Suicide Squad may very well be the first episode of Arrow in which Oliver Queen is a supporting character in his own show. This is a great development. Don’t get me wrong – Oliver/Arrow is a fascinating character, a stoic and solid leading man, and Stephen Amell just gets better and more confident in his portrayal each week – however one of the best aspects of Season 2 of this show has been the diversification and further development of its many supporting players. Various characters have been given juicy story lines and this strong cast has been up to the task. Yet in each of these examples their stories were shared or split with Oliver. Suicide Squad focuses squarely on Mr. John Diggle, and although Oliver is still present (the threat of Slade Wilson lingers), the balance undoubtedly shifts in Diggle’s favor. This is not something the show can or should always do, but in Suicide Squad it makes for a smashing success.
One of the other very smart things season 2 of Arrow has achieved is building a strong rogues gallery. Borrowing from a variety of DC Comics sources, we have met a diverse group of villains and with Arrow’s new no-kill mantra it allows them to come back for more down the line. The Suicide Squad (also known as Task Force X, which they are referred to in this episode as well), like all elements of comic books, has gone through various iterations and Arrow borrows from many of these while also charting its own course of villains we have seen Arrow, Diggle, and the team fight before. At the head of the squad, as is always the case, is Amanda Waller, who was first introduced in “Keep Your Enemies Closer.” This episode effectively serves as a sequel to that one. On her team: Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Shrapnel, and Lyla, Diggle’s ex wife and current girlfriend. Naturally, Diggle gets brought on board as he has a prior relationship with the team’s target, an arms dealer and terrorist named Gholem Qadir.
The notion of the Suicide Squad is one that I find fascinating, and Arrow uses the moral implications as a jumping off point for its further examination of John Diggle. The members of this squad are criminals and murderers who are being exploited for their particular skills in exchange for prison time. As the name of the squad suggests the risk level is high and the potential for death – as Shrapnel finds out – is even higher. Although they are serving their country they are doing it not out of desire or goodness but out of obligation. It makes for a tricky paradigm between Diggle and the squad, particularly seeing as how he has had previous interactions with all of them. At once Diggle hates these individuals, particularly Deadshot, but his own morals and goodness get in the way when it is revealed that Amanda Waller is a cold woman who effectively plans to murder the entire squad in exchange for the greater good. Diggle decides to disobey orders and protect as many people as he can because he knows it is the right thing to do. The episode ramps along with a lot of terrific spy thriller action as the squad sets out on their mission (although I do wish Shrapnel and Bronze Tiger were given more to do) but it purely serves as a means to further develop the Diggle/Deadshot relationship and ask questions about what it truly means to be a hero.
John Diggle is a hero. We know this, and I have written about this before. He is also a soldier, and that mantra and perspective has come in handy and also gotten in the way in the past. The episode flashes back to Diggle’s time in the marines (more non-island flashbacks… woah!) and it fills in information that I sort of knew instinctually about him because of the sharp character writing and David Ramsey’s terrific performance. We see the way Diggle reacts to the killing of a child and how the duty of the soldier can sometimes conflict with one’s personal morals. We see how Diggle struggles with what it means to be a good man and a hero, and we see him meet Lyla for the first time. This narrative plays well with the present day suicide squad material and it paints an increasingly complex portrait of Arrow’s right hand man. David Ramsey should be thrilled that he was given such a solid showcase.
I do wish the squad was given more action and that they were utilized better, although I do not think this is the last we have seen of them. A brief glimpse/sound of who is obviously Harley Quinn in a cell in the squad’s facility is terribly exciting. Furthermore, although he sits on the sidelines for most of the episode, Oliver Queen’s quest to find Slade Wilson finds him encountering Amanda Waller by episode’s end and suddenly everything is just a bit more connected than it was before. It seems clear that Oliver knew Amanda long before we first met her earlier this season and she points Oliver in the direction of a mercenary… named Deathstroke.