The big selling point might’ve been the Deathstroke two-parter, but “Promises Kept” managed to move a whole lot of other stories forward, as well — including the introduction of the season’s latest big bad.
Spoilers ahead for “Promises Kept,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Thursday, November 16, 2017.
Instead of splitting the narrative into an A and B story, this week almost functioned with an A1 and A2 story — giving a good bit of narrative focus to Oliver and Slade’s adventure; as well as Diggle’s first brush with new baddie Ricardo Diaz (aka Dragon).
With John Diggle now under the hood, the introduction of Dragon took on a fresh perspective when compared to pretty much any other big bad the show has produced. The reason? He’s the Green Diggle’s first major rogue, and it’s a connection that hits a whole lot closer to home than Diggle had imagine. Diggle finally came clean to the team about his nerve damage and the designer drug he’d been using to mask it. Turns out that drug was being produced by Dragon’s operation, and by shutting it down, Diggle was also cutting off his supply to the only thing letting him continue to function as the Green Arrow.
It was a compelling dilemma to put on Diggle’s plate, and watching him stare into the flames as the drug goes up in smoke is the sight of a man faced with losing something he never realized he actually wanted. He might’ve been apprehensive at first, but Diggle loves being the Green Arrow. And not surprisingly, he’s pretty good at it. Having Oliver pass the mantle to Diggle continues to be one of the best stories of this season, and thankfully, it looks to be one they’re committed to letting play out over the course of the season — or at least several episodes. With the show in its sixth year, it’s not just a catalyst to shake things up. It’s an arc that’s been earned over the 100+ episodes that preceded it.
As for the OG Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, he actually took a backseat in his own story this week. And it was actually kind of wonderful. “Promises Kept” is the second part of a story that set Oliver and Slade Wilson on the road to track down Slade’s estranged son. Slade’s role has always been equal parts father figure and cautionary tale for Oliver, and that was never more clear than here. Slade’s son has followed in his father’s footsteps and become a ruthless killer only trying to make Papa Deathstroke proud. Slade, who has worked hard to put that life behind him, is horrified to see what his son has become.
Slade also gets a chance to possibly betray Oliver in dramatic fashion (a story device they use a bit too often in the Oliver/Slade dynamic), but sides with Ollie over his own son. It shows just how much Slade has grown since his recovery, and in seeing all this play out, Oliver realizes he made the right decision handing over his bow and arrow to Diggle. Oliver doesn’t want his son William to follow in his violent footsteps, and he’s trying to put his family first. Seeing how Slade wasn’t able to do that, and the price he’s paid, galvanizes Oliver even more in his decision.
It really makes you wonder how they’ll handle the story that eventually puts Oliver back under the hood. They’ve laid a lot of groundwork and character growth getting him off the streets, and assuming he suits up again, it better be a darn good story that gets him there.
*Comic fans almost certainly caught a familiar name in the Deathstroke family tree: Grant Wilson. We already met a version of Grant Wilson in the distant future a while back on Legends of Tomorrow, where he was ruling Star City under the moniker of Deathstroke. Of course, that was an alt-future, so it seems we’ll now meet a different version of the character who has apparently been kept away from the murderous lifestyle.
*Kirk Acevedo was absolutely great in Fringe, and he looks to be right at home playing the menacing baddie Dragon on Arrow. He’s a talented actor, and it’s exciting to see him back in another major genre project.
*The flashbacks returned this week to dramatic effect, focusing in on the missing time of how Deathstroke spent his year after the events on Lian Yu. We get to see his sanity slowly start to unravel due to the lingering effects of Mirakuru, with his hallucinations of Shado. It doesn’t dull the pain of everything he did to Oliver a few seasons ago, but it does give it some welcome nuance and perspective.
*Diggle has finally come clean to the team about his nerve damage, and as Curtis rightly points out, that was a dumb plot point to keep secret for so long. If anyone could solve this problem, it’s Curtis. Felicity would still be in a wheelchair without him. Do you seriously think he can’t solve a little nerve damage?
Next week: Oliver is arrested and all hell breaks loose in Star City.