Thursday, July 20, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Suicide Squad Scenes 35-38

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Suicide Squad, scene 35 (Harley reunited with the Squad), scene 36 (Enchantress reunited with her heart), scene 37 (Deadshot finding the binder), and scene 38 (the bar scene).

  • Harley in the rain and a crack in her facade
  • The team accepts Harley back, no questions asked
  • Enchantress and Waller, tables turned
  • Deadshot and the squad learn that Waller and Flag are behind the crisis
  • The squad follows Deadshot into the bar
  • Honor among thieves
  • Diablo's backstory and Harley's tough love
  • Flag opens up and releases his leverage
  • The squad's true formation
Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @NBego

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, we give scene-by-scene analysis of the Warner Brothers films that are part of the Justice League Universe, often referred to as the DCEU. In this episode, we cover Scenes 35 through 38 of Suicide Squad. These scenes are the team reuniting with Harley Quinn, Enchantress reuniting with her heart, Deadshot throwing the book at Flag, and then the all-important bar scene. This analysis was written by myself, Alessandro Maniscalco who is @raveryn on twitter, and Nick Begovich who is @NBego.

Before we get into those scenes, we just had some quick thoughts that have been on our minds as we are analyzing Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman in tandem. We’ve noticed some parallels between the two movies. First of all, Rick Flag and Steve Trevor have some commonalities as they both have military roles and both have to be quick thinkers to navigate dangerous situations that are ever-changing, and they also have to find ways to operate amidst meta-humans, so it goes beyond what they’re originally trained for, but they adapt. Both movies have soldiers escorting individuals with incredible powers, and both lead up to a face off with gods. Both movies, and Man of Steel as well, involve cooperation between mortals and  superbeings, which is something we really enjoy about the DCEU.

Alright, let’s look at what we’re calling scene 35 of Suicide Squad. It’s a short scene, but an important one and a pretty effective one in terms of execution. It’s Harley Quinn reuniting with the team after the Joker’s helo crashed. We last saw her on a rooftop, but now she is on a car top. And the other co-lead of the movie, Deadshot, also had a key character moment on the top of a car back in Scene 24. Perhaps these moments when the characters are put up on a pedestal, so to speak, are when they reveal their true nature --- Deadshot is actually a pretty courageous and selfless fighter, and Harley is actually a soft-hearted person who desires connection and a sort of normalcy with her love.

For Harley’s moment here, there’s light rain which emphasizes the emotion and it also causes her makeup to run down her face, a bit of a call back to the vat that she and the Joker jumped in during the flashback. Harley takes her collar off which is symbolic of her gaining her independence from the Joker, no longer being on his leash but rather her own person which we’ve seen her doing throughout this movie.

She’s clearly sad and somber, feeling real emotions like a normal, non-psychotic person would. But then, as soon as she sees the team coming up, she hides her sadness and puts back on her Harley Quinn facade. This gives us at least a suggestion that her “crazy” persona is just an act, perhaps even a coping mechanism.  

Harley says, “Hey guys, I’m back.” She’s back with the team, but she’s also back into her crazy positive Harley persona. She also says she missed them and Deadshot says they’re glad she made it. So these are some nice words from both sides. And it’s also important to note that Harley could have just gone off and escaped by herself, because the explosive in her neck was deactivated. But she stayed around and either waited for the team or at least allowed the team to find her. This might be because she wanted to have a sense of belonging, and the squad was the only place where she could have this now that the Joker was gone. She had been developing relationships with the group, so she probably turned to them to give her that feeling, but also she probably started caring for them and didn’t want to abandon them.  Deadshot, and likely the whole group after having gotten to know her better, can see through her smiley face and can see her pain. This connects directly with the theme that we’ve talked about over and over -- that people recognizing the love and humanity in others is a strong basis for connection. They are now recognizing Harley’s love and loss, they’re seeing what she is going through, and that makes them more connected to her. And these connections are much stronger than Waller’s leverage.

