“The time of vigilantes is coming to an end.”

With next week bringing with it the highly-anticipated Arrowverse crossover, Crisis on Earth-X”, Arrow is ramping up the action, ready to put the heroes in the spotlight.

When last we saw Oliver (Stephen Amell), he had accompanied Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) in order to find and retrieve his son, Joe (Liam Hall). Or Kane, but for sanity’s sake, we’re going to stick with Joe. The end of Episode 5, revealed Joe as the leader of the Jackals, a gang of mercenaries with a somewhat vague plan of action. And Slade, faced with a difficult situation, must decide which is the best avenue to bring him and his son back together – does he join the Jackals, or does he try to reason with the boy who has long since lost respect for the father he once knew?

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Meanwhile, Oliver is waiting in the wings, unable to abandon his friend, but concerned about what lengths Slade might go to in order to remain by his son’s side. Through flashbacks to Slade’s time post-Lian Yu, when he was a man filled with vengeance (and Mirakuru) we are able to see what led father and son to the predicament they currently find themselves in, the events that turned Slade from father to monster, and how they sent Joe down the path to murderer. The horror for Slade, however, is that he is to blame for the person his son has become – the ruthless killer, cold and unrelenting, is the product of a son wanting to be his father, to become the assassin he knows his father to be. But the revelations don’t end here for Slade, as a final admission from Joe reveals the identity of someone Slade had never known, which will turn his life upside down.

Elsewhere, “Promises Kept” marks the arrival of this season’s big bad, Ricardo ‘Dragon’ Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) – the ex-con drug lord, who’s set to take Star City by storm. A cool, calculating businessman, Diaz faces the team many times during the course of the episode, and his actions prove to them that he’s not a man to be trifled with – he’s more than ready to burn his operation to the ground and kill his workers if it means that Team Arrow don’t get their hands on it. While there’s little conversation with Diaz during the episode, the little we do get shows a man who likes to have the upper hand, unwavering in his presence before people.

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Diaz’s arrival is particularly difficult for one member of the team, as John (David Ramsey) finds that he is the source of the miracle drug that is keeping his tremor at bay. This puts the team leader in an awkward moral position, as the heroic side of him knows that he must rid the city of Diaz’s ‘business’ but the side of him that’s scared and concerned about his tremor realises that getting rid of the drug lord will cost him the miracle cure. This inner turmoil forces John to reveal all to his teammates, with varying results, as while the team understand his struggle, Oliver is conflicted, feeling concern for both his friend and the team he left under the leadership of someone who was incapable.

“Thanksgiving” delivers rather less holiday spirit than its name would suggest, as no sooner has the episode begun, Oliver is being arrested by the FBI for being the Green Arrow – because Agent Watson (Sydelle Noel) isn’t blind and she’s finally gathered together the evidence to prove it. Not that this is going to keep Oliver off the streets, as Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) handily has the exact amount of money needed to pay the mayor’s extortionate bail fee. Just in time for Oliver to suit up again.

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After his confession to the team, John becomes Curtis’ (Echo Kellum) experiment, as he tests out a prototype similar to the implant in Felicity’s back – which only serves to take John out of action as the Green Arrow right in time for the crossover, where we know Oliver is fighting as the masked vigilante.

“Thanksgiving” also brings with it the weirdest moment of the series, as Cayden James (Michael Emerson) and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy) return to wreak havoc on the city, as they collect together all they need to make a bomb that will “pressure cook” everything in a 200-yard radius. This isn’t the weird part, though – oh no, that comes in the location for the attack.

A Billy Joel concert. With actual Billy Joel. For no real reason. And there isn’t even a bomb, just a cryptic meeting with Cayden James, who is holding a rather large grudge against Oliver and the team.

Finally, this week sees the bi-weekly appearance of Thea (Willa Holland), who in “Thanksgiving” is tacked on like something of an afterthought, in a wonderfully warm holiday moment that leaves you wondering if there aren’t darker things to come. And if there aren’t darker things on the horizon for Speedy, then it was possibly the most rushed (and glossed over) resolution in Arrow history.

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The highlight of these two episodes is by far the fight choreography, in particular that of Stephen Amell, who proves that even when he’s not in the Green Arrow gear, he can still kick ass, dropping from the ceiling and knocking out two guys, before taking on another half a dozen with only a hand gun and his impressive ninja skills. More of this please, Arrow writers.

VERDICT:

These episodes prove that, try as he might, Oliver cannot completely let go of the Arrow persona, and with a trial on the horizon to prove he is the masked man, and the newly passed anti-vigilante legislation – it seems that Oliver could be facing a very harsh punishment following the events of next week’s crossover. Assuming that their actions in “Crisis on Earth-X” don’t prove that the world needs vigilantes, which they no doubt will.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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