Arrow – Where Love Is a Battlefield
“Suicidal Tendencies” explores the many ways we say “I do” in the name of love with Oliver pushing Felicity toward a better life with Ray and Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton sacrificing his own for John, Lyla and baby Sara. Their wedding forms the catalyst for an episode that leaves the viewer with a distinct feeling that love is pain. Diggle introduces this theme with his violent, and much appreciated, threat to Ray regarding Felicity – “You hurt her . . . they’ll never find your body” – and ends with Maseo shooting the Mayor of Starling through the heart. Meanwhile, Ray attempts to play Superman and Lawton turns out to be the true hero of the episode.
Arrow moves into serious territory when it cedes its flashback sequences to Floyd Lawton’s return home after a military tour of duty. Lawton represents the real servicemen and women whose transitions from the battlefield to the home front sometimes come with psychological problems. Lawton’s young daughter does not recognize him, and soon his wife doesn’t either since he cannot reconcile what he has done in the line of duty with the civilian life he is now expected to lead. Deadshot accepts a post with HIVE, HYDRA’s DC counterpart, after listening to their human “drone” who harshly tells him “people like you don’t get to have families.” Lawton internalizes this message along with the equally miserable mantra – “For people like you, love is a bullet in the brain” – presenting an odd juxtaposition with John and Lyla’s big day.
“Did you hire a florist?” the manic Cupid asks a flummoxed Lyla as they trudge through the forest of Kasnia. Amy Gumenick’s Carrie Cutter lightens the mood alternating between planning her wedding with the Arrow and smothering Lawton with love. ARGUS has tapped the always entertaining Suicide Squad to rescue Senator Joseph Cray from the clutches of non-descript terrorists, thereby hijacking John and Lyla’s Fiji honeymoon. Senator Cray, by the way, could take a lesson in subtlety from Frank Underwood. The Senator’s plan to orchestrate a hostage scene so he can come out the hero and then run for president makes little sense. No matter, since the plot serves to push Deadshot firmly into hero territory as he presumably sacrifices his life so John and Lyla can return to Starling and raise the “scrumptious” Sara.
Lyla and John’s fear that their work might orphan their daughter reveals that even heroes struggle to find that elusive Work-Life Balance. They separately come to the same conclusion that Sara needs her parents, with each deciding to give up their dangerous careers for her sake. Diggle will forgo all the fun he has with Team Arrow and Lyla will leave her life as a SHIELD, oops, ARGUS agent behind. Lyla happens to resign her post first, however, leaving Diggle open to stay with his team. Given Lyla’s skill set and passion for her work, one wonders if she will stay out of the workforce for long.
Diggle and Lyla’s wedding presents an opportunity for the writers to remind us that Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy could not pass a chemistry test if their lives depended on it. The moment Oliver stiffly rests his hand on Laurel’s back felt like a direction – “now Stephen, place your left hand on Katie’s upper back just behind her right arm, no her back, not her shoulder, oh for god’s sake Stephen try to look interested [notes the exasperated director] – rather than an instinctive decision on the part of the character. Contrast that exchange with the relaxed spontaneity exhibited by Rickards seconds later as she casually rests the back of her arm on Amell’s chest. These simple interactions show that Cassidy’s character is best served by a friendship with Oliver rather than anything approaching romance.
Not surprisingly, this wedding episode gave audiences plenty of emotionally-charged interactions between Arrow’s signature couple, Oliver and Felicity. Ray Palmer makes an inexplicable appearance at a press conference regarding the Arrow and later does some x-ray sleuthing to discover the man’s true identity. Felicity’s own facial recognition software also plays a role in Ray’s discovery. She withheld crucial information about everyone’s secret identities and is shaken by the subsequent realization that the two men in her world are about to collide.
Ray ends up causing all kinds of trouble for Oliver who sees Palmer as more of a nuisance than a nemesis. A brief skirmish between the two (and also with Arsenal who as far as I can tell still lays in a heap), leads Oliver to dispatch Ray as if he were a tiny bug that needed swatting. Oliver’s generic name for Palmer’s alter-ego, “Supersuit,” gets to the heart of the Ray Palmer Conundrum. For all of his intelligence and “military grade” equipment, Ray ends up looking like a floating Iron Man knockoff in his ATOM suit. Does the world really need yet another member of the 1% jumping into the hero business? Whoever’s working on that new CW spinoff needs to answer the “so what” question and do a whole lot more to amp up ATOM’s cool factor before expecting viewers to invest in his story.
A hooded Oliver delivers a strong message to Ray about Felicity in his gravelly Arrow voice prompting comparisons to Diggle’s earlier warning. Oliver stands secure in his non-relationship with Felicity – “I have nothing to prove to her, but you do. She chose you, so trust her.” Ray humbly accepts this advice and promises to make Felicity happy. Oliver, who is not yet ready to “be a hero and a human being,” continues his martyrdom by pushing Felicity into Ray’s arms. Meanwhile, these exchanges reveal that Felicity’s balancing act between Ray her lover and Oliver her soulmate is a delicate one that threatens to come crashing down at any moment.
“Suicidal Tendencies” makes clear that heroes and villains alike carry the scars of love and battle with them. The wonderfully complicated and gritty Floyd Lawton best embodies this lesson, and I am guessing that despite his brush with death we have not seen the last of him. Lest we allow serious themes to bog us down, this episode happens to also treat viewers to Shirtless Oliver, Suspenders Oliver, and the illusion of Multiple-Hooded Olivers. It’s nice to see that priorities are still intact.