Arrow “The Promise” Episode Review
Not yet boy……
Spoilers Ahead….You’ve Been Warned….
For the last couple weeks, Stephen Amell has been taking to Twitter and Facebook stating that “The Promise” was going to be the best episode of Arrow yet, and now after watching it, I can honestly say, he wasn’t lying. This week was far and away the most intense, entertaining hour of Arrow so far, and considering how good this show has been over the last two seasons, that’s really saying something. “The Promise” uses the best blend of flashbacks and present day sequences yet, to tell the same story two very different ways. We also finally see Slade Wilson’s quest for revenge give birth to Deathstroke, and Oliver first step toward being the Arrow. This story is all about beginnings, and the things that had to end to start them.
“The Promise” picks up right after the handshake from “Time of Death”, and right away you could tell this episode was going to be a big one. The tension between Oliver and Slade was unreal, and it literally had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire episode. The tone was set right from the beginning when Oliver tied to kill Slade with the icepick, only to have Wilson easily stop him with a smile simply saying “Not yet kid”. Slade was in control right from the beginning and Oliver knew it. This is the first time we’ve seen Oliver in a situation where he knew he couldn’t win, and it made for some seriously tense moments. The great part about this episode was that that intensity just kept building as the show went on. The underlying threats and double meanings that Oliver and Slade kept throwing at each other during the whole episode were so much fun to watch, and the final standoff between Wilson and Team Arrow at the end, might have been the best stare-down ever on television. With all this great buildup, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t some kind of physical confrontation between everyone at the end of the present day part of the story, but at the end of the day “The Promise” was about beginnings, not endings. This week was about Deathstroke pulling back the curtains, letting Oliver realize the show was now starting, and fulfilling a simple promise.
So about that promise. We all knew that the friendship between Slade and Oliver would eventually come to an end, we just didn’t know when. With Slade showing up in the present earlier this season, it looked like that end would be coming sooner than later, and this week it finally did arrive with a promise. The flashbacks have always been a great part of the show, but they have never been better than they were this week. Fast paced, and purpose driven, might really be the best way to tell these going forward. It was great to see so many of the big flashback story-lines come to a head, especially in the form of such great action sequences. Taking Dr. Ivo’s barge proved every bit as exciting as it sounded, and getting to see Slade in Deathstroke gear and Oliver donning the green hood for the first times might’ve been the highlight of it. They both proved deadly in their new guises, but unfortunately for Oliver, Slade proved down right homicidal when he found out the truth about Shado’s death. The decent from good to evil for Slade was quick, and Manu Bennett unleashed his inner Crixus when he finally became Deathstroke. There was a clear change in the character, and tons of credit to Manu for how great he was, my guess is that this moment is why he was cast to play Wilson. I think we’ve all known for a while how Oliver and Slade would become enemies, but it was done so well that I still almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and watching Slade promise to end Oliver and everything he ever loved was chilling. Also, with the way the flashbacks ended, I cant wait to see were they head going forward. That island really is proving to be five years of Hell for Mr. Queen.
As great as this episode was, there were a couple things that kept it from being perfect. The first being Oliver’s suddenly rapid development into an arrow firing superhero. Now I know that Oliver has been training on the island for eighteen months, and during that time he has slowly been turning into the hero we eventually see, but up until this point we haven’t seen him be that polished of a fighter. I know that at this point the story needed him to be a bad ass, but giving us a training montage as a way to showcase his new-found skills really didn’t vibe with the organic way Arrow tends to develop characters. I honestly found myself singing the montage song from Team America: World Police while he was training, but then again, I guess even Rocky had a montage. Joking aside, it just would’ve been nice to see more of his skill progression over the last few weeks, especially considering how weak the flashbacks have been in recent episodes, they could’ve easily squeezed in some extra training in those, which would’ve made the transition more believable and also saved us from some pointless trips into the past.
The other thing that really kept this episode from being a perfect ten, is the reason Slade ultimately falls to the dark side, Slade’s love of Shado. I get that Slade loved Shado, but it was always from afar, and the love was never returned. The way that Slade talks about her, it sounds as if they were soul mates who had been together for all time. I think if this was always going to be the reason Slade turned against Oliver, it would’ve been better if the writers had put Shado with Slade instead of Oliver. It would’ve at least made it more believable that Slade felt so much loss, and it would be easier to see it as a betrayal for Oliver to have saved Sara over Shado. The whole thing was made even worse by how good Manu Bennett’s portrayal is of a betrayed, grieving, revenge driven Slade Wilson. You really start to wonder how he would’ve gotten to this point based on a simple crush, even with his mind being affected by the Mirakru. But with all that said, these are minor things that never stop the episode from being great, they just stopped it from being perfect.
“The Promise” for the most part, was storytelling at its best. It ended story-lines that Arrow has been building for the last few years in epic fashion, all while beginning great new ones in the process. We also got perhaps the best performances by the cast, Stephen Amell and Manu Bennett in particular, in the most tension filled, tightly paced episode ever on Arrow. I know I’ve said this a lot this season, but Arrow has set a new bar for itself this week, and I can’t wait to see future episodes try and reach the quality of this one. Arrow is proving that it’s just as good as any cable show, and that television can be every bit as exciting as cinema. Starting with the intense handshake from the final moments of last weeks “Time of Death”, and ending with this weeks chilling promise, the Deathstroke Saga has officially begun, and for Oliver, sh*t just got real.
I give “The Promise” 9.75/10 reasons why Arrow is my favorite show on television