Arrow Review: “Spectre of the Gun”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor

Arrow continues the back half of season five with an episode that speaks to a larger issue in today’s world. When a rogue gunman breaks in and shoots up the Mayor’s office, Oliver (Stephen Amell) must take a stand for gun control and the larger issues at hand. Arrow’s latest episode entitled “Spectre of the Gun” tries to engage in a larger, political conversation, but ultimately falters on several levels.

In today’s political climate, television has become a welcomed way to not only escape our troubles, but to also engage in conversation. Arrow enters this arena with its latest episode that deals with Oliver using his powers as Mayor to put an end to the gun violence in Star City. While an important issue to discuss, Arrow felt like the wrong DCTV show to do so. Last time we checked, Arrow is about a masked vigilante who uses a bow and arrows to take down criminals. For the first several seasons, and even to this day, Green Arrow kills people in the pursuit of justice. Yes, he’s taken his kill count way down, but in the end this is a show about a man who plays God. So, should Oliver Queen/Green Arrow really be the one to talk?

The gun violence debate has been discussed and talked about in various TV shows, especially in recent years. Several TV shows give us poignant hours of TV that spark larger questions about gun violence and gun regulations. To this day, One Tree Hill’s season three episode “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept,” is one of the finest episodes of TV that deals with the issue. In fact, the consequences of the Tree Hill shooting lingered until the shows end in 2012. Somehow, we don’t quite see how this episode of Arrow will change the course of the show forever. Again, this is still a show about the Green Arrow and whether it’s morally right or morally wrong, Team Arrow will continue to kill people.

This episode could have been increasing better if Arrow became self-aware. While off-handedly mentioned, we would’ve liked to see an actual conversation where Team Arrow talks constructively about what they do night after night. Looking at Team Arrow, Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) runs around with guns. This episode would’ve benefited from Oliver having a moment where he talked about his own behavior before he began preaching to all of Star City. 

That being said, Stephen Amell did give us a beautiful performance as Oliver Queen this week. In a rare episode, Amell didn’t have his mask to hide behind. For most of the episode, Mayor Queen took center stage as he tried to understand the gunman’s motives and how he can put into effect a background checks system. Amell thrives as he is completely powerless to what is happening in Star City. While his best episodes often come when he’s working with Emily Bett Rickards, this episode still gives us a solid performance. His best moment comes at the end of the episode when he stands before Star City and takes a public stand against gun violence. He says:

“When I think of all the people that I have lost… I remember the choices that I was forced to make in light of those tragedies. Some choices were easy. But the important choices, the choices that were worth making, they were hard. And hard choices require bravery. Fortunately, we live in the home of the brave. And we don’t run from hard choices. We rise up, and we face tomorrow together.”

Even though this episode may not have hit the mark it strived achieve, Amell still manages to give us a rousing speech. Since day one, Amell has been able to rally viewers at home with an inspirational Oliver Queen speech and this week continues that trend.

Rick Gonzalez in the Arrow episode "Spectre of the Gun." Photo Credit: The CW
Rick Gonzalez in the Arrow episode “Spectre of the Gun.” Photo Credit: The CW

The flaws with Oliver’s actions in this episode, ultimately come down to the writing and story being told. Once again, Mayor Queen is preaching about background checks and getting a handle on the amount of guns running through Star City. It’s hard to believe that Oliver believes in this, considering who his superhero persona is. He returned to Star City to cross off names on a list. He did that by killing and maiming anyone he came into contact with. So, it’s hard to listen to Oliver preaching about gun control when we know what he does on a nightly basis. Again, Arrow may not have been the best choice of DCTV shows to use in order to insight a conversation about gun control.

After half a season, this episode of Arrow also gave us insight into Rene’s backstory and how he came to be Wild Dog. In an emotional set of flashbacks, we learn that Rene’s wife was killed when her drug dealer comes looking for his payment. With Rene unable to get to his gun in time, she dies by a rogue bullet. To top that off, his daughter, Zoe, is also taken from him. In this episode, Rene fights for the right to allow Star City residents to carry guns. Gonzalez has given his best performances in this half of season five and continues with this episode. He proves that he can perform in the quiet moments just as well as the big stunt ones.

