Let me tell you why I have decided to not take Arrow that seriously anymore and just embrace the mess. Near the end of “Suicidal Tendencies,” Oliver and Roy go head-to-head with Ray Palmer and his Iron Man suit. As is so often the way on this show, Roy is quickly tossed aside, in this case struck down by some unexplained blue ray of energy shot out of the arm of Ray’s supersuit. It sort of looked like Roy had been electrocuted. Oliver and Ray continue on with their fight, which ends with Oliver emerging the victor and declining to kill Ray, challenging the eccentric billionaire’s assumption that Oliver Queen is a killer. Oliver takes a slow, triumphant walk away from Ray, and the scene ends. For all we know, Roy is literally dying on the ground off the screen. In fact, he could have died by the end of the episode because he’s never seen again, no brief scene “Hey, you okay?” from Oliver to Roy in the Arrow Cave or Felicity exposition dump about Roy being home recovering. We’re simply left with a rather hilarious plot hole highlighting how silly this show is, sometimes without realizing it. This happened in an episode featuring a gun-toting, unhinged United States Senator staging his own capture and rescue for the purpose of becoming a hero in the public’s eye and ensuring him the White House. We’re not meant to take that kind of thing seriously. Just have fun with it.
Arrow is a pretty goofy, messy little show, seemingly forever hounded by its unwillingness to stick to the Batman Begins realism of its first season as well as its truly unabashed love for soap opera. However, if you can just accept that Arrow can also be a lot of fun, alternating between the equivalent of a blockbuster film you can giddly eat popcorn through and a cheesy B-movie whose every goofy twists inspires you to toss popcorn at the screen. The Arrow fighting the ATOM is a blockbuster moment; Oliver leaving Roy behind is a throw popcorn at the screen moment. Earlier than that, Ray turns out to be an ordained minister meaning he can preside over Lyla and Diggle’s wedding? Of course he is! That’s a totally Arrow thing to do now, just as it is to have everyone laugh hysterically at Ray’s jokes during the wedding even though not a single one of them was that funny. Pish-posh, everyone must swoon over the hot guys here! Deadshot is actually a former soldier who returned home with PTSD and ended up in prison for pulling a gun on his wife and daughter? And they included that to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior project? That is so clearly beyond Arrow‘s capabilities to truly pull off, yet here we were watching an American Sniper thing play out in “Suicidal Tendencies” flashbacks, and God bless them for trying because their heart was in the right place.
Of course, this was their big Suicide Squad episode, but unlike last season they weren’t content to simply sideline everyone else to a bit of a B story while the Suicide Squad pulled focus. No, this was an ambitious episode, dropping us straight into Diggle and Lyla’s wedding and ending with another assassinated mayor, which has become like a running gag on this show since that makes three dead mayors and one dead mayoral candidate in just a year and a half. That was enough to deal with for one episode. So, any drama with Thea and her dad or Thea and Roy had to wait, and the same goes for Laurel and Nyssa’s training. Instead, “Suicidal Tendencies” was about two things: Oliver and Ray fighting, Diggle and Lyla leading the increasingly sparse Suicide Squad into battle.
Pretending that Ray and Oliver’s Fight Wasn’t Completely About Felicity | As soon as Ray Palmer slept with Felicity and finished his Iron Man suit on the same night, we were headed for an Arrow vs. ATOM showdown. The writers were going to find an excuse to have Oliver and Ray literally fight each other, ostensibly about something else, but pretty much about Felicity. In “Suicidal Tendencies,” that “something else” was Ray attempting to bring the Arrow to justice due to his string of recent murders, and along the way he found out that Oliver was the Arrow. Who knew that the face guard on the ATOM suit actually had both x-ray and facial recognition software? That allowed Ray to peer through a building and pick up an image of Oliver in Arrow gear, and our avuncular billionaire quickly put almost everything together and realized Felicity hadn’t been totally honest with him. So, he turned on her pretty much instantly, ignoring her claims that Oliver had nothing to do with the recent murders. Felicity then running to explain everything to Oliver and Roy in the Arrow Cave was fairly hilarious, with Amell and Haynes giving her their best, “WTF are you talking about?” expressions. Oliver foolishly thought Felicity’s relationship with Ray was totally normal. Nope, the girl’s clearly drawn to billionaire vigilantes. Oh, what would ever happen if she got to meet Bruce Wayne.
It’s still odd that Ray keeps getting inserted into these law enforcement storylines, the eccentric billionaire kind of just randomly around to help the mayor when Brick threatens the Glades and now popping up on TV to announce that he’s throwing his full support behind the Starling City Police Department’s efforts to bring the Arrow to justice. It’s not odd that Ray would stick his nose into that kind of business, but when I try to think of a real world hypothetical example, like maybe Mark Zuckerberg showing up on TV to announce he was going to help track down some suspected serial killer, it just seems weird. But this is a comic book show. So, you know, just go with it.
The way Ray reacted to Felicity’s lies revealed a new side of him. He didn’t turn cruel or cold; instead, he was just really hurt. The guy’s wife was murdered in front of him, and the girl he chose to move on with turns out to have been keeping secrets from him the whole time and clearly has feelings for another guy. In response, he appeared to slip into a knee jerk businessman problem-solving mode, dismissing Felicity’s pleas because she’s a compromised asset, turning to the authorities to take care of things, and then trying to get the job done on his own. That led to the Arrow v Atom fight, which suggested that once Ray does actually master the specifics of controlling his super suit Oliver will be no match for him. Seriously, it was like watching Batman fight Iron Man, with Iron Man looking amused when Batman’s batarangs bounce off of him. However, it did also confirm Oliver’s claim that Ray is ultimately unstable, unwilling to listen to reason from either Felicity or Oliver, and rushing off to a battle which could have resulted in people dying. Ultimately, experience and levelheadedness won out, Oliver exploiting a somewhat conveniently located power source on the ATOM suit.
