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

Arrow took on the controversial issue of gun violence in its episode titled “Spectre of the Gun,” which found a show that has promoted violence over the past five seasons suddenly preaching gun awareness.

Our Fangirlish writers Alyssa, Lizzie, Nora, and Sarah are breaking down this week’s Arrow, which has us upset over the hypocrisy of Arrow‘s tackling gun violence.

Describe your thoughts about “Spectre of the Gun” using just six words.

Alyssa: Arrow was not the show for that.

Lizzie: Hypocrisy, thy name is definitely Arrow.

Nora: We were doing so well, then…

Sarah: Arrow…just why did you do this?

Describe your feelings about “Spectre of the Gun” using a gif.





Arrow tackled a huge issue with gun violence this week. Was it the right show to do it?

Alyssa: Absolutely not. It’s an incredibly important issue in our world that deserves attention in this medium, but coming from Arrow it felt disingenuous when this show has been glorifying violence since its series premiere. You can’t condone gun violence — or violence in general — for five seasons and then all of a sudden preach gun violence awareness. Don’t forget we’ve seen our hero on the delivering and receiving end of a multitude of violent events throughout 100 plus episodes. I’m sorry, but this just felt like a plea for attention and a way to get noticed and perhaps notch up those struggling ratings in a disappointing season.

Arrow was not the right show to drive home this powerful message and issue. This issue needs to be addressed — in fact, it demands it. There have been instances where shows have tackled the issue, everything from One Tree Hill to 7th Heaven to Glee. And you know what? It felt genuine. Because these weren’t shows that perpetuated violence on a weekly basis. The message resonated.

Perhaps the thing that makes this so hypocritical is how Oliver Queen’s story revolves around violence. He went through five years of hell, and then returned home to fight violence with violence. We’ve seen Oliver kill without remorse, including this season where he’s supposed to be a hero. We’ve seen killing glorified because it was our hero, the Green Arrow, doing the killing. I understand that sometimes for Oliver killing is absolutely necessary because there’s nothing left to do. Damien Darhk, for example, deserved to die. He had killed hundreds of thousands and attempted to wipe out the entire world. That demands retribution. But all of these other killings we’ve seen — this season — are not excused. What happened to not killing? Has Oliver suddenly forgotten the promise he made to Tommy? Forgot the hero he became? He can still kill Darhk and maintain that sense of morality that he’s spent four years cultivating. So, what, killing is okay when Oliver’s delivering the blows, but it’s not okay when someone else does it out of grief? In this episode, you could tell that the writers wanted this mass violence to be a wake-up call for Oliver. Sure, Oliver can say that he learned that he can’t fight violence with violence all of the time. But if there’s never a payoff, what the hell is it even worth?

Lizzie: The simple answer is no, and yet, there was a way for them to do it. They just didn’t go that route. The only way tackling a subject like this on a show like Arrow would have worked is if they had pointed out the hypocrisy of it all, but then again, Arrow has never been that self-aware. So they were left in the no-man’s land of trying to tackle a really important subject with the wrong tone and the wrong characters.

Because, once again, if ANYONE was going to have an opinion on gun violence, it should have been the one person who’s been a victim to gun violence. You know, the one who was almost paralyzed? But no, Arrow wouldn’t give Felicity the courtesy of an opinion, she was relegated to the role of the person who doesn’t want to talk about it, which is absurd, because Felicity has never been known to shut down about anything that’s not really personal. And you can say – well, this is really personal! That’s in character. And I’ll retort with – NOTHING the episode gave me made me think she was shutting down because it was too personal. Nothing. If that’s what the writers were going for, they failed, horribly. A viewer can’t be expected to fill in all the blanks without as much as a hint from the show.

As for the other characters, they all turned hypocrites for the sake of the story, especially Oliver, the guy who has no compunction about killing anymore, but who stood there in front of the shooter and tried to sell the whole: It’s not your call to make shit. Funny, it’s not his call to make but it is yours, right Oliver? Because every night you go out there in your GA costume you are judge and executioner so forgive me if I just can’t see past your hypocrisy.

Want to hear the worst part? I haven’t even gone into how they somehow invented a magical solution that they didn’t share with us. Because THAT’S realistic. The only thing worse than tackling a subject like this the way Arrow did is pretending that it’s the sort of thing that can be fixed in one episode. Shame on you, Arrow. Shame on you.

