If there’s anything these past episodes of Arrow Season 6 have proven, it’s that a little bit of Slade Wilson goes a long way. When the series first announced that it was going to be doing a Deathstroke-centric two-parter, I was excited because of how much I have enjoyed the character in the past. Despite how much I love Adrian Chase, Slade Wilson remains my favorite Arrow villain of all-time, so getting the chance to spend more time with him on screen sounded like an enticing offer. Unfortunately, though, neither “Deathstroke Returns” or “Promises Kept” lived up to the hype I had created around them; even with some terrific action scenes (I particularly loved watching Oliver taking down all the members of the Jackals while Slade and Joe had their confrontation) and major reveals (Vigilante is actually Dinah’s partner, Slade has another son, Diggle is getting drugss from one of Star City’s biggest criminals), both of these episodes failed to capture the magic of the best installments of Arrow and ended up being, overall, quite lackluster.
Easily the biggest problem with “Promises Kept,” though, is just how sidelined Oliver Queen feels in his own show. Some Arrow fans joke about Oliver being their least favorite character because of how much of an idiot he can be, but no one really wants to watch a show about the Green Arrow without Oliver Queen being front and center. Even though Oliver has passed the bow and quiver on to Diggle for the time being, even though he’s not suiting up as the Emerald Archer to fight crime with the rest of the team, it doesn’t mean he should become a supporting character, and yet, through much of “Promises Kept,” it’s easy to forget that he’s there.
Arrow becomes the Slade Wilson show, as the episode even treats Diggle and the rest of the team as afterthoughts, and maybe, somehow, that could work if this newer, kinder version of Slade had received more development before this two-episode arc. However, because we were only really introduced to him again back in the Season 5 finale, it’s difficult to care about Slade’s conflict throughout “Promises Kept,” as he struggles with the impossible decision of what to do to stop Joe. The only real reason we connect with Slade’s storyline in the first place is because of how it mirrors Oliver’s relationship with William, but even that detail is mostly ignored throughout “Promises Kept,” until, in one of the episode’s best scenes, Oliver convinces Slade that killing Joe is not the only choice he has, reminding him that they came together to save their sons.
The reveal that Joe has a brother, a son that Slade never knew about, does provide this episode with a somewhat interesting twist, which could give Arrow the opportunity to do a similar storyline to this one in a better way at some point in the future. I’m honestly not sure if I would want the show to try again, though, because even though Slade discovering that it was his own violent actions that influenced Joe at young age should have had an emotional impact on me, it didn’t. Honestly, the only parts of Slade’s story that work in “Promises Kept” are the flashback sequences that showcase his descent into madness, as the effects of the Mirakuru and the visions of Shado (the always lovely Celina Jade) begin to haunt his mind. I’m just not sure how many more engaging Slade Wilson stories there are left for Arrow to tell, and that’s okay—Slade can still come back to Star City to help Oliver or stir up trouble with the team. Just don’t make him the main character for two straight episodes ever again.
Someone Arrow could make its main character for a couple of episodes if the writers really wanted to is John Diggle, who doesn’t get as much focus as Slade does in “Promises Kept” but still makes a major decision during the hour. After discovering that the drug he has been using to stabilize his tremor comes from a Star City drug lord known as The Dragon (Kirk Acevedo), Diggle must make a choice: does he allow one drug dealer to remain free so he can get the fix he needs to lead Team Arrow, or does he take him and his organization down and risk losing his position as leader of the team?
Ultimately, Dig makes the right decision to go after Dragon and his men, but during Team Arrow’s takedown of the criminals, he reaches a new low point when he considers running through flames to try and steal as much of the drug as he can before it is destroyed. Of course, Diggle doesn’t actually go through the fire, but his hesitation there serves as a wake-up call, which is why he’s finally honest with not just Lyla (SO GOOD to see Lyla back on this show) but also Rene, Curtis, and Dinah.
While I don’t completely buy the conflict that Diggle goes through in this episode (I just don’t believe someone like John Diggle would EVER consider letting a drug dealer go free for any reason), I am relieved that he tells the truth to Team Arrow. He’s been keeping this secret since the Season 6 premiere, and as we’ve seen before on these DC TV shows, secrets being kept for too long does nothing but create cheap, manufactured drama that no one enjoys.
What’s most satisfying about how this whole storyline plays out, though, is how everyone reacts when Diggle tells them: Lyla is disappointed but mostly concerned, Rene understands that Diggle was only trying to look out for him and the rest of the team, Curtis is enthusiastic to try and help John deal with this problem, and Dinah is more or less indifferent because of the secret that she’s hiding about Vincent. These are all believable, realistic responses to what Diggle is going through. Only one question remains, though: How will Oliver and Felicity react when they hear the news? No matter what their responses are, I’m betting what they have to say will be more entertaining than watching Slade Wilson and his son bicker back and forth.
- Oliver, Felicity, and William only share one scene together in “Promises Kept,” but it’s easily one of the best moments of the entire episode for many reasons. First, Felicity and William bonding by playing video games and eating ice cream for dinner is awesome in its own right, but Oliver’s joyful response to it only makes it better. Second, the pride and happiness on Oliver’s face when William tells him he got an “A” on his science project is genuine and powerful; Stephen Amell has been playing all these small father-son moments beautifully. And lastly, Oliver’s words to Felicity, “I made the right decision to not be the Green Arrow, not just for William but for me,” are such a loaded statement, and they contextualize everything that happened between Slade and Joe and apply it to Oliver and William. Oliver has just seen how a father’s sins, his violent actions, can transform a son into a dark, twisted individual; he never wants to risk that happening to William, and he never wants to risk having to feel the same guilt that Slade now carries.
- Loved the scene between Diggle and Lyla near the beginning of this episode and the scene with the two of them and JJ near the end of the hour. It’s nice to be reminded that Dig has so much more in his life than just the team, and as I mentioned above, it’s always wonderful to have Audrey Marie Anderson back on the show as Lyla.
- Curtis working to find a way to help Diggle should be a fun storyline moving forward. Plus, it will give Echo Kellum and David Ramsey more screentime together, and I’m certainly game for that.
- “There will be no more secrets between you and me.” “No more secrets.” Sigh. Dinah, can you please come clean about Vincent before the mid-season finale? Please and thank you.
What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of Arrow? Were you as disappointed with the Slade two-parter as I was? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo credit: Jack Rowand/The CW]