Arrow 2-15: "The Promise"
So at the very end of last episode, Slade Wilson popped up in the Queen mansion, all handsome and menacing, charming Moira and horrifying Oliver. Great! Outstanding! There’s no possible way this storyline can go awry, right?
Right. All of the scenes set in the mansion are fantastic. They’re some of the most fun and gripping stuff this show has ever done. Top marks all around. Unfortunately, though, the vast bulk of this episode is devoted to the island flashbacks, and… well, some parts work better than others. Overall, it’s a strong episode, but the present-day scenes with Slade are so, so much more interesting than the draggy island crap.
Let’s get through the island scenes first and save the good stuff for dessert: With the aid of a parachute found in the wreckage of the small plane that crashed on the island last episode, Oliver, Slade and Sara devise a plan to raid Dr. Ivo’s freighter. Sara advises Oliver to kill Ivo immediately, before he gets any chance to tell Slade that Oliver opted to save Sara instead of Shado: “He’s going to make Slade think that it’s your fault that she’s dead.” On the surface, this seems improbable—from what we saw, Oliver was more or less blameless in Shado’s death, and while the mirakuru has made Slade unpredictable, surely it would be obvious to him that Ivo’s actions were far worse than Oliver’s—but that’s exactly how this will play out, so points to Sara for raising the issue, I guess. Objecting to the idea of cold-blooded murder, Oliver refuses to consider killing Ivo.
The night before the raid, Oliver has a nightmare about a vengeful Shado stabbing him in the gut for choosing Sara over her. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s weak. I wish Oliver had never become romantically involved with Shado; I wish he’d just respected her abilities and her friendship. Repetition diminishes efficacy: The more times Oliver falls in love with someone new, the less meaningful it seems. Thus far in the series, Oliver has either romanced (Laurel, Sara, Shado, Helena, McKenna), boinked (Isabelle), or developed romantic feelings for (Felicity) every single female friend or associate who isn’t his mom or his sister; it’s hard to shake the glum feeling that women can’t be important to Oliver—and, by extension, to Arrow in general—unless they’ve been romantically linked to him.
Oliver dons Shado’s green hood for the first time, while Slade wears the Deathstroke mask. It’s kind of unnecessary—after all, there’s no need to disguise their identities from Ivo and his goons—but… well, why not?
On the freighter, Ivo is up to his old tricks: torture, sadism, removing eyeballs from living prisoners for his medical research, the usual. Hey, Sara? You’re a miserable wretch for ever defending this jackhole. Sara’s loyalty to Ivo—to the extent of helping him torture his captives, to the extent of betraying Oliver to him after his capture, to the extent of defending Ivo to Oliver even after he shoots Shado in the head—has never been explained to any satisfaction. I gather we’re supposed to nod our heads and think, “ah, Stockholm Syndrome, yes,” and move on, but: a) Stockholm Syndrome has never been a recognized psychiatric disorder, and b) a growing school of thought suggests it’s primarily a media construct. Kidnapping victims and hostages are bound to their captors by fear, not affection, and thus any obligation Sara felt to assist Ivo would have vanished after Oliver rescued her. Despite her formidable physical strength and athletic prowess, there’s something fundamentally gutless and passive at Sara’s core that undercuts the show’s attempts to present her in a heroic light.
Amongst Ivo’s prisoners are Oliver’s Russian ally, Anatoli Knyasev (who is known in the DC Comics universe by the delightful, awesome, ludicrous nom de guerre “KGBeast”) and a new character, Reverend Thomas Flynn, a bespectacled preacher with a pet rat named Abraham. Flynn gets a suspicious amount of screen time, which suggests he’ll be with us for a while; he’s cute, but I don’t have much patience for bringing new characters into the island plotline right now, because... I just want these flashback scenes to wrap themselves up. They’ve outstayed their welcome.
The raid goes as planned: Oliver sets a big fire on the island; when Ivo sends goons to investigate, he allows himself to be captured and brought aboard. Meanwhile, Slade and Sara parachute from the island onto the deck of the freighter. Mayhem breaks out: Slade takes out the guards, Oliver goes after Ivo, and Sara frees the prisoners being held below deck (one of the prisoners tries to strangle Sara mid-rescue for being complicit in his earlier torture, and while I question his timing, I understand his actions).
When Slade overhears Oliver and Ivo talking about the circumstances of Shado’s death, he loses it, vowing dark vengeance against Oliver and taking command of the freighter. Sara gets the escaped prisoners safely to the island, but Oliver remains behind, captured by Slade.
In present-day Starling City, Oliver is flabbergasted by the smiling presence of Slade in his living room. Slade, who has just made a large donation to Moira’s (horrifically ill-advised) mayoral campaign, is being all chatty and charming, proposing toasts and complimenting the décor while Oliver frets and seethes. When Thea arrives, Slade cajoles her into giving him a tour of the Queen family’s esteemed private collection of nineteenth-century landscape paintings (Moira: “Let me just get the staff to open up the rest of the house.” This excellent line of dialogue tells you pretty much all you need to know about the Queens).
A freaked-out Oliver secretly dials Felicity back at the lair, where a shirtless Roy is practicing his archery under Sara’s tutelage. It’s very nice.
Sara immediately recognizes Slade’s voice on the phone. As she tells Roy, Felicity and Digg, “His name is Slade Wilson, and unless we stop him, he’s going to kill Oliver and his entire family.” She stares directly into the camera while she says this, which was an, uh, interesting choice for the director to make.
The team immediately launches into action: While Felicity coordinates everyone’s movements, Sara breaks into the mansion via the roof, Roy saunters in through the front door, and Digg hides in the shrubbery with a REALLY BIG GUN. It’s all very cool and superhero-like. When Thea introduces Roy to Slade, Roy makes no attempt to disguise his mirakuru-enhanced super-strength: “That’s a particularly firm handshake you have there, son,” a bemused Slade tells him. Awesome. I am happily anticipating loads of future mirakuru-enhanced hijinks involving Slade and Roy.
With the arrivals of Sara and Roy, Slade realizes this might not be the best time to slaughter the entire Queen family. He bids Moira farewell and leaves. Oliver walks him out to his flashy car, expecting Digg to shoot him in the head with his REALLY BIG GUN. Digg, however, has already been knocked out by one of Slade’s unseen accomplices. Slade gloats a bit and snarls out a few dark threats, then drives off into the night.
I love you, Slade.
Moira boots Oliver out of the mansion for being such a surly douche to her guest. Meanwhile, back in his own lair, Slade keeps tabs on everything that happens in the mansion, thanks to the gajillion tiny video cameras he planted while admiring the art collection.
Fabulous. The island scenes didn’t work all that well, but the present-day scenes are heading in an exciting direction.