TV REVIEW: Arrow, S5 Ep13 – Spectre of the Gun

Right from the beginning we knew “Spectre of the Gun” was going to be something special as the episode began by warning “viewer discretion advised.” This week’s episode was a bold examination of gun control and gun violence in America, as Star City’s City Hall is attacked by an armed assailant who murders a total of 7 people and severely injures some more. In addition to seeing Team Arrow deal with the repercussions of this crime, “Spectre of the Gun” also focuses on Rene’s backstory before he decided to suit up as Wild Dog.

City Hall attacked

“Spectre of the Gun” had a very strong and powerful opening as we see firsthand this heinous crime. It’s not like Arrow has never had a villain fire a gun before, but seeing it in this way felt very different. For one, our heroes were caught off guard and were not suited up and secondly, majority of the people working in City Hall were not prepared either. While this opening was strong the episode did contain some minor issues following these events.

For the most part “Spectre of the Gun” tackled the debate on gun control very respectfully, but at times it did seem a bit preachy. I feel like some people may not appreciate Arrow not officially taking a side on the gun control debate in America, but I appreciated that we were able to hear both sides of each argument. Each side of the debate was respectively addressed by Curtis and Rene. Curtis sides with strict gun control, while Rene has a looser mentality and feels guns are a necessity.

While I did appreciate seeing both of these characters defend their respective sides, I’m left wondering how strongly does Curtis truly feel about his argument? He brings up a strong point to Rene when he states, “as a Black man I am three times more likely to be killed by a gun than [Rene].” This point may have been stronger if he had said it to a Caucasian male like Quentin or Ollie rather than a fellow minority like Rene, but even so, hasn’t Curtis been working alongside both Rene and Diggle for a while now? Both Rene and Diggle constantly use firearms when fighting crime. All of sudden Curtis has a huge problem with it. I understand that the team just lived through a traumatic event and this brought out the intensity in Curtis, but he has never displayed any inkling of disapproval to his teammates’ methods in the past.

By the conclusion of the episode these two characters do get to see where the other is coming from, and as I stated before I’m glad Arrow didn’t definitively just say something like “guns are bad.” It stayed neutral on the subject for the most part, because it is a complicated subject that can’t be summed up in an hour-long episode of a comic book television series. “Spectre of the Gun” said what it needed to say and moved on.

Despite some attempts from Ollie and his team suiting up in their superhero outfits and going out on patrol, the “villain” was ultimately taken down by Mayor Oliver Queen and not the Green Arrow. We were provided with a very tense moment in the episode’s climax as Ollie talks down the armed assailant who feels the need to shoot up a hospital. In addition to this, though we aren’t privy to all of the details, Ollie and Rene come up with new gun control ordinances that aim to please citizens of Star City no matter where they stand on the issue. I honestly kind of wanted to hear more about this plan, but it might have been boring hearing all of the minutia of this new bill.

Rene’s tragic backstory gets revealed

Now let’s talk about Rene’s backstory, which was the main focus of this week’s flashback scenes. First I have to say I’m glad this week’s episode took a break from Ollie’s Russian adventures and decided to focus on Rene instead. Rene had a very tragic backstory involving his wife being accidentally killed by her drug dealer when Rene fires on said dealer, as he demanded Rene’s wife pay up the money she owes him. This tragic event leads to Rene eventually losing custody of his daughter.

It was a strong backstory, but to me this doesn’t set up why he decides to become a vigilante in his own right. There is a loose connection that he may want to take down drug dealers after what happened to him and his family, and seeing the Green Arrow on television take down Damien Darhk on the news might inspire him to do so, but considering he decided to suit up after learning he would lose custody of his daughter I would have thought he would rather do everything in his power to get his daughter back. Wearing a hockey mask and shooting up criminals won’t accomplish that.

“Spectre of the Gun” was a strong episode that felt a bit preachy at times, but provided a compelling story and flashback sequences I actually cared about. In addition to the bold story it told, it was also great to see Thea back on the scene since she has been M.I.A. in recent episodes. Additionally, Dinah Drake, who is now Detective Drake of the SCPD, is growing on me. Also, it was nice seeing Ollie struggle with his mayoral responsibilities in this episode as he slowly realizes that this week’s predicament is not a job for his superhero persona. Lastly, Vigilante’s brief resurgence was also appreciated. I look forward to seeing if Team Arrow will ever learn the truth that he most definitely is District Attorney Adrian Chase.

Next week will see the return of Cupid, China White, and Liza Warner, last seen in the season four episode “Beyond Redemption,” as they break out of Iron Heights and head to Star City to take their revenge. Meanwhile, Green Arrow might get his comeuppance as the SCPD attempts to take him down for the murder of Detective Malone. Check out The CW’s official trailer for “The Sin-Eater” below and feel free to let us know what you thought of “Spectre of the Gun” in the comments.

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