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‘Arrow’ Season 2 Recap, Episode 16: ‘Suicide Squad’

The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.

This week, a certain unit that’s more of a squad makes its TV debut, Ollie turns to Russian mobsters for help, and Dig gets involved in a moral quandary.

First thing’s first: We get shirtless Ollie waking up from a nightmare, shirtless, while billowy steam streams up just behind him.

 

 

It’s weird that they built the Arrowcave over all those open sewers, isn’t it?

Oh, but wait! None of this is real. Ollie is dreaming that he just woke up from a dream (Does that ever really happen?) and finds himself in bed with poor old dead Shado. She rolls over and calls him a murderer, and she’s not wrong, but it’s kind of a rude way to start a conversation.

Ollie then wakes up for real, still shirtless and still with all that steam coming up behind him. He looks over and sees Sara sleeping next to him and immediately calls his old Russian mobster friend, Alexi Leonov. It’s always great to have a guy who’s local. Ollie meets up with Alexi at his garage and asks him for some help tracking down Slade. Alexi asks for a favor in return, but Ollie says he doesn’t have time for games. Just zip it and do your job, ruthless Russian mobster!

Leonov engages in some martial persuasion, but Ollie just beats his goons up and holds Leonov at gunpoint. I’m not sure that’s the best way to get good work out of your business partners, Ollie. You’re a CEO. Learn some relationship management skills.

Ollie heads back to the Arrowcave and has a brief conversation with Sara that ends with him saying he’s going to kill Slade and make sure he’s dead this time. What happened to honoring Merlyn’s memory, hmm, Ollie?

Elsewhere, Dig waits in the driver’s seat of a car wearing an Action Leather Jacket when Smoak comes out and offers him some hot chocolate. Dig fesses up pretty quickly that he’s doing a security detail on her behalf, to protect her from Slade. Hey, wasn’t Digg, like, kidnapped by Slade at the end of the previous episode? That was certainly the implication. Did he just get better? From kidnapping?

Smoak tells Dig to go home, because if Slade wants to kill her, it’s not like he can stop him. This argument somehow works on Dig and he gets ready to leave just as he gets a text from an unknown sender. It’s the first and by far the coolest of the comic book references of the episode, in that it slips in the name of modern Suicide Squad creator John Ostrander:

 

 

Dig goes to the hotel room and meets his ex-wife, Lyla Michaels, a.k.a. Harbinger, who greets him at the door in a nightie. After insinuating that she just killed a high-ranking North Korean official, she begins seducing Dig, who’s a little reticent to rekindle the romance but has a hard time resisting.

Just as the lovin’ starts, we flash back, but not to Flashback Island. Instead, we’re sent back to six years ago, during one of Dig’s tours in Afghanistan. Flashbackistan. Dig, in his full special forces gear, is leading a group of refugees through a pine-tree-filled patch of desert. Harbinger’s walking behind them, saying the women in the group want to take a rest, but don’t want to tell Dig because he’s a man. Harbinger gives a woman with injured feet a pair of socks, which leads the woman to give up some info about one of the men in the group, Gholem Qadir, who turns out to be a drug lord and arms dealer. Go Harbinger!

Back in the present, Harbinger and Dig walk out of the room in a state of post-coital bliss, only to run into Amanda Waller. She tells the former couple that “we’ve all availed ourselves of the Ostrander suite at some point in our careers,” like that’s supposed to mean anything to anyone. Is that a suite specifically for government agents? Is there something about Amanda Waller that just makes writing dialogue that makes sense a total impossibility?

Anyway, Waller tells Harbinger and Dig that she has a job for them, and they’re whisked away to A.R.G.U.S. headquarters, where Waller drowsily describes a cache of a dangerous nerve agent that was unleashed in Qurac (DCU fictional country #1) and that has been traced to an estate in Markovia (DCU fictional country #2). Waller tells the mission to find the nerve gas has to be a black ops deal and that Qadir is involved (he was also behind Bronze Tiger trying to steal that earthquake machine a few episodes back). That’s why she needs Dig.

Here’s where I have to talk about Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s acting choices as Amanda Waller. She’s clearly trying to exude calm confidence, which is exactly the way Waller ought to be played (though she should have a pretty righteous temper, too), but it comes off as just flat-out sleepiness. Like she chugged a bunch of NyQuil before shooting this scene. It doesn’t accomplish what her appearances set out to do. An actress with a more imposing physical presence might have more of a chance of pulling it off.

