One would think that last night’s Arrow – episode 513 ‘Spectre of The Gun’ – would be review-proof due to its message on gun control and gun safety. The violence depicted, in both the public and domestic space, warranted a parental advisory note at the show’s outset. Serious business was about to take place here on The CW; this is a very special edition of Arrow. Let’s recap.
Diggle and Dinah open the show in the midst of a sweaty training session, Felicity scans her multiple screens for signs of Prometheus. At City Hall, Oliver welcomes Thea back, catching her up on his love life and what’s what in City governance when a lone gunman shoots the bejeezus out of his office and the adjoining hallways with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing and injuring multiple staffers. Rene, newly appointed assistant to Deputy Mayor Quentin Lance, pumps a couple of slugs into the masked shooter but he has Kevlar under his clothes and is able to escape. Thea can’t believe Rene had a gun in City Hall – which begs the question where were the multiple guards who should be packing and taking care of this guy? – but Rene expresses his opinions of gun control, illustrated by a flashback to his not-to-distant past as a married man who keeps his revolver in a gun vault in his closet except for trips to the Glades a/k/a ‘bad part of town’ for hockey games with his daughter Zoe. Mommy would go but she’s got a bad drug fix that needs attention and sparks an argument. Oliver gets the rifle, left behind by the shooter, over to Felicity but because there’s no national gun registry, she can’t track it back to the owner. By happenstance, Quentin saw the guy before he donned his mask and gives the police (and Team Arrow) a face then shortly after a name for the shooter – James Edlund. Edlund, a simple Star City resident with no criminal history, lost his wife and two daughters to a mall shooting that spurred support for a Star City Gun Registry, which ultimately was voted down. This was the inciting moment that gave birth to the carnage on display.
Oliver, addressing the media, is left to giving the same speech politicians break out at such times – “we need to do better… our thoughts and prayers…” – and is clearly frustrated by his ineffectiveness as mayor or as Green Arrow to stem such violence because he only knows how to inflict more violence onto it, completing the vicious cycle. Quentin challenges Oliver to fight this as mayor which leads to Oliver calling in Councilwoman Pollard, a gun registry opponent – for an all-night lockdown to create new encouraging policies on gun control. Felicity tracks Edlund down to a support group where Rene and Curtis convince the moderator into giving up Edlund’s last known address (they aren’t cops, they ‘sort of’ identify themselves as working at City Hall yet the group leader gives up this ‘confidential’ information with possibly the slightest twist of an arm hair). Another trip to Rene’s past follows where Rene and daughter Zoe return home from the hockey game to find his wife gripped up by a dealer she owes for her last fix. His daughter startles the dealer who shoots at Rene, scrambling for his gun (which he didn’t take out with him at his wife’s insistence). Rene is able to shoot the dealer dead but not before, falling to the floor, the dealer lets off one last shot that kills Rene’s wife before Zoe’s horrified eyes.
Rene and Curtis find a layout for Starling General Hospital at Edlund’s address. Oliver cuts short his meeting with Pollard to scurry over to the hospital where he faces down the shooter as…Oliver Queen. The mayor diffuses the tense standoff reminding Edlund that the lives he took today were as innocent as those stolen from him. More deaths, including his own, were not solutions. He convinces Edlund to lay down his weapon and he’s taken into custody. Oliver returns to the councilwoman with a gun control ordinance that should make things right without making it harder for people in Star City to buy or own or carry a gun, or to protect themselves – which sounded a little contradictory to me when I heard it (and as I write it out, the same applies). One last trip to Rene’s past shows him despondent in his apartment, a social worker on the phone explaining why the instability of his home will keep his daughter with foster parents. On television, Green Arrow takes down Damien Darhk with all of Star City by his side. Rene looks down at the hockey apparel he wore on his last night with his daughter and Wild Dog is born.
THE GOOD –
When we first met Rene and his face was scarred up a bit, we presumed this was from fighting in a run-of-the-mill hockey mask from Modell’s. Outside of some elbow and knee pads and steel toe boots, he didn’t look fit for urban vigilante combat. Thus – scar tissue. This episode’s flashbacks to pre-Wild Dog days shows Rene adorned with many of the same scars – wounds which would be reopened in subsequent battles alongside Team Arrow. That speaks to a guy who has been ‘through some stuff’ and lived to talk about it. It illustrates his pro-gun stance as well as his revulsion at his wife’s relapse at the expense of their daughter’s happiness. Storytelling that is shown, not told. Unusual for Arrow but very welcome.
I think most of the conversation about gun control, registries pro or con was simplistic talking heads stuff. I didn’t find any revealing nuance to the debate offered but I appreciate the show making time to address a real world concern. As the most violent of The CW DC Universe, Arrow’s voice speaks loudest in this space. I didn’t think it too much to say about the gun control issue but Curtis and Felicity captured the nation’s feeling about public discourse very well. There was a time when an exchange of ideas, thoughts, concerns would lead to opinions being shared, compromises being born and understanding being welcome and appreciated. It wasn’t so long ago yet it feels like it might as well have been a silent movie.
THE BAD –
Vigilante. An episode focusing on gun violence had to see Star City’s resident pistol-packing do-gooder pop back up again. However with Rene’s touching story providing a human element to the issue (coupled with his gun-toting Wild Dog persona), this appearance felt unnecessary. It added nothing to the plot or overall conversation.
THE VERDICT –
Episode 513 Spectre of the Gun– A noble effort by Arrow. C+