Some Thoughts About Suicide Squad

Hi Geekade readers! I’m not taking to coding as quickly as I’d hoped, and find myself making the hard decision between using my Pi to learn and code or to install Retropie and play games, so I thought I’d take a brief departure from my normal tech talk to discuss another passion of mine: Harley Quinn.

She’s possibly one of the best, most tragic female characters in literature. There’s no one on earth in a better position to be fully lucid while they go insane than she is, nobody who consistently and knowingly chooses her own imprisonment and torture more frequently. It’s like if Jack Sparrow had a law enforcement degree and still made all the same decisions while pirate hunters repeatedly and desperately offered him help and companionship. I could go on, but I have an actual point, so I’ll spare you. As you can imagine, I was both fearful and thrilled as I awaited the Suicide Squad release, rightly imagining Margot Robbie to be absolutely perfect for the part, and wholly unconcerned with the building, meme-fied humiliation of Jared Leto’s Joker. (The Joker, arguably, is inessential to Harley’s transformation‑PLEASE ask me about this, I’d love to tell you.)

Suicide Squad was fine. It was nowhere near the let-down of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which I’d awaited for 4 years by the time it was regrettably released in theaters instead of burned in the dead of night in ditches somewhere), but nowhere close to as satisfying and funny-while-successfully-introducing-otherwise-unknown-characters-to-mainstream-audiences as Guardians of the Galaxy had been. However, if you’d like to watch Suicide Squad, but also would kind of like to watch a good movie, I’ve got news for you.

Suicide Squad is essentially a DCCU remake of the DCU movie Assault on Arkham, which was released a few years beforehand. It’s, honest to goodness, basically the same movie but instead of being potentially a waste of $9-14 dollars, it’s GREAT and a totally appropriate use of maybe $4 to rent on Amazon Prime. (I know, no smarthome stuff and I still manage to be a shill for Amazon. They’re not even paying me.)

Assault on Arkham is a part of a set of movies and shows that I don’t feel could possibly get enough attention – the Batman Animated Universe, encompassing everything from Batman: The Animated Series (arguably the definitive Batman) to the more recent The Killing Joke, and the upcoming Batman and Harley Quinn (which, AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH). In Assault on Arkham, Mark Hamill returns as the voice of the Joker facing Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Hynden Walch as Harley (Princess Bubblegum/Starfire/Penny from Chalkzone.)

I highly suggest that you go watch Assault on Arkham, but just a warning, there are spoilers ahead.

Assault on Arkham takes place at a time after the Suicide Squad had already been formed, so it saves us the trouble of a full origin tale, but it also begins with a bit of a changeup in the team – both from the Suicide Squad movie gang, and from the formation of the squad in the animated universe. We’re treated to the more characterized and strangely sympathetic King Shark in place of Killer Croc, who in the Suicide Squad movie is bold and violent, but not much else. We’re also introduced to Killer Frost, who is an icy villainess a-la Livewire from B:TAS. She’s sassy and has what appear to be magical ice powers; like Elsa, but mean. Black Spider, a bloodthirsty, crime-hating vigilante also joins the team, apparently only grudgingly in the company of everyone else. We keep Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and Harley Quinn herself, but the dynamics of the team are the same. One hulk, one killer-killer, one elemental, one nutty Australian robber, one entrepreneurial dad, and one crazy former therapist.

Oh – and one sacrificial lamb. Both movies kick off with a “proof of concept”‑someone nobody particularly cares about to prove that Waller will actually blow their heads off. In Assault on Arkham, it’s a raging Red bull called “The KGBeast” who nobody would ever mourn, and in Suicide Squad, it’s “Slipknot,” the man who can climb anything.  This proves for us how cruel Waller really is‑and in both movies, Waller gets called out as the devil. This is a reference to the comics, as well as simply a fact. Waller is probably actually Satan.

See‑in each movie‑not only is Task Force X Waller’s vanity project (which is entirely unnecessary and completely inhumane, not to mention a complete violation of the constitutional rights of the prisoners involved), but the main conflict faced by our hostage heroes is a mishap of Waller’s own making. In Assault on Arkham, Waller had slipped a Suicide Seed into the Riddler’s neck to test her prototype, and he figured out how to disarm it, so, she created a fistfull more, stuffed them into some other criminals, and sent them to murder the Riddler. And also, the Joker has supposedly hidden a dirty bomb somewhere in Gotham and Batman is tearing the city apart to find it. (SEE DC? You still could have shoehorned Batman into this movie too.)

But all the plot-relevant stuff aside, the meat of Assault on Arkham is Harley and the Joker. They start the movie out broken up, which, if you follow their relationship as obsessively as I do, you’ll know is not actually an uncommon thing for them. Harley and Mister J are currently canonically canned. She’s even been out with Bruce Wayne on a legitimate and mutually enjoyable date. Heck, she only lives about 40 minutes from me, in Coney Island in a shabby apartment with her pets and pals and her primary non-monogamous partner, Pamela Isley (Ivy). But in Assault on Arkham, Ivy is is still incarcerated, and H&J are on the rocks.

