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Recap / Justice League Unlimited S 2 E 4 Task Force X

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Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos
Written by Dwayne McDuffie (Teleplay by Darwyn Cooke)

This is the tale of how a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits manage to do The Infiltration by Dressing as the Enemy impersonating some Mooks at that Evil Tower of Ominousness Kill Sat, the Watchtower, headquarters of those Justice League wannabe Evil Overlords...

Wait...what?

Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, is being escorted to the electric chair when he receives a last-minute reprieve from a mysterious man in a business suit. Released into the man's custody, Lawton asks "What if I don't want to go with him?" and is informed that the alternative is to carry on with his execution.

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As they drive away from the prison, the man identifies himself as Colonel Flagg, who informs Lawton that he is now a Boxed Crook. His mission: infiltrate the Watchtower. Lawton remarks that he always wanted to die for his country.

So begins Task Force X, an episode based on the comic "Suicide Squad" written by John Ostrander, which shows us a total inversion of tropes like The Caper, Mooks and the Token Good Teammate, that also is full of Mythology Gags.


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This episode contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: Justified by Flagg, when Lawton worries that the Justice League might have the place under surveillance. Flagg answers that the previous tenant "was pretty good about security".
  • Affably Evil: Clock King and Captain Boomerang.
  • Badass Normal: Everyone in the squad, even Clock King, who was capable enough to standstill the Batman. The Central Theme is how a crew of Badass Normals can defeat a bunch of superhumans. They need an Evil Plan.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Cadmus gets a victory over the League.
    • The showrunners note in the season 3 featurette on Cadmus that the point of this episode was to give Cadmus a win against the League to keep their threat level legitimate. They score another one in “Clash.”
  • Beware the Superman: One of the Central Themes of this episode. Every one of the Badass Normals is scared to death about going against superhumans. When Clock King is showing intel about Captain Atom, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter in the Chekhov's Classroom, you can hear ominious music.
    • Martian Manhunter in particular comes across as incredibly scary during the Squad’s attack on the transport room. He also threatens to mindwipe The Mole that facilitated the break in, unnerving even Green Lantern.
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  • Big Bad: Colonel Flagg. Also a very rare example of both the main villain and the Token Good Teammate.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Justified because Task Force X is a Black Ops team authorized by the U.S. government, so they could have used spies or simply got access any existing footage about the super heroes for their Photo Montage.
  • Boxed Crook: Lampshaded by Lawton.
    Lawton: An expert with nothing to lose? This must be some nasty business.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Plastique makes multiple references to needing to change her shorts, both before and during the mission.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Lawton cracks jokes while being escorted to the electric chair.
  • Call-Back:
    • Deadshot mentions that he's run into J'onn before and isn't eager to do so again.
    • The special ceramic gun that Deadshot assembles on the Watchtower is disguised as a bunch of Light Speed chocolate bars.
    • It turns out the item Task Force X is stealing is the confiscated Annihilator. When Flagg and Captain Boomerang are stumped at first how to activate it, Flagg remembers that it has to be powered by rage and punches Boomer in the face without warning him.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Boomerang blowing the lock is timed for the exact moment the charges set by Plastique go off.
  • Dead Man Walking: How this episode begins.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: After seeing Sans Souci doing The Tease to Lawton, Captain Boomerang and Clock King want to talk business:
    Harkness: Enough of this, now. Let's get stuck into the business at hand, eh?
    Fugate: Agreed. Time is of the essence.
  • Dirty Coward: Captain Boomerang and Plastique aren't excited about being on a suicide mission. Neither is Deadshot.
  • The Dreaded: During the briefing, the squad are told of three Leaguers to watch out for: J'onn Jonnz, Green Lantern and Captain Atom.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: This episode shows not only how Clock King, Plastique, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and Colonel Flagg met, but also shows them studying Green Lantern, Captain Atom, and The Martian Manhunter in their Chekhov's Classroom.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Captain Boomerang nearly blows the team's cover because he won't give up 75 cents while passing a metal detector. What, he’s supposed to just throw away money?
    • While still under cover, Deadshot asks John Stewart about Hawkgirl solely to get under his skin.
  • Evil Plan: One of the most beautifully constructed. The plan is fueled by Pragmatic Villainy, because the squad is formed entirely by sociopaths and a Token Good Teammate. The plan must be followed Right on the Tick and it does not permit unnecessary killing. It works because it was planned by Clock King, who is The Sociopath himself. And the plan seems to be a classic Grand Theft Macguffin...but in reality is a Despair Gambit Cadmus is pulling on the League.
  • Explosive Leash: Colonel Flagg asks Lawton how he liked his Last Meal, and then explains why:
    Flagg: It was loaded with exploding nanites. Any escape attempt...Well, you'll gonna look kind of funny trying to run away with no head.
  • Exposition Diagram: Clock King shows the team one of the Watch Tower.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Throughout the episode, we see some seriously violent confrontations, including an explosion that leaves Plastique severely injured.
  • Faux Affably Evil: All the squad except Clock King and Captain Boomerang. Including Colonel Flagg.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Colonel Flagg is fine with treating his team like crap.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Flagg is a hero who's also Faux Affably Evil.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Plastique's waist is so ridiculously narrow that she can wear a 1-2 inch thick fake skin over it to hide her plastic explosives for the mission, and her waist still looks slim.
