Yay, Diggle! I've been playing the "Hey, Diggle's been really sidelined lately and needs more things to do" tune on repeat to the point where I imagine that some of you wish you could change the damn record, so I'm sure you're relieved that "Suicide Squad" came along when it did. Of course, now that the show's done this episode, I'll only be demanding more Diggle. Maybe he can help Oliver next time! That'll be a change of pace!
I rather enjoyed "Suicide Squad." It was a very low-key episode for Arrow, not too busy at all, with only two plots to its name (I'm not even counting the flashback as half a plot, since it didn't do much beyond showing us things we already knew from earlier episodes). As much as I liked it, however, it had the feel of being a backdoor pilot for a Suicide Squad spin-off. Don't get me wrong, I would probably watch a Suicide Squad series with this cast, and I'm not suggesting that the idea is even in consideration at The CW, but DC Entertainment and the show's producers would certainly be able to point to this episode and say, "Here's what the potential show would look like."
On the upside, unlike some other backdoor pilots, "Suicide Squad" didn't feel like a completely different show from Arrow, or like something that was conceived simply to be a vehicle for David Ramsey. It certainly helped that all the elements of the episode—from the characters involved with the Suicide Squad to Gholem Qadir (Lee Majdoub) being the one who was looking to buy the prototype of Merlyn's earthquake machine in "Tremors"—were previously established aspects of Arrow's narrative, as opposed to brand-new things that just happened to show up this week.
It likewise helped that a lot of Diggle's time with the squad and A.R.G.U.S. returned to ideas that Arrow has explored in the past, namely the show's squishy approach to right and wrong, and the morals of what people do in the name of whatever cause they've joined up with. Some of it is fairly stale, as Arrow has moved on to Lyla and Waller's mentions of Oliver, Diggle, and Sara's respective body counts, while a nice acknowledgment that these things are still in the air, are also things that don't matter all that much since Oliver adopted is no-kill policy.
Nonetheless, Lyla and Waller maintained that it's a complicated world, one that needs A.R.G.U.S. to employ possible resources, including murderers who don't kill for ideals or a sense of revenge and/or justice...aside from poor Shrapnel, of course. Diggle's discomfort with the use of the likes of Deadshot and Bronze Tiger may stem from a place of motives: they're only doing the right thing to maybe get a pardon in a few years, not because they actually believe in a cause, i.e., like Oliver and like Diggle. It seemed like the episode wanted to complicate this idea a bit with Diggle's anger over Shrapnel's unceremonious end and Deadshot talk of honor, putting Diggle's sense of right and wrong.
On the one hand, Diggle must be aware that the three men on this team would be serving life sentences, if not on death row, so they would die anyway. On the other hand, Diggle values human life, but only to certain degrees and in certain contexts. Kids shooting at him in Afghanistan don't deserve to be shot, but criminals also don't deserve to be used by shadowy government agencies for suicide missions and have bomb implanted in their bodies. There's a very real question about the value of human life and using inmates in the prison system as cheap labor floating around all of this, but it didn't really lead anywhere, which is about par for the course for Arrow.
Meanwhile, Oliver was freaking out about preparing for and finding Slade before he really went and hurt anyone. So, because Oliver is Oliver and isn't good with his emotions, he decided to be all, "I'm going to do this on my own and no one can help me because Slade's going to hurt you to hurt me. Also, Sara, despite being trained by the most deadly assassins in the world, you're obviously not a match for Slade. But I am. Because I'm Oliver Queen." And that was the gist of what Oliver went through with Sara this week.
Like the ethics stuff in Diggle's story, we've seen the "I don't want the people I love to be hurt" stuff before. The only twist this week was that it involved Sara, who can, in fact, take care of herself, unlike Moira, Thea, Laurel, and Felicity. She may die in the process, but she at least knows what she's getting involved with, and first hand in this case. So I'm glad these emotional beats were resolved in this episode because I'm not sure how useful it would've been for this Oliver's lone wolf mentality to resurface.
If there was one saving grace to Oliver's behavior, it's the stuff that surrounded it. Slade's little jabs at Oliver's psyche, with the old Deathstroke mask on a pipe to Alexi with an arrow in his eye to HOME VIDEOS OF SHADO PLAYING ON A WALL, were the highlight of the whole plotline. While all of it served to spur on Oliver's sense of helplessness in the episode, it likely had the reverse end effect that Slade may have intended, namely isolating Oliver from his allies. At least Oliver learned something from all of it.
– So, hey, Oliver and Waller know one another, and Waller also knows Slade. That's going to be interesting.
– VERY GLAD that Shrapnel went off the reservation! Given his politics, it made no sense for him to even agree to join the Suicide Squad, so to have him rabbit during the mission was wonderfully consistent with what little we had learned about him, and it provided a way to introduce the little bomb in the other members. Very nicely done. (Apologies to all you Sean Maher fans.)
– "Nice jammies." Diggle and Felicity are just the best together. I don't have anything more profound to say than that.
– Your DC Comics nods of the week: The Ostrander Hotel was named for John Ostrander, a writer who's well-known for his work on the Suicide Squad comic book. Giffen Street was for Keith Giffen, who has worked on a number of DC titles... including, of course, Suicide Squad.
– Yes, that was Harley Quinn asking Diggle if he and Lyla needed some counseling. I'll be the wet blanket about her cameo, as I was very "Eh. Whatever. Fan service." since I really don't want her puddin' to show up on Arrow.
– One last thing! I know I'm normally in the comments, mixing it up and so forth, but I'm taking a long weekend from my 9-to-5, and part of it involves unplugging a bit. So, if I'm around less than I usually am (or not at all), don't take it to mean that I don't love any of you any less. Except you. Yes, you. You know who you are.
What did you think of "Suicide Squad"?