Arrow 2–16: “Suicide Squad”

Huh. Arrow sure doesn’t know what to do with special guest stars, does it? Michael Jai White, Sean Maher, Ben Browder, I am a fan of all three of you gentlemen, and I was happy to see you all back… and then you were all left twiddling your thumbs on the sidelines. Sorry about that, guys. Maybe the next time they bring you back, you’ll get more to do. Except for you, Sean Maher, since I guess your brain exploded or whatever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s a Diggle-centric episode. I like Digg, and he’s been a bit overlooked this season, so it was nice seeing him get a moment in the spotlight. Would it have been nicer if they’d given him a better episode? Egad, yes.

Oliver’s been shacking up with Sara in the lair beneath Verdant, which is probably a smart move, since Slade seems hell-bent on killing them both. Plagued with nightmares about Shado and frantic with worry about Slade, Oliver is uncharacteristically tense and jumpy. In desperation, he meets with Alexi, his old connection in the Russian mob, and asks for his help tracking down Slade. Alexi agrees, provided Oliver does him a favor in return. I think this sounds very fair and reasonable; Oliver disagrees. He beats up Alexi’s henchmen, pulls a gun, and browbeats Alexi into helping him.

Oliver is, as always, kind of a dick.

Concerned that Slade might target Felicity, Digg maintains a vigil outside her house. Felicity brings him cocoa in the morning and cheerfully shoos him away (“If Slade wants to kill me, he can”). Aw, after so many episodes of weepy, self-doubting Felicity, it’s a delight seeing her being chipper and awesome again.

Digg gets called away to a secret hotel-room rendezvous with his ex-wife/current girlfriend Lyla Michaels. Digg: “A little early for champagne, don’t you think?” For shame, Digg! It’s never too early for champagne. Digg and Lyla roll around in the sheets for a while, before they’re interrupted by the arrival of glacially-intimidating ARGUS head Amanda Waller, who presents them with an assignment. There’s a super-deadly nerve agent about to hit the black market, and Waller wants them to head up a top-secret strike force to retrieve it. The nerve agent is currently in the possession of one Gholem Qadir (Lee Majdoub), a former druglord, arms dealer and child trafficker, whom Digg first encountered six years ago in Afghanistan.

No island flashbacks this episode (hooray!); instead, all the flashbacks are to Digg’s time as a soldier in Kandahar, when he and Lyla were serving under the command of Ted Gaynor (Ben Browder, reprising his role from last season). They’re escorting a group of refugees, Gholem included, through the desert; when snipers fire upon them, Digg shoots and kills a young boy to save Gholem’s life.

Browder is barely used in the episode, which is a damn shame; he snarls out a few insults about chicks in the armed forces and offers to buy Digg a beer for killing a kid, but that’s pretty much it. Disappointing! Ben Browder is a force to be reckoned with. I remember first watching Farscape, lo these many years ago, and assuming Browder’s John Crichton, the human astronaut trapped on a spaceship full of highly entertaining alien lunatics, would be the weak link in an otherwise outstanding cast. And then it became apparent Crichton was the most demented and hilarious one of all. Oh, Farscape. How I miss your delightful mixture of wildly inappropriate sleaze, gross-out horror, and free-form lunacy. Arrow needs more sleaze and lunacy. Desperately.

Back to the present, where Diggle meets his Waller-assembled strike force, made up entirely of incarcerated supervillains: Digg’s brother-murdering nemesis Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, and the twerpy anti-government bomber played by Sean Maher from a few episodes back; his code name is Shrapnel, but if it’s all the same to everyone, I’m still going to think of him as the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight. Waller refers to them as Task Force X, but Deadshot proposes an infinitely catchier name: They’re the Suicide Squad.

I love this kind of thing. A team assembled entirely from gimmicky supervillains? Heroes forced to work alongside their dreaded arch-nemeses? Sign me up! Here, though… well, it’s not great. The whole episode is pretty inert—no snappy banter, no sexy shenanigans, no harrowing predicaments—and it feels like there are a lot of missed opportunities with this fantastic premise.

(In the ARGUS prison, there’s a fleeting cameo from the Joker’s deranged sidekick Harley Quinn. I don’t imagine we’ll ever get a full appearance from Harley, but it was a cute shout-out to a fan-favorite villain.)

Digg, Lyla, and their team of lovable homicidal misfits head off to the bustling metropolis of Markovburg, Markovia, where Gholem, who has reinvented himself as a suave hipster philanthropist, has stashed the nerve agent. Digg orchestrates an overly-fussy “chance” meeting with Gholem and finagles himself an invite to a fancy shindig at his mansion.

