Arrow had a lot to prove this week, after the exciting cliffhanger that showed Oliver and Slade Wilson finally meeting in the present day. We’ve known since the pilot that Ollie and the future Deathstroke have quite the falling out, and the writers have been building up Slade as the show’s “big bad” for quite some time now. Luckily for us, tonight’s episode lived up to its name, fulfilling the promises given to us throughout the show while setting the stage for some exciting events to come.
Last week left us with Oliver walking into the Queen mansion to find Slade there with his mother, and that’s where we pick up this week. The tension in this episode is palpable and perfectly balanced as we’re never quite sure when the second shoe will drop and when things may start to get bloody.
Surprisingly, nothing really happens at the Queen mansion, as the episode is told almost entirely through island flashbacks. This may just be the most island-centric episode of the series, and managed to set up some of the present-day storylines while resolving a few of the island stories as well. The focus is definitely on Oliver and Slade’s falling out, something we’ve known was going to happen ever since Oliver got Shado killed by Captain Ivo.
The success of the Slade/Oliver/Shado story depends solely on how much you buy into Slade’s feelings for Shado. Personally, I always thought that plot point was a bit rushed and not developed enough to warrant the brutal and vengeful reaction from Slade. He makes it sound like he lost the love of his life, and tells Oliver that he wants him to suffer as he suffered and know what complete dread feels like.
I’m sorry, but I call bullshit on that. Did Slade really love Shado that much? We hardly saw any hint of that while she was alive, and I feel like they had barely introduced that plot point by the time she was killed. I guess that after so much build-up, I kind of hoped that the big falling out between Oliver and Slade was more complicated or interesting. Instead, it’s a bit cliche and frankly, not written well enough to be convincing.
What they have succeeded in doing, however, is emphasizing the brotherly bond between Slade and Oliver. The two have come a long way in the 18-ish months since Oliver got shipwrecked, and they’ve endured quite a bit of hardship together. When Slade finds out the truth about Shado’s death, the betrayal feels deeply personal. Slade goes from treasuring their friendship to devoting his life to tearing Oliver’s life apart with unrelenting vengeance.
“The Promise” only gave us one piece of the overall puzzle though, showing us how Slade begins to resent and hate Oliver, but not how Slade loses his eye or how Oliver escapes his wrath. Chances are we’ll be seeing that over the course of the rest of the season, juxtaposed against their modern day rivalry.