Last year, Arrow went from being a good show to a great show within the span of one game-changing hour (The Odyssey). This year, the show has continued to rise from strength to strength with an impeccably-executed season that’s fired on almost every cylinder. Going into The Promise, I had enormous expectations (it didn’t help that star Stephen Amell and the show’s producers had touted the episode as the best they’ve ever done). Sadly, while this was an incredible episode, it fell slightly short of the show’s finest hours (The Undertaking, Sacrifice etc..)
Much like The Odyssey, the vast majority of this episode’s running time was spent on the island. Ollie, Sara and Slade’s assault on the freighter was wonderfully executed (particularly the truth-serum fake out), culminating in Slade discovering the truth behind Shado’s death and vowing to destroy Ollie forever. Suffice to say, I’m eager to see how the island flashbacks will look like going forward. And after imprisoning Ollie, slicing Ivo’s hand off and taking over the ship, Slade has now fully assumed the big-bad role and supplied the second half of the season with a real jolt of adrenaline and danger. Oliver and Slade finally feel like full-blown archenemies, and I couldn’t be happier.
As for Starling City, Slade’s visit to the Queen family was remarkably suspenseful, and it was made all the more exciting thanks to Moira and Thea’s utter obliviousness to the psychopath in their midst. I was fascinated by Slade’s interactions with each of the gang (as it genuinely felt like anything could happen at any moment) while Ollie nervously watched on. Furthermore, the ending was outstanding with Moira telling Ollie never to come by the house again leading into the reveal of a one-eyed Slade (slightly nauseating) having bugged the entire Queen household. Now… is anyone else shipping Slade and Moira? Okay, just me then.
So what stopped this episode from being perfect? Slade’s motivation. I hate to admit it, but apart from a few stolen glances here and there, I never bought Slade’s intense, passionate love for Shado. Sure the Mirakuro is probably doing a number on him, but imagine how powerful this entire story-arc would have been had we been privy to Slade and Shado forging a truly heartfelt bond. Instead, we saw a lot of Ollie and Shado together, which kind of beats the purpose. Of course Manu Bennett completely sold the character’s transformation into vindictive villain, but it still feels contrived. In addition, it was always pretty clear to me that Ollie didn’t make a choice between Shado and Sara. The show however seems to relish the bizarre notion that he very obviously picked Sara. If that was indeed the case, then they sure as hell didn’t make it clear at the time.
Bits & Arrows
– Gorgeous cinematography with Oliver training on island. And hey, even the salmon ladder pullups have an origin story.
– Beautiful moment with Ollie and Sara discussing the legacies they want to leave behind; he wants her to tell his family that he changed (if he dies), while she wants him to tell them that she died on the boat.
– Ollie’s dream with Shado stabbing him was a bit much, no?
– Milestone: Ollie and Slade wear the hood and the mask (respectively) for the first time in this episode.
– There’s no denying that this hour was remarkably ambitious. The production values were exceptional and a lot of the cinematography was stunning. I particularly loved the long tracking shot through the different cell bars on the freighter.
– At least we finally got some motivation for Ivo: his wife is sick. Their final phone-call was strangely moving.
– In a fantastic nod to the pilot, Oliver misses the bonfire the first time (there’s a “breeze”). I guess great archers don’t happen overnight (yes I’m looking at you too Roy).
– Badass moment: Slade turning around and grabbing Ollie’s incoming blow. Woah.
– Loved Sara recognizing Slade’s voice and calling the cave crew into action.
– Sara almost gets choked to death during the chaos on the boat was pretty chilling.
– Creepy moment with Slade arriving behind Oliver and overhearing that he chose Sara. Their fight however was a bit too short.
– Jawdropping moment: everyone jumping off the ship but Ollie getting caught midair by the leg before being slammed back on-board by Slade.
– I was immensely amused by Slade meeting Roy for the first time. That “firm handshake” obviously tipped the supervillain off. Plus, that look on his face when Sara appeared? I guess we should start grieving now because I seriously doubt that Lance is going to survive the season.
– So which mysterious assailant knocked out Diggle? Any guesses?
– So Sara made it onto the island along with a bunch of characters; I have absolutely no idea where this is going.
– No Laurel this week. It’s sad but I didn’t even notice.
Sara: You still gotta act stoned to sell it.
Oliver: Lucky for me, before all this I had a lot of practice.
Slade: When we lose someone we love, we have the obligation to honor their memory.
While some elements weren’t as well-defined as they could have been, this was still a highly captivating and riveting hour of Arrow.