Boomerang gives the bat back to Harley. She looks at Croc and Diablo, and they both are silent but approving of her being back on the team. It’s like she was checking to see if anyone was going to give her a hard time about ditching the team, but they all just accept her back in, no questions asked. So even though this is a short scene, it’s another little step toward the bonds being formed amongst the squad.

Scene 36: Enchantress gets her heart (1:19:13)

Moving on to Scene 36, Incubus uses the captured Waller to open the locked briefcase and he returns Enchantress’s heart to her chest. She sort of powers up and we see that the big beam in the sky seems to glow a bit brighter. Then Enchantress says that with her heart returned, she can finish her weapon. I don’t think we actually knew it was incomplete, but it does make sense for her to be more powerful now because when Incubus helped her out originally it did always seem kind of like a temporary measure. She was going to need to get her heart back.

Enchantress and Waller, the two villainesses of the movie, then have a showdown. And this is a big moment given the earlier scenes in the movie when Enchantress was always under the thumb of Waller. Now the tables have turned, and Enchantress demands to know how to destroy the human armies.

Waller responds defiantly, saying, “Do you worst, bitch!” And Viola Davis had a great line delivery here. She really spit those words out with intensity. But then I think Waller actually sees that she’s in for more than she expected, because Enchantress sprouts some tentacle-type things and they wrap around Waller. As we’ll see later, they are able to tap into her brain and extract the military intel. The fact that she can extract the info makes it a bit odd that she asked Waller first -- it seems like that line was just for the benefit of the audience. Similarly, the earlier line was kind of on the nose in terms of telling us that she was at full power now. It was already pretty clear.

Scene 37: Flag Explains Everything (1:20:15)

But let’s keep moving on right into Scene 37. This is back to the squad, led by Flag, as they come up to Waller’s helo. We know it’s hers and not the Joker’s because of the clear 23 marking that we saw when Waller took off.

Waller, of course, is gone, and we just saw where she was, so putting two and two together, we know where the squad is going to be headed, and we know that is going to lead up to the climax of the movie. Deadshot, who’s always assessing his situation, also makes this deduction, and he says that they’re going to have to go to “the swirling ring of trash in the sky.” He asks Flag when it’s going to end, because what was a mission involving terrorists became a mission with non-human entities, and what was an extraction became a second-stage rescue and now it’s escalated to an imminent showdown with the superhuman power that’s at the center of the carnage. Deadshot is clearly voicing his disapproval of this escalation, but he’s still at the mercy of Flag and it looks like they’ll all be forced to continue. Flag, of course, has extra incentive to still continue because he is hoping to somehow save June Moon at the end of all of this.

Also, we should remember at this point that we, the audience, have much more information than the squad members do. They don’t actually know what’s at the center of the trash ring. They have no idea about Enchantress or Incubus. Flag knows, of course, and the military leaders know quite a bit because they know about Enchantress and they saw the footage before the first helicopters were taken out. But Deadshot and the squad members don’t know what’s awaiting them over there. And they definitely don’t know that Flag would have any sort of personal connection to it. They just think Flag is a random military leader doing his duty.

Flag moves the team out but Deadshot lingers and looks into the helo. He finds the binder marked Top Secret. We cut back to Flag and the team and it must be at least a few minutes later before Deadshot catches back up to them, because he seems to have read quite a bit of what was a pretty thick binder… or at least he looked through it enough to identify the most important parts. Deadshot throws the binder past Flag and tells him that he has to tell everybody everything. “Or me and you are going to go right now.” So this touches on the rivalry between Deadshot and Flag.

And it’s also the culmination of the secrecy arc that we’ve been tracing with Flag since Scene 21. Flag has always been keeping secrets from his team and definitely from the squad. By keeping those secrets, Flag was playing into Waller’s side of things, using leverage and authority over people. Now, Deadshot is going to force Flag to open up and tell the truth, and that is actually a shift toward the other side of the equation -- toward human connection, and his opening up actually allows the group to bond further and for Flag to become a part of the group instead of a separate authority. It’s a big step in establishing the theme that human connections are more powerful than leverage.

