Good and evil and shades of grey are common thematic elements in superhero stories, whether that story follows a vampire slayer or Superman or Iron Man or the Green Arrow. Are humans divided into two categories: black and white? Or are there many hues? Look upon a rainbow and see the many colors spread across the sky. The exploration of shades in the world is not limited to the modern TV landscape with its probing, penetrating stories about meth cookers, advertising men, and so on. The Ancient Greeks, inventors of drama, espied the depths of man. “Suicide Squad” explores what’s been explored since the humans developed the ability to tell stories, to reflect and be aware of what made them up, to see within themselves Smerdyakovs when they’d see a saint, and to feel uncomfortable about the truth you find in the sand, in one’s head, or in one’s duplicity.
Diggle learns about shades of grey in “Suicide Squad.” No, that’s not right; he accepts a different kind of awareness about shades of grey at episode’s end. That’s not right either. Diggle and his ex-wife have an intimate meeting at a hotel before he’s pulled into the suicide squad mission. A trio of murderers he and Oliver stopped and jailed will roam free to stop a terrorist from unleashing a nerve agent on the world. Diggle needs to accept using three bad men for a greater good, but he struggles to accept it. Deadshot is part of the squad along with The Bronze Tiger and Shrapnel. Diggle and Lyla, the ex-wife, captured a terrorist while at war in the Middle East, six years before the events of “Suicide Squad.” Gholem Qadir sold weapons, drugs, used kids when captured; six years later he’s planning to use a deadly nerve agent. He’s the target. Diggle’s personal connection to the terrorist aids the team. Six years ago Diggle saved Qadir’s life. When they meet again, Diggle acts the part of mercenary, and Qadir acts the part of reformed philanthropist.
Qadir’s role in the episode is minor, though. He’s a bit character, barely defined outside of ‘terrorist’ label, which is attached to what one would think of when asked to list the types of crimes a terrorist would commit. “Suicide Squad” concentrates on Diggle and Deadshot once more, how they’re alike, how they’re not. It continues the unlikely bond they formed in November’s “Keep Your Enemies Closer.” Diggle also confronts his own duplicity, not with anyone but he who he sees in the looking glass each morning. Lyla reminds him what he does with Oliver, as does Waller, and Diggle claims, “it’s different,” which is always a tell-tale phrase for an admitted-but-not-admitted truth. Lyla’s retort to Diggle’s attack against her for aligning with three murders draws on Oliver’s body count as well as Sara’s.
Lyla and Waller used Diggle’s present to humble his moralist stance towards the project. Qadir breathes, walks, talks, and plays the part of reformed philanthropist while plotting deadly action against people, because Diggle saved his life. To save his life meant taking a life, because that’s what happens in war. Diggle moves over to the soldier he killed and finds a kid. He killed a kid and wins a medal. Lyla tells him a kid using the weapon he used isn’t a kid. Diggle doesn’t accept that, but her attempt bonds them and leads to their initial life together until ‘talking’ became a problem (Diggle’s words). There are various twists and turns throughout the story. Deadshot becomes the target of the drone strike on Qadir’s property. Waller’s plan is to eliminate the nerve agent and Deadshot. Diggle won’t stand for it. The issue of his dead brother wasn’t resolved in “Keep Your Enemies Closer,” but Deadshot made him aware of someone else that wanted Diggle’s brother dead. Deadshot’s fleshed out a little bit more. He talks about his motivations (his daughter), and when he knows a drone will strike and kill him along with the destruction of the nerve agent, he accepts it, explaining to Diggle he’ll die with a kind of dignity.
Diggle learns an important truth in between convincing Deadshot not to die and his stern condemnation from Waller: that a murderer showed more character than a woman tasked to protect the world. Indeed. A lot of the thematic material in “Suicide Squad” is heavy-handed. While Diggle works out the shades of grey, Oliver’s caught in a black-and-white struggle, sparked by Slade’s surprise visit. The B story reminded me of ANGEL episodes when Fred, Wes, or Cordy, and Gunn, played in the A story while Angel did something else. Specifically, I was reminded of “Redefintion.” Angel set Darla and Dru on fire in the previous episode. “Redefinition” aspires to a lot of Boreanaz voice-over work. He’s intense, focused, driven, and mostly inactive. Oliver’s intense, focused, driven, and also inactive. He’s a bit more active than Angel was, but his journey concludes with a confession that he’s scared of Slade. Slade planned for years; Oliver didn’t. He thinks Slade already won. Oh, Oliver.
I liked “Suicide Squad.” I appreciate the Diggle-centric episode and the continued layering of one of the villains. I was disappointed Sean Maher was brought back to do slightly less than he did in his first episode. The Bronze Tiger mostly stood around and then he emasculated Qadir, rendering him perhaps the most ineffectual villain in the show’s history. Perhaps the writers will portray villains more complexly after this episode in which Diggle learned about the many profiles a person has but cannot show.