There is a potential Flash vs. Arrow aspect to the ATOM vs. Arrow conflict, both in the power disparity and dueling ideologies. That’s not how “Suicidal Tendencies” chose to play it, though. This was a conflict completely anchored in the Felicity, Oliver, Ray love triangle, with Oliver a somewhat unwilling participant. This was perhaps the definition of the way superhero storytelling is married to relationship soap opera on the CW. Felicity and Ray mending fences and re-pledging their partnership at the end was around as effective as anything with those two gets.
The Suicide Squad Rides Again | The business with Oliver, Ray and the League Assassins seemed so much more pressing that upon first watch I kind of missed what the Suicide Squad’s mission even was, although that became pretty self-explanatory when Lyla and Diggle argued over just rescuing one hostage instead of all of them. This particular iteration of the Squad was a bit sparse, making you wonder how on Earth Lyla, Deadshot, and Cupid would have pulled it off if Diggle hadn’t volunteered to tag along to protect his new wife. Cupid’s presence here was probably no more divisive than in her introductory episode earlier this season, but as someone who actually grew to like Amy Gumenick’s performance I welcomed her return, which basically turned her into Arrow’s version of Harley Quinn, particularly the way she transitioned from blind devotion to one man (Arrow) to another (Deadshot). Harley and Deadshot were an item in the New 52 Suicide Squad, and it often played much as Cupid and Deadshot did here, which is mostly him rolling that one eye he has at every crazy thing she says.
I was thrown by Deadshot getting his own flashbacks, and while the American Sniper of it all was more than they could really do justice it did effectively grant him an actual redemptive arc. His apparent self-sacrifice at episode’s end ensured Diggle and Lyla a chance at a life he could have had with his own wife and daughter but was too messed up to handle. Of course, I don’t believe for one second that Deadshot is actually dead, but it was an effective moment.
While all of this entertaining, because who’s not going to love a gun-toting, slightly mad US Senator staging his own capture for p.r. points, it didn’t feel completely connected to the rest of the episode. Diggle and Lyla openly wondering what in the world they were thinking going on the mission together and risking orphaning their daughter seemed to connect Diggle and Oliver as brothers in the midst of an identity crisis. The resolution to Diggle and Lyla’s dilemma was not really in doubt because who’s going to be the one to really quit their job and raise their daughter, the full-time character or the one we almost never see? So, while it was noble for Diggle to announce his intentions to quit Team Arrow you could sense it wouldn’t stick. I did, however, briefly entertain the idea maybe they were removing Diggle from the Team for a couple of episodes, but Oliver’s going to need his help now that the entire city will be on an Arrow manhunt after the mayor’s assassination.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While it was nice saying hello and then goodbye to Deadshot again, this felt like another Arrow episode where its two halves were not built equally, a somewhat thrown-together Suicide Squad plot not quite matching up to the far more imperative business of Oliver, Felicity, and Ray, a storyline we’ve been building up all season. As a result, I don’t know how well “Suicidal Tendencies” actually worked as a full episode, but it was certainly an enjoyable one, even if not always intentionally so. I am still laughing that Oliver left Roy behind like that.
1. I am slightly disappointed we missed our chance to see what a full Arrow wedding episode looks like. They were done with Diggle and Lyla’s nuptials by the time the opening title card swooshed by. Did we even get to see Oliver’s best man speech? It would have been so remarkably short but sweet, with one or two patented Stephen Amell dramatic pauses. Oh, well.
2. It must have been a nightmare to choreograph that 3-on-1 battle with Oliver as Arrow against the League of Assassins people dressed up exactly like him.
3. Felicity caught the bouqet at the wedding? Of course she did.
4. Why wasn’t Quentin Lance, the Chief of Police, there at the police station when Ray tried to give his statement about Oliver being the Arrow?
5. I want somebody to make a YouTube “In Memoriam” video for Starling City’s three dead mayors (Sebastian Blood and the others whose names I never really caught) and one dead mayoral candidate (Moira Queen), set to a Sarah McLachlan song.
6. I thought Deadshot had been freed in last year’s season finale, but upon Netflix re-watch I see the episode never actually explains what became of him or the rest of the Squad after their stand-off with Waller.
7. Missed opportunity for a quick joke: Diggle should have briefly told Oliver at the end that he’d run into Cupid on his mission, giving us a chance for a potentially funny facial reaction or some kind of exchange like “How is she?”/”In love with Deadshot now” leading to Oliver realizing that even his stalker has moved on from him.
8. I am certain Felicity was completely wrong in asserting that Oliver hadn’t killed anyone in nearly 2 years, although Ray’s response about that not being the greatest defense in the world was perfect.
9. By this point anytime Oliver and Felicity again revisit the topic of why he can’t be with her maybe they can just say, “We’ve covered all of this already.”
AVClub – “Much like the Flash, Ray Palmer’s Atom is now positioned as a more idealistic alternative to this universe’s original hero, yet it’s Oliver who does so much of the inspiring and teaching. Sooner or later, he’s going to learn his own lesson. Maybe then the transformation from the Hood to Green Arrow will be complete.”
Collider – “It simply feels as if the Arrow writers are spinning their wheels on the same relationship storylines over and over again, to the point that I’m not sure there will ever be any resolution as long as one half of a couple is still breathing.
For a straight-forward plot recap, try TVLine.