"The Promise," is two episodes in one. The first is a wrenching tragedy. The second is one of the most delightful comic half-hours of television I have ever seen. This is the Arrow episode to watch, people.
You know when KGBeast provides the storyline's lightest moments, it's going to be a downer. Sara, Ollie, and Slade plan an assault on the freighter, bonding all the way. Sure, their bond isn't entirely perfect, as Slade has secretly stashed away some Mirakuru, and Ollie and Sara are quietly not mentioning the fact that Ollie "chose" to let Shado get murdered by Ivo. But there's rum, and ironic toasts, so really, what could go wrong?
Things seem to go wrong when Ollie is captured and dragged aboard the freighter. (This is where KGBeast lightens the mood, dryly remarking, "Fantastic. We're saved.") He's drugged, and reveals that Sara and Slade are in the engine room. Except Sara made an antidote to truth serum, and actually, they are both parachuting their way over on deck while the entire crew searches beneath. What follows is all the shaky cam and controlled explosions in the world, as the crew and the prisoners struggle for control of the boat.
Ollie corners Ivo and Ivo runs through a summary of Shado's execution and Ollie's "choice" so carefully that you can actually see, in the background, a cat leaping out of a bag. Of course Slade hears. To his credit, he seems at least as angry that Ollie lied to him about something so important as angry about Shado's death. This will not last.
There's something to be said for the fact that, despite the chaos, we get a sense that the guards, not the prisoners, are getting the upper hand. Sara, Ollie, KGBeast, and Thomas Flint, who because of his two displayed character traits I shall call Missionary With a Mouse, jump ship. Ollie doesn't make it. Slade has taken over the ship. Slade catches him by the ankle, whangs him against the side of the boat like he's a landed trout, and cages him.
The last scene in the flashback, in which Slade makes a trembling, weeping Ivo hold out a gun on Ollie, only to lop off his hand, would make a strong man eat his own knuckles. Ollie asks why he's still alive, and Slade says, "You cannot die until you have known complete despair. And you will. I promise."
I can go for a tragedy every now and again, but my heart lies with comedy, and this episode provides in spades. As regular watchers know, Ollie just came home to his estranged mother and found Deathstroke sitting on her couch, having just contributed money to her campaign fund. During this episode, Ollie spends the entire visit being the world's mouthiest little black rain cloud. Slade is having the best time I have ever seen anyone have, and I've watched Animal House. When Conan the Barbarian claimed that what is best in life is "to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women," it was only because he never had a chance to sit on a couch, drink rum, and have an ever-so-slightly flirtatious conversation with his enemy's mother. The shoulder touching alone made Ollie look like he was going to burst a blood vessel.
Oh, the significant looks! Slade tells Moira that he's supporting her because she's pro-business and, because "I know how hard it is to pick yourself back up when everyone has written you off. Her icy look at Ollie when she says, "Indeed," is something to behold. When Ollie tells Slade, after Slade talks about losing someone he loved, to "move on," I thought Moira was going to break that bottle of Australian rum and slice his face up with the jagged edge.
The moment Moira's out of the room, Thea comes along. Yes, that's it. Kiss Ollie's sister's hand right in front of him, Slade. I swear, Ollie looks like he wants to swallow his own tongue and vomit it back out again. Instead, when Moira comes back and tries to introduce Slade and Thea, Ollie just bursts in with, "They've met!" Oooooooo, Oliver Jonas Queen. Nice one. Apply cold compresses to the burned area.
Thea takes Slade on a tour of their art collection, which is made up of "18th century American landscapes." I have to say, I was distracted by the sheer unadulterated dullness of the Queen family taste in art. Eighteenth century American landscapes? That's so damn dull I can barely type it without falling asleep on the keyboard. The best bit of acting Slade does this week is pretending to be fascinated as Thea goes through painting after painting of vaguely gold-toned trees in front of soft-focus farm land. He amuses himself by making ominous (to Ollie) comments about how "when you lose someone you love you owe it to them to honor their memory."
Ollie uses the time to dial the Arrow team, who assemble around the Queen mansion. Roy's shaking with excess energy, and Slade recognizes the signs of another Mirikuru user the moment they shake hands. Then Sara comes gliding down the stairs and looks worried. Ollie, finally showing a little smile, asks, "So what would you like to do now?"
Slade decides he'd like to leave. Dig has a sniper rifle on him outside (and how awesome would that look for Moira's campaign – having a donor die on her front porch the moment he's signed the check), but Dig is knocked out by someone who, I'm guessing from the previews of the next episode, is a member of the Suicide Squad. Slade gets into his car and leaves. Ollie leaves, too, as Moira informs him that if he's going to act like Grumpy Smurf, he can go and live in the woods for all she cares. And, as it turns out, Slade was just there to bug the Queen home.
I don't even smoke, but this episode made me want a cigarette. That was great.