TV Review: Arrow - Season 5 Episode 13 "Spectre of the Gun"

Episode 13: "Spectre of the Gun"

Synopsis: A traumatic attack on City Hall triggers painful memories for Rene about his family. Flashbacks reveal how Rene went from simple family man to a hero named Wild Dog. Meanwhile, Oliver must deal with the perpetrator behind the attack and realizes the best way to do so is as Mayor Queen instead of the Green Arrow. Tensions run high in the Arrow bunker.

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Review: Tonight's episode of Arrow is what is commonly referred to in network television parlance as a "very special episode". It may strike you as weird that a series that is predicated on violence would decide to air an entire hour focused on gun control but the goal of this hour is not just to preach about regulations surrounding the very topical political subject. It also serves as a very crucial milestone in the development of Oliver Queen beyond being just the Green Arrow and into something much more vital to the future of Star City. It also gave us flashbacks that illuminate the origin of Rene and how he came to be the vigilante Wild Dog. All together, I have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of tonight's episode overall but it definitely laid some foundation for future developments this season.

Starting like any other episode of Arrow (minus any opening title card), we find Oliver reunited with his sister Thea as the Mayor's office goes about business as usual. That is until a gunman in a ski mask opens fire and kills a half dozen bystanders and injures many more. The man gets away which sends Oliver and Team Arrow into a hunt for the shooter. It is worth noting that as the gunman opened fire, the focus was not just on body count but rather actually showing the innocents being mowed down, including shots of their faces as they died. This was a brutal and subtle way to drive home that these were not faceless henchmen but average people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the investigation heats up, Felicity learns that the shooter was not someone from Oliver's past or a Metahuman or anyone connected to Prometheus but rather an average Star City resident seeking vengeance after the death of his family at the hands of an armed criminal.

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What followed this big reveal was probably the most ham-fisted aspect of the episode as each member of the team voice their opposition or support of gun control laws. Notably, Rene is for guns (more on that later) while Curtis is anti-firearms. Curtis spouts facts about the statistical danger he as a black man is in regarding gun violence and Felicity shuts down the conversation entirely. Curtis does make a good point later in the episode about why we find it so inappropriate to discuss politics in public anymore, but every time a character tries to voice an opinion about gun control it comes off sounding very forced and poorly executed. Still, the subject matter is very crucial which is why the political position of Mayor Queen and his inability to find his stance until the end of the episode came off feeling much more realistic than any other aspect of the episode. As did the fact that this hour required Queen to don his Green Arrow garb only once before realizing the true power lied in his role as Mayor.

It was also nice to get a break from the Oliver-centric flashbacks with this hour dedicated to Rene's backstory. We learn that the dishonorably discharged soldier was married with a daughter. Having moved out of The Glades, Rene learns that his wife is using drugs again and gives her an ultimatum to stop. Returning from a hockey game, Rene finds his wife's dealer holding her at gunpoint and demanding $500 for her last fix. Rene goes for his gun, shoots the dealer who falls and shoots Rene's wife, killing her.  Losing his daughter to foster care, Rene sees Green Arrow kill Damien Darhk on television and decides to become a vigilante. Of all the origin stories we have seen of supporting characters on this series, Rene's may be the most gut-wrenching, but the fact that they didn't turn his character into a zealot says a lot.

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When Rene and Curtis realize that the shooter is going to open fire at a hospital, they inform Oliver who arrives as himself and not the Green Arrow and talks to the man. Speaking with true rational thought, Oliver explains that the man who killed the shooter's family obtained his guns illegally and there was nothing they could have done to prevent their deaths. The man breaks down but Oliver eventually convinces him to turn himself in. Oliver, with the aid of Rene, drafts a new gun ordinance that will make stricter rules for those with guns but not prevent anyone from owning them legally. It is a nice compromise that also manages to allow the series to avoid taking a true stance on either side of the debate that could have alienated viewers. Instead, the focus is on preventing abuse of guns and not taking away the right to them. Oliver gets the support of the city council and everything seems hunky dory.

There were other tidbits in this episode, like the appearance of Vigilante using his guns when Oliver didn't, Diggle and Dinah bonding over their past lives, and Felicity still struggling with the USB drive she has been using to solve crimes. But the main element of why this hour was so strong was that Oliver is beginning to see he doesn't need his alter ego as the Arrow nearly as much as he thought he did. With the power and influence of being Mayor, we have not seen Oliver accomplish much until this episode. It was pretty impressive to see an hour with virtually no superhero elements feel as vital as any other standalone hour of the show. If not for the overtly preachy monologues from some characters, I would have given this episode a higher rating but I do commend the showrunners for tackling a controversial topic that may have just reached a wider audience than would usually be exposed to this material.

Next on ARROW: "The Sin-Eater" airs February 22nd - China White, Cupid and Liza Warner break out of Iron Heights and head to Star City for revenge. Oliver tries to bring in the newly formed girl gang but the ACU intervenes mid-fight. To his surprise, they are there to arrest the Green Arrow for the murder of Detective Malone. Meanwhile, Lance feels responsible for the prison break after Warner tells him she heard about him working with Damien Darhk.

Source: JoBlo.com



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