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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I'm starting to warm up to Arrow. This episode showed great potential.

Really enjoyed this, it was a great tension packed episode. only problem I had was Oliver has transitioned into the arrow a lot sooner than I expected. a few eps ago he was still the gawky oliver but this episode he seemed far more badass with the bow and arrow.

I'd argue there's still tension in the island scenes. Remember that we know how Ollie's island story ends, but we don't really know how Sara's story does - why does Ollie think Sara is dead at the beginning of Season 1? How does Sara get involved with the league of assassins (we know Nyssa 'finds' her)?

I'm convinced that Ollie won't be on the island for the whole five years - he has the mafia tattoos and surely he travelled to gain the skills he has once he returns to Starling. The island is certainly a crucible for survival training but Ollie is no Ray Mears. I think we'll find he gets caught up in some organisation before being returned to the island.

I occasionally have a brain niggle with the plot point that Ollie 'killed' Shado - I think the writing in the show is great in general but find this a bit hard to swallow. It may have worked better if Ollie had a more active choice in which out of Shado or Sara lived.

Maybe if both Sara and Shado were drowning and he could only save one - or if Shado was captured and Ivo used her as a hostage to get Sara and Ollie to come in, but they refused. Or tried to save her but messed up. I'm not sure, but the show is so good that it's easy to overlook this.

I agree that Ollie seemed to level up considerably in this episode - and there was a nod to this with the first fire arrow missing the beacon (Stephen Amell's grimace was great). I'm sure I read in an interview that the time on the island in this episode spanned a few months, which would make his skill increase - but there wasn't really any sense of this so perhaps I'm mistaken.

As far as Manu Bennett's magnetic performance goes...well, at the end of the first season I had no idea how the show would continue without the big personality of John Barrowman. Now I have no idea how the show will continue without the big personality of Manu Bennett.

But based on past experience? I have faith that the writers will make it work.

In the first season there is an episode where he specifically states that he didn't spend all of the time on the island,also he says that he saw a message from his father which is why he goes to right his fathers wrongs in the first episode.

My problem with Arrow right now is that Bennet has more charisma in one eye than Amell has in his entire (frequently seen) body. So I'm pretty much rooting for Wilson at this point.

Also, nice to see the writers maintaining their 100% of Sarah needing to be saved in any episode she was in. Granted, this was pre-kickass League of Assassins Sarah... but it still felt unnecessary. At this point, my expectation for the upcoming BoP episode are not high. Not that they were anyway, given the inclusion of Arrow's homicidal Huntress.

I imagine that once Slade is bested in one way or another come Season Two's climax, Ra's Al Ghul will make his presence known in some form, and this in turn will prompt the re-emergence of Malcolm Merlyn (whose absence from the majority of Season Two's instalments so far has been bizarre given his influence on many of its ongoing narrative's events, e.g. Thea's heritage; the stolen Earthquake device) in a more substantial manner come Season Three. That doesn't necessarily rule out a return from Slade/Deathstroke in the future, but it'll have to depend on whether The CW aim to tell an isolated story with 'Arrow' a la 'Smallville' and Nolan's Batman trilogy or whether they aim to/are allowed to merge with the slowly-developing DC Cinematic Universe at some point in the foreseeable future (the former approach of the pair seems more likely to me, not least due to the fact that even Warner Bros/DC don't seem to know what they're doing with the DCCU right now).

Thsi was a great episode. I'm glad the Laurel addiction story arc is coming to an end as I'd rather see more of the Arrow team, Sara, Roy etc.
With a 3rd season confirmed it seems they are dropping in characters who will have a larger story arc later on ise some of the other captives on the Amazo.
Series 2 has really delivered thus far and I'm really looking forward to Suicide Squad in a few weeks.

The episode for me didn't live up to the hype and I didn't learn anything I didn't know. (I never liked flash backs though) It feels like they always turn to flash backs to fill plot holes in the present day story. And most of them doesn't feel like they have been planned. For example Oliver keep saying he chose Sara when he clearly just reacted. It's okay for Oliver to feel guilty over it and feel like he did really choose, but It feels like they are forcing me to believe what I saw isn't what I saw. It seemed like they are saying it just to show that Oliver and Sara had some kind of a connection. I wouldn't have minded that if it was implied from season 1. But now it feels very inconsistent.

There are too many characters on the show now and it doesn't feel like the same show. I like Roy (just a little) but other than showing him being introduced to the other team arrow members, we saw no other interaction and suddenly he's in the arrow cave practicing. I used to love Sara now she's becoming annoying. She's great with the action stuff, but I cringe every time she delivers a dialog. And there are so many plots left unresolved. (Isabel, Sebastian and his crazy mom)
I love Slade but I find it hard to root for Oliver.

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