‘Arrow’ Review: “The Promise”
‘Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its fifteenth episode of the year with “The Promise,” as Oliver learns the truth about Slade Wilson ('Spartacus' star Manu Bennett)'s survival, remembering how their feud began with the seizure of Dr. Ivo's freighter in the past.
Last week's ‘Arrow’ installment “Time of Death” saw Felicity struggling to find her place when Oliver and Sara went up against DC villain The Clock King ('Heroes' Robert Knepper), while Laurel's family reunion continued her downward spiral, and Oliver was confronted by a face from the past., so what does the fifteenth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Does Oliver's rivalry with Slade lay out the conflicts to come in the final episodes of the season?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2, episode 15, “The Promise!”
Present Slade explains to a visibly nervous Oliver that he has contributed to his mother’s mayoral campaign, sharing the sentiment that he knows how it feels to be written off by those around him. Providing the gift of Reuther rum from his native Australia, Slade toasts Moira and Oliver to friendship, noting how it must have been hell for Oliver on the island all those years ago.
Back in the past, Oliver continually trains his bow accuracy and endurance for the coming fight, as Slade plans their assault on the freighter, and Sarah prepares a mysterious concoction. Sarah pulls Oliver aside to suggest that they burn the Mirakuru, rather than risk it falling into Ivo’s hands, after which she implores Oliver to kills Ivo before he can reveal the truth of Shado’s death to Slade. That night, the three share Slade’s Reuthers rum in preparation, as Oliver asks Sara to tell his family he changed on the island, should he not survive, and Sara asks the same of Oliver that she died on the Queen’s Gambit. Later, Oliver dreams of Shado stabbing him for the betrayal, before the three prepare for their assault.
On the freighter, Ivo corresponds with a voice over the radio about a woman’s continually deteriorating condition, before bringing up a prisoner to mutilate for an experiment. Meanwhile, Oliver shoots a flaming beacon on the beach on his second try, the explosion of which alerts Ivo before the surgery, as he tasks the boat's crew with apprehending Oliver and his friends.
The men find Oliver in front of the beach fire, capturing him and dragging him aboard the ship into one of the cells, wherein adjoining cellmates Reverend Thomas Flynn and the brutal Hendrik greet him. Oliver is quickly brought before Ivo and injected with sodium pentathol to tell the truth, while back in the present Oliver continues to converse with Slade and his mother. Oliver attempts to stab Slade with an ice pick when his mother turns her back, but Slade easily deflects the attack and insists on meeting the rest of his family on a tour of the house, including Thea.
Back on the freighter, Oliver admits under the serum that the beach fire was a distraction, falsely claiming Sara and Slade have infiltrated the engine room, as Sara’s earlier concoction gave Oliver the ability to resist Ivo’s anticipated injection. A short while later, Oliver breaks free of the guards and meets Slade and Sara on the upper deck as they parachute in from the island. Meanwhile in the present, Oliver silently dials Felicity and the others at the lair, as Sara recognizes the voice of Slade Wilson, and immediately sets the team to action.
Back on the boat, Sara frees prisoners amid the chaos, even as Hendrik attacks her for her earlier alliance with Ivo, though Flynn saves her from further harm. Oliver makes his way topside as Ivo radios a mysterious woman named Jessica, before Oliver finally confronts him. Ivo insists that Oliver was responsible for Shado’s death, having been given a choice, but despite Oliver’s denials, Slade has already overheard the conversation from behind Oliver. Slade attacks Oliver for the betrayal as Ivo slips away, though the unpiloted freighter allows Oliver the chance to get free, making his way to Sara and the other prisoners. Oliver reluctantly agrees to abandon ship with them, though Slade pulls Oliver back over after the others jump, throwing him in a cell and killing a surviving officer to take command of the ship.
