Arrow "The Promise" Review: Deathstroke Ahoy!

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 06, 2014

Arrow S02E15: "The Promise"

Last season's big Lian Yu episode, "The Odyssey," had me reveling in the pleasures of Diggle and Felicity meeting and talking over a wounded Oliver in the Arrow Cave while simultaneously thinking, "Boy, those explosions sure were nifty!" and complimenting the performances of Manu Bennett and Stephen Amell. I liked "The Odyssey" just fine (even though it was arguably for the "wrong" reasons), and I'd probably recommend it (alongside a few others) to anyone who needed some convincing to watch the show. Knowing/expecting that there'd be a similar episode in Season 2, I was enthusiastic but also cautious, as I was worried I might feel the same about "The Promise" as I did about "The Odyssey."

And so it's with some sense of relief, then, that I can say that "The Promise" was a much better episode than "The Odyssey," on both a character level and on an action level. I mean, there were explosions on a boat, and when are explosions on a boat not cooler than explosions in a big empty field? But on a more serious note, the better action sequences weren't what elevated "The Promise" beyond its island-centric predecessor for me. What really made the episode successful was that the characters and the action intersected, and in a way that served a purpose beyond facilitating explosions on a boat.

Our lack of exposure to Slade's feelings for Shado should have been a barrier to accepting Slade's arc, but Bennett's been able to sell Slade's pain well enough that even the pre-Shado death stuff—stolen glances and Bennett somehow managing to look like an awkward and lovesick teenager were all we really had—that I can get behind his feelings of loss and betrayal and subsequent thirst for revenge. Arrow getting Slade to this point by using Ivo's "Pick one to die!" contrivance, like I said back in my review of "Three Ghosts," was a sloppy way of getting the desired result of Slade losing it, but I credit Bennett with making sure the dramatic truth of that situation wasn't twisted as a consequence.

The explosions and the arrows and the bullets were all neat and looked great—I loved the slow, long (for this show) take of all hell breaking loose on the deck of the freighter—but what mattered was Slade finding out about Oliver's decision to save Sara instead of Shado. That was the real explosion, and the episode really benefited from the change in the flashback narrative's status quo, with Sarah back on the island with a bunch of escaped prisoners, Oliver locked up in a cell, and Slade running the ship.

This is all very exciting, and I'm looking forward to what this hollowed-out Slade will do. He wants Oliver alive so he can suffer, but how much pain can you inflict when you're on a boat? Slade can torture him, sure, but that's not going to force Oliver down into the pits of despair that Slade has been living in for weeks (months?) now. What's more, while we know how this story ends—as we have since the pilot—we don't exactly the know the steps involved in getting there, and I'm eager to see how things play out, and the lengths to which both Island Oliver and Island Slade will go.

You know what else was exciting? Thea leading a guided tour of the Queens' collection of 19th century American landscape paintings. I know, right? Had the entire episode been nothing but Oliver and Slade trading small talk that doubled as threats, I would've been just over the moon about the episode. I admit to a degree of bias as I do love these sorts of situations where completely innocent characters—in this case, Moira and Thea—have no idea that they'e wandered into a Harold Pinter play being staged around them by other characters. The obliviousness just ratchets up the tension and menace, because you worry that it could break at any moment and that those innocent characters might get hurt. So when Sara and Roy arrived, and Oliver asked, "So. What would you like to do now, Mr. Wilson?" I sort of flipped out from all the fun.

I'm also flipping out because I'm just so glad that Oliver finally knows Slade is alive. Last season, Oliver's encounter with the Dark Archer gave Oliver a target, but a target he couldn't actually do anything about because he didn't know the Dark Archer's identity or plan. Slade's appearance did the same thing, except Oliver knows Slade, and he knows exactly what Slade is capable of, what Slade's goal is. Slade is going to loom over everything else for the rest of the season, and for Oliver, "everything else" will just be a distraction from preventing Slade from burning down his entire life.


– So Ivo was looking for a cure for his wife. Yawn? I mean, the writers just played that card with the Clock King last week, albeit with a sister instead. Either way, not all that interesting. Ivo as an evil bastard is just more engaging.

– I appreciated director Glen Winter upping the lighting differences between the present day and the flashbacks. Flashbacks were their standard gray desolation, while the scenes in Queen Manor and even the Arrow Cave were brighter than the show usually goes for, down that to golden light in the early mansion scenes.

– "Tell me, does your family spend much time on the water?"

– "I told you I'd come back." "Fantastic. We're saved."

– "What's the biggest gun you got down here?" [Diggle plunks down a massive rifle case on the table] "That might work." I liked the cool and collected atmosphere in the Arrow Cave what with training happening and Diggle and Felicity bringing back lunch.

– "That's a particularly firm handshake you have there, son."

– Arrow is off next week, so we'll meet back here on March 19 to discuss "Suicide Squad." While we wait, may I suggest you watch this trailer for the upcoming episodes over and over again? Small-ish spoilers, obviously, but also nothing that hasn't already been announced in articles and interviews. Plus it's just really well put together.

What did you think of "The Promise"?

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  • TQB Apr 04, 2014

    Drama nerd loving the Pinter reference, btw. Cheers.

  • desikostos Mar 10, 2014

    In the sake of the show can we just except that Slade is kind of bad person to begin with, he was already on the verge of insanity, the mirakuru just gave him the push he need it to become Deathstroke. You can not question the mad's man reasons to kill you, he will do it on the principle, it wasn't Shado's death, but Oliver's betrayal, Ivo killed her, end of the story, but Oliver let it happen. Ollie was his friend and friends protect each-other, for Slade Oliver failed to protect the only good part of him-Shado. So he has to pay the same price-everything he holds dear. Basically- I DON'T CARE, I LOVE IT!!

