One of the most divisive issues in America today, and for decades now, is gun control. Some people think all guns should be outlawed, others think anyone should be able to own anything without restriction, and there are others scattered along at all points of the spectrum in between. It’s a subject that’s next to impossible to discuss with those who have opposing viewpoints on it. Arrow’s “Spectre of the Gun,” carefully tiptoes into that territory.
The show opens at the Lair, which is where Team Arrow spend a lot of their time. That makes sense when you think about it. I think at this point, the only members of the team that actually have lives are Oliver and, as of this episode, Rene/Wild Dog. Diggle notionally has a wife and kid (gender dependant on what Barry Allen’s been up to) but they seem to have largely vanished from the show. Felicity and Curtis lost their jobs, and Dinah’s new in town. Once again, you sort of have to wonder how they’re paying their bills, but I think that’s one of the things we’re not supposed to think about.
At any rate, Diggle and Dinah are sparring, her with a staff, him with escrima sticks. The team spends a lot of time stick fighting, which is a bit odd since none of them use those kinds of weapons in combat. John’s impressed that Dinah handles a staff so well and she talks about one of her undercover operations. Just to remind us of the supposed big bad guy who almost never actually shows up, Felicity is trying to find Prometheus’ mother, and has it narrowed down to a state.
For a change of pace, Oliver actually goes to work. Also for a change, Thea is back, and not at all shy when it comes to expressing her opinion about Susan Williams, Oliver’s girlfriend and the reporter Thea has crossed paths with. She’s surprised to see Rene there, who is now officially Quentin’s assistant. Great, the drunk and the dishonorably discharged vet are working together. That’ll play well in Susan’s next expose.
Business as usual (maybe unusual if Oliver and Thea are both actually there) gets horribly interrupted. Quentin leaves, passing a guy getting off the elevator. The guy pulls on a mask and his work bag is full of guns as he suddenly goes on a shooting spree at City Hall, killing and wounding many. Rene is armed (no surprise) but the shooter is armored, and manages to get away.
Oliver takes charge of the situation, snapping out orders to the staff about calling for medics and helping the wounded. Thea notices that DA Adrian Chase is among the wounded, shot high in the chest. The wounded Chase rasps out, “Catch the son of a bitch,” which is a really weird thing to tell the mayor. I wonder if Chase is among the far too many that knows Oliver’s secret. Team Arrow naturally ends up with the weapon the shooter dropped, and manages to not get anywhere. There are no leads, prints, or DNA. Even the jumpsuit the shooter wore is for a company that went bankrupt years ago.
Quentin beats himself up a lot over the shooting. The man walked right by him, and Quentin feels he should have picked up on something from the shooter. Quentin is also not happy to learn Rene is carrying, since he received a dishonorable discharge. Rene says it might not be legal, but it’s easy to get one. Somehow, since Quentin knows Rene is Wild Dog, this seems a bit ridiculous. It’s ok if Rene runs around shooting people as a masked vigilante but not as a private citizen? This sets up a lot of what happens in a lot of the episodes- the cast debating gun control. There are some pretty passionate voices on both sides of the issue, with Oliver remaining uncommitted. Maybe he really is becoming a politician.
At the hospital, Oliver checks on the various surviving victims and their families. Chase is trying sign himself out, worrying his wife Dorris. Oliver persuades him to stay, and runs down the very little information they have for the wounded District Attorney. Chase once again urges Oliver to catch the shooter, which still sounds odd to me.
At the Lair, the team has one of their many debates this episode. While they talk, Green Arrow is on the streets, running down a possible connection to the Bertinelli family. Clan Bertinelli, in addition to being a mob family, also gave us Helena, AKA Huntress. The thug Oliver captures and beats on claims ignorance of the shooting. The torture Q and A gets interrupted when Vigilante shows up and shoots the thug, leading to a debate over methods. At this point, since Oliver has been killing again, I really don’t see what his objection to Vigilante is. How do you have Wild Dog and Spartan on your team, but say that shooting people is bad?
