Arrow: Suicide Squad review

The Suicide Squad (and some other surprises) show up in all their glory on the latest episode of Arrow. Here's Mike's review...

Arrow may very well have outdone itself tonight…and it did it with only about five minutes of actual Oliver Queen screentime. “Suicide Squad” is more than just one of the best episodes Arrow has ever done, it’s roughly as effective at introducing a rather continuity-heavy DC Comics concept as the Barry Allen/Flash introductory episode, “The Scientist.” And yes, there was a pretty massive easter egg in there, you probably all know what it is…and as unlikely as I thought it was, there it was. We’ll get to that, though. The rest of this Arrow review contains spoilers, so, beware!

There isn’t a hell of a lot of Ollie on display in “Suicide Squad” but Stephen Amell made his moments count. What started off with “Bratva Ollie” making an appearance turned into something a little more sinister…even desperate. Slade Wilson is in Ollie’s head right now, leaving Ollie quite happy to make deals with the devil in order to make something happen. The thing is, he’s not particularly in a deal making mood…and who can blame him? His handling of the two “delicate” Bratva thugs was good fun to watch, and his delivery of “I know exactly how this brotherhood works, and right now…it works for me,” should go down in the show’s history as one of his coolest moments.

Felicity is another one who is mostly absent this week, but her exchange with Diggle is telling. Diggle is standing (well, sitting…in a car) watch outside her house every morning, “like that lacrosse player my freshman year of college.” Once again, Emily Rickards is able to bring some real connections between these characters, and I totally buy the Diggle/Felicity friendship just as surely as I do Ollie/Diggle and Ollie/Felicity. She’s really becoming the glue that keeps this show from just marching off into the shirtless macho sunset every week. Felicity’s quiet bravery in the face of a possible assassination by Slade Wilson is pretty badass, actually. See, Felicity? You don’t have to be an asskicker to be an essential part of the team!

The actual Suicide Squad, ahem…”Task Force X” comes delivered to fans exactly as advertised. Absent a Flash rogue and a dead Firestorm villain or six, this is pretty much the Suicide Squad from DC Comics…right down to the unique and gruesome way they get taken out. Which one of you readers called out Shrapnel as the first to get eliminated? Give yourself an exploding cigar! 

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Anyway, let’s take a few paragraphs to discuss the wonder that is David Ramsey in this episode, shall we? We’ve had Diggle-centric episodes before, and he’s proved his quiet charisma time and again since Arrow‘s earliest episodes, but this one was special. We all knew “The Scientist” was meant to sell us all on the idea of a Flash TV series (and it worked), but was “Suicide Squad” intended to be a quiet backdoor pilot, as well? If so, it made just as much of a case, if not more, for David Ramsey’s John Diggle as a leading man capable of carrying his own show as it did for the whole “Task Force X” concept.

Then again, the whole “Suicide Squad” concept kinda makes the idea of “series regulars” exceedingly difficult, doesn’t it? Or DOES it? After all, virtually no character is safe on a show like The Walking Dead, right? Who’s to say that we couldn’t have a similar situation on a show about supervillains? Alright, I’m reaching. But readers of Gail Simone’s spiritual successor to the classic 80s-90s Suicide Squad comics, Secret Six, might feel, as I do, that perhaps the Six would work in this format in a more practical fashion. Whoops…sorry. You caught me daydreaming.

Anyway, back to singing the praises of David Ramsey/John Diggle. His speech at the party was good fun. His effortless removal of the security thug was almost humorous in its coolness. He and Michael Jai White’s Bronze Tiger made quite the imposing pair. His back and forth with Deadshot felt like a quite natural evolution of everything we’ve already seen from them this season (and Deadshot’s whole I can take this guy out at any time…and here’s a hole in your jacket to prove it vibe is really brilliant). I think we’ve gotten more out of Diggle and Audrey Anderson’s Lyla than we have out of ANY of Ollie’s romantic pairings in the show’s history. I believe this character. Of course, his utterance of “I can’t lose you again” pretty much assures us that Lyla won’t survive the season.

It was a fun climax with the whole nerve agent/drone strike scenario playing out. The explosive device from Floyd’s neck taking out the drone was a little goofy, but it was all in the ridiculous action movie spirit of things, which is what so many of the best comic book Suicide Squad stories were about. Mostly, I’m just impressed at how many times Arrow just flat out went for it this week. 

