James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is finally here with the eagerly-anticipated film having opened in theaters and debuted on HBO Max last week and with its release, a lot of questions fans had about the film have been answered. One of the biggest questions heading into The Suicide Squad was how would the film — which isn’t exactly a sequel or a reboot of David Ayer’s 2016 film Suicide Squad — deal with its predecessor, particularly the handful of characters appearing in both. As it turns out, one of the things that The Suicide Squad did was finally redeem Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag.
Warning: Spoilers for The Suicide Squad below. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, turn back now.
In Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad, to say that Rick Flag wasn’t exactly likable would be a bit of an understatement. In that film, Flag is there only because he has to be. He’s bitter, cynical, shows only contempt for the members of Task Force X, and tends to see only the negative in them. Yes, he loves Dr. June Moone and doesn’t always agree with Amanda Waller and her methods, but he’s just not a particularly heroic or empathetic character.
That changes in Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, and Kinnaman himself has even said he apprecated the opportunity to completely redo the character with a new version. In the film, he’s more relaxed in a sense, and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t necessarily trusting of Waller. He also demonstrates respect for the people put on his team. When what Weasel actually is comes into question on the transport to Corto Maltese prompts a bit of a freakout from Blackguard, Flag jumps in to sort of defend Weasel and declare him harmless — or as harmless as someone who has killed a lot of children can be. Later, after it’s revealed that Harley Quinn survived the ambush on the beach but has been captured by the Corto Maltese government, he refuses to leave her behind and sidetracks Task Force X’s entire mission to rescue her.
What is most redemptive about Flag in The Suicide Squad, however, is how he reacts to discovering the truth about the team’s mission. Task Force X is sent to Corto Maltese to destroy the former Nazi research facility on the island and all traces of the dangerous Project Starfish being carried out there with Flag and the squad told that whatever it is could be very dangerous to the U.S. and the whole world. In reality, Project Starfish is a U.S. government-funded project that has seen countless innocent people tortured for decades in experimentation with the alien known as Starro the Conqueror. The real reason Waller wants Jotunheim destroyed is to hid America’s involvement.
It’s something that Flag cannot let stand and he decides to preserve the hard drive containing evidence of America’s involvement, intent on exposing it to the world now that he realizes he’s been manipulated from the very beginning. Unfortunately, Peacemaker was tasked with a secret mission to destroy that evidence by any means necessary and in the end, Flag is killed by Peacemaker, though he goes down fighting to protect and reveal the truth.
He died, but he died a hero and his death prompts the remaining squad members to stand against Waller as well when she tells them to stand down rather than try to save Corto Maltese from Starro. It’s an unexpected, but welcome redemption for the character.
The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and on HBO Max.