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How ‘The Suicide Squad’ Ties Into the Rest of the DCEU

The DC Films ecosystem isn’t as tightly connected as the MCU, but it hasn’t abandoned the shared universe

(This article contains spoilers for “The Suicide Squad” from director James Gunn)

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be the model for franchise moviemaking, Warner Bros and DC Films have never truly tried to replicate it in full. Sure, we’ve got a shared universe over here with the DC Extended Universe movie franchise. But even at its busiest time back in 2016 and 2017 you really just had Zack Snyder’s main series alongside some spinoffs that had no bearing on the overall plot. And now, as of “The Suicide Squad,” we really just have several distinct franchises that occasionally reference the fact that superhero stuff is going on elsewhere.

So there’s no big picture, and each movie is kinda just doing its own thing, and there aren’t a huge number of

“The Suicide Squad,” out now in theaters and on HBO Max, is a sequel to the Will Smith movie from 2016. While nobody involved in the new flick seem to want to call it a sequel — probably because the first one was a horrible movie — it obviously is since it brought back a bunch of characters that were introduced in that film. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen). Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).

Harley, of course, was in another DC Comics movie between then and now — “Birds of Prey.” “The Suicide Squad” doesn’t bring in any of the other characters from that film, but it does reference her breakup with the Joker a couple times, and she has a little exchange with Captain Boomerang about how she got back in prison (“road rage in a bank”).

When Harley makes her first appearance in the new flick, she’s wearing a pretty sick jacket that reads “Live Fast, Die Clown” on the back. Later, after her little romantic interlude with the dictator of Corto Maltese, she watches him bleed to death while monologuing at him about how being with the Joker taught her to take action when a guy she’s dating gives off red flags.

That’s also a thematic nod to “Birds of Prey,” because that movie was all about Harley learning to live for herself and not for somebody else. Like, sure, she’s happy to hook up with some hot psycho guy, but now she’s got her own standards.

That’s actually all there is in regards to references to other DCEU movies, though there are various nods to the fact that superheroes are out there. Such as when Waller says that Bloodsport (Idris Elba) put Superman in the ICU with a kryptonite bullet. That’s obviously not something we’ve seen in another movie. Though that incident does spark some questions about the circumstances, it’s a line that’s just there to establish both Bloodsport’s credibility and to remind you that the shared universe is still there.

While we’re talking about this, we should go over the fact that HBO Max has a show about John Cena’s character, Peacemaker, on the way for early next year. While he looked pretty dead after Bloodsport shot him in the neck, “The Suicide Squad” included a post-credits scene that revealed he was in a coma. So we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.

We don’t know anything about “Peacemaker” just yet, other than that James Gunn is directing five of the eight episodes. But Cena is a big star, so I bet he’ll still be around for some other DCEU spot further down the line. Maybe a third “Suicide Squad” movie, or maybe something else entirely.

But with the DCEU being so amorphous at the moment, there’s not much point in guessing what’s coming down the line. Things have been smoothing out a bit since “Aquaman,” but Warner Bros doesn’t seem to be in too much of a rush to get things going at full tilt. Which may be the smartest approach.