Nora: An important topic to tackle on any show, but I don’t think Arrow was the show to do so. I just don’t think Arrow was the right show out of all the DCTV shows to talk about this. Arrow is a show about a masked vigilante who killed people using violence in the first several seasons. Even today, the show continues to do that. Wild Dog carries around guns as his weapon of choice after all. I think this episode would’ve been better executed if different characters were involved in the main storylines and if Arrow was more self-aware. In order to create a source of discussion, characters took out of character and opposing stands. For example, Oliver Queen himself. This is a man who hunts down and kills people and basically plays God for a living.

The fact that this episode was chosen to also reveal Wild Dog’s family backstory was not a great time to do so. Linking Wild Dog to the gun violence storyline made the least amount of sense. Yes, his wife was killed by a madman with a gun, but the storyline wasn’t personal enough for me. I know Arrow was trying to show both sides of the gun violence debate, but I think this episode would’ve been better suited if it focused on a different character that was directly affected by gun-violence namely FELICITY MEGAN SMOAK!

What made this episode more infuriating is that Felicity was not even given an opinion on the subject. Need I remind the Arrow writers that she was gunned down by a madman last season and spent the greater part of 4B paralyzed because a lunatic handed assault rifles to his henchmen. If anyone were to stand up for this debate it would be Felicity. It also would’ve been completely in character for Felicity to stand up for what she believes in. She’s done so her entire life, so the fact that Arrow silences her here was appalling. I’ve forgiven Arrow for a lot of stupid shit this season, but this might be the worst storyline they’ve done to date.

This isn’t the first time a show has tackled the gun violence debate, but for other shows it came up more naturally and the characters had better connection to the trauma at hand. If Arrow wanted to make an impact in the gun violence debate it should’ve taken a queue from One Tree Hill. Honestly, one of the most impactful and emotional gun violence episodes of TV to date. Arrow could’ve given us a very poignant episode if they included Felicity in the discussion and stopped trying to make us forget what these character do week after week. We watch a show where a man in a mask runs around killing people.

Sarah: Absolutely not. I don’t mean to disparage the Arrow writers with that blunt statement, because in the past Arrow has touched on some sensitive issues and have overall (up to this season at least) given them a decent amount of respect. Gun control or violence or anything near this I would have thought obvious given the track record of Oliver Queen alone let alone this show would have merited a “hey maybe we aren’t the best medium to give this topic the respect it deserves” THOUGHT, but that was once again my bad for assuming the Arrow writers would follow some kind of common sense when it comes to well written and understandable storytelling.

To make matters worse, I have to agree with my fellow writers about how the one way they could have made this respectable or at the very least relatable was giving Felicity a voice about this, since she was actually……paralyzed by a gunshot to the spine. (More on this later) The point is that honestly I get what they were trying to do, but their execution was just badly done especially with what Oliver pulled at the end of the episode. He’s been surrounded by violence for so long I had a hard time believing he’d come out the other side with any kind of opinion other than what he’s been telling himself all these years he’s worn a hood. Not to mention he comes out with a gun ordinance that’s……supposedly respectable for both “freedom & lives” and yet is vague……with no real details on how. In real life that would cause chaos, we’re lucky this is a tv show and all it causes the audience is frustration and confusion. Arrow writers take note, this is *not good storytelling*.

Describe your feelings about Arrow not letting Felicity have an opinion on gun violence using a gif.





What were your thoughts on Arrow not giving Felicity an opinion about gun violence given that she’s been the victim of it?

Alyssa: It’s beyond ridiculous and beyond basic comprehension of the topic at hand. The fact that Felicity was silenced by these writers about an issue that has personally impacted her in significant ways is deplorable. It shows their complete lack of respect for her character and what she’s experienced. You can’t tell me that Felicity doesn’t have a stance on gun violence. You can’t tell me that she doesn’t believe strongly in the issue. Felicity lived this. She’s surely had to relive it every day she wakes up. Even though she’s not paralyzed anymore that doesn’t mean this experience is erased from her mind. The emotional ramifications are something she has to live with every day. And you’re trying to tell me she doesn’t have something to say about the issue.

F*** you.

There was an opportunity to make this issue hit deeper than it did. That’s the frustrating part. While Arrow would never be the show I’d think of to address the issue of violence, incorporating Felicity’s story would’ve certainly helped. Is the subject matter sensitive? Yes. Like Lizzie said, perhaps this was something that she didn’t want to discuss for that reason. Because it was too hard for her to go back to that horrific moment. But Arrow didn’t convey that she felt that way. She came off as passive to the whole thing. Like it was someone just talking about their preferences to material things instead of a massive issue like gun violence.

