TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 16: Suicide Squad (CW)

How many comic book fans thought that they’d ever see a Suicide Squad assembly in a live-action network-television setting? Probably the same amount who thought that one day someone would […]

How many comic book fans thought that they’d ever see a Suicide Squad assembly in a live-action network-television setting? Probably the same amount who thought that one day someone would mSuicide Squadake a live action Green Arrow series, and more than that, that it’d be worth watching. The odds are astronomical. However as Arrow continues to prove, it’s not just about “Making a Green Arrow show” it’s about introducing a new audience to a veritable pantheon of unique characters, whilst simultaneously showing the veteran audience of the source material that these stories can be told without the big Hollywood tent poles. No matter which way you slice it, Arrow is winning. It has tested the bounds of what kind of comic book mischief that a serious television show could actually get away with, and it’s come out on top. And now, they want to give us a Suicide Squad episode. I mean what are we going to do, say no?

Coming off of the Promise, it’s easy to push this episode in to your filler category, but you’d only be two-thirds right. I mean that literally. The episode is split in to three arcs. It’s Oliver’s misery, Suicide Squad’s mission, and Diggle’s past. That’s kind of an oversimplified way to refer to it, but well it fits. The first arc of the episode is all about Oliver trying to reason what he does at night, with what he has to lose if Slade takes the offensive. Since he’s become a hero, Oliver has found love, friends, purpose, and just general happiness. This is the first time we get to see him agonize over the path of the hero and his sordid past, which works well with the irony of having finally found contentment in his unusual lifestyle. Amell plays a very introspective Oliver this time around, and portrays the mannerisms of someone thinking too much all too well. His attitude changes drastically as he fluctuates between making calculated decisions, and reckless mistakes. He also constantly contradicts himself as he interacts with people who he socializes with every day. It calls back to some of the emotional woes for the character of Oliver from the comics, closing the gap between them that much more. The supporting cast lSuicide Squadeaves the heavy lifting and general moping up the Amell, but Caity Lotz does a decent job of second string moper. I’m joking. Seeing Oliver and Sara hit their first real rough patch as an official couple makes their pairing very down to earth, and does a lot to sell their validity of their relationship. This is especially true as the conflict between them reaches a natural, albeit simple, conclusion; that strengthens their connection in the eyes of the audience and for the sake of the story. The true master of this arc though is Slade.

 

Notice that I didn’t say Manu Bennett there. He’s been amazing as Slade, without a doubt, but this time it’s his absence that adds to his menace. Have you ever read Bram Stoker’s Dracula? The story is told through the eyes of people witnessing the events. We never get the Count’s perspective. In similar fashion, Slade is viewed through Oliver’s eyes alone, and comes off as spectral or ethereal. His absence, yet overwhelming presence has an air of mystique to it that owns the role of the antagonist in a way that a single speaking part never could. It’s a solid choice in writing and directing that connects us with Oliver’s dilemma in such a way as to form an empathic connection between the audience and the character, and also burns Slade’s lethality and venerability in to our minds. The audience understands why Oliver is suffering. We’ve seen Slade’s physical prowess, hisArrow Suicide Squad Deathstroke mental mastery, and his uncanny ability to best Oliver in both. It’s hard not to feel the same sort of intimidation, or at least understand why Oliver feels it. Especially when Slade lures Oliver in to trap after trap with no intention but to get in Oliver’s head. It’s an elaborate mind game that has an equal amount of credit going to proficient acting, directing, and writing. Another positive thing that came out of this arc was Katie Cassidy’s reforming Laurel. It was a solid turn for the character that actually kept people from throwing things at their TV’s. It’s a small step, but at least that step is in the right direction.

But enough about the boring “plot”. Let’s talk the SUICIDE SQUAD!

ArrowIf you aren’t familiar with the Suicide Squad from the comics (not the original, but the most relevant), here’s a short background . There have been at least four iterations of the Suicide Squad, with rotating membership and a surprisingly high mortality rate (for comics). Amanda Waller originally designed them from the ground up as a group of convicts with useful skills that could buy time off of their sentence by taking part in government missions with an almost zero level of survival possibility. On the surface it’s sort of an anti-Justice League. But on a deeper level, seeing people who are only out for themselves work toward a common goal creates all sorts of opportunities for friction. And friction is entertainment. Caught up? Arrow’s Suicide Squad works the same way, and sets out to get the same result. Does it? Ehhhhh…not really. I mean don’t get me wrong, the Suicide Squad themselves have a few moments of really entertaining banter that comes from their differing personalities, and the actors’ dedication to being “bad guys”. Add in a dash of John Diggle Honorman/an ironically cynical sense of humor, and you have a recipe for friction. And as we’ve just denoted, friction is entertainment. This is easily the most satisfying aspect of this storyline. The conversations between the “bad guys” and John are incredibly entertaining. Unfortunately, it falls apart from a structural level. And when the entire point of your storyline is to create a situation where a group of people with nothing to lose are the only ones can get the job done, it all becomes pretty abysmal when the audience doesn’t understand just how your characters reached that conclusion. The point of the suicide squad is that the mission is supposed to be suicide. The mission is far from being considered as suicidal. It’s not easy, but it’s like if Nick Fury had hired the Avengers to get a cat out of a tree. Again oversimplified, but you see where I’m going.