So this part and the bar scene that follows work well thematically. But this supposed reveal is clunky storywise. Flag tells the story of Incubus in the subway and how Waller sent him in with Enchantress, and then how Enchantress bolted and Waller stabbed the heart. It’s clunky, though, because we already knew all of this. Yeah, it’s new information to the squad, but it’s old information for the audience, so it’s not very satisfying to have it come out here. Now granted, there’s a tiny bit of new information for us, too -- we see that Flag gave Enchantress the bomb that was set for 2 seconds, and she armed it right there with him instead of taking it to Incubus. So that’s how she bolted, but we already knew that she bolted. And it’s also a bit weird that we see Enchantress shove a 2-second bomb into Flag’s arms and we don’t get a clear view of how it’s disarmed. It just cuts to Flag saying, “She bolted.” That seems like a pretty important thing to leave out, because the audience, seeing the 2-second countdown, would have some tension that needs to be clearly released.

Anyway, after hearing Flag tell the full story, and finding out that the two people they’ve been forced to obey -- Flag and Waller -- were not innocent people drawn into the crisis but were in fact both central to the creation of the crisis. Deadshot says he doesn’t care if he gets killed, he’s going into the bar for a drink. Flag calls after him, saying that he needs his help, which is a pretty big thing for Flag to admit, I’m sure, and it’s a big change from ordering Deadshot around or giving him a hard time about his past, so it continues the honest opening up that Flag is doing here. Overall, Scene 37 is a humbling one for Flag. But Deadshot continues into the bar. And as the de facto leader of the squad, as we’ve noted in our previous analysis, everyone follows him in, even Katana. Flag picks up a photo of him and Dr. Moon with a sense of helplessness and remorse.  And maybe even a sense of loss, thinking he’s lost her to Enchantress.

Scene 38: Bar scene (1:22:42)

Now we get into Scene 38, the bar scene, considered by most people to be one of the best scenes of the movie -- definitely one of the most impactful and memorable. It begins with a shot poured for Deadshot and he offers a toast.  “Here’s to honor among thieves.” They may be criminals, but they are claiming honor. They now feel like they might actually have the higher ground over Flag and Waller. They have committed crimes in the past, but they never caused anything as bad as this whole citywide devastation, unleashing supernatural villains. And if they had, they would’ve had more honor than to conscript others to clean up the mess after themselves, like Flag and Waller have done.

Deadshot also points out that the squad is going to be blamed for the mess. When they got to Waller, they probably thought that they’d be considered heroes, but now it probably stings because he says they’re going to be the fall guys, because they’re viewed as the bad guys. And to add insult to injury, it’s actually the so-called good guys, primarily Amanda Waller, who were so arrogant and caused the mess in the first place.

Harley takes up the bartender role, serving drinks. And this marks an important change for her character. Earlier in the movie, she was on the pole, serving the Joker and being offered up to guys like Monster T. Now she is behind the bar, willingly serving her new friends, and she’ll even be offering them some advice soon. And it’s things like this that probably make the scene work as one of the best in the movie -- it marks substantial and noticeable changes for major characters, including Harley, like we just said, and also Flag, who builds upon the sharing that he did outside to then open up even about the personal side of all of it, and another big change is of course Diablo, which we’ll see in a second. And these changes aren’t just haphazard -- they are all about the team getting closer and becoming better friends. In this way, you could call Scene 38 here the true formation of the squad, rather than Scene 21 when they were just forced together. It’s in this scene that they choose to work together, recognizing and accepting their troubled backgrounds but also their potential and the value that they still have as individuals. This element of free choice and the true formation of the team is represented visually in a few moments when Flag actually destroys the device with the killer app. That’s the moment where Flag switches sides, from Waller’s side, believing in leverage, to the squad’s side, believing in friendship.

The scene continues with Deadshot saying that, for two sweet seconds, he had hope. And this passes things over to El Diablo, who says that hope doesn’t “stop the world from turning.” It comes back around. So this is a subtle nod to karma and a reminder that Deadshot has done some bad things. He asks Deadshot how many people he’s killed. Then he asks if he ever killed women or children. Deadshot says he doesn’t kill women or children.

