In an attempt to remind viewers that Oliver Queen doubles as mayor of the dysfunctional but endearing Star City, ARROW hits us with a mayor-centric episode this week called “Spectre of the Gun.” The instincts here seem reasonable, especially as in recent weeks the show has been focused on Ollie’s past like in last week’s trip down memory lane in Russia. Oliver doesn’t just have the responsibility to protect his city as Arrow, but also on the political and administrative side as the new mayor. However, the execution here leaves much to be desired and I have to say this is one of Arrow’s most heavy handed episodes of the entire series.
It all begins with an armed attack on the mayor’s office, which leaves several in the Queen administration wounded and others killed. The attack itself is later considered a “mass shooting” paralleling, of course, what’s sadly become too common an occurrence in the real world. Ollie’s reliable DA is among the survivors. I guess one can applaud Arrow for trying to take on this hot-button issue but again, it’s all in the execution. For starters, the way the shooting was staged didn’t make the attack seem any different than any other assault on a Star City institution throughout this show’s five season run. Why was this a mass shooting but other events not? Why is this somehow an issue of gun violence whereas past attacks have not? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve been desensitized by all of Star City’s carnage through the years. This seems like standard fare.
Then there’s the premise that Oliver can only solve this issue as the mayor, not the Arrow, because this actually requires a change in policy. Maybe the Green Arrow can only plug up the hole, not stop the leak in the first place. This idea is actually pretty interesting, and has members of Team Arrow taking sides. Curtis and Lance are anti-gun, whereas pugnacious “Mad Dog” Rene and Dinah are pro-gun. Oliver gives a clumsy press conference where he basically hits us with both sides have a point.
We finally get some much needed backstory on Rene, flashing back to the surprising days when he was a family man on the come up with a wife and young daughter. Rene scolds his drug addicted wife for backsliding, and tries to get her back on the straight and narrow. One day, Rene comes home to a dealer holding his wife hostage for a mere $500. Rene goes to his safe to collect the money, but also finds his gun. He takes down the dealer, but improbably, the man reflexively triggers a shot killing Rene’s wife.
Because Rene failed to defend his wife, or even more so, because his wife’s death almost seems to be an “accident,” isn’t it just as likely that Rene would come to the conclusion that guns were bad?
Eventually, Ollie and team discover that the man behind the mass shooting lost his family a few years ago in a mass mall shooting in which the then Star City government brass failed to enact the kind of legislation that might prevent this. One problem here, however, is that apart from that first attack, the shooter doesn’t do anything else. So despite the fact that Oliver and team are acting like this guy is an eminent threat, it definitely doesn’t feel like he is.
The final showdown, however, between Oliver and the disgruntled shooter at a hospital is satisfying, and Oliver talks the poor man down not with the rough tactics of Arrow, but as a more diplomatic and accessible mayor. This might have been the strongest scene of the entire episode.
Away from the action, Diggle urges Dinah to leave her temporary living situation and finally get a home of her own. This was a pretty minor subplot though and actually we don’t even get to see Dinah finally finding her new home, which might have added to the emotional impact of it. In any case, it looks like she’s going to be joining law enforcement, which was a nice payoff to what we found out about her in the past.
Arrow should be admired for trying to take on a political, timely, and important issue, but doesn’t really achieve the kind of sophistication we’ve come to expect, particularly in season five’s strong resurgence.
Season 5, Episode 13 (S05E13)
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8PM on CW
Ade Adeniji | Contributor