On the D/L – Arrow
Season 3 Episode 17 – “Suicidal Tendencies”
Lots going on in this week’s Arrow. We see Lyla and Diggle get married, Ray go into full Atom mode, the return of the suicide squad while still continuing with Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan to discredit the Arrow.
It’s a lot to put in a single episode and that ultimately proves to be a double edged sword for the narrative here. One one hand it’s impressive to see so many things put together in a single episode while still being handled competently but on the other there’s something of a disconnect associated with the relatively little screen time given to everything.
It’s nearly impossible to latch onto what the main plot of this episode is but for argument’s sake I’m going to give that to Deadshot. He gets the focus in the flashbacks and has a really interesting character arc so I’m going to assume that he’s the man guy here.
First of all I can’t fully express how glad I am that Arrow is in a situation where a background character who serves as a villain most of the time can take the lead in an episode. I wasn’t expecting to see Deadshot’s past explored in such detail and I found it really interesting to see that part of what made him the way he is was an inability to distance himself from the experience of being in combat and taking lives.
PTSD is a hot button issue at the moment and I think that this episode handles it really capably. The way they approach having Floyd Lawton be completely irredeemable early in the story through the way he treats his family and his general maniacal mindset. Part of me was expecting a message of hope that he could reform and go back to his family but the episode doesn’t give us that. The side of the struggle we see is that not all families can work through these problems and arguably not all of them should. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Lawton’s wife and daughter are better off without him.
The fact that he knows that himself is an interesting development. We do see hints of a redemptive arc for him but Lawton feels that there’s nothing he can do to repair that damage and return to his family. He has burned that bridge and isn’t at all deluded about it.
At the same time, he misses his family and deeply regrets what he did to them but he is the man he is and can’t really change that. Even though he’s got a little more control of himself still then he still realises that he’s a dangerous man and is much better off alone.
I love how this story relates to Diggle and Lyla who are trying to restart their life together with their daughter. Lawton says a few times that they have to get back to their daughter because it’s important for her to grow up with a loving family. He sees in their relationship the potential to end up the way his does and that’s something he doesn’t want to see happen.
Diggle and Lawton’s relationship has been a complicated one since the show began. I like that Diggle has been able to be professional about the fact that Lawton killed his brother and has actually found a way to work with him. He obviously hasn’t forgiven him as evidenced by seeing his brother’s name tattooed on Lawton’s body. It’s not something he’ll ever forgive but it won’t stop him getting the job done.
Their mission was pretty cool and let us spend some time in outdoor locations that aren’t Starling City plus it’s always cool to see the Suicide Squad doing stuff. It’s sort of a shame that the team was such a small one with only Deadshot and Cupid -more on her later- filling out the colourful character quota. I quite liked the idea of a senator who had set this situation up as a way to make him look like a hero so that his plan to run for president will be taken a lot more seriously.
I really liked how the mission ended with Deadshot sacrificing himself to give Lyla and Diggle’s family a chance to be complete. Basically he saw himself as being expendable and felt that he owed it to Diggle to make sure that he makes it out alive. It was quite a moving moment when he looked at the photo of his family in the instant before he was blown up. Whether he’s dead or not is up for debate but if he is then it’s a solid exit. I actually found myself getting a little angry when Lawton was blamed for the incident and political bureaucracy prevented the record from being set straight. I agree with Diggle that the man deserved better.
The main issue with this story is that it wasn’t quite given enough time to fully develop. It felt like the flashbacks were trying to hit all the right emotional beats and then move on to the next thing without fully building on the notion of Lawton being back from War and letting us see the relationship between him and his wife without having to accept it as it appears. There was a lot to this and it maybe should have been given an entire episode to really develop all of the different elements.
Cupid was on the team and I’m not sure whether I’m missing something or if she’s written a little too cartoonishly. Every line she says is drop dead insane and clearly geared towards being funny but none of the jokes landed for me. I spent the entire episode questioning why Amanda Waller would let such an obvious lunatic out in the field at all. She never proved to be a liability but there was no way of knowing that.
Back in Starling City there is a lot going on. Oliver quickly finds out that he’s being framed to make it look like The Arrow is killing again and immediately knows that Ra’s Al Ghul is behind it. Oliver turned him down and this is what happens when you do that.
This story gave us a really cool action scene where Oliver fights a number of Assassins dressed up as him who are dispersed by Maseo who is in charge of this campaign. I like this idea because it internalises this struggle and makes it a really personal one. Maseo is a good character and I’m interested to see how this conflict develops. This also made me hope that Oliver does eventually accept the offer so that he can lead a group of Assassins dressed as The Arrow on a mission of justice. How cool would that be?