But this was never actually about Chato challenging Floyd, this was about Chato actually wanting to open up and get the big burden off his chest that he’d been carrying around the whole mission and before. He shares his backstory, which is that he was born with “the devil’s gift.” And as he got older, he got more powerful. So he might be even more powerful now than he was back in that prison footage. He mentions his gang leadership and then we see a dinner table scene with his family -- his wife and two kids. But his wife confronts him about his gang violence and then about gang weapons and dirty money in their home. She’s trying to protect the family and isn’t afraid to stand up to him, but he loses his cool and burns the house and his family. It’s a tragic story, and the filmmakers also found an effective visual for showing the tragedy to the squad members, with the flame in the shape of a women being snuffed out by the glass placed over her by Chato.

Deadshot is visibly moved by this heart-wrenching story. But Boomerang is a bit slow on the uptake. He gets that the wife died, but he asks about the kids.  Harley already knows the answer and says what Chato is probably too devastated to admit. That he killed them. We get a close up of Chato basically breaking down and crying, and everyone else is quiet and lowers their heads. They’re respectful of the loss and mournful, just like any decent person would be -- and this all goes to show that there is a basic decency underneath, even amongst these so-called hardened criminal.

Harley breaks the silence with her advice to Chato. Perhaps drawing on some of her psychological training, but also drawing on her own personal experiences having just lost the Joker, she tells Diablo to “own it.” She tells him that it was foolish to think that, with his powers and his criminal background, that he could have a normal life with a happy family. She says that normal is not meant for people like them, it’s a setting on the dryer. We’ll actually see the normal setting later in the movie with Harley’s false vision from the Enchantress, but right now she’s basically making the point that they’re all ugly, they’ve all got tarnished souls, and there’s nothing “normal” about what they are. Rather than try to pine after something that’s never going to happen, and rather than withdrawing from it all like Diablo has been doing, she’s saying to step up and own it. As we’ll see later, she’s also partially talking to herself because she has to own the fact that she has lost the Joker -- as far as she knows -- and she also has to give up her dream of a normal life with him.

And these ideas are not just for Diablo and Harley and the members of the squad -- there are some general ideas here for everyone. It connects to a broad theme we mentioned back in our episode for Scene 25 -- that bad people can still maintain a connection to their humanity, but to do that they need to accept their past and maintain human connections and love. If they can do this, then even bad people are still redeemable. So in this sense, Harley is trying to help Diablo keep his humanity. She is telling him that he needs to own his past rather than run from it, and by facing this reality, he can still keep himself open to new connections and to redemption.

Another character who has addressed this issue of owning your past is Deadshot. To the team, he has never lied about who he was or what he’s done in the past. He has said that all his cards are on the table. But with his daughter, he has tried to lie and conceal what he does. And that actually put up barriers that prevented him from having a full relationship with his daughter -- barriers that will come down by the end of the movie. Captain Boomerang, on the other hand, has tried to deny his criminal behaviors, saying that he didn’t rob any banks -- the Flash just apprehended him out of nowhere.

The message, overall, though, is that all of us, not just criminals, should accept our pasts and try to move forward in a healthy way. And if we do that, we are making sure not to delude ourselves and are also staying open to new connections based on honesty and truth.

Now continuing on in this scene, Boomerang is a bit dense yet again. He doesn’t see that Harley is trying to offer some tough love to Diablo, he just thinks she’s being overly mean. He asks, “Why is it always a knife fight every single time you open your mouth?” It’s a bit of a hollow line because Harley more often cracks jokes or teases people than pick fights, but I forgive the line because it’s such a good Australian reference. “That’s not a knife fight, this is a knife fight.”

Boomerang continues, “Outside, you’re amazing. But inside, you’re ugly.” I’m not a huge fan of this line either -- it seems kind of like the line was conceived separately and then dropped in here, rather than really flowing in the scene. Yeah, Harley was just being a bit rough with Diablo, but she’s not doing anything out of malice. She’s just trying to give him some honest, direct advice. And especially if we think back to Scene 35 just a few minutes ago where the team got a glimpse at Harley’s inside -- her sorrow over losing the Joker. If anything, Boomerang should be a bit more sympathetic to her inside rather than coming down really harshly by saying that her inside is ugly.

