‘Arrow’ 6×06 Review: ‘Promises Kept’

If there’s anything I dislike on television it’s when shows sometimes forget who their characters are. Where their thoughts, actions, and feelings don’t match the overall character. This was an issue in last week’s episode of Arrow, “Deathstroke Returns,” and it was an issue once again in “Promises Kept.”

While I thought that the second part of the Slade Wilson arc was much better than its predecessor, it still managed to fall into the hole of forgetting the relationship between Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson.

Yes, they’ve both done each other wrong. Yes, Slade killed Oliver’s mother when he was on Mirakuru. But Slade has since done two wrongs that couldn’t be excused by Mirakuru. Just selfish tendencies. In no world would Oliver trust a man like that.

A promise is one thing. Trusting and caring is something else entirely.

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You don’t have to agree with how I feel — that’s the beauty of fandom: We all have different opinions and can feel how we want to feel without degrading others — but I’m still not buying this whole Oliver has forgiven and now trusts Slade when Slade has proven he’s not worthy of that trust. But more on that later.

While “Promises Kept” ultimately failed with the Oliver/Slade dynamic — apart from maintaining the sense of honor with both men — the hour really shined when the spotlight was on John Diggle.

Diggle continued to struggle with his tremor and the drug that was briefly calming it. But we got to see Diggle actually confront and deal with this situation with Lyla — you know, a husband leaning on his wife for help when he knew he was in over his head. There was an honesty in their conversations and how they approached the challenge. It’s the kind of storyline that I yearn for. To see how a character deals with the challenges they face. To watch them screw up and learn from their mistakes.

There was also Diggle, who has been known to put others before himself far too often, taking a stand for himself. Doing what, while hard, was ultimately the best thing for him. He finally came clean to his team about his tremor and the drug he was taking, and even their reactions were in character and believable. (Side note: Can Wild Dog be written consistently? And by consistently, I mean the Wild Dog we saw in this episode where he wasn’t pissy, but actually acknowledged that Diggle has saved his life more often than he’s put him in danger.)

Hell, for the first time even the flashbacks were compelling as it filled in the blank pages that was Slade’s journey from the Amazo to his return to Starling City, circa Season 2. So, while it wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, it certainly had its redeeming aspects in Diggle’s storyline, Slade’s dynamic with his son, and there was even a nice Olicity scene to tie it with a bow.

Let’s break this episode down:

A Promise is a Promise, But Trust is Another Thing Entirely

The CW

One of my favorite dynamics in Arrow’s history has been between Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson. It was evident early on that this relationship was significant, and it was compelling to watch develop over the course of the first two seasons. Friends to enemies. Lian Yu to Starling City.

Slade has been my favorite villain in this series because of that personal relationship to Oliver. I love those kind of hero-villain dynamics. It gives you a reason to care; it gives your hero a bigger reason to care. And Stephen Amell and Manu Bennett did a fantastic job bringing that to life.

Even after Slade was stopped and imprisoned on Lian Yu, I always had a desire to see his return, whether it was as an ally or a villain. I just knew I wanted more. And we got to see Slade as an ally — only I didn’t feel like this dynamic between Oliver and Slade was true in its intentions.

I understand that Oliver made Slade a promise. To help him find his son. Both Oliver and Slade are men of honor — and they do right by their promises. But a promise and giving someone your trust is something else entirely. And, quite frankly, it’s something that Slade has not earned.

For everything in me, I cannot believe that Oliver would be able to forgive Slade for all of the shit he’s done to him. Killing his mother. Tormenting his friends. Torturing his sister. Nearly killing Felicity. Abandoning Oliver’s friends on Lian Yu. Oliver’s no saint himself. But the things Slade has done far outweighs anything Oliver has done to Slade.

Oliver made a distinction between Slade on Mirakuru and not on Mirakuru. Okay, so I’ll give this: Yes, he killed Moira when he was on Mirakuru. He nearly killed Felicity when he was on Mirakuru. But what about the times when Mirakuru wasn’t in his system? Like when he tortured Thea on Lian Yu in season 3? Or when he threatened Felicity in the same episode? Or when he, most recently, left all of Oliver’s friends for dead on Lian Yu? You’re telling me Oliver can forgive Slade for all of that? Without any context? I could see it being a gradual process, but it’s just so sudden that everything is fine between them now. I’m not buying it.

As a fan of this show — and of Slade in earlier seasons — all I wanted was to see Oliver and Slade’s relationship done right. That doesn’t mean rushing to the forgiveness part. I want to see more than one storyline that suddenly erases everything that’s happened and makes the two buddies again.

