Arrow "S5E13: Spectre of the Gun" - Review: Arrow Gets Seriously Good!
Spectre of the Gun – When a random gunman’s killing spree devastates City Hall, Team Arrow will search for the shooter while Mayor Oliver Queen political addresses the issue of gun violence in Star City. The discussions see Rene reflecting back on his own personal tragedy.
With all the new recruits, bar Curtis, getting a rather quick introduction into the show, there were more than a few gaps in their back stories. The biggest unknown of all is Rene/Wild Dog’s character so it’s good to see the show skipping back to that chapter for some added info. Surprisingly, this doesn’t include his military dishonourable discharge (clearly saved for another day) to favour a more personal story of family tragedy that links in very well to the main story. It carries good sentiments of irony, showing Rene as couple that worked their way out of The Glades only to find they couldn’t leave some things behind. Not only does the story reinforce Rene’s strong opinions on the 2nd Amendment but services to the wider issue of Oliver and the team questioning whether their use of violence is really saving the city. We even see Rene first being inspired to mask up after witnessing the events of last season’s climax. The flashbacks story not only deepens Rene’s character but suddenly connects the dots to his past actions of hot of defiance into a journey of recovery his daughter at the end of it. Now he’s not just the edgy comic relief character he has genuine purpose and significance within the show.... helped doubly by his new day job. Last week, I hoped they’d make him Quentin’s assistant and it appears some prayers do get answered.
My biggest gripe this season of Arrow has been that following Oliver’s appointment as Mayor we’ve slowly seen less and less of him actually doing the job. However, this episode was outstanding. Not only did it give precedent to Mayor Oliver Queen over The Green Arrow without sacrificing the comic book/superhero nature of the show but it dared to be a very politically-fuelled episode. Not just featuring major and sensitive issues like gun controls but addressing the idea of a growing anger/hate culture. Curtis even sums it beautifully by implying that the social stigma of making sensitive topics taboo and not talking about them makes us keep are feelings towards them bottled up until we lash out at someone in frustration. It’s arguably some of the most intelligent material the show has ever covered with co-showrunner himself, Marc Guggenheim, on writing duties. Even the arguments about gun control/violence are presented as fair and two sided with Curtis and Rene as debate team captains. If you have strong opinions on the subject you may still get triggered but try to focus on how the subject is used and being discussed rather than which side prevails in a scene. You could argue the middle of the road conclusion is a very safe bet but it really has a strong message to it: that baring arms should be both a right and a responsibility. The subject matter and Mayor scenes give Stephen Amell not one but two of his best moments as he talks down the assailant in the hospital and hits us with a Bill Pullman Area 51 worthy end speech (“hard choices require bravery, fortunately.... we live in the home of the brave”.
I wasn’t as keen on the blink, and you’ll miss its Vigilante reappearance. Yes, he is Mr “Guns are awesome” so having him feature felt in keeping with the central issue but it was so brief it felt almost needless. The show is also hyping up the DA Adrian Chase foreshadowing, “I’m tougher than I look”. It really can’t be long before he appears under that purple mask. The Diggle/Dinah story felt like more of a side note considering the bigger central issues but served to position Dinah within the team rather than last week’s, “Yeah, she’s here now” approach. Putting her within Star City PD not gives the team and show a much needed presence within the police forced (following the death of Detective Malone).
As the credits rolled, this felt like Arrow taking step back from itself for a period of reflection as any long-running plots barely got a mention. It’s more of an event than an episode and certainly won’t be repeated any time soon, but for a show with a long tradition of heroes and villains freely brandishing firearms, to question whether doing so is only perpetuating an endless cycle of violence makes it braver and bolder than ever before. If this round didn’t fit your barrel, fear not, next week we’re back into Suicide Squad territory.