In The Suicide Squad, Rick Flag’s place in Amanda Waller’s plans seems strange, unless she had reasons for wanting Flag dead. James Gunn’s movie never states explicitly that Waller wanted Flag dead from the beginning. However, all the pieces are supplied in a way that makes the idea compelling.
When Amanda Waller formed Task Force X in the 2016 Suicide Squad, Rick Flag was brought in as the leader of the group alongside a team of Navy SEALs. Tasked with keeping the squad in check as they carried out their mission to defeat the villains Enchantress and Incubus, Flag had a personal connection to the mission as Enchantress was inhabiting the body of partner: June Moone. Flag’s connection to Moone was the leverage that Waller used to have him originally work with Task Force X. However, James Gunn’s 2021 The Suicide Squad shows that Flag stayed on as the de facto field leader of Task Force X under Waller after the events of the first film, despite no longer having the connection there.
If Waller wanted Rick Flag dead then she got her wish, with Joel Kinnaman’s character meeting his end at the hands of John Cena’s Peacemaker. While Peacemaker gets a post-credits resurrection in time for his spin-off TV show, it seems unlikely that Flag will be returning to the DCEU. So how and why would Amanda Waller want this Suicide Squad veteran dead?
At the start of The Suicide Squad, two teams have been dispatched to Corto Maltese. Waller has assigned Rick Flag to team 1, alongside Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, and multiple new characters. The team is short-lived after Blackguard sells them out to the Corto Maltese army with every member quickly being killed except for Quinn and Flag. A flashback sequence reveals that team 1 was always intended as a distraction to allow Team 2 to access the island unhindered.
Evidence suggests that Waller’s plan in The Suicide Squad wasn’t just for Team 1 to cause a distraction, but for them to live up to the name “suicide squad” with every character meeting their death. The majority of the team is relatively useless in combat, with many displaying minimal powers and Savant fleeing entirely. Waller likely picked a team of people who would be skilled enough to seem like a genuine attack force but weren’t valuable to keep for future missions and then fleshed that team out with continued nuisances to her, such as Harley Quinn.
It is entirely possible that Waller arranged for Blackguard to sell out team 1 from the start so that the distraction would be guaranteed to be big enough and to have the entire army waiting for them there and thus leaving other areas clear. Rick Flag being on the team helped to make it seem like a legitimate effort. With two of the team members already knowing him from a previous mission, they didn’t suspect that the excursion was intended to kill them. While Flag was able to get away, it doesn’t seem like this was Waller’s original intention as she gave him no briefing on the fuller mission (as she did for Team 2), only telling him to get the team to the beach and that he would receive further instructions after that.
Rick Flag has proven himself a good soldier and a powerful asset to Waller in the past, so it might seem strange that Waller would want him dead. However, in The Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller no longer has any leverage over Flag as she did with the Moone-Enchantress connection in the first Suicide Squad, meaning that he could act as a loose cannon and rebel against her extreme mission plans – which, of course, he did. Additionally, by the time of The Suicide Squad, Flag is shown to have developed a friendship with some of the team members, most notably Harley Quinn. Waller views the villains as entirely expendable in the course of the mission, which does not align with Rick Flag’s more generous view of them, emphasized by his insistence on saving Harley despite it not seeming mission-critical.
The biggest key to why Waller would have wanted Flag dead, however, comes in the run-up to his final showdown with Peacemaker. Waller likely predicted that his patriotism would leave him disgusted by the United States’ connection to The Suicide Squad’s Starro and the experiments done in Corto Maltese and would have wanted to expose those links to the people. Waller’s concerns were proven correct as Flag attempted to rescue some data from Jotunheim. Her foresight on the matter is demonstrated by having ordered Peacemaker, a mindless nationalist, to ensure that nobody left the island with any evidence.
There is one small hiccup with this theory. When the Task Force X control team finds that Rick Flag is still alive, Amanda Waller orders Bloodsport’s team to rescue him before continuing with any other objective. On the surface, it seems as though Waller might have wanted him to survive all along, and Rick Flag’s death was at best a risk rather than an intention. She does, after all, still see every member of her team, whoever it is, as expendable so the risk would not have been out of character.
However, there are multiple reasons why Waller could have wanted Flag to be recovered alive once found while still wanting him to die overall. One member of Waller’s control team is extremely excited to have found Rick Flag alive if captured. Having denied Team 1 a retreat from the beach after Blackguard betrayed them, Waller might have found it difficult to keep her team on her side if she refused to help save someone they viewed as a hero: during the betting pool, none of the control team is betting on whether Flag will die during the mission. The fear of her team turning against her is supported by that fear actually coming true – her ruthless disregard for human life led the team to revolt and knock her out later in the film.
Additionally, Waller knows that Rick Flag is an extremely skilled soldier and leader. Having Team 2 rescue him meant he was in a place to assist them in their mission, making him useful to Waller in the short term. While this reintroduced the risk that he might try and make the information about Starro public, Waller already having Peacemaker in place as an agent meant that it was worth the risk to have him assist the team in reaching Jotunheim. Overall, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that Amanda Waller wanted Rick Flag dead from the beginning of The Suicide Squad.