It’s heavily implied, in Assault on Arkham, that Joker had thrown Harley out of a moving car and left her for dead, which might sound familiar because it’s almost exactly what they did in Suicide Squad‑but that’s hardly the only thing he’s done to her, and it’s hard to tell if Dr. Quinzel’s rage in the confrontation in Arkham comes from that particular assault or from his complete and utter destruction of her legitimate career, social abilities, criminal record, and sanity. Let’s say both. Harley starts Assault on Arkham out confidently and unconvincingly unattached and reinforces her apparent split by banging Deadshot.

Ok this part, I see why they didn’t snag for Suicide Squad. Will Smith is 48, and Margot Robbie is 26, and while she’s “Daddy’s Little Monster,” I personally don’t want to see her have a fling with someone who was already on Season 3 of Fresh Prince the year she was born. (Yes, Jared Leto is 45 and no, I don’t want to see her with him either.)

When, in Assault on Arkham, Harley (spoiler) breaks into Arkham with Deadshot, she (spoiler) runs into the Joker in his bulletproof cell and (spoiler): it doesn’t go well. He taunts her as only Mark Hamill’s Joker can, in the seductive and deranged varying pitch of a madman, and she is…triggered. (I got puns.)

She manages to keep it together while firing to help Deadshot with the task they’re there for; planting a small hacking device‑Batman-y technology that allows everyone else to sneak in past security, and here is where I pause to rant about Harley Quinn some more.

She knows that his cell is bulletproof and fires at it anyway. This convinces all of the onlooking guards that she’s currently deranged, and convinces Deadshot that she’s (oh, spoiler) not thrilled with the Joker. Her rampage allows Deadshot to complete their first mission, but it also helps the Joker to escape.

It takes Joker what seems like an hour to realize what she’s done for him, what she later confirms she did on purpose for him. This is one of my favorite pieces of evidence that Harley Quinn is the real criminal mastermind behind Joker’s modern accomplishments. For the other, watch “Mad Love,” Season 4 Episode 21 of Batman: The Animated Series, which Suicide Squad also clipped a bit, free on Amazon Prime. Harley has full knowledge of the entire schematics of Arkham Asylum, because, you know, she worked there, and throughout the movie uses passcodes and shortcuts that move the whole team forward, and she chooses to let her puddin loose in the halls, so she can catch up later. Yes, spoiler, she was faking the whole time, and is more than happy to be daddy’s little monster again. She’s even been hiding the dirty bomb.

Ask me what she gets for it.

So, you might at this point be thinking: Gabbie, you’re bizarrely passionate about this clearly unhealthy couple, but also, this movie sounds nothing like Suicide Squad.

Well, you’re wrong. About the second part, at least. Let me take you through it.

Amanda Waller wakes up one morning and decides to randomly create a huge problem‑murdering the Riddler (or releasing the Enchantress, in Suicide Squad). Granted, nerdy Nigma isn’t nearly as frightening as Cara Delevigne slowly building one of the mechanical space worms from Avengers in downtown Chicago, but both are problematic, and both are entirely Waller’s fault.

She pulls together her team of criminals, puts them through a suit-up montage, kills one of them, then drops their helicopter literally out of the sky into a situation that she does not explain to them fully. The Joker and Harley have some sort of private understanding between one another, as could probably have been expected. In both movies, Harley has a camaraderie with Deadshot. Harley also notably does a Matrix” lean in both movies for no discernable reason.

Inevitably, our villain-heroes are actually the patsies. Also inevitably, both the elemental and the tank are killed in explosions of the neck-bomb or fiery variety. And in both movies, the Joker appears to die in a helicopter crash, though in Suicide Squad, we actually get to see the happy couple reunited, whereas in Assault on Arkham, we’re merely told the body wasn’t found, which, for the Joker, is as good as proof that he’s alive.

To be totally honest with you, my main conclusion is that I’d have killed to see Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in this Suicide Squad movie instead of the one that we got. She was the one part of Suicide Squad that makes watching it worth it, and while Princess Bubblegum did an amazing job in Assault on Arkham, I’d really like to see a live-action portrayal of Harley having her own hidden agenda, but giving us a full range of emotions and a tiny taste of her‑hate?‑for the Joker.

The Suicide Squad Harleen transformation was painfully unfulfilling, but the canonical story of their mad love is actually very interesting. While Suicide Squad paints Quinn as the Joker’s dupe‑tortured to madness and turned to a crime queen‑the older story is a little more compelling. Over multiple sessions, Harleen realizes that the Joker is able to make her laugh again after years of unwavering, humorless professionalism and ambition. Their sessions become discussions, and she falls in love. This not only makes the Joker seem more dangerous, capable of corrupting a psychiatrist with only his words like a genial, gentlemanly, green-haired Charles Manson, but tells us a lot about the good doctor. And it really makes Harley’s blow-up in Assault on Arkham an incredible moment, especially considering that it’s a dupe. How self-aware is Harley? How actively, and independently, is she choosing the Joker again and again? I for one would have enjoyed seeing that explored in Suicide Squad, just a bit more than I enjoyed the pin-up show we got instead.

I hope I’ve convinced you to check out Assault on Arkham. It’s really an amazing movie. And I hope I get a little bit better at Python, so that next month I can get back to writing about technology instead of rambling justifications of clown-on-criminal romance.

Gabbie Robbins

Gabbie is a rapidly aging Office Manager at a startup in NYC. She spends her conscious, non-working hours reading, playing video games made for children, and watching movies with her boyfriend.

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