Arrow season 2 episode 15 review: The Promise

Review Caroline Preece 7 Mar 2014 - 12:28

This week's Arrow had action, character growth and a good balance between past and present. Here's Caroline's review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.15 The Promise

Last season, The Odyssey gave us an hour almost entirely made up of flashbacks, with the usual favouring of present day action flipped and used to explore more of Oliver’s past. This episode, The Promise, did the same thing and, although I didn’t hate last year’s example, this was far superior in terms of character development, action and just being a really good hour of Arrow. This big cliffhanger set up us up nicely, of course, with Slade cosying up to Moira and shooting Ollie ominous looks across his living room, and the escalating tension sewn throughout these snippets made them almost as fantastic to watch as seeing exactly what happened to their friendship back in the day.

The best episodes of Arrow always have three things – top notch action sequences, well judged character development and a good balance of past and present scenes that tell a particular story. The Promise had all of those things and, for fans of Slade’s character and his descent into Deathstroke-madness from the comics, it was a treat in a number of ways. For, as big a role as both Oliver and Sara played here, it was completely Manu Bennett’s show. He got to play two different incarnations of the character, one tortured and broken and the other calm, crafty and determined, and there wasn’t one moment where I didn’t believe they were the same person five years apart.

And there are now no more secrets between him and Oliver, with the details of Shado’s death common knowledge in the past and Slade choosing to reveal himself (and a vague idea of his master plan) in the present. He’s had five years to cook up fresh and creative ways to make his old friend’s life a living hell and, should the execution live up to the promise, then we’re in for a treat. As adequate as Malcolm Merlyn was as a foil for Oliver and his friends last year, it’s obvious just from seeing them interact in this episode that Slade is going to trump that significantly. He’s a much more personal villain for Oliver to deal with, bringing back past traumas much in the same way as Sara, and this makes him a heck of a lot more dangerous.

But I wonder, with only about a year having passed in flashback time, where do we go from here? I have made no secret of the fact that I’d be fine with the show dropping this element completely but, then again, they do serve a larger purpose once in a while. This current arc, for example, would have no way near as much promise if it hadn’t been for the year and a half of ground work the show put in ahead of time, but there are also far too many occasions when it feels like filler and a distraction from the more interesting stuff going on in Starling City. Every now and again, however, we get an episode like The Promise and it all feels worth it.

But will Oliver and Slade be the Clark and Lex of Arrow, or is there more to come after he is defeated? We can’t forget that Merlyn is still hanging around ready to drop a paternity test bomb at any moment, for example, and it’s hard to believe that the reported five year plan would drop their big bad as early as season two and not have something else planned for the remaining three seasons. Right now, it feels as if the show has been gearing up towards this particular showdown since the pilot but, since we know how the island story ends, what we’re going to have to keep our eye on is Oliver’s present, not his past.

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, Time Of Death, here.

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