Review by Logan
If you’ve come to expect Arrow to move the plot visibly forward with each episode, then Suicidal Tendencies might disappoint you. But there’s another reason that the episode ought to impress you, and it’s not an immediately obvious one.
Last Week on Arrow
After traveling to Ra’s al Ghul’s stronghold, Oliver was released by Ra’s, along with his friends and Malcolm Merlyn, as a sign of good faith. He did this because he wants Oliver to take his place, which as I pointed out before, is essentially a hijacking of a Batman story. Once home, Oliver watched Ra’s’ promise that the city would turn on him come true, as Captain Lance rejected him for keeping the truth about Sara from him, and he hits a rough patch in his relationship with his family, as well as the team. As Merlyn lies on the Queen’s couch, Oliver contemplates whether or not his crusade has done any good, while we watch another stagnant piece of Thea’s supposed trip to the dark side. Thematically, the episode was yet another focusing on Oliver’s no-kill rule, but this time brought in the efficiency, not just the morality, of his methods. That left us with an important question: which takes precedence? While the show seemed to open up more loose ends than it knows how to close, not the least of which is Merlyn’s benching as an insignificant villain just to give Thea daddy issues, it succeeded in giving Oliver a genuine conflict and some much-needed character development.
This week, Oliver fights what he feared the most: the city turning on him. Members of the League of Assassins are masquerading as the Arrow, leading Captain Lance and the rest of the city to believe that the Arrow had returned to killing. Coming off of last week’s conflict, you might expect Oliver to return to his decision, but he doesn’t. That ship has sailed, so to speak, and he resolves to have nothing to do with the League of Assassins, except in stopping them. But that becomes problematic when one of the people who doesn’t believe the Arrow has been set up is The Atom. In a conflict that is more emotional than it is legitimate, Arrow and The Atom have a brief but cool fight (more the former than the latter), which brings the central conflict of the season, Oliver versus the League, to little if any progress.
But that wasn’t where the bulk of this episode was spent, anyway. The majority of the episode’s focus, at least in tone if not in quantity, was spent with the Suicide Squad. After John and Lyla are remarried, they’re immediately whisked away by Waller and Co. to take care of a hostage situation overseas. The smaller squad made up only of John, Lyla, Deadshot, and Cupid provide the bulk of the episode’s coolest action sequences. The interplay between Cupid and Deadshot was nothing short of stellar, and the episode succeeded in legitimately surprising me: by flashing back to give us Deadshot’s back story.
That story arch provided what was the central theme of the episode: how do you be a warrior and have a family at the same time. Deadshot insists it can’t be done, and once you see his story, it’s not difficult to understand why he says that. His time as a soldier, or rather his inability to cope with that time, ruined his relationship with his family, and drove him into the criminal life that landed him in prison. As he says at one point in the episode “I wasn’t always me either.” John and Lyla don’t land exactly on Deadshot’s side of things, but they do come to a really noteworthy conclusion: our priority needs to be at home. Sometimes, something’s just got to give. And in a remarkable move for this type of show, Lyla resigns for the safety and virtuous upbringing of their daughter.
That brings a stark contrast to Oliver. He’s insisted that he can’t love Felicity and save the city at the same time. No one can be a hero and a lover, he insists, and that includes Ray Palmer. And yet, at the end of the episode, Oliver appears to be wrong. Felicity and Ray are still together, and they agree to be partners in his endeavor. That raises the question: is Oliver wrong?
That’s not an easy question to answer, but it does drive home a point that is stated for too seldom in pop culture: when you have chosen to have a family, your first priority is to them. Sure, you can do great things and you can save the world and be a brave soldier, but that’s not your first priority. First thing’s first: you make sure your family is taken care of. So while the episode doesn’t really move forward the plot of the season the way I wished it would, it’s thematically solid and encouraging in a way that few Arrow episodes are, and embodies a Scriptural principle that should be emphasized more.