But I think the real purpose of the line was more forward-looking, it was to launch into the next part of this scene. Harley says that they all are… except for Croc. Croc is an exception to the rule, not because he’s beautiful on the inside, but because he’s ugly on both the inside and the outside. And then Croc gets one of his rare lines, saying, “Not me, shorty. I’m beautiful,” as he pushes his hood back.

Overall, though, Harley is kind of strengthening up the cohesiveness of the team by lumping them all together as tarnished souls, people who have some ugliness either in the their past or in their hearts. In a way, this is a nice thing to do for Diablo, because Diablo had tried to separate himself out as the worst among them because he killed women and children… but Harley lumps them all back together again, Diablo included, because none of them are perfect.

And then, with great timing, another tarnished soul enters. Flag joins the team at the bar and Harley tells him they don’t want him there. Flag opens up about his personal side of the situation, saying that he was sleeping with June Moon. Floyd, who had already seen this in the binder, explains that that’s why the Eyes of the Adversary don’t kill him -- because they’re scared of him. This is another instance of the movie being very explicit with certain plot points.

Flag opens up even further by sharing that his real goal is to stop Enchantress because he is still holding onto hope of getting June Moon back, the only woman he ever loved. Flag has some real emotion showing here, too, and together with Diablo earlier and everyone’s reaction to Diablo’s story, and Deadshot coming up, this is definitely the most emotional scene of the movie thus far, and probably the whole movie overall. And the emotions work pretty well, I think -- they’re all understandable and seem genuine in their performance.

The final beat of the scene is Flag freeing them from the explosive threat in their necks and then him showing Floyd the letters from his daughter. When he smashes the detonation device, it symbolizes his rejection of Waller’s premise of leverage and manipulation. Flag is now all in on the side of openness and connection, especially after he gives Floyd the letters. But when Flag destroys the device, I do think it’s a bit odd that the main character we see reacting and checking her neck is Harley -- because she is the only one who already had her bomb deactivated. She should be the least concerned about the explosives. And I guess they do have Boomerang immediately get up and head out, so that makes sense.

Anyway, Flag is treating them as equals now and he shows some humanity. Deadshot’s heart swells when he sees the letter, but then he’s also angry at Flag for withholding them. It’s now an actual honest choice in terms of what Deadshot wants to do, and it’s likely that the squad will follow him in whatever he decides. At the prospect of reuniting with his daughter, a daughter who clearly still loves her father, Deadshot makes his choice to help Flag finish the mission. He says, “I will get you there.” So he’s using the same terminology that he used with Diablo back in the Ostrander building. He’s goes on to say that this is going to be “like a chapter in the bible, and everyone’s going to know what we did.” So he’s ready to actually work with Flag instead of for Flag, and he wants the redemption of doing something heroic and for the right reasons. And he wants his daughter to know that he was part of something good.

And Harley follows Deadshot’s lead and calls on the rest of the team to join in, too. And they will, because now they’ve not only been through life-threatening situations together but they’ve also opened up more than ever before. So they’re now a true team for the first time, Flag included, and Diablo even after revealing his dark secret is still accepted by everyone.

However, we do have to say, in the theatrical cut at least, it’s not really clear how Katana fits in and she wasn’t really a part of this scene even though she came into the bar with them. But there was a lot of good stuff here. And we also noticed the mention of this mission being a chapter in the bible. That would basically make this film a chapter in the larger bible that is the Justice League Universe -- a modern mythology, as Zack Snyder calls it.

End of Episode

That’s our analysis of Scenes 35 through 38 of Suicide Squad. We’re going to continue our rapid pace trying to get through the last 20 minutes or so of the movie in the next few weeks. So we’ll be back with another Suicide Squad episode fairly soon. In the meantime, you can check out the Suicide Squadcast and the Man of Steel Answers podcast for more DCEU content. Thanks for listening.

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