DC Films' newest offering, The Suicide Squad, now streaming on HBO Max, reintroduces comic book fans to the supervillains who make up Task Force X under the strict supervision of government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). This isn't out first time meeting the Suicide Squad — we're even greeted by a few friendly faces — but what exactly is the link between this new DC Extended Universe project and the first one we watched back in 2016?
As we've seen with previous films in the comic book franchise, continuity isn't really a thing when it comes to the DCEU. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which every plot typically occurs in conjunction with the others even if it takes several years (and phases) to make the bigger picture come together, DCEU storylines seem to operate a bit more independently; even though characters like Batman, Shazam, and Deadshot exist within the same universe, their stories aren't necessarily occurring concurrently with each other and aren't really interconnected.
The Suicide Squad films are a perfect example of that break in continuity. Though the 2021 release is technically a soft reboot of the 2016 movie, the only tie between them is their shared premise: various inmates at Belle Reve Penitentiary being blackmailed into joining a special ops team for a mission that is almost impossible to survive. Suicide Squad (2016) saw Davis' steely Waller assembling the first iteration of the team with Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) heading up the effort. The members of that dangerous Midway City-based operation ultimately survived and were rewarded with decreased prison sentences, which created a need for new recruits for the Suicide Squad.
In the kinda-sorta sequel, Waller rounds up two new teams for a top secret mission on the island of Corto Maltese, where a coup has led to new, staunchly anti-American government set on elevating its profile in the global arena with a lethal new weapon. One team, including Flag and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) doesn't even make it past the first line of defense, but across the island, Waller's other task force clears the challenge with surprising ease: Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Nanaue (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). Alongside Flag and Harley Quinn, the team works to take down the new Corto Maltese regime until they stumble on a dark decades-long conspiracy involving the American government, forcing them to actually become real heroes for the first times in their lives. (Whether or not they continue down that righteous past after their mission is a different story — a villain doesn't change overnight. Just ask Harley.)
Will there be more iterations of the Suicide Squad in the DCEU down the line? It feels inevitable; there's no shortage of supervillains or extraterrestrial threats within this particular comic book cosmos, and someone has to take on the missions too dangerous even for the good guys. But don't expect future sequels to call back to former versions of Task Force X. Just know that somewhere far away, Amanda Waller and her pantsuits are calling the shots behind the scenes, detonation device at the ready just in case.