Arrow: 6.06 Promises Kept
Picking up from last week's cliffhanger, Promises Kept dealt with Slade Wilson's reunion with his son. It wasn't quite as satisfying an episode as last week, though Manu Bennett was still brilliant. But it was still stronger than the Star City-based storyline, which delved deeper into Diggle's addiction but failed to offer a satisfying villain.
In fact, the issue probably lies in the fact that neither storyline gets enough focus. Kirk Acevedo is a very engaging actor, but his Richard Dragon is a third-rate drug dealer villain; we've seen better in bad guys like Count Vertigo. The only interesting aspect was Diggle's debt to Dragon, so much so that he his attempts to hide his drug addiction leads him to nearly put his team in danger when they raid Dragon's base of operations and he hesitated over to whether save the drugs as they burned.
Lyla though, continues to be a strong presence in the show, thanks to Audrey Marie Anderson's grounded performance and Lyla's passionate but straight-speaking relationship with Diggle. She immediately calls him out on his morality; he is the one character over any other in Arrow that had had good judgement so to see him compromised and hiding his secret from the team is an interesting direction for him to take. Less convincing was the team's willingness to forgive him, particularly Rene who was almost killed as a result of Diggle's actions earlier in the season. Perhaps they're just used to this in a leader, giving Oliver's many issues in the past.
The current-day conflict between Slade and Joseph Wilson / Kane Wolfman was fairly run of the mill, the Jackals not feeling like a huge credible threat. It felt more set-up for later, Kane vowing revenge on Oliver's son and Slade being forced to chose between his son and Oliver, leading to a great double bluff as Oliver was captured as a gift to allow Slade to exact his revenge. But that was the best moment in an otherwise average conflict.
The best stuff was found in the flashbacks as Slade was reunited with his son seven years ago after Lian Yu and rejoined the Australian secret intelligence and attempted to adjust to real life. Manu Bennett and Liam Hall were thoroughly believable as father and son, though Hall was more engaging as a wronged son than a fully-fledged villain. And it was great to track the effects of the Mirakuru take affect on Slade, haunted by the vision of Shado that lead to his descent into madness as he saw the news footage of Oliver Queen being found alive in the pilot episode.
His descent into pure villainy was a nice contrast to his redemption in the present; the brutal scene where he slaughters his colleagues and then almost kills his son being the most shocking. There was a cruel twist in the (not surprising) reveal that his son observed Slade killing the Chinese agent in the previous episode's flashbacks, leading to his first kill just six months later. The idea that Slade's psychopathy was fuelled by a drug (mirroring Diggle's story too) while his son was just a psychopath and a fascinating plot development.
Promises Kept was not the strongest episode of season six, but it was elevated by the continued exploration of Slade Wilson's past and Manu Bennett's absorbing performance. It also cut into the issues Diggle was facing, setting up (I presume) Oliver returning to the mantle of Green Arrow in time for the big Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Earth X in a couple of weeks time...