Ending Explained is a recurring series where we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we look at the ending of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
There are no villains. Just people failing to do better.
Reading the premise, The Suicide Squad appears to be a demented, cracked-out spin on The Dirty Dozen. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits dangerous criminals to commit the unthinkable and maintain America’s iron grip on the globe. She coerces maniacs onto her side by injecting explosives into their heads and gleefully demonstrating her itchy trigger finger. Whether you’re Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) or King Shark (Steve Agee and Sylvester Stallone), you’ll toe the company line until another opportunity presents itself.
Writer/director James Gunn presents these soldiers as hazardous individuals, who have done, and will continue to do, heinous acts of violence. But, as The Suicide Squad ending demonstrates, there are no inherently bad guys here. Not even the kaiju starfish that enslaves the Corto Maltese populace and makes pancakes of their property is without recognizable humanity. Or at least, recognizable sentience. Every maniac on screen is a product of their environment and biology and the choices they make as a result.
Who Dies and Who Survives?
As the movie rockets toward its climax, Task Force X members drop like flies. There was never really any hope for cats like Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), and Blackguard (Pete Davidson), but did we have to lose Savant (Michael Rooker), T.D.K (Nathan Fillion), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)? As their filmmaker rapidly makes them into chum, we begin to worry about the other folks.
Harley Quinn is a franchise unto herself, so she’s gotta be safe at the end of The Suicide Squad, but Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and Peacemaker (John Cena) are no safe bets. They’ve made it this far, but stepping any further proves precarious.
The Ending of The Suicide Squad
In the third act of The Suicide Squad, what’s left of Task Force X storms the Corto-Maltesian science compound, Jotunheim. After a series of skirmishes, the team is scattered to various corners, but Rick Flag, Peacemaker, and Ratcatcher 2 make their way to Project Starfish’s core, where they meet eye-to-eye with Starro the Conqueror. Years ago, American astronauts captured the echinoderm-shaped creature and dragged it back to Earth.
Not wanting to experiment on US soil, the American government placed the beast on Corto Maltese. The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) used Starro’s offspring to examine how their unique biology could enhance his mind-control studies. His victims were anyone who spoke out against the Corto-Maltesian regime.
Peacemaker’s Heel Turn
Amanda Waller is less concerned with burying Starro than she is in obtaining the documents revealing America’s role in human testing. Good little soldier Peacemaker is happy to sweep the atrocities under the rug. But Rick Flag can’t fathom being associated with such horror. The two struggle, but Peacemaker puts Rick Flag in the ground and then chases after Ratcatcher 2, who has scooped up the secret drive.
Eventually, Peacemaker and Bloodsport collide with each other and draw guns. Bloodsport wins because his bullets are smaller and pierce right through Peacemaker’s ammo before nicking the jock in the neck.
Everything’s grand until they realize that they still have to contend with Starro, which has ripped The Thinker into pieces and unleashed their offspring so that every person on Corto Maltese bends to their will. Waller wants Task Force X off of the island, allowing Starro’s destructive might to run wild. That’s one order too many.
Who is Starro the Conqueror?
There are few DC Comics creations as significant as Starro the Conqueror. They’re the titanic lifeform that forced the Justice League of America to form when they attempted planetary annihilation in The Brave and The Bold #28 in 1960. Reappearing consistently since then, Starro’s greatest threat resides in their offspring — or spores.
As we see near the ending of The Suicide Squad, these little miniature duplicates expel from Starro’s body and slap on the face of the nearest humans. Under their influence, these slaves become the many hands of Starro, but the creature also absorbs their knowledge and even brain energy.
Starro is not an evil monster. Years after their first showdown with the Justice League of America, Starro convinced Earth’s superheroes that they were dying. Their final wish was to perish in space amongst the stars. Green Lantern Corps member Kilowog aided Starro in their return to space. Once back on home turf, Starro betrayed the JLA, and the typical fighting ensued. However, what’s crucial to this moment is how comic creators established Starro’s wants and desires.
Years later, Starro sided with the Justice League against the Omega Titans. The starfish perished in the cosmic conflict, but Batman captured Starro’s genetic material and regrew them in the Hall of Justice. Batman dubbed this new iteration Jarro, and they developed an immense attachment to the Dark Knight. In their dreams, Jarro imagines that one day they’ll evolve into Batman’s best Robin-sidekick. A fantasy many comic fans would like to see realized.
During the ending scenes of The Suicide Squad, Starro is a devastating physical force, but they’re an equally terrifying presence thanks to those doppelganger spores. As the beast rages through Coroto Maltese, Task Force X brings the pain, unleashing their deadly skills on Starro’s stomping limbs as well as the rushing, brainwashed horde.
The Death of Starro
But you can’t really be mad at Starro. The poor alien was held captive for decades while The Thinker poked and prodded. As rad as it is to see Harley ram Javelin’s javelin into Starro’s eye and swim in her grotesque victory, you must also ache for Starro’s defeat. As their life rushes from their body and the many bodies it controls, one infected Corto-Maltesian screams at Bloodsport that they were happy just floating in space looking at the stars.
Before America appeared, Starro merely minded their business, floating pleasurably in space. We robbed them of their life, their time, and their purpose. The rage Starro erupts on Corto Maltese is painfully understandable, and their death during the ending of The Suicide Squad is nothing to celebrate.
Starro and The Suicide Squad Fight the Same Fight
Starro is no different than any other maniac on The Suicide Squad‘s roster. They’re doing what they can to survive in a world that does not care for them. Bloodsport hates the position he’s placed himself in. He does not want to be in Corto Maltese battling madmen and giant starfish. He doesn’t want to be a father. But here he is, and a father he always will be. He compromises himself to keep his daughter from Amanda Waller’s clutches.
The Suicide Squad ending frees Bloodsport from Waller because he’s uploaded Project Starfish to the cloud, ready to erupt publicly with a button push. He, Harley, King Shark, and Ratcatcher 2 get to walk away this time, but their freedom is theirs temporarily. The second that Waller can reclaim the top-secret info, these goons will be back under her rule.
The Suicide Squad End Credits Scene
Peacemaker, on the other hand, ain’t going anywhere. In the post-credit scene of The Suicide Squad — after the movie’s ending and after the mid-credits scene revealing Weasel (Sean Gunn) to also be alive — we learn that the freedom-loving psycho survived Bloodsport’s bullet. He’s held up in the hospital, but his vitals are strong, and Amanda Waller’s lackeys are here to collect. They’ve got a mission for him, and it will play out in HBO Max’s upcoming Peacemaker series.
The first season of the spin-off is scheduled to premiere sometime in early 2022. James Gunn writes all eight episodes, and he’s expected to direct several of them. He told Deadline, “Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag.”
Peace by any means necessary is a deeply troubling worldview, and it’s easy to fall on Bloodsport’s side of the bullet, in The Suicide Squad. As the double-crossing mole, Peacemaker comes out as a bit of a villain in the movie. But Gunn’s not interested in black-and-white labeling. John Cena is impossibly charismatic, and he siphons the likability out of Peacemaker. The series should challenge the ethics the character has built his mission around.
Maybe we’ll see a Ratcatcher 2 or a Bloodsport appearance on HBO Max, but I’m swinging for a Jarro reveal. While Peacemaker ultimately sided with Waller in The Suicide Squad, there was horror in his eyes when confronted with Starro. If he were to meet Starro’s adorable offspring, a friendship could emerge. And maybe the HBO Max Jarro will have delusions of Peacemaker rather than Batman. Who wouldn’t want that team-up?
The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
Read Rob Hunter’s review of The Suicide Squad.