During all this, Shrapnel tries to make a break for freedom. It turns out poorly: Waller detonates a bomb she’d implanted inside his head and kills him.

No big loss.

Digg is appalled that Waller would murder one of her associates so casually. He argues with Lyla about morality, etcetera; it’s a wee bit tedious, and would it surprise anyone to learn the line of dialogue “It’s like I don’t even know you anymore!” is uttered?

Back in Starling City, Slade’s been stalking an increasingly jittery Oliver. When Oliver pops up on a rooftop to foil a robbery in progress, he discovers Slade has left him his old Deathstroke mask with an arrow through one of the eye holes. Despite not actually appearing in this episode, Slade still manages to be the most interesting and fun character around.

There’s an exciting subplot in which Oliver, who is terrified that Slade is going to kill Sara, acts distant and surly toward her. Messy interpersonal drama ensues, until a newly-sober, newly reasonable, virgin-martini-swilling Laurel advises Oliver to try being less of a dick to her sister. The Sara-Oliver romance is slathered on pretty heavily in this episode, and there are all kinds of ominous pieces of foreshadowing suggesting that Sara is maybe not long for the Arrow universe.

Alexi gives Slade’s bank account information to Oliver. Felicity uses it to track down the address of Slade’s lair. When Oliver breaks into the lair to kill Slade, he finds Alexi dead from an arrow to the eye while home movies of Shado play in the background. Slade’s got style, y’all.

Markovia: Digg and Deadshot bond a little, even though Deadshot, y’know, murdered Digg’s brother. As I mentioned earlier, the guest stars are pretty poorly utilized in this episode… except for Michael Rowe’s Deadshot, who gets a handful of nice moments.

Lyla, Digg and Deadshot infiltrate Gholem’s shindig. Deadshot finds the nerve agent, which is stored in great vats in the basement. Waller orders Lyla and Digg to evacuate, then sends in an armed drone to blow up Gholem’s mansion, with the intention of destroying the nerve agent, Gholem, Deadshot, and all the party guests in one blast.

Horrified by this plan, Digg evacuates the guests. When an enraged Gholem pulls a knife on Lyla, Bronze Tiger eviscerates him with his claws. This is the only notable thing Bronze Tiger will get to do in this entire damn episode. Michael Jai White, you are awesome, and I am sorry.

Speaking of Michael Jai White: Since I seem to be spending a lot of time this recap linking to clips from shows and films that are more fun than this episode of Arrow, here’s the trailer for Black Dynamite

Digg tries to get Deadshot to disobey Waller’s orders and evacuate. They pull their weapons and fire at each other in front of the gigantic tanks of the super-deadly nerve agent, which is brilliant.

Finally, Digg talks Deadshot into coming with him. As they zip away from the mansion, the armed drone locks onto a tracking beacon implanted inside Deadshot’s head. In the back of the getaway van, Lyla performs emergency brain surgery on Deadshot, removes the beacon, and tosses it out the window before the drone blows it up.

After locking Deadshot and Bronze Tiger back up in the ARGUS prison, Amanda Waller chews out Digg and Lyla for disobeying orders. Then she meets with a mysterious visitor: It’s Oliver, who asks for her help in killing Slade.

Not a terrible episode, but certainly kind of flat, and certainly kind of disappointing. Make better use of your guest stars, Arrow. It’s a shame to see talented actors squandered in poorly-written roles.


DKoren said…
Watched this one over lunch today. Okay. Not great, not bad, like you said, some wasted opportunities, but I really like Deadshot (I have a thing for honorable characters), and it was really nice to have Digg back and not just sitting around with his arms crossed tossing a few lines in now and again.

And wow. I was surprised in the beginning when Oliver refused to do something for Alexi in return for a pretty big favor. Dude, really? I was all set, wondering what sort of mission/request/favor Alexi had that would keep Oliver busy... and no. Oliver got all violent and selfish and... wow. Considering that Alexi has provided some pretty invaluable help previously. Guess their either trying to show just how rattled Oliver is by Slade, or... not sure what.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah. Oliver, maybe don't ask the Russian mob for favors if you won't do them a favor in return? That whole part seemed weird to me.

Deadshot has been getting stronger and stronger with each appearance. I barely took note of him in his first episode, but he was pretty great both in this one and in the (fairly horrible) Moscow episode earlier this season. I like the actor a lot.

And yes, finally Digg got to do something more than deliver snippets of wry dialogue while loitering around Oliver's lair.

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