It shouldn’t come as surprise that a major issue I’ve had with Arrow are their piss poor villains. This season they’ve thankfully moved away from the terrible ‘villain of the week’ trope for more interesting and varied episodes, but often villains with potential are still wasted in forgettable, one-off appearances. Knowing that, I was a little worried about an episode centered are returning villains working as team, but honestly, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed “Suicide Squad.”
Surely, this is only further evidence that Season 2 is where Arrow begins cementing itself as one of TV’s best superhero shows. Where last week’s episode, “The Promise” focused heavily on Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Slade (Manu Bennet), this week the focus shifts to Diggle (David Ramsey) and his arch-enemy, Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot (Michael Rowe).
Diggle has been grossly underused this season and it’s great to see another episode where Ramsey gets a major chunk of screen time. His character has always been an interesting addition to the Arrow-verse as there’s no comic book counterpart. Diggle also walks this fine line between bodyguard and vigilante, and the longer he’s been a part of Team Arrow the more he’s strayed towards the latter. In fact, it’s almost laughable to call him Ollie’s bodyguard as this point, but even with the promotion to full-fledged crime fighter, Dig hasn’t gotten to do much.
That changes in “Suicide Squad” where along with his past comrade in arms, ex-wife, and current girlfriend Lyla (Audry Marie Anderson), Diggle is asked by Amanda Waller (in that way only Amanda Waller can ask where you never say “no”) to lead Task Force X, dubbed the Suicide Squad by Lawton. It’s comprised of criminals who in exchange for time off their lengthy sentences take part in extremely dangerous government missions. Entirely off the books, of course.
Quick note, Cynthia Addai-Robinson is absolutely terrifying as Waller. She’s steely and I’m loving her performance. I lament the fact Arrow chose to go with the thinner, sexier Waller we now see in the comics, but I’m positive that was a decision made high above. Interestingly enough, Amanda Waller’s creator, John Ostrander just recently wrote a column where he addresses his disappointment in her New 52 redesign and I highly suggest it for anyone curious why the stout Waller struck a far more interesting and unique silhouette in comics littered with “idealized” character designs.
Arrow‘s iteration of the Suicide Squad includes Deadshot, Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), and Shrapnel (Sean Maher). For a moment, I was thrilled to see past villains, such as Maher’s Shrapnel, get another chance–only to find that moment fleeting when Shrapnel is killed off during the Squad’s first outing. His death serves no other purpose than to inform viewers Waller keeps her criminals on a very short leash, and when they act out, BOOM! She detonates the bomb implanted in their brains.
But seriously, huge waste of mine and, I’m assuming, Maher’s time.
As for Bronze Tiger, another villain I’ve lamented never actually getting to see do anything, he’s utilized just barely, and only as muscle. Rowe’s Lawton on the other hand gets to shine like we’ve never seen before. Finally, Rowe gets to flex his acting abilities a bit and provide some depth for Deadshot as we’re introduced to his young daughter and his own personal death wish. Deadshot is a complicated character and it’s great to finally see a little of what makes him so complex on screen.
The relationship between Lawton and Diggle is also interesting to watch develop and it’s this interaction that’s the real heart of the episode as the two form an unlikely, well, I don’t want to call it a friendship but you know what I mean. For the sake of the team and each other they overcome their personal issues to save lives.
And as if the title alone wasn’t enough of a fan shout out, “Suicide Squad” contained my hands down, favorite nod to DC Comics characters and lore: the Harley Quinn cameo! Sure, she was credited as “Deranged Squad Female” but she had noticeable pig tails, was voiced by none other than Tara Strong, and even calls herself a “licensed therapist.” Definitely, Harley. On top of that magical moment this episode also feature a few other DC callbacks in the locations of Kahndaq and Markovia.
On the back burner this week was Oliver’s continued search for Slade Wilson. For a hot minute the show dallied with the tried and true “I must push away those I love in order to protect them” schtick we’ve seen Oliver employ again and again. Thankfully, Sara (Caity Lotz) doesn’t have time for that bullshit and quickly calls Olives out on it. Though one of her comments has me concerned for her well being.
During their discussion Sara mentions, “I’m not that easy to kill”, which to me just screams SHE’S GOING TO DIE. I’m hoping and praying and making small sacrifices to a variety of deities to ensure this doesn’t happen. The fridging of Shado was more than enough, it doesn’t need to happen to Canary, too.
At the end of “Suicide Squad”, The Arrow confronts Waller to ask for any intel on Slade Wilson (By the way, I really dug how he was mentally fuckin’ with Olives this whole episode, what a dastardly dick he can be!) to which she reveals they have been tracking someone similar, codename: Deathstroke!
Next week it’s time for more ladies – hooray! – with “Birds of Prey.” Huntress returns, Canary will get to kick butt, and we may even see Laurel or Felicity step it up a notch.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on the CW at 8pm. Catch up with our past recap/reviews!