Task Force? More like a Squad
When Sony announced that part of their “All Spider-man all the time” plan included a Sinister Six film (Drew Goddard writing), the initial reaction was “how do you make that work?” The Sinister Six is a team of villains bent on the destruction of Spider-man, not exactly a baby face move.
During the Legends miniseries, writer John Ostrander reintroduced the Suicide Squad aka Task Force X. This time manning the team with super villains forced to work for the US Government in order to get time off their sentence. The series has its roots in an unflinching homage to The Dirty Dozen and Mission: Impossible, making for exciting one off missions where someone always dies. But like the above question, how do you make villains sympathetic without taking their teeth or turning them hero? Putting a bomb in their head and giving Amanda Waller the trigger is a good move; instant not quite sympathy or empathy but understanding.
With Arrow aggressive expansion, it has been easy to forget where this series came from. Team Arrow used to be a 3 man crew, there wasn’t the slow creep of powers and ninja assassins (just absurd earthquake machines). After a spotlight episode 6 “Keeping Your Enemies Closer” John Diggle has receded to the background of the show. Partly due to said aggressive expansion and actor David Ramsey having prior commitments. Of all the new toys Diggle is still hugely vital to the moral and emotional heart of this show, he’s damaged good but still has the idealism and hope that keeps Ollie and the team human.
“Suicide Squad” pushes Ollie to the ‘B’ plot, last night’s episode was all about the titular team and getting some much needed quality time with Mr. Diggle. “Suicide Squad” is self contained due to the ‘A’ plot but is still tied into the overall arc of the season now that Slade Wilson has revealed himself.
During “The Promise” when Diggle is taken out by an unknown assailant, it appeared to be setting up “Suicide Squad”, ARGUS did the same move last time in “Keep Your Enemies Closer”. Waller wants Diggle in a more cooperative mood, wanting him to lead the team on a off book mission into Markovia. In an echo of the theme of past coming back to haunt, someone Diggle saved has gotten his hands on some Macguffin X, and we can’t have that now.
Offically they are designated Task Force X. To Deadshot Floyd Lawton they are the “Suicide Squad”. To Amanda Waller they are people with useful skills who can be controlled. To Diggle they are a bunch of thieves and murders “What OJ and Charles Manson weren’t available?” He sarcastically wonders. The squad Is a nice pay off to the rise of costumed villains that make it out of a meeting with the Arrow. I will never complain about something that continues to give Michael Jai White work.
The mission itself isn’t a half bad espionage thriller. Ending at a fundraiser at an estate in Markovia, it gives ample excuse to put everyone in nice suits and dresses. “Suicide Squad” works as a light proof of concept for what a potential miniseries, Strike Back is over now, could look like.
Deadshot carries the squad giving his past experiences with Diggle. Michael Rowe has a fun camp energy to him, sarcastically welcoming his new leader to the team and blowing him a kiss in their first meeting. It’s all absurd and that’s OK. Deadshots moral apathy contrasts nicely with the righteousness felt by Diggle. In his four appearances Rowe has managed to make Deadshot feel like an actual character and not just a fun bit of stunt casting like Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger. Cynthia Addai-Robinson continues to be interesting take on the character, she dosen’t have the intimidation or presence as CCH Pounder. Addai-Robinson is just kind of ice cold and not in a fun to hate kind of way.
“Suicide Squad” attempts to reexamine the righteousness of Olliver and Diggles mission in Starling City. As Layla rightly points out, there isn’t much difference between what Oliver dose/did as the Arrow and what Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, and Shrapnel. There is a mountain of bodies between Sara Lance and Oliver Queen. Everyone in the games has red on the ledger. Waller and Layla justify their facisit methods as a necessary evil, they see the world how it is not how they want it to be. Nick Fury says something similar in The Winter Soldier. It’s classic beauocratic morality, providing ample cover to show Floyd Lawton in something resembling a heroic light, he’s doing all this for the betterment of his daughter after all. “Suicide Squad” manages to shatter Diggle’s righteousness about who the “good guys” are. Is it the murder that is forced to go on a mission and willing to die for it or the government that uses them? “Suicide Squad” shows the power of perception and point of view, turning notions of good and evil (on a very base moral level) on their head with enough character strokes that we believe it. As trite as the line is, Layala is right they operate in the gray.
Shaken is an excellent adjective to describe the state of Oliver Queen. The knowledge that the boogeyman is real and out to get him and his has made the normally cocksure Queen scared. Returning to his Russian mafia connections (a truly absurd conceit that I hope is never fully explained) in the hope of finding Slade Wilson before he can act on his master plan. As all heroes are one to do, he pushes his loved one away because that’s what you do when you have a nemesis out for blood. Of course that dosen’t work out as well as he’d hope, Slade has had years to plan he laments. It’s all necessary plot and emotional movements, not terrible it has a couple of nice scenes between the Lance sisters. Sara’s line about not being that easy to kill is right next to a cop being three days from retirement.
“Suicide Squad” provides a nice change of pace after all that was revealed in “The Promise” and reaffirms Diggles importance even as Team Arrow grows and grows.
The Bits At the End
- You should read Are Superheroes Fascist? By Devin Faraci
- Some nice lines from the episode
- “There’s an incoming drone strike” – Diggle - “How contemporary” – Deadshot
- “It’s because when we talk, we tend to get divorced.” Diggle
- That was a fun homage to Harley Quinn with Tara Strong providing the voice!