Arrow has forgotten what it is. It went from a show with a nice balance of action and character to a show hell bent on showing action sequences and comic moments with the occasional cliched drama aspect that no one wants to see. If this were Arrow — the real Arrow — we would’ve seen Felicity have a say. We would’ve been able to connect to this episode. But it didn’t. And this isn’t Arrow. So we were dealt this mess.

Lizzie:  Look, I understand what they were going for – there ARE people who don’t want to talk/think about the complicated subjects and Felicity has been known to retreat at times. But going from that to Felicity wouldn’t have an opinion about gun violence when she’s been a victim of it, when she was almost paralyzed forever – that’s reaching. And Arrow has already been doing a lot of reaching with characterization this year, so at this point, we’re not going to take it anymore.

I said it before – could it be that she does have an opinion but this subject is too sensitive for her? Yes. Did the show give me any indication that this was the case? No. Because this show does not deal in nuances and doesn’t seem to care about keeping the characters they created consistent with who they’ve always been. It’s like they write in a vacuum and they only care about this episode, this message, and to hell with continuity.

And that’s demoralizing. I don’t watch Arrow because of the stunts or God forbid, the nonsensical plot, I watch for the characters. And if the characters are not the ones I fell in love with, then why am I even watching?

Nora: I think it was the biggest mistake Arrow could’ve made in all honest. It angers me to no end that this show refuses to give complicated storylines to Felicity. I’ve said it before, but there’s a serious problem in the DCTV universe where complex storylines are just avoided for the main female characters. This is exemplified in this episode of Arrow by ultimately silencing Felicity’s opinion on the gun violence subject. Even when Rene and Curtis are fighting about it, Felicity just tells them to stop talking because fighting will not solve anything. Felicity would have a strong opinion on the subject because of what Damien Darhk did to her. If anything, she would have the same opinions as Rene, who lost his wife to gun violence. Instead of making this a joint story with Rene and Felicity, Felicity is completely shut out from the episode.

If Arrow wanted to solely focus on Rene for this episode, that’s fine, but still give Felicity an opinion or have Emily Bett Rickards play the episode differently. Give her the mean to play Felicity’s storyline like it’s just too traumatic for her to engage with. That would’ve made me a little less angry about this whole debacle. If there was some hint that Felicity was staying in the Arrow Bunker fighting from afar because she can’t bear to think about the trauma that was done to her. Are we supposed to forget that Felicity was gunned down and was paralyzed for the better half of a season? Even now, she still deal with the affliction. If it weren’t for Curtis’ technology, she would still be paralyzed. Arrow should’ve allowed her to have a poignant moment with Oliver where she discusses that she isn’t taking part in the gun control debate because it’s too difficult to think about. I would’ve understood THAT! But no, she wasn’t even given a relevant storyline.

Arrow, I keep watching because I keep believing you will turn things around for my favorite character, but after this it’s making me more and more nervous that Felicity is simply going to become a pretty face behind a computer as the “masks” save the day. I don’t want that for her, it’s not fair for a character that has changed the DCTV female game, there I said it. Without Felicity Smoak, you wouldn’t have the strong Iris West or even Sara Lance. I’m just super frustrated.

Sarah: I thought that was literally the most ridiculous & massive screw up I’ve seen in a tv medium in a LONG time. Seriously what the hell Arrow writers? Did you forget about this entire storyline from just one season ago? Not only did you give a bad voice for a serious issue that’s been a hotbed for years, but the ONE character who actually was a victim of gun violence is the ONLY ONE WHO DOESN’T GET ANY KIND OF OPINION?! You don’t even give her a sentence, I mean I can understand Felicity not wanting to talk about it given it was a traumatic event, that she bravely marched through, bless her soul. But there wasn’t any kind of an indication you had *any* intention of letting her be anything other than the standard “character” routine you’ve stuck her with, when breaking this horrible pattern you’ve put her in would make a legitimate and relatable difference to the story.

But no instead it was more of the same bland and watered down version of Felicity that I loved for four whole seasons when she was a well written and relatable character. As sad as it that I’ve gotten used to this kind of bad characterization of her the hope that you might have done it differently on the one time it would have counted was just crushing to my tv loving soul. To the fact that it doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t have an opinion to the entirety of how you handled I just…..I don’t have it in me anymore to hope you’ll get it right or do her or frankly anyone justice.

This week we learned about Rene’s past and got a tease about his storyline moving forward. Are you beginning to warm up to Rene?