After what seems like an eternity this episode provides the perfect opportunity for Ray Palmer to join up with the rest of the cast. Up until now it almost felt like there was a backdoor Atom pilot going on in the background but it’s all starting to payoff with the Atom becoming involved in the superhero landscape.
Ray immediately assumes that the Arrow is a murderer and devotes his resources to bringing him to trial. By his resources he of course means his high tech battle suit. It doesn’t take him long to use his technology to find out the Arrow’s identity and then deduce that Felicity has been helping him all along. It’s not a difficult one to find out and I like that Felicity only tries to deny it for a few seconds before realising that it’s pointless.
One thing that she does is stand up for Oliver and assure Ray that he is not a murderer any more. He hasn’t killed in almost two years and is most certainly not killing now. Of course Ray feels betrayed by this and instantly accuses Felicity of having feelings for Oliver because of course he does. One thing that seems mandated on the CW is these bloody love triangles. It’s driving me insane over on The Flash and now we have it here too. What this episode turns the first conflict between the Atom and the Arrow is a fight over a girl.
Sure, Felicity isn’t just any girl to either of them but really? We don’t know Ray that well but Oliver isn’t really the type to get this obsessively jealous. He definitely resents the relationship between Ray and Felicity but his discomfort surrounding it isn’t something that comes across as entirely believable to me. I do honestly think that Oliver would be pleased that Felicity is happy because he’s not the sort to deny something from someone simply because he can’t have it.
When he finds out Ray’s identity he’s annoyed at Felicity for not telling him sooner which is fair enough but what I don’t understand is why he tries to put her off pursuing a relationship with him because he feels that the vigilante lifestyle is a lonely one. It only is to him because he chooses to make it that way but it doesn’t have to be the case. Barry certainly feels that he can have it all ways and so does Ray with his approach of fully letting her be part of that world and do everything she can to help him deal with it. Maybe it will come to pass that Ray realises the same thing as Oliver but I’d like to see it turn out differently.
Seeing the Atom in action was incredibly cool. His fight with Oliver was brief but fantastic and reminded me of Oliver’s lessons to Barry over being prepared. Ray is a novice so doesn’t know what he’s doing and is easily defeated by Oliver’s superior tactics and skill. It’s something that Ray will need to work on as he can’t rely simply on brute strength and technology to win the day. Side note, I thought it was hilarious that after making his point to Ray he walks away epicly and leaves Roy lying unconscious on the ground.
I do love a reference to other roles -probably a big part of why I loved Smallville– and this episode gave us a few Superman references surrounding Ray. The dig at him over X-Ray vision was really funny and Oliver calling him Super-Suit was a little obvious but still worked. Brandon Routh has made Ray Palmer his own for sure but being reminded where he came from is always fun.
I found the ending scene to be unintentionally hilarious as the third Starling City mayor in 3 seasons is killed. It’s becoming a running gag on the show and reminds me of anyone who owned the Magic Box in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer – another job with a high mortality rate. If they’re really trying to get us to believe that Maseo’s arrow will actually hit Felicity then it’s not going to work. It reeked of sensationalist cliffhanger.
A strong episode that may have been just a little too busy to fully work in the way the writers probably wanted it to.
I really liked the Suicide Squad story and how it gave us some really cool insight into Deadshot’s past. Finding out what made him become the way he is proved to be interesting and the character is strong enough to carry this through.
It was definitely appreciated that it wasn’t necessarily a story of redemption when it comes to how his family see him. It is acknowledged that him not being in his wife and daughter’s life is the best thing for everyone and no attempt is made to suggest otherwise. His redemption comes in paying Diggle the favour he owes him by making sure that he and Lyla get back to their daughter at the expense of his life.
The Arrow/Atom conflict worked really well but it was slightly annoying that it was all over Felicity. They were basically fighting over a girl instead of the larger issue of protecting the city. Ray has every reason to believe that Oliver is a murderer but also has no reason to doubt Felicity. The fact that he does is merely manufactured drama.
I loved the fight between the Atom and Arrow despite how brief it was. It shows that Ray still needs a lot of work before he’s ready to be a hero and reinforces how skilled Oliver is calling on his experience to win rather than brute strength. This needs to be expanded to be about more than Felicity. I’m maybe only saying that because I hate love triangles but it is getting really boring.