Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arrow S02 E16: "Suicide Squad"

In the original DC Comics, the Suicide Squad was a band of military operatives during and after World War II who took on the jobs that no one else wanted - almost literally a suicide squad, sometimes fighting dinosaurs and metahuman menaces. After Crisis on Infinite Earths and Legends, the concept was rebooted with a Dirty Dozen vibe. Super-villains, against their will and for time off their sentence, would embark on similar missions under the command of Rick Flag and Amanda Waller. While mostly featuring a rotating cast, semi-permanent members included Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang, Nightshade, and Enchantress, as well as frequent Green Arrow foe, Count Vertigo.

In the "Arrow" television continuity we've already seen Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Amanda Waller, and Vertigo. Shrapnel, who we saw recently, even served his time on the team. From all the publicity pics of the Suicide from "Arrow" we see the absurdly thin Amanda Waller fronting Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Shrapnel, Lyla Michaels, and John Diggle.

Worried over the events of last episode, and the promise of Deathstroke to destroy him and all his family and friends, we open on Oliver reforging his old alliance with Bratva, the Russian mob. When he's taxed to prove himself, he ably shows who's boss. In hindsight, it's a bit scary that such a dangerous man is scared of Deathstroke. That said, "You cannot die until you know complete despair." is a heavy threat.

There's more tough talk between our dysfunctional superhero couple, Sara and Oliver, before we get a really touching scene between Diggle and Felicity. Oliver is making him guard her and she brings him hot cocoa. It is refreshing to see such depth and connection between Diggle and Felicity. They've bonded so well as friends while Oliver, who brought them together, remains stunted. Shame. And Emily Bett Rickards needs to smile more, she lights up the screen.

Diggle leaves for an intimate rendezvous at the Ostrander Hotel with Lyla (Harbinger) Michaels. Did we know before that they were exes? They're both corralled by the painfully thin Amanda Waller and taken to ARGUS. She wants to recruit them for a mission to retrieve a nerve gas. After noting she knows all about Oliver Queen and his Arrow activities, she introduces Task Force X - Deadshot, Shrapnel, and Bronze Tiger. Deadshot calls it the Suicide Squad.

The best part is Diggle's adamant refusal to go along with it - cooperating with murderers. Lyla notes how many bodies there are out there because of his employer Oliver Queen and his girlfriend Sara Lance. It's really not that different. I like that this is coming back to bite Arrow, at least indirectly. The serial killer Arrow of the first season was one of the sticking points that kept me from completely liking this show.

In many ways, Arrow is the anti-Man of Steel. Arrow did need to kill to grow as a character. The evolution of Oliver over the two seasons is proof of that. Superman should not kill however. He should find a way not to - that's what makes him Superman. He finds a way, he is our example, he doesn't learn by example.

The codenames used by Task Force X range from the obvious to the intriguing. There's Deadshot, Shrapnel, and Tiger. Lyla is Harbinger, Diggle is Freelancer, and Waller is Mockingbird. Mockingbird is the secret mystery leader of the old Secret Six, a realistic espionage crew in 1960s DC Comics, and it's newer counterpart, a villain group very similar to the Suicide Squad.

Amanda Waller, despite her petite size, proves that she is every bit as ruthless and devious as her heavyset comics counterpart. And it's nice to see Deadshot in a tux, so similar to his original Golden Age 'costume.' I wish Bronze Tiger had a bit more to do however. This was a waste of Michael Jai White in my opinion. And now that the Squad has a vacancy, perhaps Count Vertigo will come on board?

The Suicide Squad is the A plot here, with Team Arrow taking a back seat. Even Flashback Island reflects this as the flashbacks this week are Diggle's and go back to Afghanistan. I'd like to see more of this. Maybe a Felicity (she did imply she had a past) or Quentin or Sara (or maybe one of the villains) focused episode complete with flashbacks next?

Ostrander Hotel is a nice shout out for this episode, as John Ostrander created the most known super-villain version of the Suicide Squad and wrote most of their exploits. ARGUS, HIVE, Giffen (Keith Giffen was a later Suicide Squad writer/artist), Khandaq, Qurac, and Markovia are also namedropped. This episode is chockful of DCU references, the best of which is Harley Quinn, waiting her turn for a Suicide Squad mission at ARGUS headquarters.

Originally The Flash was meant to be a back door pilot on "Arrow," and we know that the Mirakiru has all the ingredients for the Hourman pilot that's coming. I wonder if perhaps this is the practice run for a Suicide Squad series or pilot. The way the creators of "Arrow" work, a Squad series could certainly give "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" a run for its money. I'd watch, would you?

I'll leave you with one to think about. This has been bandied about on the internet for a while now. Could Diggle's full name be John Stewart Diggle? Discuss, enjoy, and I'll see you next time.

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