Arrow: 216 “Suicide Squad” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Fans of DC Comics will undoubtedly have been excited by the title of this episode alone, and for good reason: the Suicide Squad is, in comic book canon, a black-ops task force run by A.R.G.U.S. and comprised entirely of supervillains coerced into helping by the promise of a commuted sentence and under threat of death. It’s a great concept for a team and a fun element to introduce into the show, but also a tricky one to pull off, so the real question is whether or not the team fits into the world the showrunners have created.
“Suicide Squad” is a Diggle-centric episode, meaning Oliver’s story is pushed into the B-plot: he is becoming obsessive about Slade’s return, having a nightmare about Shado and then paying a visit to his Russian mafia friends to ask for help in finding Slade. They ask for a favour in return, but Oliver refuses and beats the hell out of two of the gangsters, demanding that they help, which they agree to: they give Oliver an address and tell him that all their ties are now cut, which doesn’t seem to bother Oliver. However, when the Arrow pays a visit to the address, he finds Alexi’s body with an arrow through the eye and realises that his obsession is not helping anybody, least of all Sara, whom he has been pushing away for the entire episode but reconciles with towards the end, perhaps realising that she can help.
The flashbacks this episode also belong to Diggle, with no regularly-scheduled visit to Lian Yu: we follow Diggle and his squad (which includes Ben Browder’s Ted Gaynor, featured in the season one episode “Trust But Verify” in which he was killed by Oliver) in Afghanistan as they transport a group of refugees, one of whom turns out to be known terrorist Gholem Qadir. Later, Diggle saves Qadir from an assailant, who is revealed to be a young man, barely more than a child, which devastates Diggle but earns him the lifelong respect of Qadir.
That respect is fortunate, as Diggle and Lyla Michaels (his A.R.G.U.S. agent ex-wife/current girlfriend and former Afghanistan squadmate, which may be the most complicated relationship in this entire show) are brought in by Amanda Waller to assist in stopping Qadir, who has recently acquired a small amount of a powerful nerve agent and seems to enjoy purchasing weapons of mass destruction: Waller reveals that he was the buyer for Merlyn’s prototype earthquake machine from a few episodes ago. Diggle agrees, but is less than thrilled when he finds out who his teammates are: Mark Scheffer, or ‘Shrapnel’ from episode 10, Ben Turner or ‘Bronze Tiger’, and Floyd ‘Deadshot’ Lawton. We also get a tiny tease of another villain A.R.G.U.S. has in custody as a screechy-voiced, wild-haired young lady tells Diggle and Lyla she’s a ‘trained therapist’, which was a wonderful moment of fan service.
So the unlikely team is sent to Markovia to stop Qadir, where Turner poses as Diggle’s bodyguard and Deadshot takes a shot at Diggle while he in conversation with Qadir, reminding Qadir of what happened in Afghanistan and prompting him to invite Diggle to a function at his home. Unfortunately, Shrapnel decides to flee in the getaway vehicle, and Waller detonates a device implanted in his head and kills him (although having been killed off-screen I don’t trust this show to keep him dead). Diggle is none too happy about this situation, and has a heart to heart with Deadshot of all people, who tells Diggle that he is doing everything for his estranged daughter, sending every bit of money he can to her. There is also a brief mention of H.I.V.E., the organisation that contracted Deadshot to kill Diggle’s brother, but that only serves to highlight how little Diggle has done with this lead.
Anyway, they infiltrate the function through some pleasantly Bond-like means and gadgets, and Deadshot tracks down the nerve agent, only to find that there’s a much larger amount than they were told. Waller orders him to stay put and the rest of the team to get out, and informs Lyla that she’s deployed an aerial drone to destroy the house and the nerve agent along with it: this prompts Lyla and Diggle to evacuate the guests and to try and save Deadshot, who seemingly has no problem with dying. However, Diggle manages to convince him to leave, only to find that the drone is tracking Deadshot’s implant and will blow them all up: the only way to stop it is to dig the implant out of his head, which Lyla does, and causes the drone to fire on an empty road instead.
Waller isn’t too thrilled with the outcome, saying that they will now implant the devices into their spinal vertebrae instead, summarily dismisses Diggle and gives Lyla something of a dressing-down. It’s a nicely sinister end to the story, and one which suggests that we haven’t seen the last of the Suicide Squad: not to mention a cooling-off of the relationship between Diggle and Deadshot.
Speaking of whom, Deadshot provides the absolute highlight of the episode, with Michael Rowe stealing most scenes he is in: the character is a tough one to portray, equal parts swagger and pathos, and Rowe does him complete justice. He gets some of the best lines, particularly “How very contemporary” in reaction to the news he is going to be killed by a drone strike, and as one of the most regularly recurring villains we are starting to get a much better feel for his motivations. Here’s hoping his insistence that he won’t be around for long is inaccurate, because I could watch this incarnation of Deadshot for hours.
Finally, Oliver pays a visit to Amanda Waller, revealing that they have some kind of history together which didn’t exactly end in them being best friends: anyway, Oliver informs her that Slade Wilson is still alive, and she refers him to a new player in Starling City, one that they have codenamed ‘Deathstroke’.
Another wonderful instalment of the Bonkers Superhero Hour, with some welcome focus on Diggle and his history, as well as an intriguing glimpse of an interesting team who could be a lot of fun if they make another appearance.