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

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"Always did want to die for my country."

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...


Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. 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.

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.

This episode also marks the final time in the televised DCAU that any of Batman's Rogues Gallery plays a major role.

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 Boast: J'onn, making his presence known to Task Force X:
    J'onn: Ask yourselves: is being in here with me what you truly desire?
  • 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.
    • A random Watchtower employee nearly thwarts the entire plan when he finds Deadshot and Plastique in the reactor room. He even gives Deadshot a bit of trouble in a one-on-one fight.
    • Vigilante and Shining Knight manage to put up a solid fight against Flagg, Deadshot, and Boomerang.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 accessed 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.
  • The Caper: The entire plot is a heist aboard the Watchtower.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: 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.
  • Call-Forward: The Mole in the Justice League staff is Robert Vance, the villain in "Lost Soul", an episode of Batman Beyond.
  • Colonel Badass: Flagg not only has the rank, but the strength, skills, and force of personality to run the mission and rangle the members of Task Force X.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Atom Smasher fights his hardest, but the Annihilator makes short work of him.
  • Dead Man Walking: The episode begins with Lawton being escorted to the execution chamber.
  • 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 during the shift they chose: J'onn J'onnz, Green Lantern and Captain Atom.
    • During the planning stage, Flagg asks Plastique about a hypothetical scenario where Superman has the drop on her. Plastique immediately gets flummoxed and yells that they told her Superman wouldn’t be there. When Flagg handwaves that he swapped shifts and asks what she'd do, she quips, "Before or after I change my shorts?"
  • The End... Or Is It?: Though The Mole is in custody, Green Lantern doubts the League can truly trust any of the support staff after this. He and J'onn end the episode looking suspiciously at the various staffers walking by.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Averted. Plastique gets J'onn to stand down by threatening to set off a bomb in the unconscious Atom Smasher's mouth. She's certain that only giving him 30 seconds to disarm it would give Task Force X plenty of time to escape.
  • 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 undercover, Deadshot asks John Stewart about Hawkgirl solely to get under his skin.
  • Evil Plan: 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.
  • 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, and...Well, you'll gonna look kind of funny trying to run away with no head.
  • Exposition Diagram: The team is shown a schematic of the Watch Tower.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Throughout the episode, we see some seriously violent confrontations, including an explosion that leaves Plastique severely injured and probably dying.
  • 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. Justified in that they’re all killers at worst and attempted killers at best.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Flagg is a hero who's also quite ruthless when it comes to dealing with his teammates.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: The Annihilator rips J'onn in half while fighting him. It's a temporary incovenience at most.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Plastique's waist is so ridiculously narrow that she can wear a 1-to-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 of her explosive discs, causing an explosion that leaves her mortally wounded and in Justice League custody.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • 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, Time 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.
  • Mexican Standoff: Vigilante and Deadshot briefly have one going during their fight. Resolved by Flagg attacking Vigilante from behind.
  • Mission Control: The Clock King remains behind to coordinate the rest of the team.
  • The Mole: One of the League’s support staff was feeding Task Force X information on the Watchtower’s schedule and infrastructure. J’onn does not take this well.
  • 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.) Clock King, Plastique, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and Colonel Flagg all were members, even if not all of them worked together at the same time.
    • The Warden and the Guard of the prison are animated versions of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara from live action Batman.
    • Deadshot may be referencing Plastique's humiliating defeat in "Firestorm" when he says he's seen pictures of her.
    Plastique: And that's all you're gonna see, killer.
    • Captain Atom's concern for Plastique's injuries alludes to their romantic involvement in the comics.
  • Mr. Exposition: Clock King and Colonel Flagg takes turns at this.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After the mission, Lawton attempts to leave, thinking his service is over, only for Colonel Flagg drops him with two powerful punches, before telling him he has to go on missions for five years before he can go free.
  • 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. It's also why he was furious at Deadshot for leaving Plastique behind.
  • Oh, Crap!:
  • 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 an Oh, Crap!.
  • Oral Fixation: Lawton is shown 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.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Flagg warns the squad against "unnecessary" killing, not out of any moral qualms, but, as both Flagg and Clock King lay out, killing someone means a) the body being found, and the alarm being raised or b) wasting valuable time hiding the body.
  • So Much for Stealth: 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, a.k.a. Plastique.
    • Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot.
    • Temple Fugate, a.k.a. The Clock King.
    • George Harkness, a.k.a. Captain Boomerang.
  • Ship Tease: Deadshot and Plastique flirt throughout the whole episode. Too bad he kills her.
  • The Sociopath: Deadshot; after spending the episode flirting with Plastique, he has no qualms about killing her with a flippant "c'est la vie".
  • 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 demolition expert:
    Lawton: I know, I've seen the pictures.
    Sans Souci: (smiles) And that's all you're gonna to see, killer.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The page quote is Deadshot's reaction after finding out he's been conscripted to break into the Justice League's watchtower.
  • Troll: Lawton asking John Stewart for Hawkgirl's autograph just to annoy him.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's not clear whether Plastique is dead or alive when last seen — most of her body is offscreen in what might be a Gory Discretion Shot and what we do see is twitching, but nobody confirms one way or the other.
  • 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.
  • Understatement: Flagg initially describes the mission to Deadshot as "a little B&E, a little grand larceny".
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Averted. Flagg and the Clock King discuss the details of the plan and the biggest obstacles. The group also discusses what to do in the event of potential variables, such as Superman showing up because of a last-minute shift switch.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: Deadshot's ceramic gun is broken early during the fight against the Justice League heroes prompting him to steal Vigilante's revolvers for the remainder of the mission.
  • Villain Episode: The entire episode revolves around the P.O.V. of the villains, though Flagg himself is more of an Inspector Javert Hero Antagonist.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Part of the reason Atom Smasher gets beaten by the Annihilator so badly was because the fight took place in the Watchtower which greatly limits how large and strong he could make himself. As a previous episode had shown, Atom Smasher can grow very VERY big if he has the room for it.
  • 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...
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Plastique gets captured, Deadshot decides to kill her, so she won't prevent him from escaping.