Arrow: ‘Spectre of the Gun’ Review
A violent show gets real about violence.
Warning: This review for the 13th episode of season five’s Arrow will contain spoilers.
This week’s Arrow began with a “viewer discretion advised” disclaimer. At first, I got excited because I thought they were going to push the limits of the show, and give us a kick ass episode. But nope. The producers of Arrow decided to get topical and join in on the gun control debate and how violence is not the answer. Yup, a show about vigilantes, some of which use guns, most likely not legally, who protect the city by using various methods of violence… decides to weigh in on gun violence. (sigh)
Look, I don’t know where this is coming from, and why it was necessary to make this kind of episode now, in the middle of a manhunt to take down Prometheus… which is what I really want to see at this point in the season that probably has less than 10 episodes left. And I somewhat take issue with the idea that while this episode addresses the usage of violence as a negative, next week, the use of violence will be back to normal for our crime fighting vigilantes.
To be clear, I’m not calling this a bad episode. Dramatically, it was damn good. It had some of the best performances of the season with Stephen Amell and Rick Gonzalez leading the way. I appreciate the episode not entirely taking one side of the issue over the other. I can even commend it for trying to open the door for discussing the issue. However, the issue has been and continues to be discussed, and not always in a civil manner. The debate usually goes nowhere, for one thing, but the truth is, we didn’t need an invite to discussing this issue on our superhero show. Of course, some are going to disagree, thinking a show like Arrow is the perfect way to reach people to talk about the issues. Me personally, I don’t tune in for that. There are other outlets for that. I especially don’t like that the episode wraps up with some magical solution to the problem, but doesn’t offer any specifics. Obviously, it’s not the show’s job to do solve real world problems, but you can’t just say you solved the problem to a real life national issue without suggesting some insight. I would have preferred there wasn’t an outright solution, and the topic remain open ended within the show.
So the gunman decided to shoot up City Hall because a councilwoman threw out a bill for a citywide gun registry. The gunman’s family was killed at a mall shooting by a guy who obtained his weapons ILLEGALLY. So to teach the government a lesson, this victim of gun violence goes on a shooting spree? Okay, Arrow writers, if this is the basis of your gun control debate, y’all are kind of reaching at this point. This episode’s gunman is a bigger villain that the man who killed his wife and kids. Inflicting more pain towards others after a tragic event had taken place? Not to mention he clearly used an illegally modified AR-15 since it had fully automatic firing capability. The basis of the debate gets lost because of that factor. It was an illegal weapon. The debate should really be about getting illegal weapons off the street. I don’t know if I was supposed to be somewhat sympathetic towards the gunman for losing his family. I sure hope not. He had become just as mad as the gunman that killed his family. Tell you the truth, I was hoping he would have offed himself. But at least Oliver was able to talk him out of it and boost his mayoral cred.
What was cool about the episode is it presented an extremely difficult challenge to Mayor Oliver Queen, not the Green Arrow. Oliver had to step up his mayoral game and tackle this issue head on, even while doubting himself as mayor. This episode relied heavily on Stephen Amell’s talent as an actor. Like I mentioned before, it worked.
It was great that the flashbacks focused on Rene this week. It was basically his origin story on why he became Wild Dog. To be honest, I still want to know more about his failed military career. Yeah, Rene had a pretty tragic backstory about him not being able to save his wife from an intruder. Truth is, he did the right thing shooting the guy. It was a valiant effort. There was no way he could have stopped the intruder’s gun from going off when he hit the floor. Then, to see his daughter taken from him. And placed into foster care That was bullsh*t. Although, I am kind of mad at him for not looking at options to get his daughter back. Either way, I found Rene’s story to be the fairly compelling, even though I feel the character needs more exploration.
I do really, really like that Dinah and Diggle are becoming pretty tight as friends. They can not only share so many war stories, but in some ways, they are alike. Particularly with the struggles of having a sense of normalcy in life. I love that we get to see Dinah have these very human emotions, and Diggle there to give valuable advice.
Normally, I would have loved to see Vigilante return to the show. However, I do not like that he killed a criminal who was no immediate danger due to being hung upside down by The Green Arrow. It was bad taste to make the character straight up murder someone just to prove his weapons of choice were more effective over Oliver’s bow and arrow. Perhaps Adrian was just pissed at being shot, and wanted to take his frustrations out on this guy. That would be even more distasteful though.
Oh, and Thea came back. That’s pretty much it. Although, I totally get and agree with her disapproval of Ollie dating Susan Williams. Obviously we know she’s bad news. But why would a politician want to date a reporter? Such a dumb decision, Ollie.
So without getting political and giving my personal opinions on gun control – because frankly, that’s not my job here – I will just simply say that while this was a well intended episode, it had an “Afterschool Special” vibe to it that I never expected nor desired from this show. The message here didn’t feel entirely natural. It felt heavy handed and came off as pandering. The performances were terrific from all members of the cast though.