Felicity manages to figure out the shooter is James Edlund. Edlund was a normal family guy with no record and nothing special in his background until the Crossland Mall Shooting, which I seem to recall happened around the time Green Arrow took on the current team. Edlund lost his wife and daughter and went completely off the grid. Edlund spoke out loudly about the Star City Gun Registry, a political bill that went nowhere, and now seems to be punishing the city by randomly shooting people.
Oliver makes a statement to the press, with Quentin by his side. The press pushes Oliver for specific answers on his stance on guns, and he avoids them well. When they try and pin him down, and pull the “You owe the fallen an answer” card, Oliver gives a great, but not political, answer: “I owe a response to my fallen staffers. Not to any of you,” and he leaves. Oliver is upset, both by what happened to his people and because he doesn’t know how to handle this crisis with the press or politically. In his defense, neither does any other politician in modern America. Oliver has a lot of doubts about what to do next, Thea worries about the political ramifications of whatever he’ll end up doing, and Oliver rejoins that this should be about security and safety.
While Oliver meets with Councilwoman Pollard, virtually taking her hostage in that he was saying neither of them are leaving until they come to some kind of agreement on guns, Spartan beats on a street punk searching for Edlund. He doesn’t find anything, and he and Dinah commiserate over dead ends. She also talks about living at Diggle’s former HIVE hiding place, and liking a small apartment but having problems with the paperwork (and the money, I’d think. Again, that keeps coming up as a background issue in my mind for the team: funds.).
About the only scene I really liked regarding the various debates comes between Felicity and Curtis. Felicity doesn’t like the team arguing, and says it’s not healthy if no one is going to change their minds. Curtis says that there’s nothing wrong with debate, and that modern society seems to have utterly forgotten this. Curtis, I agree completely.
Felicity gets a lead that sends Curtis and Rene to a support group for people that lost someone to violence. Rene uses his new position as Assistant to the Deputy Mayor to get some cooperation from the man running the group. Curtis and Rene debate some more, and Rene says if I’d had my gun with me, I’d still have my wife and daughter, which leaves Curtis shocked. Following up on the information from the group, Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific figure out where Edlund is going next. This leads to Oliver getting a call that interrupts his meeting and he takes off, leaving a very surprised Councilwoman behind.
Oliver gets to the hospital, Edlund’s next target, and manages to beat the police and Team Arrow there. As Oliver, not Green Arrow, he talks Edlund down and prevents another mass shooting. This is great for the people at the hospital, and, let’s face it, is going to be a big plus for Oliver’s political career. Later, the Councilwoman gives in, being realistic enough to not fight someone who just scored such a major PR victory. Curtis and Rene patch things up after their debates, and Curtis offers to hep Rene with something important and personal. And Dinah manages to get her new apartment and get a job with the Star City Police, because that won’t interfere with her vigilante career at all. Oliver announces a big gun registry to end the show, but tell us virtually nothing about it.
FlashBack Theater this week was mostly Rene’s origin story. We still don’t know what happened with him in the Navy, but we do see how he went from family man to the gun-toting Wild Dog. It’s a tragic story that doesn’t end well, although he gets some help later from Curtis, as mentioned above.
What I liked: Realistically, there is a large bias towards gun control in the entertainment industry. Arrow didn’t really come down on either side of the issue, and the characters’ debates covered a lot of ground. I liked that Oliver (and the writers) acknowledged that something like the problem of guns isn’t something that can be solved by a masked hero.
What I didn’t: Oliver never really took a stance on the issue, nor did Felicity. It feels a bit odd that the two who are essentially the team’s leaders never expressed an opinion. I get the writers didn’t want to risk losing viewers, but then why tackle this subject? The big agreement Oliver comes out with at the end of the show has no detail at all. It would have been nice to find out what happened to Rene’s Navy career.
It was an ambitious attempt to tackle a major societal issue, they just didn’t quite have the backbone to see it through. It felt less like an Arrow episode and more like an attempt a public service announcement. I’ll give it this one low 3 out of 5 and that might be a bit generous.