People have to adjust to a lot of things in "Suicide Squad," Arrow's most recent episode. Most of those things are unpleasant, so we see people embodying all the different stages of grief. Guess who's best at Acceptance?
After seeing Slade Wilson making one eye do the work of two when flirting with his mother last week, Ollie is deep in denial. It starts out with personal denial — Ollie claims, "I'm not scared," with the set jaw and red eyes of a man given temporary leave from hell to bring back more sulfur — but soon he's denying everyone. He denies his Russian mob friend Alexi a favor in return for Alexi tracking down Slade Wilson's location. He denies that there is anything wrong,when Laurel asks him what's up with him and Sara. And finally, taking a cue from Doctor Strangelove, he denies Sara his essence, telling her that Slade will come after her if she's involved with him, and concluding, "We need to stop."
This has Sara somewhat depressed. That's fair. If my boyfriend, no matter how rattled he was, was acting so dumb he figured no one could possibly suspect a man has feelings for a woman he's not currently sleeping with, I'd be depressed, too. (Laurel showing up as the world's most beatific barely-sober addict adds to my depression.) Fortunately, Ollie and Sara soon get talking and get back together. This episode isn't their show, anyway.
This episode belongs to Digg, and Lyla Michaels of ARGUS. Lyla is doing most of the bargaining in this episode, coaxing Dig into spending some time with her in the "Ostrander Suite" of a hotel, and later getting him on board with working with the guy who killed his brother, as well as a team of other criminals. There's Deadshot, of course. There's Shrapnel, the mad bomber from "Blast Radius." And there's Bronze Tiger, who gave Ollie three new body-piercings a few weeks ago. One time, Lyla and Digg bargain a little too loudly, prompting an off-screen Harley Quinn to yell, "Do you need some counseling? I'm a trained therapist!" Brilliant moment.
In a flashback, she has to do a little bargaining as well. On a march in Qatar, she negotiates with a chauvinistic superior officer for a little rest time for the female refuges. When she shows one particular woman, marching shoeless, a little kindness, the woman points out Gholem Qadir — arms dealer, human trafficker, drug lord, and first rate beard grower. Whatever there is to be said about the man, that is some beautiful facial hair.
When Digg saves Qadir's life from a would-be assassin, which turns out to be a kid, Lyla helps reconcile Digg to the fact that he got a medal for saving an evil man from a child. At the end of the flashback scene, we see them exchange first names and a handshake of impending true love.
Most of the anger here is Digg's. First he's mad that in order to foil Qadir (who is now free and in possession of a powerful nerve gas), he has to work with the man who killed his brother. Over time, his anger shifts.
Qadir still thinks of Digg as the guy who saved his life, so when Digg "runs into him" at a business function in Markovia, and seems to save his life again, Qadir invites Digg to a charity party at his house. (The nerve gas is stashed there, and Digg, via some smooth talking and distraction, will get Deadshot and Lila in so they as a team can confiscate the nerve agent.) Shrapnel, the getaway driver, makes a run for it at one point, and when Waller blows his head off with an implant, Digg's anger begins to shift.
Lyla bears most of the brunt of this shift. At the party, her blasé attitude towards Waller's treatment of the suicide squad prompts a very tense conversation in very gorgeous evening wear. Seriously, these two look great together. Even Qadir (who thinks Lyla is Digg's new bodyguard) is playing matchmaker. Lyla does seem a little too okay with the fact that when Deadshot finds an overly large cache of the nerve agent downstairs, Waller tells Deadshot to stay put, and sends a drone to blow up the entire house, innocent party attendees and all. Digg gives a delicious passive-aggressive toast, during which he reveals everything so the guests can run. He forces Deadshot out of the house and into the new getaway van. Only when they find out that Waller was using Deadshot as a homing beacon for the drone, and now the thing is after them, does Lyla rebel and cut out Deadshot's implant to save them all.
In the end, Digg's anger is aimed squarely at Waller, to the point where he forgives both Lyla and Deadshot. He wants to stay with Lyla, because he still loves her, even if he questions her character. I like this, both because they have good chemistry, and because in a genre where so many couples fight about broken dates and vague jealousies, these two will be fighting about deep questions of honor and character. That's refreshing.
So Sara and Ollie, Digg and Lyla, and even Digg and Deadshot, have accepted each other. Still, the poster child for acceptance in this episode is Amanda Waller. This character rolls with the punches, from Lyla hooking up with her ex in a luxury hotel suite at ARGUS' expense to Lyla cutting out Deadshot's implant. (Waller shrugs and says that it provided valuable intel on a design mistake for the implants, ordering them embedded in the spine in future.) In dealing with the various crazies in the Suicide Squad cell block, her eye-rolling and peremptory "shut up in there" knocks on cell doors are fun to watch. And when, at the end, Ollie breaks into her office and tells her Slade Wilson isn't dead, she regroups in a second and shows him what they have on a new assassin — the mysterious Deathstroke.
The stand-out in this episode is Deadshot. This character, while not the best lead character, is a spotlight stealer in any medium. In the comics, he's a mercenary with the sleazy aura of a small-time crook in an independent film from the 1970s. He doesn't invite death, but he doesn't care in the least if he dies. And he gets all the funny lines.
On paper, that's great, but in practice it has to be hard to play. Lean too far one way and he looks like a cut-rate "cop on the edge" stereotype, too far the other way and he's just a smug douche. Michael Rowe delivers the lines perfectly. When Digg, during an early scene, wonders aloud what is keeping Deadshot from killing him, he replies, "Honor." Later, informed that Waller is going to kill him with a drone strike, he smiles and says, "How contemporary." But he still has enough intensity, especially during a scene when he and Digg talk about Deadshot's daughter, to show real emotions beneath the smarm. Both he and David Ramsey are to be congratulated on the fact that, by the end of the episode, we can believe that Digg has come to care about the guy who murdered his brother.