Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Arrow "The Promise" Review

Slade Wilson, the toughest, gruffest, meanest, and at times most badass character, is actually the most histrionic of the many characters that populate the fictional Starling City in this fictional comic book series. The writers never tried to avoid mention of the series’ soap opera elements. Greg Berlanti’s an executive producer, co-creator, and frequent story contributor, and he’s made his money indulging in the histrionics of melodramatic soapiness. Slade Wilson’s reaction to the truth about Shado’s death is a complete overreaction but without it he’s not a villain—and this overreaction of his, spurred by the mira-kura circulating in his bloodstream transforms him into a tragic villain, one who was sick at that unfortunate time when Oliver’s choice came up. The passage of time did not heal Slade’s wounds. The promise he made to Oliver five years ago—to make Oliver feel complete despair—has grown in his mind and in scope.

“The Promise” is split between the present day reunion between Oliver and Slade and the flashback to the sacking of the freighter. Neither unfolds well. Oliver’s caught off-guard by Slade’s aggressive maneuver into his family’s life. By the end, Slade has introduced himself to Moira and Thea, taken a tour of the house, and set up cameras throughout—in paintings, in a model miniature boat, in the walls. All the feeds broadcast to his expensive lair, where he watches like a god. Slade, in his mind, is god-like. He’s the most powerful man on earth. Bullets shoot through him. He heals without a wince, a flinch, or a grimace. Slade knows what’s coming, what came, and who everyone who may oppose him is. Oliver organizes his team to take Slade out as he exits the building, unaware of what lengths Slade took to ensure that wouldn’t happen. There are men gathered around the perimeter of the house, protecting him. Diggle’s bonked in the head before he can pull the trigger. Oliver learns about Slade’s involvement with blood. By the end of their unhappy reunion, Slade smirks the same as when he showed himself to Oliver at the end of the last episode. It’s not ‘Not yet, kid’ for Slade; it’s ‘Not ever.’

Slade’s intentionally uses ‘kid’ to Oliver. Oliver was a green kid when he washed up on shore and still green when he met Slade. Oliver learned most of his skills, honed those skills, from Slade. Slade is the master and Oliver the pupil. Oliver can’t match up with Slade. Slade pulled Oliver back from the edge of the boat when Oliver jumped to meet his friends on the beach, far away from the gun fire and chaos on the freighter. Slade grabs him like Oliver grabs the rat that crawled on his belly while he lay in the cell. Oliver returns to the same cell in which the rat crawled over him. Slade views Oliver as either the same as the rat or worse than a rat. A rat represents waste and scum. Oliver’s lower than waste and scum for he chose one girl over another girl.

Slade decides to take over as captain of the freighter. Taking a bullet and then killing the ship’s new captain puts him in the leadership role. Any kind of boat needs constant work to avoid corrosion and rust from the ocean water. Salt wastes good paint. The inside of the freighter looks like Slade’s soul. It’s dark, drippy, rusted, and empty. He becomes part of a physical corrosion and physical rust as his own soul corrodes and rusts. He throws Oliver into a cell after he asserts his dominance among Ivo’s remaining man. Ivo experiences losing his hand in Slade’s first act of total disregard for other human lives. Oliver watches. The lesson taught to Ivo is one of mercilessness. Ivo showed no mercy to Shado on the night she died; however, Slade doesn’t like the quick kill, the merciful kill, as it were. Mercy is why he spares Oliver from death. Death would be a kindness to Oliver when what he deserves is a despairing experience, one in which he’ll watch everyone he loves horribly die. I told you Slade overreacted to a complicated system. That’s what monstrous supervillains do: they become villains because they lose touch with humanity. The mira-kuru contributes Slade’s extreme visceral reaction to Shadow, his murderous rage and commitment to death and destruction to those response and those related to those responsible. Beneath the monster is the grieving man so sad about what happened to the woman he loved most in the world.

Slade’s connection with Shado was tenuous. I was never drawn into Slade’s feelings for Shadow. His connection to her seemed more of an aside than a serious plot point. The point of Shado was not much more than a plot device. Oliver experiences haunting dreams of grief, guilt-ridden dreams in which she asks him why he let her die, why he didn’t choose her, and dream Shadow stabs him repeatedly in the stomach and in the neck. Oliver and Shadow shared a physical and emotional connection. They shared bodies, minds, and also fighting technique. The scene where he chose Sara over Shado seemed different than what the characters remember. I remember the scene unfolding confusingly with Oliver dashing in front of Ivo, seemingly to sacrifice himself because he wanted to save both girls’ lives. The angle of the camera didn’t show Oliver’s angle of covering Sara, though Stephen Amell looked like he was in between the girls, thus furthering one’s perception that he offered his own life to Ivo. Sara and Oliver treated the situation as if he specifically chose her without pointing out what his intent was—but there’s zero conflict without the choice that spawned Slade’s insanely powerful wrath that day.

Slade’s the most personal villain for Oliver; he called Oliver his brother before the freighter mission. Oliver is kept prisoner for an unknown period of time on the island by Slade—I assume whatever happened made Oliver ready and willing to take Slade out immediately in Starling City, as if he was a tyrant only killable with a great big gun and not the Word.

Other Thoughts:

-I liked Roy’s intense, rage-filled eyes, and also Slade’s amusement at Roy’s strength. Yeah, Slade will turn Roy against the family for an episode or two.

-The self-containment of “The Promise” was different from the usual case-of-the-week format. One could throw in serialization for self-containment, of course.

-Jake Coburn & Ben Sokolowski wrote the episode. Glen Winter directed it. I think an imposter Glen Winter e-mailed me a compliment once. Surely a well-to-do TV director wouldn’t put a space between the last word in a sentence and the exclamation point to end that sentence.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.