Warning! Spoilers Ahead for The Suicide Squad.
The Suicide Squad has a string of deaths throughout the film, but Rick Flag’s is arguably the saddest. James Gunn debuts as a DCEU filmmaker with the latest take on Task Force X five years after David Ayer released the first Suicide Squad. While it’s unclear whether the latest Warner Bros. flick is to be regarded entirely as a soft reboot or a sequel, the movies are connected by certain elements, including through some characters appearing in both projects such as Joel Kinnaman’s Flag.
Gunn writing and directing The Suicide Squad came at what many regarded as something of a low point in his career. The filmmaker was haphazardly fired from his stint directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 by Disney, after which Warner Bros. reached out in the hopes of recruiting him. He boarded the DCEU to helm a new anti-hero movie following Ayer’s less celebrated Suicide Squad from 2016, which was also mired with controversy. In The Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a new group of villains to wipe out all traces of Project Starfish in Corto Maltese. As a tactical decision, there were apparently two teams sent for the mission. In the end, newcomers Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), as well as, familiar faces Flag and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) were left to carry out their goal.
One particular difference between the movies is that Gunn was more liberal in killing characters in The Suicide Squad — staying true to its title. Around half of the ensemble cast was already dead before the second act even began, and continued until the very end of the movie with the swift demise of Polka Dot Man. But amidst the large number of deaths in the movie, Rick Flag’s is the saddest for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he died for a different reason than his peers, which allowed him to feel more personal and relatable. After the Thinker (Peter Capaldi) revealed the truth about Project Starfish – about how it’s initiated by the United States and now, hence, why they want it destroyed – Flag was adamant that this should be revealed to the world. Horrified by what this experiment did to people, including kids, he knew that justice should be served and that the people who are involved should be punished, even if that meant including his own country. However, this would lead to his demise, as fellow teammate Peacemaker ended up murdering Flag to try and conceal evidence of US wrongdoing. As someone who’s not even compelled to join the mission to Corto Maltese since he’s not a criminal, it’s sad that his story ended this way.
Secondly, he’d been a member of Task Force X since their first outing on the big screen. While the new flick also had Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) die, Flag was a more vital member of the squad. In Ayer’s story, he played a secondary leader to Deadshot (Will Smith). Since he’d been a part of the first iteration of the Suicide Squad, he had also developed relationships with a couple of other original characters, evidenced by his insistence to save Harley Quinn. Seeing her genuinely touched by their effort to rescue her proved that despite a rather dysfunctional start to their relationship, they’ve developed a bond. After Starro the Conqueror was defeated, Harley Quinn took a moment to mourn Flag’s death, saying he was her friend, with Bloodsport even echoing her sentiments. The fact that Flag was killed by one of his own people makes his death worse, since he’d been so committed to ensuring their safety.
Coming from the questionably received Suicide Squad, Flag was a much better character in The Suicide Squad – a development seemingly intentioned designed to make his demise all the sadder. Despite Bloodsport being positioned as the leader of this version of Task Force X, he exhibited more leadership qualities throughout the film, whether that was by taking a more logical approach or covering up for other members of the group. It’s a shame that he won’t be in any more missions for the anti-heroes moving forward, assuming that The Suicide Squad 3 is happening.