**This post contains spoilers for 2.15 of Arrow, “The Promise.”**
SLADE WILSON’S IN THE HOUSE, Y’ALL.
Literally. He’s in the Haunted Queen Mansion, and the best part is, he’s just there for the fun of it. He savors Oliver’s bug-eyed expression, then grins and wanders around the living room, pretending he and Oliver are strangers as Moira acts increasingly agitated by Oliver’s rudeness. It’s as tense and awkward as I always hoped it would be, especially when Slade persuades Moira to show off the Queen’s art collection, enabling him to walk around the house and plant secret cameras on every surface he touches. It affords us the opportunity to watch as Stephen Amell portrays Oliver trying not to jump out of his skin. He’s trying to run through all the scenarios, figure out a way to keep his mother and sister safe, and also keep his former acquaintance with Slade under wraps. He tries to stab Slade with a screwdriver and fails, and then Thea makes eyes at Slade and Oliver looks like he wants to die. He’s pretty much just a walking, brooding live wire behind the group as Thea takes them on a tour and talks about art.
Oliver finally gets the bright idea to sightlessly dial Felicity, who is hanging out with Team Arrow (the entire team: Diggle, Sara, and Roy, who is shirtless, I’m not gonna ask questions) and puts him on speakerphone. Sara immediately recognizes Slade’s voice, and then the show makes the strange decision to do this panning close-up of Caity Lotz as she tells everyone how dangerous Slade is.
They hatch a plan to help Oliver that proves unnecessary; Slade either decides to stand down, or his only intention was to bring himself right into Oliver’s home life. He recognizes the Mirakuru in Roy, and he looks surprised and crazy-eyed when Sara appears, but he still decides to go on his way. Oliver escorts him out and asks what, exactly, he wants, and Slade says it’s simple: he’s going to keep the promise he made five years ago. Also, one of his henchmen knocked out Diggle, who was positioned with a sniper rifle up on a hill. I’m a huge fan of Slade, but if he ever comes near Diggle again, I’m willing to kill Slade off the show.
As fun as the present-day, tense-Oliver stuff was, this episode mostly takes place in backstory form, much like “Odyssey” from last season. Back on the island, Oliver’s working out hardcore to get in shape for Operation Infiltrate the Black Pearl. The plan involves some nasty-smelling herbs, big secrets, and a flaming arrow to a bonfire on a beach. But first, they had to burn a box of dirt. They didn’t know it was dirt — Slade pocketed the Mirakuru — but he still hilariously made them go to the trouble of burning a box of dirt, and that’s really funny to me.
Oliver also endures a horrifying dream where Shado yells at him for killing her, then she stabs him in a white-hot rage. He blames himself way too much for that. He wakes up in a cold sweat, where Slade tells him to shake it off and get ready, because it’s time to take over the Black Pearl and capture Ivo.
Oliver sasses to Sara and Slade that “There’s a breeze” after he misses the first flaming arrow shot, but he eventually hits the mark and then… runs down to the bonfire to stand beside it. So shooting the flaming arrow was completely unnecessary, because he could’ve lit it from, like, three feet away. He’s caught almost immediately, and he’s taken aboard the Black Pearl. He’s thrown into a jail cell just long enough to reacquaint himself with the Bratva guy (“Told you I’d come back.” “Fantastic. We’re saved.”) and meet Missionary Thomas, then he’s dragged in to get eye gouged by Ivo.
Ivo’s not messing around, though — he injects Oliver with truth serum, but Sara’s one step ahead of him. That’s what the herbs were for! So Oliver’s drug-induced confessions are just cute. His name is Oliver Jonas Queen. He was born in Starling City, and he smiles as he says that. The bonfire was a distraction. And oh, he totally lies and says Slade and Sara are on the Black Pearl. They’re not really — they’re parachuting in as soon as the top of the ship is empty. (He adorably mutters “Oliver Jonas Queen” to himself as Ivo takes off.)
Once Team Island meets up on the deck of the ship, they head off in different directions to do different jobs (Sara frees the prisoners, Slade kicks everyone’s butts, Oliver hunts down and kills Ivo) and predictably, Oliver is the one who fails. You had one job! As war wages on the Black Pearl (it really does look like a scene straight from Pirates of the Caribbean, hence my nickname for the ship) Oliver allows Ivo to monologue about Shado’s death, and unfortunately, Slade overhears and breaks into a Mirakurage. Ultimately, it’s Oliver’s inability to lie to Slade that does him in.
An explosion throws Slade off-balance enough to release Oliver, who is able to escape… but as he’s jumping off the Black Pearl, Slade grabs his foot and swings him all the way around back onto the deck. Oliver is now his prisoner, and Slade is the captain now.
The prisoners make it to shore safely (this island is less and less deserted by the hour) and that’s when Sara realizes that Oliver’s not with them. He’s passed out on his cell floor, but he’s dragged out to face Slade and Ivo. Slade accuses Ivo of killing Shado (he did) and Ivo once again tries to put blame on Oliver. After being told to show him how he killed Shado, Ivo points a gun at Oliver, who tries to appeal to Slade’s human side. “You said we were brothers. You said that.” But he looks ready to accept his fate when — surprise! — he cuts off Ivo’s hand. He doesn’t want to kill Oliver, because he wants him to suffer, to know complete despair. He promises Oliver that he will make this happen, and five years later, he’s here to deliver on that promise.
So at this point, it’s all about Shado. That’s a long time to hold a grudge, but you know what they say… Mirakuru is a helluva drug.