This week’s episode delivers two fan-pleasing elements that were long overdue: (i) more screen-time for Diggle, and (ii) Ray finally putting the A.T.O.M. suit to good use and squaring off against The Arrow.
It’s fair to say that it doesn’t marry those two story-lines together too effectively and there are some casualties along the way, but it’s hard to complain too much, with an episode as action-packed as this.
Suicidal Tendencies begins in Starling City, with Team Arrow all present and correct for Diggle’s wedding to Lyla. There’s some fun involving Ray (who’s there as Felicity’s date) turning out to be an ordained Minister and stepping in to perform the wedding when the Minister fails to show up, but it’s all over disappointingly quickly, as Diggle and Lyla are approached by Amanda Waller for an urgent mission in Kasnia, accompanied by the Suicide Squad. Well, two of the Suicide Squad: Deadshot (aka Floyd Lawton) and Cupid, aka… er… well, Cupid, anyway.
So, Diggle, Lyla and the Suicide Squad (both of them) are sent to Kasnia to rescue a kidnapped congressman, but (wouldn’t you know it) it turns out that the congressman has engineered his own kidnapping to make himself look good when he runs for President. So, naturally, rather than welcome Diggle and co. with open arms, he tries to have them all killed.
This serves two main purposes: firstly, Diggle and Lyla discussing whether they should give up the action hero lark, seeing as they have a tiny child and all. (In the end, Lyla does indeed resign from ARGUS, but she persuades Diggle that he’s doing too much good on Team Arrow and that he should stay.)
The second purpose is that Deadshot gets to go out a hero, sacrificing himself on an exploding rooftop, so that Diggle, etc, can get away safely. Now, there’s no body, which, according to The Rules Of Television, means he isn’t really dead, but it’s probably safe to say he won’t be back this season. His bonding moments with Diggle, though, are oddly touching, particularly in the subtly directed moment where Diggle hesitates in treating Floyd’s wound, because he sees his dead brother’s name tattooed on his chest.
As for Cupid, she is mostly relegated to comic relief, falling head over heels for Deadshot. Still, at least she’s not in love with Oliver anymore. Also, her presence is a good excuse to have a spot of archery in Kasnia.
More surprisingly, the flashbacks this week are entirely given over to Floyd’s back-story, which is actually rather tragic, painting him as a victim of PTSD, unable to cope with civilian life. After drinking, domestic violence and losing both his wife and child in a divorce, Deadshot finally signs up with the H.I.V.E and receives his first target: Diggle’s brother. These very downbeat sequences probably make a lot more sense in the US, where the episode concluded with a title card directing viewers to the website for the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity helping veterans with PTSD. That said, as welcome as it is to have a change of focus for the flashbacks, we can’t have been the only one yelling “HOW THE HELL IS SHADO STILL ALIVE?” at the screen, after last week’s cliff-hanger.
Meanwhile, back in Starling City, things are heating up for Oliver, as everyone at Diggle’s wedding gets an “e-blast” (which feels like a moment nicked from Gossip Girl), saying that The Arrow is killing people again and, as a result, is wanted by the police. Cue a still angry Captain Lance giving an anti-Arrow press conference with Ray Palmer. To make matters worse, it turns out that, rather than waste his own time, as indicated last week, sneaky old Ra’s al Ghul has out-sourced the Arrow copycat idea, so there are now several members of the League of Assassins dressed as The Arrow, who are all running around killing criminals. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, Oliver discovers that Maseo is one of them.
Oliver fighting a bunch of copycat Arrows is a lot of fun, but it really just sets us up for the main event, which is Ray Palmer finally deciding to get into the crime-fighting game and going after The Arrow. Sure enough, he tracks him down incredibly easily and then uses his suit’s X-ray technology to discover that the Arrow is – gasp! – Oliver Queen. To give Ray credit, he quickly works out that Felicity knows Oliver’s secret, which puts her in the awkward position of having to explain to both men why she’s been keeping things from them. Oliver’s reaction when a flustered Felicity hurriedly tells him Ray has been building a super-suit and is coming after him is predictably priceless, but the big laugh comes from Roy (Roy!). “A super-suit? Cool!” he says, before getting a Hard Stare from Oliver.
Also amusing is Felicity’s doomed attempt to defend Oliver to Ray: “He hasn’t killed anyone in nearly two years!” she says, to which Ray responds, quite rightly: “That really is not your best argument.” (There’s really no way to explain that whole thing quickly. Why don’t you just watch the show, Ray?) It’s a good point, though, and it’s encouraging that the show isn’t willing to just sweep the Season 1 murders under the carpet and pretend they never happened.
Anyway, Oliver confronts Ray in his office and calls him “Super Suit. Ray, happily, responds: “Actually, I prefer The Atom.” It’s a great relief that they’re not going to pussy-foot around his actual goddamn superhero name, after all the messing about with The Hood, The Arrow and The Streak. Ray then attempts to go to the police with what he knows about Oliver, but gets immediately shut down by Laurel, at which point he works out that she’s the Black Canary. Somewhat unconvincingly, he doesn’t attempt to tell anyone else and instead heads off to fight Oliver himself, in his A.T.O.M. suit.
So, the moment finally arrives, with The Arrow and The Atom battling each other in full costume. The effects are top-notch, even if the A.T.O.M. suit is currently little more than an Iron Man knock-off. Maybe Ray will get to work on a shrink ray soon, at which point he’ll also become an Ant-Man rip-off. At any rate, it is great fun to see the two of them going at it, and it is kind of amusing that Oliver defeats The Atom so quickly, effectively by firing an arrow at the suit’s ‘Off’ switch. He also manages to convince Ray of his innocence, so, hopefully, it won’t be long before Ray gets his own costume box in the Arrow Cave.
Finally, the cliff-hanger steps things up a notch, as Maseo kills Starling City’s Mayor with an arrow and seemingly aiming a second arrow at Felicity. (For those of you keeping count, Arrow has now killed off three Mayors in as many seasons. To lose one Mayor might be considered unfortunate. To lose three just looks careless.)
With everything else going on, there is no room for Thea or Malcolm this week. Here’s hoping they spent the episode eating soup and binge-watching Better Call Saul on Netflix or something.
All joking aside, we’re now at Episode 17 and it’s not unreasonable to wonder just where the season is heading for its endgame. By this stage in the previous two seasons, we had a very clear idea of who the Big Bad was and exactly what was at stake for Oliver and company. But right now? It’s anyone’s guess. A face-off with Ra’s al Ghul is inevitable, but we wouldn’t be surprised if that happens sooner rather than later, leaving…what? Something involving Malcolm? Also, it’s now starting to look like The Atom is heading for his own spin-off show, so maybe Ray won’t be playing quite as big a part in the finale as we’d hoped. Still, the season has at least five more episodes to pull it out of the bag, so let’s hope they can deliver the goods, finale-wise. They certainly have a lot to live up to.
Season 1, 2 and 3 of Arrow are available on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, for free next day UK delivery on Amazon items, as part of a £79 annual Prime membership.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.