'Arrow' Review: "Suicide Squad"

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The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its sixteenth episode of the year with “Suicide Squad,” as Diggle reluctantly leads the team of Deadshot (Michael Rowe), Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) and Shrapnel (Sean Maher) on an overseas mission, while Oliver frustratedly tries to find Slade in Starling City.

Last week's ‘Arrow’ installment “The Promise” saw Oliver learning the truth about Slade Wilson ('Spartacus' star Manu Bennett)'s survival, and remembering how their feud began with the seizure of Dr. Ivo's freighter in the past, so what does the sixteenth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Does the famous DC team lay out the conflicts to come in the final episodes of the season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2, episode 16, “Suicide Squad!”

Bad dreams of Shado rouse Oliver from his bed with Sara, before he calls his Bratva friends to request intelligence on one Slade Wilson. Alexei insists that the time has come for Oliver to do him a favor instead, but Oliver refuses and insists the brotherhood now works for him. Upon his return to the lair, Sarah asks Oliver if he wants to discuss the threat Slade poses, but Oliver wants only to kill the man.

Outside of her house, a pajama-clad Felicity greets Diggle and reminds him that despite the threat Slade poses, he’d already have killed her if he had any attention of it. Diggle receives an emergency text to race to a hotel room downtown, finding an amorous Lyla waiting for him instead. Back in Diggle’s Afghanistan past, his treatment of Lyla was far more candid as they escorted a group of refugees through the mountains. One of the civilians point out to Lyla that known war criminal Gholem Qadir is traveling with them, which Lyla quickly identifies to Diggle and commanding officer Ted Gaynor. Back in the present, Lyla and DIggle leave the hotel to find Amanda Waller waiting for them.

Waller takes the pair to A.R.G.U.S. headquarters to show them that deadly nerve agent hydroxyl cyclosarin has fallen into enemy hands in Markovia, courtesy of the same Gholem Qadir whom Diggle had years earlier saved during his tour. Waller tasks Diggle with infiltrating Qadir’s fundraiser to retrieve the weapon, but in doing so, assigns him and Lyla to lead a “Suicide Squad” comprised of Diggle’s brother’s killer Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton, along with Shrapnel, and Bronze Tiger. Diggle objects to such a morally grey mission, as a familiar-sounding blonde behind a cell door offers counseling for he and Lyla.

With no update on Slade, Oliver reluctantly investigates a robbery at Felicity’s behest, only to find a Deathstroke mask with an arrow in its eye waiting for him on the rooftop. Meanwhile in Markovia, Diggle facetiously bumps into Gholem Qadir at an art gallery, as the two catch up over the years between them. With Bronze Tiger acting as Diggle’s bodyguard, Deadshot fires shots at the pair from a nearby rooftop, just enough for Diggle to save Qadir’s life, and earn an invitation to a benefit at Qadir’s mansion. Downstairs, Shrapnel attempts to flee the scene, spouting his usual anti-government rhetoric, before Amanda activates a charge in his head and detonates it for disobedience.

Oliver meets with his Bratva associate Alexei again, who provides Oliver with a bank account number belonging to Slade Wilson, but severs their business relationship in the process. Oliver finds that Sara followed him, looking to discuss his increasingly erratic behavior in the wake of Slade’s return, but believing that Slade will no doubt use Sara to hurt him, Oliver advises her to stay away. Meanwhile in Markovia, Diggle expresses his disbelief that Lyla would sanction such deadly measures against her own team, as Deadshot admits that he only stays in his line of work to provide money for his daughter Zooey.

A while later, Diggle and Lyla arrive to the benefit, claiming Lyla as a bodyguard who needs last-minute clearance, and subsequently allowing Deadshot to attend the benefit using Diggle’s credentials. Diggle and Lyla share a dance at Gholem’s insistence, as Lyla attempts to convince her ex-husband that they both operate in the grey, while Diggle remembers that their differing moralities caused their divorce in the first place. In flashback, we see that Diggle stopped an enemy combatant from killing Gholem, only to realize the combatant was only a young boy.

Back at Verdant, Laurel notices tensions between Oliver and Sara, advising her ex-boyfriend that he should stop pushing people away to protect them. Downstairs, Felicity finds an address matching Slade’s bank account, though Oliver insists on handling it alone. By the time he arrives at the address’s office however, Oliver finds only his associate Alexei dead of an arrow through the eye, while a projector displays images of Shado on the wall. Meanwhile in Markovia, Deadshot makes his way into the catacombs under the mansion, and enters a secret passage to find the nerve agent, discovering it to be a vast tank, and not easily portable. Waller orders him to stay put, calling in a drone strike on the building, as Lyla realizes that Waller knew all along how the mission would proceed, regardless of any casualties in the building.

