shocked that she hasn’t dusted off the “you can change” speech from wherever it is girls like her keep it. (A hope chest?) Thea just doesn’t get it: This is Roy’s home, and if she can’t accept the circumstances of his life, then she can’t accept him.

What would otherwise be a valid point is stopped cold by the prick of a needle — ugh, irony — when The Savior manages to knock Thea to the ground, stab Roy with a syringe, and cart him off in a van.

The kidnapping is immediately picked up by the local news station, just as Tommy is walking by a bank of TVs at the club. “I know that kid,” he says as Roy’s face appears alongside not-Oliver describing him as a “gangbanger.” Oliver, also apparently at work, is none too pleased, and becomes less so with the appearance of his little sister and the realization that the kid on the screen is Thea’s “friend” and also about to be killed.

Back at Casa de Lance, Dinah is packing up all of her facts and figures and preparing to strike off solo in the Sarah search.  The other Lances plead with her to see reason, move on, come home, whatever, but she’s committed. Laurel pauses: Why is it that her mom is so certain that this maybe-Sarah was Sarah because of one baseball hat? What does Dinah know?

She knows this: On the morning of that disastrous cruise, Dinah saw her daughter packing to meet Oliver, and she saw her pack that hat, and she also tried to stop her from going. But it was not to be: Sarah said she was in love, even if it might seem wrong, and she would follow her heart — just has her mom had done before her. A confession like that can only mean one thing in a world like this: “I killed her. I killed my daughter.”

NEXT: Out, damned spot!

Our favorite trio has regrouped at the lair to track The Savior, and with the help of some fancy video research on Felicity’s part plus Dig’s handy memory, they realize that not-Oliver is using Starling City’s old subway tunnels to commit his murders. If you just said the Starling City subway isn’t a thing, the good news is that you and Oliver have one more thing in common. The bad news is that you are wrong.

On the island, Slade pull a gun and orders Fyers to let the girl go but no chance, so the girl has to unveil her own secret fighting skills and save herself. (Yay! is what I wrote in my notes.) Unfortunately, this results in her father being shot and selflessly left behind as she, Slade, and Oliver retreat into the forest.

Deep underground, Oliver makes his way toward the train. The Savior presses Roy, knocked at least four ways to Sunday, for a reason not to die. But Roy — in what will probably become his first pivotal scene — melts under the pressure. “Go on,” he says. “Kill me.” And also: “No one’s going to miss me. I’m just waste.” Not so! Arrow saves him, even swinging through a car window and trading lunatic barbs with an actual lunatic to do so. Bonus moment: the non-verbal cues they trade back and forth — a partnership foreshadowed or wishful thinking?

With a first-last arrow of the episode, The Savior (revealed to be a somewhat nervous man with a video camera) is done away with while Roy, now freed, looks both sickened and awed by his real savior.

But wait: Moira arranges a meeting with Frank on a darkened street to tell him that she had no choice, that Malcolm was already on their trail and that she had to give him someone. So she gave him you, Frank, which means you get a few more arrows in you and one more look of betrayal. For her part, Moira is mostly stunned by her actions, even more so when she negotiates for the life of Frank’s daughter. Like Lady Macbeth, we leave her struggling with her bloody hands.

NEXT: Reunions and resolution

Dinah, just about to head back to Central City (home of The Flash, dontchaknow), has a tender moment with her daughter. And Katie Cassidy, perhaps preparing for the last, best minutes of the episode, opens up the wordless moment for herself.

Thea and Roy reunite at the bar, both more damaged and closer together. They’re cute, but I can’t be the only one who hopes Thea is killed off in some byzantine plot that catalyzes Roy’s acceleration from hood to hero. What? There can be only one Speedy.

Oliver, once watching from the ledge above, heads outside and stares into the night, deflating like an Armani-scented balloon. Laurel, at that exact moment, pulls up in a cab. She stops him. They’re both shaken. His all-smiles mask slips on again, and then off. Would she ever consider having dinner with him, or coffee? She smiles. “Sure.” It is the most well-acted moment of the series so far, both more tender and vivid than Oliver and Laurel have had to be with one another before. They don’t just bounce — they spark.

Anyhow, in our last flashback of the evening we learn both that Fyers’ men successfully manipulated Oliver and Slade into exposing the circuit board (and thus stealing it away) and that their newest friend, Yao’s daughter, knows what Fyers’ plans are.

And for our final revelation of “Salvation,” Oliver and Felicity have a sweet moment to themselves — their OTP tag is so, “You can tell me” — before discovering that that cryptic map on the front flap of Oliver’s dad’s journal, and the cryptic things it represents, are connected to The Glades. Bum bum.

Nuzhat will be back next week, never fear, and you can find me recapping The Voice. Did you enjoy “Salvation” as much as I did? Fun fact: It was co-written by Drew Z. Greenberg, who wrote a nifty episode of Firefly back in the day. And whose growing relationship has grabbed you: Oliver/Laurel, Oliver/Felicity, Thea/Roy, Roy/Oliver, or all of the above? (Roy/Oliver or quit.)

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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