But let’s take this step by step. Diggle’s involvement in the crew isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done. We understand it. Then the introduction of the team leaves a decent impression. Especially when Deadshot reveals that the “Suicide Squad” is his nickname for “Task Force X”. This was a little confusing considering that Waller refers to them as a squad in Tremors, but keeps calling them a task force when the characters are introduced. Even though the scene is played out to make it seem like Deadshot came up with it on the spot. It’s a little gripe, but it just doesn’t add up. But as we see the mission unfold, the illusion of necessity falls apart. Seriously, why would you need a group of convicts for this kind of mission? I’m not convinced. And that’s just it. “I’m not convinced.” It’s this thought that starts a downward spiral of thinly veiled plot holes, obvious story devices, and inane acts and events that all shatter the suspension of disbelief. To be honest, at it’s heart, the Suicide Squad storyline isn’t that bad. No…wait. Yes it is that bad, at it’s *heart*. Everywhere else it does alright. Too bad they don’t spend any time at all on the everywhere else. It just barrels forward without fleshing out a single thought or idea. I’m not stupid. I understood what happened. But I just didn’t understand the why. Why, for example, was the plan to take out Bronze Tiger that early, when his martial arts prowess was still an asset? Why did Shrapnel run, even though he was most likely informed that he had a bomb in his head (I mean he’s thick, but I would think he would notice someone opening up his skull and putting a bomb in it)? This all culminates in a GROAN INDUCING conclusion that just. Well… It’s makes no sense. Why send a drone to blow up a mansion in an infiltration mission?

Arrow Suicide Squad Cloaked

THAT’S NOT A GOOD ENOUGH EXPLANATION AMANDA! WHY ARE YOU USING DRONES ON A STEALTH MISSION!?

She can kill Deadshot anywhere. Why go through such an elaborate ploy? Why is it that Tiger and Harbinger, and Freelancer get to live, but Deadshot has to die? If you whole plan was to send a drone to GPS coordinates, why not include a mini GPS with the package that they leave for Deadshot, that can just be dropped in the awkwardly unguarded secret room? UGH! It’s just maddening how little sense this whole plot makes. No one acts naturally about it either.  Diggle just goes along with the plan, even though it sucks. That’s probably the biggest insult. David Ramsey’s character finally gets his own mini-arc, and he has to spend it pretending that he’s in the employ of all seeing and all knowing master strategists, even though their actions have no discernible meaning behind them, and are mostly just totally pointless. The strongest scenes of the arc come from the interaction between Diggle and Lawton (Ramsey and Rowe), which create unique moments of (you guessed it) friction that the two play off of well. UNTIL the ending comes around and they just run it right in to the ground. Let me sum up,
Amanda: “Sending a drone to blow up the mansion. Everyone but Deadshot get out.”
Diggle: “All these people are gonna die!”
Lyla: “We can set off the house alarm, and everyone will be cleared out, and our cover will remain intact.”
Diggle: “No. I’ve got an ingenious plan…”
Diggle: “EVERYONE RUN! HE’S A TERRORIST AND THIS PLACE IS FILLED WITH POISON!”
Lyla: “…Great…we should go…”
Diggle: “What about Deadshot?”
Deadshot: “Staying here. Wanna die.”
Diggle: “What about your daughter?”
Deadshot: “Oh yeah okay…let’s go”
Deadshot: “We got away, but the drone is targeting my imbedded GPS device!”
Lyla: “Oh yeah…it’s actually really easy to get to. I’ll just cut it out, and throw it”
Deadshot: “Cool.”
LATER, BACK AT A.R.G.U.S.
Amanda: “You guys suck.”
Diggle and Lyla :Yup.”

Final Word

Oliver’s storyline is well told, haunting, and very organic. The action is practically nonexistent, but his contradictory actions and attempts to push away his loved ones to save himself from being hurt works really well as the main conflict. Laurel’s rehabilitative presence in the episode is a breath of fresh air, and increases Katie Cassidy’s stock in her character as a positive force. There’s very little Felicity, but Caity Lotz gets a lot more character development as she stands by Oliver through what is clearly a very difficult time, despite his attempts to keep her at arm’s length. Slade’s menace is felt more than ever by his absence, and only creates anticipation for what his next move will be (Seriously. The home movies scene? Just brilliant all the way through).
In the completely opposite fashion, the Suicide Squad arc goes from “Oh?” to “Huh?” to “What?” to “Why?” before finding a home at “Seriously?”. Bronze Tiger gets nothing to do, which is especially frustrating with Michael Jai White being such an interesting and entertaining actor and martial artist. Shrapnel dies (OFF SCREEN!?) without having his character realized in the slightest. Deadshot has a few mildly amusing moments, but despite having humorous conversations with his obvious foil in Diggle he still can’t save this turd of a plot. Diggle spends the whole time being mad at his girlfriend, which would be a lot more interesting if they decided to expound about it at all, beyond the flimsy representation of his background in the military. Basically, no one does anything or says anything remotely characteristic or interesting, which makes the boring parts of the plot even more so, and the unintelligible parts of the plot that much more obvious. There was real potential here, and if the Suicide Squad had been given a full episode, they might have found a footing, but this rinky dink sneak and snatch mission is so unsuicidal it’s yawn inducing. You hired a bomb expert to drive a van? A sharpshooter to fake shoot an ally? And a martial arts expert to get shot, fall down, and play dead? Why? Couldn’t literally anyone have gone with Diggle on this kind of mission?

No pun. No attempt at a clever sign off. Suicide Squad was just a huge waste from sSuicide Squadtart to finish. And really it’s such a damn shame when you have so many actors with so much talent, and characters with just a rich history and you just waste them like that. All honestly, the Suicide Squad has potential for a spin-off or web series, but if this is what they consider a Suicide Squad worthy mission, maybe you’re better off just watching re-runs of COPS.

-PS

Also. Harley Quinn’s cameo was short, but fun. Kudos also go to the crew for getting the amazing Tara Strong to do the voice.

 

Arrow airs Wednesday nights 8 PM/7 PM C only on the CW©

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http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow

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