Waller explains that Qadir is hosting a fundraiser at the estate, which will be an opportunity to confirm that he has the gas. As they walk down a prison hallway, she tells him outright that she doesn’t need him to recover the gas (that turns into a big point of contention later); he just needs to get his team, Task Force X, into the estate. Just as she mentions Task Force X, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, and Shrapnel come walking out of their cells. Deadshot pipes in with this bit of verbal diarrhea: “Gimme a break. This ain’t no task force. Let’s call it like it is. Welcome to the Suicide Squad.”

I didn’t think they could make sandwiching in the group’s comic name could be any more awkward than it was a few episodes ago, but they proved me wrong!

Immediately after that, when Dig gets incredulous about criminals being used for the mission, and Waller explains that being criminals makes them expendable, Dig introduces the idea of them being a “suicide squad” again, like Deadshot didn’t just say that. That line wouldn’t actually be so bad if that awful Deadshot line hadn’t come right before it. If only script editors existed.

(I will give the episode’s writers this: Bronze Tiger’s line when Shrapnel starts spouting some nonsense about how jailers are just as bad as prisoners, a simple, “Please stop giving him books,” elicited a genuine laugh from me. God bless Michael Jai White.)

Dig pulls Harbinger aside to say letting Deadshot and the other criminals free to do these missions is wrong. Harbinger counters with two pretty good points: 1) It isn’t freedom, it’s work and 2) Arrow and Black Canary are murderers, too. Dig starts to say there’s a difference, but he’s interrupted by Harley Quinn—that’s right, Harley Quinn—who shows up as a silhouette in a jail cell window.

 

 

She offers to counsel Harbinger and Dig, because she’s a trained therapist. It’s the silliest thing. I feel like I should love it. I appreciate the silly stuff on this show wholeheartedly. But this has to bend over backwards so far to insert this little piece of fan service that it just doesn’t work. It’s like a 10-second clip from Superhero Movie found its way into Arrow.

Elsewhere, at Verdant, Sara tends bar while Laurel fills out a job application for a retail gig. Not even going to try for a consulting job or anything, Laurel? Just straight to retail? Either way, be sure to let them know you filled out your application in a bar. Sara shoots Ollie a worried look and Laurel picks up on it, so they have a brief sister-to-sister chat. It’s nice they made up.

In the Arrowcave, Smoak tells Ollie that she’s come up short in an attempt to trace Slade’s political donation to Moira to an address. She’s got a weird grin on her face the whole time she’s doing it, too. It’s weird. Maybe she’s still amused about that Harley Quinn bit.

An alert about a robbery pops up on Smoak’s screen, but Ollie doesn’t seem too eager to go deal with it. He eventually does, and there’s a pretty wonderful shot of Deathstroke watching him from a rooftop. It’s genuinely ominous.

 

 

Arrow heads up to the rooftop and Deathstroke is gone, but his old mask is stuck on top of a pipe with an arrow through the eye. It’s a nice reuse of an image from the pilot.

Then it’s off to Markovia (which looks a lot like a welcome center at an interstate rest stop). Qadir goes walking through a fine art auction. Harbinger says she’s got eyes on him (and she uses her code name!). The rest of the team checks in. After some playful taunting involving Deadshot threatening to shoot Dig (whose code name is “Freelancer,” which may be a really under-the-radar nod to Andy Diggle), it’s back to Flashbackistan.

Qadir tries to bribe Dig just after Dig rakes him over the coals for being a war profiteer. Just then a firefight breaks out and Dig’s flashbacks bleed into the present just as present-day Qadir bumps into him. They exchange pleasantries and Qadir tries to present himself as a changed man who wants to do good in the world. Deadshot pops a couple bullets through the window (one of which grazes Dig) and Dig shields Qadir. It’s all part of a big plan to get Dig into Qadir’s good graces, and it works.

Shrapnel, who has just been sitting in a car the whole time with exactly nothing to do, goes driving off in an escape attempt. Waller warns him to stand down. He says “no” in a really wordy way, and his head explodes when Waller presses a button. The explosion happens off-screen, by the way. That could have been a taste thing or a budget thing. I’m not sure.