You could argue that perhaps it’s Oliver becoming a father that has softened him to Slade a bit. But soften him to the degree that Arrow seemed to do, I wasn’t as convinced.

Diggle Finds the Strength to Come Clean

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Easily my favorite storyline of the episode focused on John Diggle’s continued struggle and how he took a huge step forward this week in moving forward. Since the season premiere, we’ve witnessed Diggle struggle with the tremor in his right arm, which has prevented him from being the best he needs to be out there in the field with other people’s lives on the line.

When it seemed as if he was going to come clean to Oliver — and then the team — Oliver asked Diggle to take on the mantle of Green Arrow. And because we know that Diggle is someone that often puts his own well-being to the side in order to protect others, he took on the role of Green Arrow without hesitation. But he also knew that he couldn’t do it with that tremor, which led Diggle to taking a drug to silence the tremor periodically.

This was an important episode for Diggle, who found himself way over his head when he realized that the experimental steroid he was taking was actually an illegal drug from a new player in town named Dragon, who was killing people. Diggle realized that he was compromised (duh) and decided to first come clean to Lyla.

Diggle and Lyla’s relationship is one that we don’t get nearly enough of. But when we do get it, it’s meaningful in every aspect. If there’s anything that we’ve seen with Diggle and Lyla it’s that their relationship is far from perfect. They argue. They mess up. They keep secrets because they think they’re protecting each other. But they also talk through their issues. They don’t run away. They overcome the hurdles together. Because that’s what it means to be a team. That’s what it means to be husband and wife.

Lyla was dropping truth bombs all night as Diggle tried to make excuses for his actions — sometimes by bringing Lyla’s mistakes back to the forefront. But it was Lyla that reminded Diggle that he shouldn’t compromise himself just because he wants to protect others. There’s a difference between standing up for what’s right and losing yourself as a result.

Throughout the episode Diggle struggled with the yearning for the drug to push his tremors off. He asked Lyla if ARGUS might have something, which she said they’d work on. And there was a scary moment when Diggle nearly went for the case of the drug right before the building exploded. That was the moment Diggle realized that he couldn’t do this on his own anymore. He couldn’t keep this from his team anymore.

I was impressed with how Arrow handled Diggle’s confession to the team — well, part of the team, Dinah, Curtis, and Rene. Diggle explained everything from the tremor to the drug and took complete responsibility. He was prepared for the team to lose their trust in him.

But I was even more impressed with how Arrow handled the team’s reaction to Diggle’s confession. It was mature, acceptable, and grown-up. They didn’t judge Diggle for his wrongdoings, as they all have done their share of wrong. They didn’t question his leadership. They accepted that, while he messed up and had been keeping this secret that put them in danger, that he’d saved their lives more often than he’d put them in danger. And their forgiveness was a significant step in Diggle’s recovery.

From the sound of it, Curtis and/or ARGUS are working on something to counteract Diggle’s tremor — a safer way. Hell, Curtis invented a nanochip that made Felicity walk after she was paralyzed. This — a tremor — should be no problem. But the battle is far from over.

10 Things About “Promises Kept”

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  1. I’m still not buying this whole Oliver Queen has forgiven and trusts Slade bullarky. It’s OOC for Oliver. A promise is one thing, trust is another.
  2. This was definitely the better episode of Slade’s two-parter (especially because of the Diggle focus.)
  3. I love any and every time we get Diggle and Lyla scenes. Their relationship is far from perfect, and the show embraces that. We get very honest and sometimes difficult conversations that ultimately benefit the couple as individuals and husband and wife. And at the end of the day, we get to see that beautiful love they share.
  4. Not here for the asshole that shall not be named. (But he plays Dragon.)
  5. Also, asshole, I’m not watching Arrow for you. I’ve been coming here for five years. Long before you showed up. Quit fooling yourself.
  6. This was the first time in a long time where the flashbacks worked and were, shocker, actually compelling. I loved how the flashbacks with Slade after the Amazo served to fill in the missing pieces between Slade’s “death” on the Amazo to Season 2 of Arrow. It was nice to see the pieces fall into place.
  7. I’m proud that Diggle came clean to the team about what’s been happening to him and the error in judgement he’s made.
  8. I’m even prouder of Dinah, Curtis, and Rene’s reactions to Diggle’s confession. It would’ve been easy for them to turn against him. But they understood that we’re all subjected to faults. And they respected him more for coming clean instead of learning the hard way.
  9. Dinah’s turn for keeping secrets from the team, I see.
  10. I loved the parallel at the end of the episode with Diggle and his family and Oliver and his family. It reinforced the theme and importance of family this season. And that scene with Oliver, Felicity, and William at the end was too cute for words.

Arrow airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.


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