  • MikeUK123 Mar 10, 2014

    I just don't get it...... not at all...... Help!

    Am I the only person who thinks the 'Oliver blaming himself for Shadow's death' and 'Slade wanting to kill him for it' is just utterly ridiculous?????

    Even that whole shooting Shadow scene was shot to show us how little choice Oliver had.

    I really think this show needed to create a better reason for Slade wanting to kill Oliver's family. It's such anon-reason that's it ruined the return of Slade for me.

  • TomWayne Mar 13, 2014

    As Noel said during his review of "Three Ghosts" (and I agree) the whole choice scene did feel contrived. Slade not being rational about it at the time was not wholly out-of-place, as he had yet to contain the rage that the mirakuru brought on. Based on Sara's comments before the raid on the freighter, I think we're supposed to view it from the angle of Ivo having some sort of Brother Blood-esque influence over others, but I found that a little bit in the contrived zone too.

    In addition to the rage, mirakuru seems to have almost a One Ring (Lord of the Rings) effect, to where the user will do anything to preserve it, and also it gives the user an overly-inflated sense of entitlement. Hence Roy ruffling his feathers whenever anyone implies that he is not ready/stable enough yet (and even his aggression toward Sin and Thea). Clear thinking (like he showed in "Sacrifice") would let Roy see that he should listen to those more experienced, in order to protect Thea, Sin, etc. Similarly, clear thinking would have allowed Slade to realize that Oliver's history with and guilt over the Lances drove him to protect Sara in the moment, and that he had no real choice--but you have Ivo playing Gollum/Sméagol putting that whisper of doubt in Slade's head, which the mirakuru ramps up. Neither Slade nor Roy is truly willing (able?) to accept that any view or desires contrary to their own are valid. So, Slade has "rebuilt" himself, but is still stuck back in that moment when he found Shado's body.

    And with that, the writers really need to hire me as freelance PR, because yes, it still otherwise comes across as contrived. :)

  • MikeUK123 Mar 13, 2014

    Well explained point. Yes, they should hire you for that attempt ;)

    Probably I would not have cared so much, But almost every episode had us invested in Slade as a good guy, or a good guy with anger issues. Then suddenly boom. (Really really) evil Slade.

  • nikkei22 Mar 10, 2014

    Good episode switching between past and present, i wonder what the writers are going to do once the island story comes to an end, im guessing that will happen at the end of this season.
    Looking at the trailer for the coming episodes i'm pretty excited for what's to come (will Diggle lead the suicide squad?)
    The only thing i found strange was Roy practicing with a bow and arrow, why can't he have his own specialty weapon?

  • desikostos Mar 10, 2014

    As far as I read the story on the island will be played in 5 years or 5 seasons, we haven't even began seeing the actual story behind Oliver's lonely living. He was alone when found back in season one, there was no Slade, Sarah or ship an so on. So I am quite positive that the writers can't wrap up those 5 years just in season and half.

  • nikkei22 Mar 10, 2014

    I agree that they could always extend the backstory, but if the flashbacks will last for 5 seasons, that means Slade will be the main antagonist for another 3,5 seasons, something i'm not looking forward to.

  • desikostos Mar 10, 2014

    I don't think that we will have only Slade as part of the flashbacks, at some point he is going to "die", cause Oliver thought he killed him. Maybe by the end of the season Slade death will be shown, he will be like Merlin coming and going. The show left so many bad guys alive to make further appearances, so Slade won't bе the only one to keep coming back on Ollie and the gang.
    But for me is weird, if you can't kill him as Arrow, with bow and stuff, then what, we go Duncan Mcloud on him and sing don't lose your head in the background. How do you kill that kind of a guy?!

  • nikkei22 Mar 10, 2014

    They took a risk indeed, making a man with these powers the main villain, and i'm guessing it will be a combined effort of the entire team arrow (quiver?) to take him down, maybe not even kill him but lock him up in a special cell (like the hulks in the avengers). Offcourse i didn't expect that there would be no other enemies for the team, and the majority of the bad guys that got away are going to be in the suicide squad by the looks of the trailer.

  • VickyBastedo Mar 09, 2014

    I made a comment about my disappointment in Slade being the bad guy and got several replies pointing out that he was a bad guy in the original comic. I should have taken that into consideration, and people are right about that. I apologize!

  • TheFza Mar 09, 2014

    I enjoyed the ep, and in general I've liked where Arrow has gone over the last season or so. Thanks for that 'Extended Full Circle Trailer' it was badass! I'm very excited to see the Suicide Squad in action. I just hope they have Rick Flag & Nightshade on the team!

  • jattromeo Mar 09, 2014

    Slade had a wife and a son if I remember correctly, did Oliver kill them too?

  • TheFza Mar 09, 2014

    Yes, I think I remember that from the first season as well... In the comics Slade really #$%#s them over. I wonder if they bring that into the series. I always liked Joey Wilson (well before he turned evil or whatever).

  • JosephCecil Mar 08, 2014

    Am I the only one who sees Miracuru becoming Miraclo later on to introduce other heroes into the world (like Hourman). I see someone making a more stable version but its only temporary.

  • supernaturalFTW Mar 08, 2014

    i just thought it was amazing that ivo's boat was called amazo

  • Copioli Mar 08, 2014

    I found interesting that Slade said he didn't have children.

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