Task Force X regroups in a hotel room and Dig takes it to Harbinger, chewing her out for coercing the members of the team with the head bombs. Harbinger calmly says that’s the solution to the problem Dig had with the program to begin with: They’re criminals that can’t be allowed to escape. Dig says he feels like he doesn’t even know her anymore, and Harbinger gets back to business, asking where things are with Qadir. Dig says he got invited to the fundraiser and storms out.

Look, I’m just as surprised as anyone that I’m on the side of the invasive government employee who is complicit in planting bombs in people’s heads for their own good, but she’s just a better debater than Dig is.

Starling. Ollie goes back to meet Leonov, who has acquired Slade’s bank account number. He tells Ollie that their relationship is done, and Ollie wordlessly walks away. This is just bad business!

As Ollie is about to leave on his motorcycle, Sara approaches and asks what’s going on with him. He says she needs to stay away from him so she can stay protected from Slade. For some reason, she doesn’t say that he’s a macho idiot who doesn’t remember that she singlehandedly got an entire League of Assassins (at least temporarily) off her back and can handle her own damn self.

Back in Markovia, Deadshot stitches up Dig’s wound and asks him about his “problems witcha girl” like he’s f**king Mystery. Dig asks about the pictures of the girl in Deadshot’s cell, and it turns out it’s his daughter. He says all the money he makes beyond expenses goes in a blind trust for her. Surprisingly, Deadshot doesn’t also say he’s two days away from retirement and that he wants to buy a boat so he can rekindle his marriage to go for the instant sympathy trifecta.

The Suicide Squad heads to the fundraiser with the plan that Deadshot will find the nerve gas and pocket it (even though Waller has already established that isn’t the plan at all). Dig and Harbinger work their way in by schmoozing with Qadir while Deadshot takes advantage of a fake fingerprint and some highly lax metal detector operating to make his way in.

Flashbackistan. Qadir makes a run for it in the midst of the firefight and a sniper almost takes him down, but Dig gets the sniper first. (It’s a kid, by the way. So enjoy the knowledge that one of our heroes killed a child once.)

Back at the gala, Qadir is being weirdly pushy about making Dig and Harbinger dance while Deadshot sneaks around the house and uses his Arkham Asylum Detective Mode to find a hidden door.

 

 

Dig and Harbinger continue their ethical debate from earlier, and in case you were curious, things are still tense.

Verdant. Ollie and Laurel rehash a little history and she tells him he’s not helping himself by pushing Sara away. Again, no one makes the argument that Sara is the toughest person on the show and the idea of her needing protecting from anything is ridiculous.

In the Arrowcave, Smoak gives Ollie the address for Slade’s account number and says she’ll call in Roy and Sara to help. Ollie says he needs to go it alone. Smoak looks worried.

Hey, isn’t it weird that no one seems to wonder where Dig is? Did he text in? “Hey guys, Waller’s on me for a special, super-secret black ops mission with the Suicide Squad. Back Tuesday! XOXO”

Ollie goes to the office where we’ve seen Slade hanging out in previous episodes. He’s not there, but Leonov’s body is in the chair, with an arrow in his eye. “Hey, bro, sorry I dissed your brotherhood’s hallowed rules and got you killed!” Ollie doesn’t say. Ollie looks up to see home movies of Shado playing on the wall. Where on Earth did Slade get those?

Ollie returns to the Arrowcave and confesses to Sara that he doesn’t know what to do. Sara says he should stop being a dimwit and let her help him. Ollie says he’s still feeling guilty about Shado and doesn’t want Sara to get hurt. Sara finally says, “I’m not that easy to kill.” They hug.

Back in Markovia, Deadshot has discovered that he isn’t going anywhere with the nerve gas, because what’s there is a huge tank of the stuff, not a little vial.

 

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Harbinger calls Waller to tell her what’s up. Waller gets a feed from Deadshot’s eyepiece and confirms that the gas is what she’s looking for. She tells Bronze Tiger (who we haven’t seen as part of this leg of the mission at all) to prepare for extraction, orders Dig and Harbinger to get back to the rally point, and says Deadshot should stay put.

Harbinger and Dig start getting a little frazzled. They’re confused because Waller seems to have known all along that the nerve agent was too big to move. I’d like to refer them to something Waller said like half an hour ago: She said they weren’t going to be taking the nerve agent out of the house. She clearly stated it! How about you listen to your superiors, Harbinger?

