Last weekend I went to go see The Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s answer to Suicide Squad (2016) which, despite having won awards, was mostly seen as some strange joke that fans didn’t think was ever going to end. Despite having liked it at the time, I left The Suicide Squad feeling as though DC Films had made a new fan out of me for characters like Ratcatcher 2, Bloodsport, Peacemaker (yes, even him) and, of course, Polka Dot Man.
Speaking of Polka Dot Man, what the actual hell was that ending for the poor fella?
As you might be able to tell from my reaction, this article will have spoilers for the movie and if you haven’t seen it yet then PLEASE do not continue to read any further. Go watch the film, then come back. You might find out we agree!
Alright, have you stopped? Only people who’ve watched the film are still here? Okay, good.
As someone who mostly cares about the anti-heroes of DC, including Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, a lot of DC has gone under my radar. So it goes without saying that I had no real clue who Polka Dot Man, also known as Abner Krill, was apart from some low-tier Batman villain. In The Suicide Squad he is someone played by the handsome David Dastmalchian, has low self-esteem, and is somewhat cowardly, both contradicting and complimenting his suicidal nature. He is an enigma, and stands out because of it.
Most of Task Force X doesn’t take him too seriously, perplexed at his power of being able to throw polka dots at people. Unlike in the comics, where his dots can be transformed into various gadgets, these polka dots are destructive and can quite literally melt someone’s face off. It’s only when he uses them around 45 minutes into the film does the rest of the squad realize that he might actually be somewhat useful. They also learn that he has to cleanse his body twice a day of these Polka Dots, otherwise, they’ll consume him from the inside out. His powers are pretty damn horrific.
As the group bonds throughout the film, we learn that Polka Dot Man is just as good at killing as Peacemaker and Bloodsport and not just because of his powers. Every time he goes against someone, he imagines a particular person that makes it easier to kill: his mother. You see, Mrs Krill was obsessed with having a child that also had superpowers and because of her role as a scientist at Star Labs and as such, infected her children with these powers. The majority of them died and even if they hadn’t, she’s certainly not going to be winning any Mom of the Year awards.
This has left our favourite polka dot fella in a pretty traumatic state. It’s played off for laughs for the most part, because The Suicide Squad is certainly a movie that is just as mean as it is kind, but it’s shown that his relationship with his mother has truly ruined his perception of not just women, but people in general. He sees his mother wherever he goes, which makes him particularly terrifying considering how calm and soft-spoken he is to the people around him.
Despite his guarded state, it’s made obvious that Polka Dot Man’s one desire is to just genuinely be a hero. As we near the end of the film, he gets that chance by teaming up with the rest of the squad to take down Starro the Conquerer – a huge, alien star-fish that is destroying everything it can see in Corto Maltese. His polka dots do manage to significantly harm the monster, and as a fan it was great to see this C-tier villain feel joy at becoming a ‘superhero’. Only… that lasts five more seconds before Starro crushes him with his foot. And that’s the end of Polka Dot Man in this film.
It felt pretty mean-spirited at the time of watching, but now I’m not too sure what to feel. I actually found myself relating to Polka Dot Man quite a bit throughout – apart from the whole metahuman thing, of course – because I too have a negative relationship with my mother and while I’ve never been physically abused, I could understand why he was such a negative character. It was what made his victories, as small as they were, feel that much better. It also made him slot alongside the other goons of the Suicide Squad quite nicely – despite his ridiculous get-up and name, Polka Dot Man is still a villain who has been beaten down by society, and now it’s that society that relies on him and the others to save them.
The reason why I hesitate to be completely against his death is that Polka Dot Man’s story essentially reached full circle. He achieved what he wanted: to become a superhero and save people. The fact he died straight after at least let him die happy, something which had been robbed from him due to his traumatic life and the constant reminder of it with his superpowers.
However, his sacrifice sort of falls flat when you compare him to the other members of the Suicide Squad. Take Harley Quinn, who has slowly but surely been moving away from the iteration of just The Joker’s girlfriend and victim of his abuse to becoming a badass survivor with stories of her own that’s worth telling. If Harley was killed off just after she escaped The Joker’s grip, we would have missed out on so much awesome content about her that it would have been deeply unsatisfying. Of course, Harley has a lot more history than Polka Dot Man, but my point still stands.
Even now I’m still not sure how to feel about the ending for Polka Dot Man. But what I do know is that, overall, The Suicide Squad has made me a big fan of characters I’d never even heard of before and now? I want to know more.