In the present, Diggle sets up outside the Queen residence with a sniper rifle, while Roy enters the mansion to get the Queens away from Slade, and Sara slips in another entrance. Roy announces his presence, as Slade seems to recognizes the boy’s strength from his handshake, before being somewhat caught off guard by the appearance of Sara. Seeing his circumstances, Slade bids farewell as Oliver offers to walk him to the car. An unseen figure incapacitates Diggle, as Slade reveals to Oliver his intention to fulfill a promise made to him five years ago, before driving off.
Back in the past, Sara and the other survivors reach the island, as Slade drags Oliver out of his cell to face a captive Ivo. Slade reveals that he kept the last vials of Mirakuru, as he orders Ivo to show him how he shot Shado, in spite of either man’s pleas. Slade severs Ivo’s hand, promising not to kill Oliver until he’d suffered as much as Slade had for Shado's death. In the present, Moira suggests Oliver leave their home if he plans to treat her guests so poorly, as we see that Slade planted multiple cameras throughout the Queen residence during his tour.
Thanks to the Olympics providing yet another month-long break in between climactic episodes, last week’s ‘Arrow’ installment “Time of Death” had the unceremonious task of easing us back into the main story with a one-off villain and a new present dynamic to settle into, while the island side of ‘Arrow’’s narrative proved unusually forgettable. “Time of Death” was surprisingly effective, giving a balanced portrayal of its villain and a hearty (if unceremoniously spoiled) twist at the end, but suffice to say, “The Promise” had quite a daunting task ahead of it. Not only did the installment have the monumental burden of catching Oliver and Slade up to speed in either timeline, but also to do so with a largely past-centric story, similar to last year’s equally surprising “The Odyssey.”
We have to admit, we’d been somewhat apprehensive of the DC drama’s second season decision to return Slade to the present, having only just upped former ‘Spartacus’ star Manu Bennett to series regular with a sense that we’d have time explore the relationship, at least some amount of time before the iconic Deathstroke mask ended up on the Lian Yu beach with an arrow through its eye socket. Shado in particular wasn’t around long enough to develop enough of a meaningful relationship between either Oliver or Slade, at least to the point that a rivalry developed over multiple years and narratives would truly resonate, but thankfully the writing and performance by Manu Bennett have smartly managed to counter said questions with the introduction of the mood-altering Mirakuru.
It all feels at least a tad rushed, to the point where the series would challenge itself to develop yet another island story in season 3 that could tie to the present as effectively, but ‘Arrow’ has more than earned the benefit of doubt for now. An episode so strongly centered around Oliver’s island past also allows a bit of leeway in the present, to the point where we don’t spend enough time with the present character incarnations to wonder why Moira or Thea don’t find any cause for concern with Oliver’s obvious discomfort, or the sudden, equally tense appearances of Roy and Sara. Season 2 has been spinning a respectable number of plates with regard to its various villains, to the point where we haven’t seen Sebastian Blood in some time (it wasn’t entirely clear who incapacitated Diggle), but with action sequences and past drama performed so strongly in flashback, we’re hard-pressed to argue with results.
If anything, the real strengths of “The Promise” lie in its effective setups for the future, no easy feat considering the massive developments of Oliver and Slade’s attack on the freighter. Sure, we had our thrilling heroics (some truly impressive action set pieces between both Oliver and Slade, each mask/hooding up for the first time), though the freighter’s relevance has far from ended, even as Sara finds herself returned to the island with a host of new characters for future installments, some of which we’d already met in the present, others just interesting enough to effectively tease future conflicts. Past Slade and Oliver will continue their struggle until arrows hit eyes, while even Ivo remains alive to cause further troubles, to say nothing of the myriad of present stories still waiting for their own lit fuses.
Both action and flashback-heavy ‘Arrow’ installments typically carry less weight than the more meaningful conflicts centered in the present, but “The Promise” at least lives up to its namesake of ensuring the latter half of ‘Arrow’’s second season will prove just as explosive and incredible as the events that brought (and continue to bring) us there.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its latest installment? Were you shocked to see Oliver and Slade turn against one another? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next Wednesday for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 16, “Suicide Squad” on The CW!