Anyway, a drone is going to come blow the place up and kill everyone at a fundraiser for a charity. Seems like bad international policy, but OK.

Dig and Harbinger start thinking fast to figure out a way to get the innocents out of the house. Dig’s solution is to tap a fork against a glass and tell everyone the host of this event is a terrorist with a nerve agent in his basement. Instead of going into a blind panic like normal people, the guests all react to this with what sound like groans of disgust, like they just walked out of a bad movie. One guy does try to punch Dig, and Dig lays him out. So I guess that guy’s going to die.

Qadir whips out a knife and holds it to Harbinger’s neck, revealing that he knew who she was all along. Bronze Tiger finally shows up and stabs Qadir in the back.

Dig heads down to the room with the nerve gas and tells Deadshot that a drone is headed for the house. “How contemporary,” Deadshot says, like anyone would ever say that. Deadshot seems content to follow Waller’s orders and die (“Suicide Squad, remember?” as if anyone had forgotten), but Dig coerces him into coming with the rest of the team because of that forced sympathy from earlier.

The team packs into a van and starts driving away. Instead of attacking the house, the drone comes after the van because it’s targeting Deadshot, not the house. Specifically, it’s targeting the bomb in his head, which is also a GPS device. I was reasonably sure that drones that had actual weaponry on them were flown remotely by human pilots rather than automatic systems, but I guess I could be mistaken about that. Certainly a human pilot would know the difference between a house and a van.

 

 

Somehow Harbinger manages to get the bomb/GPS out of Deadshot’s head lickety split and toss it out of the back of the van. There’s no surgery or anything. She just removes it like the theft protection device on a cardigan. The missile that could blow up an entire house hits the device and does no damage to the van at all.

We’re to assume the team got back to Starling safely, because Dig and Harbinger next appear in Waller’s office, where she’s giving the old angry police sergeant routine. Apparently a drone strike that killed no one and damaged a street a few miles from a charity gala is a huge diplomatic disaster, but an attack on the actual house full of innocent civilians in a sovereign nation would have been easy to explain(?). The drone was “cloaked,” sure, because this is Star Trek, but there was still a hellfire missile involved!

Dig says he didn’t want to do this job anyway, and Waller says he probably won’t get called in again. Waller reveals that Harbinger must have lied in her report, blaming Dig for taking out Deadshot’s implant. She says they’ll solve that problem by putting the thing in their spines instead of their heads.

Dig accompanies Deadshot back to his jail cell, where Deadshot casually says he’s probably going to die soon, like he’s Sniper Fonzie. Dig and Harbinger meet up in the hallway and have an impromptu relationship talk. Dig says he’s pretty confused about morality after all this, but he does love Harbinger. They kiss.

One more trip to Flashbackistan. Dig’s pretty upset that he killed that kid, but Harbinger says the kid had a gun, so he wasn’t a kid. So… having really situational morals this is the way she’s always been. How exactly has she changed, Dig?

Verdant. Ollie’s watching Starling’s One News Channel, where a story about the chemical weapons leads into something about Moira wanting to revive children’s swimming program because who cares? Sara walks in and Ollie rails about how much he hates swimming. This episode took a weird turn here at the end. Ollie thanks Sara for being supportive. Laurel walks in and says she was happy to help with that relationship stuff.

Ollie gets Arrowed up and goes to A.R.G.U.S. HQ so he can shoot some poor guard with an arrow and talk to Waller. He could have just requested an appointment, I bet. He tells her he needs her help to find Slade, and she says there’s this guy named Deathstroke who might be involved somehow.

I look forward to Deathstroke saying this task force seems more like a Suicide Squad in an episode somewhere down the line.

Final thoughts:

Look, I’m happy a version of the Suicide Squad ended up on a popular TV show on a broadcast network, but this episode fell way too far down the fan service rabbit hole. All the times someone said “Suicide Squad” like they just thought of it, Harley Quinn’s nudge-nudge appearance, and Amanda Waller engaging in absolute nonsense when it came to diplomatic relations sent it just too far over the edge for me.

As for the Ollie story, I like the way Deathstroke’s being built up, though I wonder why Brother Blood has all but disappeared. That seems weird. Maybe he took a breather after Deathstroke killed his bodyguards a few weeks back, but he’s got a campaign to run!

Also, everyone: Show some respect to Sara Lance. Come the heck on.

 

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