Oliver returns to the lair to find Sara training, as he admits that Slade has been ahead of him at every turn, though Sara reminds Oliver he needn’t face the threat alone. Back in Markovia, Diggle creates a distraction by vilifying Gholem in a public toast, the threats of which send all the party guests racing for the exit. Bronze Tiger puts claws in Gholem for threatening Lyla, while Diggle reluctantly races downstairs to retrieve Deadshot. Upon finding him, Deadshot insists on remaining behind to live up to the “Suicide Squad” name and die doing something honorable, until Diggle urges the man to live for his daughter. The team races away from the property, realizing that the drone had been programmed to target Deadshot’s implant, rather than the house itself, for which Lyla manages to cut the device out of his body in the nick of time.

Later, Waller chews out Diggle and Lyla for their mission failure causing an international incident, before Diggle personally escorts Deadshot back to his cell, begrudgingly making peace with the man. Diggle and Lyla agree to stay together in spite of their moral differences, while back in the past, we see it was Lyla who comforted Diggle after shooting the young boy. In the present, Laurel sees that things between Oliver and Sara have gotten better, before Oliver departs to “see an old friend.”

Oliver visits Amanda Waller, putting aside their feud to reveal that Slade Wilson has survived, and he’ll need her help to track him. Setting aside her disbelief, Amanda points to a mysterious figure dropping bodies all the way from Macau to Starling City, a masked man they’ve taken to calling “Deathstroke.”

OUR REVIEW:

Following up an installment like “The Promise” would prove understandably difficult, not only for the stakes and scope ‘Arrow’’s second season has pushed toward, but particularly on the action budget, given some of the set design and stunning pyrotechnics. It’s an important note to keep in mind with an episode like “Suicide Squad,” that swings broader than the show really has the attention span for at such a crucial point in the season, but whose efforts are no less admirable. Naturally helpful is the official arrival of DC comics’ famed Suicide Squad to drive up excitement, as well as an increased spotlight for Diggle, who for too long has been relegated to a sagely third (or fourth) wheel in the background of more prominent Arrow cave arguments.

To that end, “Suicide Squad” is our second largely DIggle-centric installment of the season, following 2013’s “Keep Your Enemies Closer,” though in that instance we had a bit less going on with Oliver’s side of the story to enable a bit of shared stage. We’ve never quite spent enough time focusing on Diggle’s relationship with Lyla, for instance, to effectively invest in the drama posed by their differing moral viewpoints, which itself proves a bit thin when Lyla rightly points out that the grey areas of utilizing the Suicide Squad aren’t all that different from those occupied by Oliver’s nightly heroics.

The same goes for the flashbacks of the hour, which mostly only serve to deliver a few scant bits of alluded-to information, without necessarily providing enough context to the relationship between Diggle and Lyla to pay off in their present fallouts. It’s telling enough that Michael Rowe’s Deadshot got the most in-depth exploration, and subsequently the richer interactions with Diggle during the hour, while the other villains* present for the team either existed to live up to their expendable nature, or provide fairly thankless support.

*Quite excitingly, that was ‘Arkham Asylum’ voice Tara Strong reprising her role as Harley Quinn in a cameo credited as “Deranged Squad Female,” though she could certainly have passed for  ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ voice Arleen Sorkin. In addition, ‘Farscape’ vet Ben Browder reprises his role as DC character Ted Gaynor from the first season, though neither appearance really added much beyond the implicit cool factor.

And while Slade keeps out of the picture for the week (as tends to be the case following ‘Arrow’’s more big bad-heavy midseason episodes), Oliver still had plenty to do back in Starling City in the protection effort. It rang a bit cliché to have Oliver attempting to push Sara away to protect her, especially when he should have known that Slade targeting her would have the same result either way, though at least the writing had Sara steering into the skid to bring that up. The scene wherein Oliver admitted his fears and weakness against Slade proved surprisingly effective, in an elegant showcase for Stephen Amell that neatly illustrates how far we’ve come from the stiff Oliver of season 1. Similarly, it was nice to have Felicity and Laurel popping in around the edges, an attention to detail (and Oliver keeping his weak spots close) that strengthened the hour.

Overall, the action itself proved a bit ineffective (I’m not entirely familiar with the fictional Markovia, but production design should at least placed it in a city distinct from Starling, in a compound distinct from the Queen mansion, while very little about the drone strike made sense or even looked especially impressive), though the “Suicide Squad”s intrinsic patchwork more than covered for a few shaky bits. Diggle more than deserved his bit of spotlight, while Slade (or Deathstroke) continues to remain a palpable menace for the weeks to come.

Well, what say you?  Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its latest installment? Were you excited to see the infamous DC team brought to life, let alone that behind-bars cameo? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next Wednesday for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 17, “Birds of Prey” on The CW!

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