We have two issues with Rene’s backstory in this episode. For starters, while it’s a great storyline, it gets somewhat lost in the grand scheme of the episode. With the large topic of gun control looming large, Rene’s backstory falls somewhat flat. It’s hard to compete with such a political and socially charged topic, but Rene’s backstory does what it can to stand out on its own.

Our other problem with Rene’s backstory reveal in this episode also has to do with timing. While we’ve known Rene for only half a season, we wish Arrow held off on revealing his backstory. Yes, knowing more about Rene will help us better connect with him, but we wish Arrow could build him up in the present first. It took us three seasons to get Felicity’s backstory and that was the best thing. So, while Rene’s backstory links him to the themes of the episode, it would’ve been better for it to stand on its own.

Another storyline prominent in this episode is Diggle (David Ramsey) and Dinah’s (Juliana Harkavy) growing friendship. Since joining Team Arrow a few episodes ago, Dinah is already fitting in nicely. Although Arrow is using the character to essential re-invent Black Canary, Juliana Harkavy is doing so brilliantly. She’s simultaneously making her character her own while honoring the Black Canary legacy. This week, Diggle began to take Dinah under his wing as they laid the groundwork for a friendship. It’s a dynamic we hope Arrow continues to explore because we’re loving it. Ramsey and Harkavy have a great dynamic and we want it to grow as the season continues.

What’s even more refreshing is Dinah not being pushed into a relationship right away. There isn’t a love interest in sight for her as of right now and it’s the best thing Arrow could do. Dinah is a kickass new female character and it’s great that she doesn’t need to be connected to a love interest. If we could keep her single for as long as possible, we will personally send candy to Arrow. Harkavy deserves to grow this character outside of a relationship and we hope she gets the chance to.

Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode "Spectre of the Gun." Photo Credit: The CW
Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode “Spectre of the Gun.” Photo Credit: The CW

Our biggest issue with Arrow’s latest episode has to do with the lack of Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). A vocal character throughout the entirety of the show, Felicity is all but silent this week. Oliver tries to stop the violence as Mayor and Rene and Curtis (Echo Kellum) engage in a healthy discussion, Felicity has no opinion and just asks that Rene and Curtis stop fighting. Now, unless Barry (Grant Gustin) screwed up the timeline again, Felicity is the biggest victim of gun violence on Arrow aside from Rene. Last season, Felicity was left paralyzed from the waist down when Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) handed loaded assault rifles to his henchmen. If anyone were to have an opinion on gun control it should be Felicity.

Felicity not only doesn’t engage in the fight alongside Team Arrow, she doesn’t even have an opinion. She says she has no comment on the subject when Curtis asks her. This isn’t the Felicity we know. The Felicity we know has a comment about everything, it’s one of her best assets. Not only does she have no opinion, she tells Curtis and Rene to stop fighting about the subject because it won’t help. Again, totally out of character for a woman who wants nothing but to fight for justice. If anything Felicity would have a strong opinion on the subject because of what’s happened to her.

A better approach to Felicity’s character in this episode would’ve been to have her have PTSD or ultimately feel skittish about talking about the subject. We would’ve understood that storyline over her being utterly silent. Emily Bett Rickards is such a force to be reckoned with and not having her a valuable part of this episode truly degraded it. Felicity being an advocate for gun control would’ve allowed us to feel more attached to these characters fight for justice. Arrow should’ve given Rickards the means to play Felicity’s storyline as that of trauma, not being complacent.

If Felicity, Oliver and Diggle were given a moment to reflect on their actions and their traumatic experience, this episode would’ve improved tremendously. Give Felicity a heartfelt moment with Oliver or Diggle or both, so as an audience we can realize it’s still hard for Felicity to talk about her accident and she’s still working through it. Ultimately, Arrow’s misgivings this week circle back around to their inability to create complex storylines for female characters. The very notion that Rene is given an emotional backstory, but Felicity is left out in the cold is enough to exemplify this.

Overall, Arrow bites off more than it can chew in the latest episode. While some of the character aspects are solid, like Mayor Oliver’s speech at the end and Rene’s backstory, they don’t elevate the episode to the heights we would’ve liked. Felicity’s absence in the episode is a missed opportunity Arrow should’ve capitalized on. Arrow not being self-aware and discussing the team’s own connections to gun violence ultimately fails the episode.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW

Overall Grade: B-


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