Arrow Review: “Salvation” (Season 1, Episode 18)

What’s the deal with Starling City? There’s probably a way to work up to that question without making the theme from Seinfeld play in the back of your head, but really, what do we know about the place Arrow calls home? Last week, I assumed McKenna Hall had been written out of the show with extreme prejudice just short of returning to her home planet, but as it turns out, Coast City is practically within spitting distance of Starling. But to figure that out, I had to Google a map of the DC universe, which is a real thing someone made, as it turns out.

The geographic particulars of Starling City probably don’t matter all that much to the broader Arrow viewing audience, but eighteen episodes in, the show’s most underdeveloped character is probably the city itself. We’ve spent plenty of time with its more well-to-do citizens, whether it’s the Queen family, or the corrupt captains of industry/crime Oliver is always chasing after, but that’s like basing your impression of New York solely on Manhattan. A big reason Arrow’s attempts to weave in themes of economic and class disparity feel so perfunctory is that the people Oliver is ostensibly championing are never seen, just referenced as an abstract concept, or victims on a bad guy’s rap sheet.

That’s where Roy Harper comes in, the hoodied hunk with a heart of gold that’s finally providing the show with a point of ingress to the oft-mentioned Glades. Based on the kind of reputation it has, it’s every bit like the den of iniquity downtown Starling City has proven to be, just with a different colour of collar worn by the criminals. Though it’s too early to say what, this rundown little slice of Starling City located far on the other side of the tracks has a big role to play in the rest of this season.

While most everyone who lives there seems worried about just surviving to the next day, others from inside and out of the Glades have designs for it, big and small. This week’s villain, a social media-adept serial killer named Savior, and the season’s fresh-off-IR big bad, Malcolm, both lost wives to thugs that called the Glades home. Malcolm no doubt admires the sentiment behind Savior’s Youtube broadcasts, in which slumlords, and ineffective D.A.s are executed for their failure to the borough, but the Undertaking sounds like it is operating on a whole other level of nefariousness.

As is revealed late in “Salvation,” the ubiquitous symbol of Malcolm and Moira’s little conspiracy has an appropriately esoteric origin: the circle of zig-zagging lines represents the layout of the retired subway system running under the Glades. This revelation begs a number of questions, not the least of which is why you would make a visual motif for your terrorist cell a clue as to what your plans are (imagine if the July 20th Valkyrie plot used burning Hitler mustaches as their calling card). And using a defunct subway line to strike at the problem part of a city certainly sounds an awful lot like the evil plot featured in a movie that, while I won’t name it, has been compared to Arrow frequently, and rhymes with Ratman Ree-gins.

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