  • Impossible Task: Invoked by Captain Boomerang when he asks how a bunch of Badass Normals can confront true superhumans at their own headquarters and steal something from them.
    Harkness: We may as well be storming Heaven's gate itself.
  • Indy Hat Roll: Played straight, then they miss the second door...until Captain Atom lifts it up for them, thinking they're trying to evacuate.
  • The Infiltration: Our protagonists must get inside a good-guy organization and pass as good guys to accomplish a goal. It's an inversion because this is a Villain Episode, but we are seeing things from the villains' perspective, and the Justice League invokes Beware the Superman, so this trope is played straight.
    Flagg: This tower is so big and has so much staff in it no ones is going to notice us...unless one of you does something stupid.
  • Kick the Dog: Deadshot and Plastique flirt with each other the entire episode which makes it all the more jarring when Deadshot covers the team’s escape by shooting one her explosive discs, causing an explosion that leaves her mortally wounded and in Justice League custody.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Colonel Flagg's harsh treatment towards Deadshot.
  • Meaningful Name, Steven Ulysses Perhero:
    • Colonel Flagg. That could be one of those Prophetic Names, because we discover Flagg's father also was a soldier. Lampshaded by Lawton:
    ''Colonel...Flagg? You're kidding, right?
    • Played straight with Temple Fugate (a pun on Tempus Fugit, Times flies), the Clock King.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: Deadshot has a ceramic gun to get through it, but then Boomerang sets it off because he's got 75 cents he refused to throw away.
  • Metaphorically True: When the team argues they are only Badass Normals fighting Smug Supers and they have no chance, Clock King declares they are going to infiltrate the Watchtower when its weakest supers are present. When Captain Boomerang ask him to define "weakest" Clock King plays a Photo Montage of Captain Atom, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter with ominious music. Nobody feels better about it.
  • Mission Control: The Clock King remains behind to coordinate the rest of the team.
  • Mook Horror Show: The final battle turns into this as things go south during extraction, complete with looming music and the POV of the protagonists from their outmatched position.
    J'onn: Ask yourselves: Is being in here with me what you truly desire?
  • Mythology Gags:
    • Task Force X is the official name for the Suicide Squad. (You cannot use that term on children's TV.)
    • The Warden and the Guard of the prison are animated versions of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara from live action Batman.
    • Clock King, Plastique, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and Colonel Flagg all were members of DC Comics Suicide Squad, even if not all of them worked together at the same time.
    • Deadshot may be referencing Plastique's humiliating defeat in "Firestorm" when he says he's seen pictures of her.
  • Mr. Exposition: Clock King and Colonel Flagg takes turns at this.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Despite the fact that Task Force X is meant to be expendable, Flagg tries to ensure minimal casualties and will try to save his squadmates when possible out of a sense of duty.
    • Deadshot, unfortunately, does not share Flagg’s sense of duty.
  • Oh, Crap!: Plastique when being asked what will she do facing Superman, seeing Green Lantern use her elevator, and hearing Captain Atom chastise her unladylike manners.
  • Only Sane Man: Captain Boomerang is the only one on the team who isn't The Sociopath.
  • Open the Iris: Plastique’s iris narrows every time she has a Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Oral Fixation: Lawton is showed chewing a toothpick.
  • Pet the Dog: Waller goes out of her way to commend Flagg for the mission's success and tells him his father would be proud.
  • Photo Montage: Clock King shows the Task Force X team some videos with the heroic exploits of Captain Atom, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter with ominious music.
  • Reality Ensues: It's not just people with superpowers that catch on to a team of infiltrators - a Watchtower staffer catches Task Force X where they're not supposed to be, and gets into a scuffle with Lawton - and it actually takes time for Lawton to put him down.
  • Secret Identity: Inverted because the members of the Suicide Squad are villains. However, all of them have secret identities. The point is that no one of them had a Red Right Hand, so they can do The Infiltration because without their costumes, They Look Just Like Everyone Else!.
    • Bette Sans Souci, AKA Plastique.
    • Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot.
    • Temple Fugate, AKA The Clock King.
    • George Harkness, AKA Captain Boomerang.
  • Ship Tease: Deadshot and Plastique flirt throughout the whole episode. Too bad he kills her.
  • The Sociopath: Deadshot
  • Spy Satellites: Lawton reminds Flagg that the Justice League Satellite could hear them.
  • Team Killer: Deadshot.
  • The Tease: After Colonel Flagg introduces Lawton to Sans Souci as the explosives expert:
    Lawton: I know, I've seen the pictures.
    Sans Souci, smiling: And that's all you're gonna to see, killer.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Deadshot shows his Nerves of Steel by starting a conversation with Green Lantern in the elevator. Once she's overcome her shock, Plastique is impressed.
  • Villain Episode: The entire episode revolves around the P.O.V. of the villains.
  • Villainous Underdog: A team of normals infiltrate the Watchtower, a base filled to the brim with extremely powerful supers to steal a powerful artifact from right under their noses. It's lampshaded multiple times just how impossible it is. They succeed, only losing Plastique along the way.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: Lawton and Flagg meet the rest of the Suicide Squad at the Abandoned Warehouse. Lawton can believe he could do the job and leave. He is so wrong...
  • We Are Everywhere: The Evil Plan that Task Force X successfully pulled off wouldn't have even been possible if there wasn't The Mole that fed them information about the Watchtower. When he's caught, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern discuss what his fate should be. While J'onn wants to mindwipe a year from him due to his treason, John points out that a wedge has been forced between the supers and the normal staffers:
    J'onn: Don't you understand, it means we can't trust him!
    John: J'onn, we can't trust anyone.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Plastique gets captured, Deadshot decides to kill her so she won't prevent him from escaping.
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