Arrow Season 2 Episode 16 (TV Show Review)

Again and again in my reviews I’ve stressed that one of the things that makes Arrow‘s season 2 really great is how well it works in terms of introducing characters and concepts from the larger DC universe into the show. As part of the whole “City of Heroes” theme for the season, we have seen a lot of characters come and go this season, and last, that together can prove to be quite a substantial force. Of course, the DC universe is notable for having many superhero and supervillain teams, and this week, the show doubled down on that by presenting the first Suicide Squad team-up.

This has been building up for a while, especially once the show brought in Amanda Waller this season. As the head of the ARGUS special ops agency, Amanda “The Wall” Waller has been the commandant of the Suicide Squad for years, and this week we see her in all her no-nonsense and all-business attitude. Even as Ollie and the team continue to deal with the return of Slade Wilson and his vengeance for the death of Shado, Diggle is caught in Waller’s web and has to face some tough decisions with respect to his ex-wife and the man who killed his brother.

Arrow Logo 0001I haven’t really read any Suicide Squad comics to date. There was the first volume of the New 52 launched Suicide Squad, written by Adam Glass, but I didn’t find it an engrossing enough read to continue on with the series. However, I do remember the Suicide Squad from Smallville, Arrow’s predecessor and the CW’s big hit in terms of superhero content that has now paved the way for Arrow‘s success and the launch of other DC comics properties across a multitude of other networks. And I remember that the Suicide Squad on that show was pretty fun and interesting, certainly. Some of the best stories involving Amanda Waller that I’ve read.

In keeping with the whole New 52 mantra, Amanda Waller as portrayed on the show is a slim (perhaps even svelte) figure. This runs counter to her pre-New 52 appearances, and how she has been portrayed in Justice League Unlimited and Smallville and even Green Lantern the movie. It takes some getting used to because I always saw Amanda as an advocate for plus-size female comics characters, and now she’s nothing like that. She’s just another slender, tough-as-nails character now, and that rankles a bit.

But, I can say that her characterisation in this episode, titled Suicide Squad, is pretty spot-on. She takes no crap from anyone, she does what she wants, and she is utterly ruthless in the pursuit of her goals and objectives. Suicide Squad itself is her brainchild, where she gives hardened criminals, even super criminals, a chance to serve America. Of course, their incentive to do what she wants them to do is that she can remotely murder any one of them, thanks to chips implanted in their body, and amazingly enough, we do get to see that happen in this episode. Under John Diggle and Lyla Michaels’ command, we have Deadshot, Bronze Tiger and Shrapnel on duty here for the team, and one of them dies in the middle of the episode because he didn’t like Amanda’s terms.

Which is what Suicide Squad is all about really. It was great to see these characters together, but all the same, I can’t help feel that villains like Sean Maher’s Shrapnel are wasted in the show. When Shrapnel arrived a few episodes ago, his characterisation left a lot to be desired and that hasn’t improved with this episode. Deadshot actually has been getting a fair amount of work done this season and Bronze Tiger is still finding his paces, so I suppose there’s promise here, but Shrapnel is unfortunately a victim of the show’s increased scope and limited air-time.

Of course, of course, how can I forget!? This is the Suicide Squad, and one of the most prominent members of this team, especially in the New 52 setting, is Harley Quinn, the Batman villain who made her first appearance ever on Batman: The Animated Series and then went on to become quite a high-profile villain in her own right and has traveled the length and breadth of the DC universe. These days she is starring in her own title, written by the husband-wife team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connner, and drawn by Chad Hardin. The comic has been a top 10 title for its first three issues, and the fourth issue was #11 last month.

So the appeal is there, and it looks like Arrow is laying down the ground-work for the character to become as regular as any of the other villains. In an extended trailer for the second season’s second half, she gets an interesting amount of screen-time although we never see her face, and in this episode all she gets are two sentences while the Suicide Squad is being assembled and she stays in the shadows, so we have a long way to go.

But, that is just fine. I have to say that I really can’t wait to see how she plays out for the show, and how Amanda Waller and her team are continued to develop in the future episodes. There is a hell of a lot of good material to work with here, and the show’s writing team is certainly up the challenge I feel.

Like I said though, the Suicide Squad itself is not what this episode is about. We see Ollie and the rest of the team as they struggle to go on with the fact that Slade Wilson is out there in Starling and that he is gunning for all of them, because of a promise he made to Oliver on the island, for which he is come to collect.

For the first time this season, I really thought that Laurel was actually well-done as a character. This season has seen her character go through numerous ups and downs, especially of late when she found out that her sister was not dead and that Oliver and Sara were a couple now. She still bears both of them a lot of resentment, but she has started to work it off, and as part of that, she offers the two of them some relationship advice in this episode. It marked a more gentle curve in her character, and I’m quite happy to see that she is not being self-destructive for once and that she is making an effort to reach out to her friends and family.

It all plays into the nightmares that Oliver has been having lately, concerning Shado and Slade Wilson, nightmares which have forced him to disconnect with the people around him because he doesn’t want to involve them in his fight with Slade. It is a bit of a predictable turn in his character, but at the same time it also opens him up to further development. His relationship with Sara (aka Canary) is still a bit rocky and the current situation doesn’t help matters, but, like Laurel he is also working through it. That’s what their part of the episode was all about. While Diggle and the Suicide Squad deal with all the action, Ollie and the rest get the lion’s share of the character drama and tension.

Arrow Cast 0001And I am perfectly fine with a split like that. Now, all that having been said, I would still like to see some further development on a few subplots that haven’t been getting as much attention as late. Chief among them are the mayoral elections coming up in Starling, for which Moira Queen and Sebastian Blood are both running. This was a significant development a few weeks ago and we haven’t seen much of it recently. Then there’s the fact that Grant Gustin, who played Barry Allen in the mid-season pre-finale and finale, hasn’t been mentioned again, not really, and we don’t know whether he has bounced out of his coma as yet, or not. And then there’s Isabel Rochev, a character who was very prominent early on in the season and Summer Glau’s performance was quite talked about, but we haven’t seen the character at all for quite a while now. She hasn’t even been mentioned.

I would dearly love to know what all has been happening on that front because as much as the overall season kept progressing bit by bit, the recent episodes have also been very, very focused on a few key plots. And I want to see some of the “leftovers” addressed.

Still, next week we get the return of Jessica De Gouw’s Helena Bertinelli aka the Huntress, and the episode itself is titled Birds of Prey, so I’m looking forward to that! The Birds of Prey are one of my favourite DC teams, and I can’t wait to see what the show does to them. The Huntress and Canary are two of the central figures of the team, the other being Barbara Gordon in her avatar as the wheelchair-bound hero persona The Oracle, so it should be interesting, particularly since the New 52 iteration of the team has gone along quite a different line.

But, I remain hopeful and I trust the show to deliver.

More Arrow: Reviews of all the second season episodes can be found here.

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Posted on March 21, 2014, in Arrow, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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