Wednesday, March 25, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - The Suicide Squad Gets a New Mission as the Arrow Faces Off with the Atom in 'Suicidal Tendencies'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.17 "Suicidal Tendencies"

Deadshot interrupts Diggle and Lyla's honeymoon with a new Suicide Squad mission - rescue United States Senator Joseph Cray from a hostage situation in the Republic of Kasnia. Amanda Waller breaks down the details of the mission, and Cupid joins the Suicide Squad. Oliver learns about Ray's Atom costume and the two have a heated stand-off, leading to a rough patch between Felicity and Ray.

This season started with Starling City embracing the Arrow as the hero that they deserve. They were happy that he was saving the city and making it a better place for them to live. Sure, there were still many criminal enterprises operating and the city has already come under siege yet again this season. But the Arrow has been a symbol of hope. And now, that public opinion is shifting because Oliver Queen does not want to succeed Ra's al Ghul as the head of the League of Assassins. It's a rather drastic shift too. It's largely fueled by two people who are regular characters this season but don't know that Oliver is the Arrow - Ray Palmer and Captain Lance.

The plot of this episode becomes a bit problematic because of the double standard with the Ray character. He has been okay with the Arrow operating as a vigilante. His whole arc this season has been building the Atom suit so that he can never be powerless like the night his fiancé was murdered. That is a core part of the character. And now, he's so strongly going the other direction and advocating for the Arrow to stand trial because he has started killing people again in the city. It's a good thought to have that was largely missing when Oliver actually was killing people back in Season 1. It is saying that there are consequences for killing people - even if those people are criminals. That element was missing from the discussion early in the show's life. And now that it's actually a part of it, it doesn't seem as fully committed to it simply because people who don't know any better are judging Oliver and the Arrow for actions that aren't his own. And meanwhile, Ray is allowed to fly around in his suit and shoot electric bolts at people. Isn't that the same thing that he is fighting against? It's all too confusing and pulled me out of the action of this story.

The fight between the Arrow and the Atom is cool. Arrow gets to show off a few of the special effects tricks the creative team has picked up from The Flash without requiring an appearance by Barry Allen. But at the heart of this story is Felicity - who is rather awkwardly placed in a love triangle. Ray learns that she had feelings for Oliver and Oliver learns that Ray really isn't any different from him. Oliver allowed himself to be okay with Felicity dating Ray because he was seen as the good and healthy choice. But now that he has the knowledge that Ray wants to be a vigilante too, it's a little harder for him to deal with it. And yet, he does. He has nothing to prove to Felicity. He made his own choices in regards to their relationship. Ray can't use that against him. He doesn't have any kind of moral ground to stand on in that argument. So ultimately, this story is about Ray learning to trust Felicity even after learning all about her secret life working for the Arrow. Ray learns that lesson because Oliver doesn't kill him when given the opportunity. It's a conclusion we all knew was going to happen because we know that Oliver isn't a killer anymore. It fixes the Felicity-Ray relationship after only half an episode of turmoil. And then, Maseo pops up in the end killing the mayor and pointing his next arrow directly at Felicity. It's a trumped up cliffhanger that doesn't have a whole lot of value - outside of making Lance even more committed to his anti-Arrow campaign, which is a story the show has already done before.

But Oliver's problems with the League of Assassins and his city aren't the only focus of this episode. Diggle and Lyla get married again and it's a very sweet moment at the start of the episode. Sure, the happiness doesn't last as they first get pulled into Team Arrow trouble and then a new mission with the Suicide Squad. The details of the mission include rescuing a senator from a hostage situation abroad. The twist is that the senator orchestrated the whole thing just so he could be seen as a hero so he could then run for President. It's a very transparent, one-note character that goes into the episode's themes of public perception of good and bad. After this whole experience when Diggle, Lyla, Deadshot and Cupid save all the hostages, the senator is still seen as heroic upon his return to the States. And there's nothing that Lyla can do to get the truth out there because Amanda Waller is blocking her.

More importantly, this story helps Diggle and Lyla realize how much they have to lose now that they are married and have a daughter. They both signed up for this mission in order to protect each other. Sure, they'd rather be on their honeymoon. But this is Lyla's job and Diggle doesn't want to lose her already. But then, when the big twist occurs, they realize that it was reckless of them to both be in the field and risk leaving their daughter as an orphan. Deadshot voices his opinion of love being a weakness - but that comes paired with some tragic flashbacks about his struggles returning home from war to a wife and daughter. Deadshot has been connected to Diggle's personal story ever since the beginning of the show. Diggle still hasn't made any progress on why H.I.V.E. hired Deadshot to kill his brother. That's the moment the flashbacks end on but it still doesn't tell us any new information. It reinforces what we already knew. But that then comes with Deadshot's great gesture of allowing Diggle and Lyla to get out of this bad situation and home to their daughter while he's unable to escape the building explosion. He gave his life just so Diggle and Lyla could live. That is the definition of a hero and Diggle makes sure to honor that fact later with Oliver.

This whole mission also serves to point out that Diggle and Lyla both want to leave their current jobs so they can be present in their daughter's life. They both operate in risky and high-stakes worlds. They both make their intentions known to leave Team Arrow and A.R.G.U.S. They are choosing to be happy with each other and Sara. And yet, I can't help but wonder how long that will last. Happiness isn't that best at drawing dramatic stakes from. Diggle has already left the team once this season only to be pulled back following Sara Lance's death. He stayed on because the city and Oliver needed him. But now, his presence isn't as necessary as before. Oliver can still rely on Roy to be his backup in the field. But where does that leave Diggle from a narrative perspective? He will always be Oliver's friend who can offer wise advice. But is that all it's going to be from now? That just seems a little weird.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Suicidal Tendencies" was written by Keto Shimizu and directed by Jesse Warn.
  • Laurel told Oliver that her new sparring partner/trainer is a woman. So, he has to know that it's Nyssa, right? At least, he can't be that surprised when the truth is actually revealed to him.
  • Thea shows up as Roy's date to the wedding and that's it. I didn't really miss her at all even though this has been her best season yet.
  • So, Ray knew the extent of Oliver and Laurel's relationship and still went to her with the intent of using the judicial system against him? Of course, she is the District Attorney, right? It's up to her to decide whether or not to prosecute which made this whole venture nonsensical from the start.
  • Cupid shifting her affections from Oliver to Deadshot was so abrupt and only makes her seem more one-note crazy. She didn't really add a whole lot to the episode. She was here for logistic purposes on the mission only.
  • Oliver is able to fight against several members of the League of Assassins. And then, after they vanish into thin air, Ray pops up with his new x-ray vision. That seems par for the course to keep the actual plot of this episode going for as long as it did.
  • So, is Oliver just going to be photoshopped into those wedding pictures later?
  • In every Suicide Squad-themed episode of the show, someone from the squad is going to die, right? That may get tiring after awhile. But it's also a concept the show doesn't go to that often.