Arrow is surely hitting its stride. Last night’s episode, “The Promise” was a true pleasure to watch, especially for those who’ve stuck with the series through all its hiccups and growing pains. In the past, Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) and Slade Wilson’s (Manu Bennet) relationship is disintegrating before our eyes, while in the present the two pace around each other like prize fighters–neither too sure who’ll land the first blow. The tension they manage to build in this episode is unlike anything the CW drama could have pulled off a year ago, and it’s all the evidence needed if you’re still wondering if Arrow‘s worth watching.

Much of the credit for this episode’s stellar showing goes to Manu Bennet and his incredibly nuanced performance as both the younger, freshly grief-stricken Slade and the older, more refined yet still rage-fueled Slade. While their falling out is a crucial moment for Oliver, it’s more of a major turning point for Slade, putting him on the fast track to becoming Deathstroke the Terminator.

As we had already guessed, the crux to their broship dissolving was Shado’s death, something Ivo continues twisting around in an effort to pin the guilt on Oliver. Not that Oliver needs any help blaming himself, he already does. But it was his decision, at Sara’s (Caity Lotz) urging, to not tell Slade the truth of how Shado died and it’s going to come back to bite him in that finely toned ass of his. Could this all have been avoided were they to tell Slade the truth immediately? Perhaps. They’d most definitely would have avoided it happening during their attack on The Amazo, where it ruined what was shaping up to be an almost perfectly executed plan.

The Promise

Speaking of their plan, it’s a rather clever one. Sneak Oliver onto the ship by tricking Ivo into thinking he’s captured him. Then while he’s trying to learn the truth of their plan through drugging Oliver with sodium pentathol, have it backfire thanks to Sara’s dose of cocculus indicus which inhibits the truth serum and Olives’ knack for acting stoned out of his mind. While Ivo sends his men off to look for Sara and Slade, Oliver escapes and Sara and Slade parachute unsuspected onto The Amazo.

They then release the prisoners, starting a riot, and with Ivo’s men engaged hunt down the man himself. Everything’s going smoothly, except again Sara and Oliver have made an agreement without Slade’s knowledge: Oliver is to get to Ivo first and kill him before Ivo can reveal to Slade the truth of Shado’s death.

See how this lying business can get so tricky, kids? Don’t follow their example, if you’re forced to make the terrible choice of who gets shot, and choose you do, why not fess up sooner rather than later. Then everyone can remember who’s really to blame. Y’know, the guy who shot the gun and killed someone!

Anyway, once Ivo is confronted by Oliver he stalls for time like any good villain, again chomping on that old “but you chose who survived” bit, until Slade shows up. He then overhears how Shado truly died, how when given the choice of who to save Oliver went for Sara, and Slade goes ballistic.

The Promise

The following fight is thrilling, but for as exciting as it is to see Oliver and Slade let loose the real highlight of “The Promise” is having Slade in Oliver’s home, charming his family, and making a statement of how easy it was for him to infiltrate Oliver’s new life. (Also, actually infiltrating his life by placing hidden cameras all over the mansion.)

Bennet clearly relishes playing the sophisticated, mysterious investor and it’s a role he doesn’t always have the chance to portray. Sure, you need an imposing bad guy who can bust chops and deliver cheesy dialogue with the straightest of faces, Bennet’s a solid choice, but with this episode he’s proven he can just as easily give a sly performance that’s even more interesting to watch. In fact, I’d say calm and composed Slade Wilson who’s enigmatic but irresistible is far more dangerous than a Mirakuru fueled rage monster. Besides, the show’s already got one of those: Roy (Colton Haynes).

And as for Team Arrow, once alerted there’s danger at the Queen mansion Diggle (David Ramsey) sets up as a sniper and Sara and Roy crash the tour. Of course, there’s no showdown at the end of this episode, that’s a battle left for another day, but man is the final scene just brimming with awkward hidden and double meanings. There are two different conversations going on. One is all pleasantries and formalities as Moira (Susanna Thompson) shows Slade out, the other is threatening and tense as those who survived the island stare each other down.

Slade is in Starling City to fulfill his promise to Oliver. He’s there ensure Oliver feels “complete despair” like he has. And judging from how he seems to already know they’d attempt to snipe him, having his men dispatch with Diggle, Slade’s ready for whatever Team Arrow can throw his way. And if all else fails, surely he can bring Olives to “complete despair” by banging his mom. Did you see those two!? Sparks, I tell ya.

Next week the Suicide Squad are on the scene! How will they fair against Deathstroke the Terminator? And what will Arrow and co. think of the new government task force?

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm on the CW. Catch up with our past recap/reviews!

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