For the first half of the season on The CW’s “Arrow,” the threat of Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) has been slowly simmering in the background. The former ally of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has shown up in Starling City, been revealed to be the big bad, and as of the last scene of the last episode revealed himself to Oliver.
This week, all this tension finally explodes on “The Promise.”
“The penny is about to drop, and when it drops it’s going to be like a matchstick in a bucket of gelignite,” Bennett told MTV News over the phone in advance of the episode’s broadcast. “Everything is about to explode. The fallout of that is what’s going to become the ongoing storyline of the show.”
For the uninitiated, “Arrow” takes place in two timelines. In the past Oliver is trapped on a deadly island with Slade, trying desperately to escape by stealing a boat from insane scientist Professor Ivo (Dylan Neal). Ivo killed the woman Slade loved, an act accidentally caused by Oliver; though Slade doesn’t know that yet.
In the present, Oliver has escaped the island, and is secretly being manipulated by Slade, who now uses the villain name Deathstroke. What transpired between the two timelines is what’s about to be revealed on “The Promise.”
“As the episode is called ‘The Promise,’ be sure that is going to be the key phrase that goes forward for the rest of the series,” Bennett continued, “as to what Slade Wilson is doing in Starling City, and the promise that he made Oliver Queen back there on the freighter and on the island.”
The episode reverses the normal ratio of island scenes to Starling City scenes, minimizing the present in favor of giant action sequences in the past; most of which are set on Ivo’s freighter… Something that doesn’t exactly go as our heroes have planned.
“They’re basically descending into Hell,” Bennett said. “Going after this ship is the set up for everything that’s going to bring their relationships crumbling down.”
In the real world, though, the freighter action sequences were something special; the biggest action the show has ever attempted.
“They actually built an entire ship inside a warehouse,” Bennett recalled. “I kind of walked in when I was doing the first of the explosions on the deck. It was like walking out of Pearl Harbor. There was a stunt guy who had his eyebrows blown off. It was an extreme and dangerous environment, but that’s exciting stuff. It’s exciting when you have that degree of reality to the special effects.”
After the action and reveals of this episode, with the cards all on the table the producers and writers have begun the season two endgame. And three episodes down the road, we get another major marker, with an episode titled “Deathstroke.”
“[We] started off nice and slow, and then started picking up pace,” Bennett said. “Now we’re getting into the heavy stuff, the piano forte of the piece. As an actor, I relish in that. I’ve just read a script three ahead from now where I just feel this absolute pounding of the piano.”
Part of that pacing is the full reveal of Slade in his classic villain persona. Super strong, with healing powers and a precise nature that lets him beat any opponent; Deathstroke is nearly unstoppable in the comics. And it seems, the same can be said of his TV equivalent.
“He’s the type of character that superheroes are scared of,” Bennett says laughing. “He’s got superhero strength, but he’s got the ability to go even darker than how a superhero can go.”
Given that Oliver Queen doesn’t have super strength, just a bow and arrow and extensive training, he’s going to need some help to take down Deathstroke.
“Oliver can’t deal with Slade Wilson alone,” Bennett said, looking even further forward towards the second season finale. “You can’t destroy your maker, and he’s met his maker. Everything that Oliver knows, I taught him.”
Over the course of the second season, “Arrow” has added numerous elements from the DC Comics pantheon, including heroes Arsenal and Black Canary, as well as the villainous League of Assassins — led by Batman baddie Ra’s al Ghul — and the upcoming anti-hero team the Suicide Squad. As you might expect, these haven’t all been random additions to the show.
“He’s not going to be able to beat me up on his own, which means he’ll have to call on numbers,” Bennett added. “When the numbers thing starts happening, the war escalates, and it’s all about numbers. We’ll see the introduction of the Suicide Squad. And Ra’s al Ghul… These guys have all been seen on the periphery. Starling City is about to become a battleground.”
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.