Arrow: 5.13 Spectre Of The Gun
This week's episode of Arrow tackled the thorny subject of gun control. As a UK viewer, it's a bit of an odd debate - who shouldn't there be enhanced security around the ownership of firearms? But across the pond it is a debate that has raged on for far too long and Arrow decided to tackle this head on. Of the four DC superhero shows produced on The CW, it's usual the brighter, breezier Supergirl that focuses on the big social issues, something even more apparent of late considering the nature of current US politics. But on this issue, the darker, more violent Arrow emerged as a prime candidate and it was handled surprisingly well.
At least it did once it really got into the heated debate between the characters - Oliver and the the pro-gun Councilwoman Pollard and Curtis and Rene. The more aggressive, impulsive Rene Ramirez was naturally all for guns, believing that they keep people safe, while Curtis addressed the age old problem that their main purpose is to kill. Having built up their friendship in the weeks following Evelyn's betrayal, it added another interesting layer of conflict between them, and one handled with a degree of respect.
The irony of course was that it was guns that got Rene's wife killed as the flashbacks addressed his past pre-season five Arrow. Now I'm not sure I was desperate to see his history. Rene, aka Wild Dog has only grown on me through persistence, not by an immediate warming to the character. Perhaps that is part of the design, but it is only when he has softened, building up surprising new friendships with Curtis and now Quentin Lance, that I have finally started to connect with him. To be honest, the flashback offered very little about Rene as a character. We've always known he has anger issues and while the episode introduced to his drug-addled wife Laura (Samaire Armstrong) I still didn't feel as if there was anything revelatory about what unfolded - despite perhaps having a daughter. Laura's addiction destroyed his home life (though did his discharge from the army factor into that?) and it was a gun that killed her. The irony of course was that by shooting the killer, Rene may have accidentally put Laura in the direct firing line, proving just how misguided his view might be.
After the shocking, violent attack at City Hall in the beginning, the first half of the episode seemed to struggle to find its groove, those flashbacks failing to engage. It even felt a little dull in place, lacking the drama of a big villain like Prometheus to drive the plot forward. But that slow first half actually proved to be the saving grace of the second. This wasn't some big masked killer out to take down the Green Arrow. This was a man wracked with grief over the death of his wife and daughters in a department store shooting, seeking revenge and trying to demonstrate, perhaps in the most foolish way, the need to enhance gun control. His actions were wrong, and any sympathies lost when he targeted a hospital, but this was any ordinary person pushed to extraordinary odds in a very violent world.
And that's perhaps why Arrow was the best place to address this. Oliver and his allies uses violence to defeat violence; their goals might seem justified but the show's recurring debate over killing has often shown that the means to achieve that goal might not always be right. The presence of Vigilante, shooting the man Green Arrow was questioning, showed that there was always a step too far. (And of course Vigilante has to be Adrian Chase - I hope they don't make a huge deal over the inevitable reveal because it is obvious). Which is why I liked that it was Mayor Oliver Queen and not Star City defender Green Arrow that faced down to vengeful James Edlund in the hospital corridor.
The episode ended doing what real life has seemed to ever really achieve; Oliver putting in place a gun control policy that didn't impact the right of buyers and sellers but still addressed security concerns. Some might question whether shows like this are the best place to focus on these issues, but I think the murky waters of Arrow where violence and hope go hand in hand is the perfect place. At the end of the day, we watched superhero shows like Arrow and Supergirl because we want to see superheroes save the day. And perhaps if we can see those heroes address the wrongs of the world, perhaps there's a little bit of inspiration for those watching too?