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Ratcatcher 2 Is the Stealthy Soul of The Suicide Squad

Daniela Melchior is the breakout star of the squad.

Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2

***SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses some minor plot points from The Suicide Squad.***

It’s a challenge to stand out among the ridiculously stacked cast of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. After all, the film features international stars like John Cena, Idris Elba, and Margot Robbie. And then there’s countless supporting characters, including a weasel, a kaiju, and a weirdo who shoots polka dots at people. It’s a crowded playing field to say the least. But among this wildly idiosyncratic crew, Daniela Melchior carves out her own unique space as the sensitive and soulful Cleo Cazo aka Ratcatcher 2.

The Portuguese actor makes her English language debut in the film as the daughter of the famed Ratcatcher, a complicated genius who discovered a way to control and communicate with rats. Ratcatcher suffered from substance abuse issues and ultimately dies of an overdose, but he remained a devoted father to his daughter, teaching her how to lead the rats. In one of the film’s best uses of stunt casting, Taika Waititi plays Ratcatcher in flashbacks. When young Cleo asks her father, “Why rats, Papa?” he replies, “Because, my love, rats are the lowliest and most despised of all creatures, and if they have a purpose, then so do we all.”

This core philosophy that all life, no matter how reviled or villainized, has worth and value is directly antithetical to the the rest of the Suicide Squad, who are more than happy to murder, devour, and torture with abandon. It’s also in direct opposition to Amanda Waller’s agenda, as she is more than happy to sacrifice countless members of Task Force X (and anyone else) to see her directives carried out.

The Suicide Squad is packed with big personalities, but Cleo’s quiet, sensitive nature finds its way into everyone. She forgives King Shark for trying to eat her, and welcomes him as a friend. She reminds Bloodsport (Idris Elba) of his daughter, and they make a promise to save one another. She even helps him get over his childhood fear of rats. While her ability to control and communicate with rats earns her a spot on the squad, Ratcatcher 2’s compassion is her true superpower.

The Suicide Squad, in the spirit of James Gunn’s Troma origins, relishes gratuitous violence and senseless death. And that’s not a criticism: the film’s wildly violent and darkly comedic tone sets it apart from the MCU and most other DC films. But Ratcatcher plays a crucial role as the film’s emotional core. Melchior’s performance anchors the emotional undercurrents of the film, delivering grounded emotional beats that serve to deepen the film. In fact, the entire thing might crumble were it not for her performance.

This is a star-making turn for Melchior, and we hope to see more of her and Ratcatcher 2 in the future. And less importantly, as a fellow Tired Woman, I loved to see Cleo napping throughout the film. This girl gets it: naps rule, rats are amazing, and every living thing has value. Now that’s a heroine for 2021 if there ever was one.

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.