There were no island flashbacks in this episode. I mean, really…“The Promise” can’t exactly be topped for awhile in that department, can it? But the flashback sequences were used for Diggle and Lyla’s time in Afghanistan and to set up this episode’s baddie/target Gholem Qadir (Lee Madjoub). The flashbacks served the story in a more real, practical fashion than anything they’ve done in quite some time, and I suspect we could get more mileage out of this story in the future.

Gholem Qadir is less of a villain and more of a plot device, but I guess that was to be expected. There’s no way anyone was gonna compete with Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, and Amanda Waller (with Deathstroke waiting in the wings). At least it was revealed that he was the guy trying to buy the old earthquake machine a few weeks back. Then again, that episode was kinda lousy, so I’m not sure I needed to be reminded of it. Still, it’s attention to detail and continuity that make comic fans (namely, this one) happy…

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What keeps this from being a five star episode? I dunno. Maybe I’m just a little crankier than usual tonight. But repurposing the Queen home set for the other party seemed a little cheap for a show like this (did they really think we wouldn’t notice?) and the very mention of Moira’s mayoral campaign is enough to give me fits. They almost made it the entire episode! However, it was handled well enough. “I detest swimming.”

DC Universe Watchtower

– “I’m a trained therapist!” Yep. That’s Harley Quinn, alright. And that was the “real” Harley, Tara Strong, doing her voice! Because, y’know, the Harley cameo wasn’t cool enough, they had to actually get Tara Strong to do it. Wow.

– In other news, it’s a good thing I didn’t make a bet with regular commentor, NotBob, as I would owe him something or other right now. While all the advance signs pointed to Harley Quinn being in that other cell, I just didn’t honestly believe they were gonna go for it. Yet, here we are! That being said, I don’t think we can ignore the fact that a Batman MUST exist in this universe somewhere…whether it’s a Nolan or Snyder-approved Batmodel is another story. But there’s only so many al Ghuls and Quinzels you can drop into this show without delivering us a Grayson, Gordon, or Wayne. And there’s still those Nightwing rumors…

– Please indulge my Bat-daydreams for one more minute, please. Episode 19 is entitled “The Man Under the Hood.” This was originally going to be a Flash-centric episode, and it WILL feature Flash supporting characters…but…what if “the man under the hood” in question is “The Red Hood?” It can be Jason Todd or Mr. J…I’m not too picky. Disclaimer: Longtime readers of these reviews know that, based on nothing more than the title and the then-ongoing Central City particle accelerator sub-subplot, I was once convinced that “Blast Radius” was going to introduce Firestorm, so please don’t get too caught up in my own private fan nonsense when we’re down here in the “Watchtower” segments of these reviews.

– I do get a little excited every time Lyla is referred to as “Harbinger.” And, since I seem to have a painfully short memory this evening, is this the first time Amanda Waller has explicitly been referred to as “Mockingbird?” Even if it wasn’t, that kinda gives me a little jolt, too.

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– We get TWO THREE fictional DC Universe countries getting the name drop in this episode. The nerve agent (thanks to the ever sharp-eyed NotBob for the catch/correction, here) originated in Kahndaq (home of Black Adam!) was tested in Qurac, and then good ol’ Markovia gets another mention.

– Deadshot’s relationship with his daughter rang true to the comics, and this is the first time I really felt that this really is the Floyd Lawton from the comics. I think Michael Rowe needs to come back more often, because he appears to be growing into the role. Then again, this might have just been a more well-written episode than some of his previous outings.

– Plenty of additional bits of fanservice scattered throughout, as well. “The Ostrander Suite” and the robbery on the corner of “Giffen” being the most obvious, calling back to the two guys who really made the Suicide Squad into the gruesome, corpse-riddled mess it’s been throughout DC history. By the way, if you haven’t read our Many Deaths of the Suicide Squad article, now is a fine time to do so.

– Also, DEATHSTROKE! Not a word from Slade Wilson tonight, but he’s there in spirit…and in body count. I really don’t want this resolved this season. I want Slade to torment everyone throughout season three. This is all just too delicious. 

All in all, this is the stuff right here. Between episodes like this, “The Promise,” “The Scientist,” and some others…if Arrow could really just fire off four or five of these in a row (and to be fair, if you look at what we know about the rest of season 2 so far, it does look like they’re going for it), I would have no hesitation about just crowning this the greatest superhero television show of all time. Maybe I should, anyway. Fan service aside, this didn’t feel forced, desperate, or mandated from up above. It just worked. Who needs a Justice League movie when we’ve got pleasant surprises like this?

I’m sure there’s something I missed, so you all know the drill. Let’s talk some DC Comics down below!

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4.5 out of 5