Arrow: “Spectre of the Gun” Season 5 Episode 13 Review

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How many mass shooting have occurred in Star City since Oliver Queen put on the hood and started shooting people with arrows? What makes the one in “Spectre of a Gun” stand out from the rest? Diggle uses a gun outside of the law when he’s fighting alongside Oliver, but he’s not susceptible to such scrutiny because he’s shooting bad guys? Let’s be clear, “Spectre of the Gun” is probably the worst episode of Arrow. This is a superhero show that rose out of the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which in and of itself was a commentary on post-9/11 America. Arrow is a commentary on absolutely nothing. It never has been, and after this episode, it never should be again.

A gunman stormed into City Hall and killed seven people at the top of “Spectre of the Gun.” This is a show that half-jokingly killed all of its mayors, many by bullets, in the same vein that J.K. Rowling replaced Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. But this time, Oliver wants to do something about it. Great, Oliver Queen is a politician after all, and in the real world, politicians are supposed to care about people’s lives, as he so pointedly tells us, practically looking into the camera, after the shooting. Problem is, Arrow isn’t the real world. It’s a cheesy superhero show that gets by on swashbuckling, not serious debates. Having all these characters suddenly turn around after 105 episodes of madness and violence and regurgitate the two sides of gun violence opens the show up to so much hypocrisy that it’s kind of baffling that this is the issue they chose to tackle.

But alas, Rene and Curtis are on opposing sides, as well as Oliver and the councilwoman he brings in to debate the issue and find parameters to control gun violence in the city. Just one councilwoman. She and Oliver engage in a lively debate that is quickly interrupted when the same shooter shows up again at a city hospital. Due to some digging from Felicity, we learn that the man lost his wife and daughter to an active shooter, and has thus taken things into his own hands, murdering people in hopes that his potential savior, Oliver Queen, can establish stricter gun control in Star City. Let me rephrase that for you: the shooter was shooting people to make a point that people shouldn’t be given the capabilities to shoot people. Oliver successfully talks him down by essentially saying “I’m working on it.”

And he is, in fact. Upon re-meeting with the councilwoman, he and Rene have drawn up ordinances that apparently don’t affect the citizens acting on their Second Amendment rights or the gun merchants, but still somehow make things better. Arrow chooses not to get into the specifics of the solutions it musters, probably because it doesn’t have any. How could it? Any realistic solutions to the country’s gun problem would undoubtedly affect the Green Arrow’s whereabouts. So the final hypocrisy of “Spectre of the Gun” is that the show merely serves itself, rather than the issue it was apparently passionate enough about to tackle.

It didn’t help that most of the characters took extremely pointed stances on the issue, or even taking a side to begin with, that this week’s Arrow just sounded like a Facebook newsfeed of unqualified people having loud opinions about things they don’t know about. Take Curtis’ sweeping generalization about how people don’t listen to each other, and that that’s how we got here in the first place. It’s like listening to someone who doesn’t have the facts say “can’t we all just get along?” to a group of people trying to work out a genuine solution based on how the system currently works. And that system is far more complicated than Arrow makes it out to be. Look, I’m all for shows going political on hot-button issues, but if you’re going to do an episode where characters cheekily rattle off statistics, it better not be about an issue where people are being murdered in the real world. You also have to approach it seriously. As an American and a human being, I mourned the shootings in Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Aurora, and others. As a gay man, tears fell from my face when I read the news of Orlando. So no, Arrow doesn’t get to squeak by simply because it wants to be relevant outside of DC Comics this week. Its ambiguous solutions and dialogue that sounds like it was torn from an opinionated high schooler’s Twitter page just won’t fly. Stick to the superhero swashbuckling, leave the politics to the ones who know what they’re talking about. Grade: F

By Matt Dougherty

One Response to Arrow: “Spectre of the Gun” Season 5 Episode 13 Review

  1. Darren says:

    Good review. I took the show off my DVR after this (had been contemplating it for a while, but this was the last straw). The idea that ANY member of a group of vigilantes whose team has used lethal force should be indignantly opposed to gun ownership by private citizens is breathtaking in its hypocrisy. One can debate for or against gun ownership, or to what extent controls are necessary and reasonable and so forth, but a vigilante who belongs to a group, some of whose members use guns, and which routinely takes the law into its own hands, and which has employed lethal force while so doing simply has NO standing to criticize the idea that private citizens should be able to own weapons for their own defense. The same applies to any public official who condones or works with this team.

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