Arrow 5×13 Review: 'Spectre of the Gun'

Gun violence is by and far one of the most important issues and pressing concerns around the world. It’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed whenever possible and wherever it makes sense. It’s definitely a discussion that needs to be had.
But Arrow was not the show to do it.
Throughout its five-year story, Arrow has glorified violence as it has made it a significant part of its hero and his story. Not only has our hero experienced this violence – gun violence included – but he’s also dealt it. There have been multiple killings with a multitude of weapons, including guns, where this issue was never brought to light. Until now. Until the writers wanted to make a stand; to get attention it seemed like.
Everything from the warning before the episode to the central focus were indicators. This felt like it was made to get attention. You can’t glorify violence and then decide that you want to preach gun violence awareness because you want the attention.
Here’s the thing, gun violence absolutely deserves attention. In fact, it demands it. But you need to be mindful of the platform from which you’re preaching. A show where, for five years, there has been copious amounts of violence – including gun violence – and where there was hardly ever a moment of reflection or consequence makes the message that Arrow is preaching fall a tad short. You come off as hypocritical.

With that said, even though I believe Arrow was not the show to deliver this message, I do respect the producers and writers for feeling strongly enough about the issue to do so. But it didn’t feel like the appropriate platform to accomplish it. To make it relate to us from an Arrow perspective. Because if this were any other episode of any other show, that message would’ve come across.
One of the biggest problems with this episode was the people it chose to focus this issue on. Oliver, I understand. His father killed himself with a gun. His ex-fiancée was shot and paralyzed only last year. Not to mention all of the other people he’s lost over the years. Rene, I understand. A gun is his weapon of choice, and we saw with his backstory that he has a reason to feel strongly about this issue.
But what about characters like Diggle, who has been on the delivering and receiving end? Or Felicity? You know, Felicity, who was shot and paralyzed (at one point) and has had to live with that trauma every day since it happened.

The fact that Felicity was silenced during an hour where she should’ve been one of the commanding voices was downright infuriating. It once again illustrates how Arrow is so pent up on its new cast of characters that it fails to recognize its veteran players (not named Oliver Queen.) It’s moments like this where I’m reminded of how the Arrow writers are losing grip on their preexisting characters as this show grows into something else. Something not as good.
You cannot tell me that Felicity doesn’t have an opinion about gun violence. She’s lived it. And that trauma isn’t something that just fades away. It sticks with you. We got to see how it stuck with Rene, so why weren’t we allowed to see that with Felicity? Oh, that’s right, because she’s not one of the newbies and therefore deemed insignificant in the broader scope of things.

It bothers me because the women of Arrow (the ones remaining) are being silenced. And it’s not just Felicity. It’s also Thea. Thea, who has been absent for a couple episodes and is essentially, it feels like, being written out of the story. Given Willa Holland’s smaller presence this season, it feels as if Arrow is writing her character off. It’s a reminder that they don’t know what to do with female characters. It’s also a reminder that they don’t care.
The thing with Arrow is that this is Oliver Queen’s origin story. I understand that. So I find myself wondering how an episode like “Spectre of the Gun” is ultimately going to affect him as a hero moving forward. Because in this episode he was profoundly affected. He promised change. He enacted change. But is this really going anywhere? Are we going to see a change in Oliver?
Let me remind you that this season – Oliver’s fifth year since returning from hell – we have seen him killing without remorse. Sure, that would be fine if this was season one (actually it wouldn’t be fine, but it would be expected,) but at this point in Oliver’s journey we’re supposed to find him at the cusp of accepting his Green Arrow hero mantle. And I don’t feel like he’s there. He was more Green Arrow in the beginning of season four than he’s been since.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be times where Oliver is forced to kill because it’s a last resort – Damien Darhk was proof of that. But seeing Oliver embracing the darkness from season one and killing like it’s no big deal negates all of that progress he’s made. What has he really learned?
So Arrow writers, if you want this episode to leave some kind of lasting impact; if you want this help your hero grow, then perhaps show us how Oliver will approach violence moving forward. Don’t go back to perpetuating violence to fight violence. Make an example out of this situation. Make an example out of Oliver. Help Oliver really accept the world around him and how protecting a city isn’t just about fighting conflict with violence. Help him realize that protecting a city is done in more ways than one.

“When I think about all of the people I’ve lost. I think of the choices that I had to make after. Some choices were easy, but the important choices, the choices worth making were hard. Fortunately we live in the land of the brave, we rise up and we fight back.”

Make this meaningful.

Five Things…

  1. Why was Felicity not allowed to have an opinion? Is it because she’s a woman? Is it because the show doesn’t care? Because if someone on Team Arrow should’ve had a strong opinion about gun violence it’s Felicity. And yet she was made out to not give a damn. And we know damn right that’s not Felicity.
  2. Dare I say I’m starting to like Rene. He’s still my least favorite character on the show not named Susan Williams. But getting to see some of his backstory and see a more vulnerable side to him – and seeing the pain and struggle he’s endured – is definitely something that’s helping me get a better angle on him.
  3. I really enjoyed Diggle and Dinah’s dynamic. Dinah has been a character that I thought I’d dislike because she was being introduced as Black Canary. But I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’m liking her. And I loved her dynamic with Diggle in this episode as he serves as a mentor and a new friend as Dinah struggles to find some semblance of normal again.
  4. THEA IS FINALLY BACK. But for how long? I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t shocked when I read that Willa Holland is only contracted for 14 out of 23 episodes this season. She’s been a series regular since this show’s inception. Thea is an incredibly important part of Oliver’s story. So why is she being pushed to the background? Why does it feel like she’s slowly being written off?
  5. Thea’s disgust for Susan Williams is my new aesthetic. While Thea might be vomiting a little in her mouth at the mere mention of Oliver and Susan, we’re vomiting buckets as we have to watch it unfold. The countdown continues for the end of Susan Williams.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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