Oliver Queen ran for mayor all the way back at the start of season 4. In season 5, Oliver has been mayor since the premiere. Yet, when it comes to doing anything remotely political, Arrow has had Oliver do nothing. There has been the Susan Williams media stuff but because that a) involves Susan and b) has been really simplistic, it’s been a huge downer. Politics have not been Arrow’s strong suit. In “Spectre of the Gun” Arrow takes a huge departure from the norm and goes deep with its political storytelling as Oliver deals with one of the hottest of hot button issues, gun control.
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Things Get Political
The impetus for the episode’s delving into gun control occurs when a masked man walks into the mayor’s office and starts shooting up the place killing multiple people. This is far from the first time that guns have been fired on Arrow or even guns have been fired at innocents. Usually though, it is in the context of some kind of fight scene. This is just a straight up terrorist attack and it is treated with that gravity. It’s brutal and shocking. It’s really almost welcome since the rest of the episode is just a lot of characters talking. We need a little breather from violence after the opening scene.
Given how much violence there is on Arrow, it should be hard for the show to adequately approach the topic of gun control with some grace. Surprisingly though, Arrow pulls of the debate quite effortlessly. The arguments that break out about gun control among the characters following the attack aren’t exactly subtle. Every character says exactly what they mean in the boldest terms at every opportunity. Rene is stubbornly for gun ownership, Curtis is stubbornly for high restrictions on guns and Felicity just thinks that arguing about any issue does nothing but make everyone mad. Everyone gets a chance to say something though.
Working in the Black or Maybe Very, Very Dark Grey
Arrow is not breaking completely new ground but “Spectre of the Gun” does look at all sides of the gun control issue. No opinion is given more weight than the others. It’s not as simple as “guns are bad” or “everyone deserves to have a gun.” Oliver even makes a distinction between what he does as the Green Arrow killing criminals in fights versus what someone like Vigilante does killing criminals indiscriminately. These two are also different from the shooter’s attack of terrorism at the mayor’s office.
The shooter in question is probably the weakest part of “Spectre of the Gun.” He should be an interesting multi-layered antagonist. He turned to gun violence after his family died in a public shooting and the city government (before Oliver) refuses to sign into law a gun registry. Really though, the shooter is just the traditional superhero villain that Arrow needs to exist.
There is a lot of talking about politics in “Spectre of the Gun” and for Arrow to still feel like Arrow, there needs some action and detective work. The team tracks down the bad guy and puts him in handcuffs by episode’s end. The shooter is not much of a character, so much that I don’t even remember his name. He is really just a conduit for the story and the characters’ expressing their opinions.
The Birth and Death (?) of Wild Dog
“Spectre of the Gun” does give hope that Oliver’s job as mayor will be a little bit more than providing missions and whining about the press this season. Rene is the character who really shines. Arrow hands over the reigns of the flashback to Rene. Rene does more suiting up as Mad Dog than Oliver does as Green Arrow. “Specre of the Gun” is a Rene-centric episode and it is quite excellent.
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Rene has been the real stand-out of the new recruits in season 5, despite the show giving us almost nothing on his past. This finally changes as we learn in the flashbacks that Rene was married to a woman name Laura and they had a child, Zoe, before season 5 began. Rene and his wife lived in the Glades before moving out and trying to start over. Laura wasn’t as committed to a new life and she continued to take drugs. It is because of her drug habit that Laura was killed in a struggle with her drug dealer. As a result, Zoe is now in foster care.
It’s a very heartbreaking story for a character that has slowly and effectively grown out of the comic relief zone he was stuck in at the start of the season. Rene was the rebellious wild card earlier in the season and now he is one of the more complex and tragic characters on the show. When Curtis finds out about Rene’s past, he even promises to help Rene find his daughter and get her out of the foster system. This would have been unthinkable earlier in the season but now it really does seem like something Rene has earned.
But what did you think of this atypical Arrow episode? Did the show handle the gun control debate with grace? Did you think it was too “preachy?” Did the show give one opinion more weight than the others? Should Arrow do more political stories?
Arrow season 5 airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW. Want more news? Like our Arrow Facebook page!
(Image courtesy of The CW)