Alyssa: I can tell you one thing: I certainly like him more than I ever have before (which has been next to nothing.) It’s been more indifference for me. I didn’t find a reason to care. But I think getting a taste of his backstory and finding an emotional connection certainly helped. But at the same time I don’t think we needed his backstory so soon…unless the show has plans to act on his daughter storyline. But even then, there are preexisting characters we want to see. Of course Felicity and Diggle. But also THEA. The only flashbacks we’ve ever had of her were Oliver’s when he came back to Starling City in season 3.

Lizzie: Meh. I mean, he’s been better the past few episodes, I won’t deny that, but every second he’s on screen is one second the characters I already care about are not, so I don’t think I’m going to stop resenting him anytime soon. Also, giving backstory to a character no one cares about and most people actively dislike is a bad idea, Arrow. Give me more dark Felicity! Give me any inkling that you still remember Olicity was a thing you created and made us root for. Give me OTA. Give Diggle more of a focus. Do anything but give me more Rene.

Nora: He’s started to grow on me for the last few episodes, but I still wish his backstory came in an episode that didn’t already have a massive conversation already taking place. I understand that his backstory went hand-in-hand with the gun violence conversation, but I wish it was part of an episode where it could stand on its own. That being said, I’m glad we FINALLY have a backstory for Rene and that finally gives me some context as to why we should care about this character. I hope that Arrow didn’t dangle this daughter storyline in front of us and nothing will come of it this season. I need to see Rene’s dynamic shift now because he has a daughter. She better play a more important role moving forward.

I do think the backstory episode came a little too soon. They should be building up Rene’s character in the present before we get the backstory. It took us three seasons to get Felicity’s backstory. Rene is eating up a lot of screen time, more so than any other new character. I would rather have his screen time spent on Felicity, Diggle and Thea! Like OMG where is Thea and where is her storyline? Rene, you’re growing on me, but I think you need to earn your stripes before we see so much of you.

Sarah: It was nice to get some backstory on Rene, I won’t lie but it still doesn’t feel like enough to really help his character right now. If we aren’t relating to him in the present, looking into his past may expand his character but it doesn’t really make it easier to connect with him now. Don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike his character by any means (I was mostly whatever about him in the beginning), but I just don’t think it’s a good use of screen time to do this right now. I liked that it kicked off a story of his own with Curtis, but the fact that on his very first flashback they are willing to start off what will be an important story for him without willing to give the same treatment to characters the audience has known and loved longer *cough Felicity Thea etc cough* then where’s the balance?

We got a glimpse at the dynamic between Diggle and Dinah as Dig continues to serve his mentor role. What did you think of their relationship? And how are you liking Dinah?

Alyssa: Honestly, this was my favorite part of the episode. Although that wasn’t hard to contend with given the circumstances and hypocrisy at hand. While Dinah is meeting some hatred, I’m actually growing to really like her. Given how they took Rory from us it’s actually nice that this newest of the new character is someone that I actually like. Dinah is the badass Canary we’ve been waiting for since Sara Lance left for Legends of Tomorrow. Like Lizzie says, she already feels like she’s a part of the team.

As for Diggle and Dinah’s relationship, I loved how this was made a point to show how men and women can be friends and not romantically involved. I think there was this belief that Oliver and Dinah were going to become romantically involved because she’s the new Black Canary, but that doesn’t have to be the case. While I can’t read the writers minds, it feels like Dinah is more about embodying the badass nature of Black Canary and not so much about being a love interest. And I appreciate that.

Lizzie: This was probably the only part of the episode I actually enjoyed. It reminded me of when the show tried to sell me on the Laurel/Diggle friendship and it felt like a lot of tell and no show. This? This is them actually showing me how a friendship evolves, which is yet ANOTHER slap in the face of the character of Laurel Lance. With every second that passes and every little thing they do right by Dinah 2.0 I realize that it’s not that they didn’t know how to write Laurel, is that they didn’t care.

I like Dinah 2.0 a lot, though. She’s a strong character, who already feels like she fits in, who has a lot of room to grow, not just as a person, but in the relationships she has within the team, and I just …like kickass women. I still don’t know why we have to make her THE Black Canary, but whatever. I like her. And I like that she’s getting along with Diggle, and that Diggle was able to subtly guide her into giving herself a chance to have an actual life. I also like that I don’t feel any romantic vibe with her and any of the people on the team. Gasp. It’s like Arrow finally realized women can exist without a romance.

Nora: I really enjoyed this relationship that’s beginning to form. I like that we’re starting from the bottom of this friendship and we will watch it grow and develop. I pray Arrow doesn’t jump the gun on this one and I can watch this friendship grow throughout the seasons. I’m already behind Diggle and Dinah. This also makes me think about Laurel and how Arrow just didn’t seem to care about her character at all. Dinah is basically a re-do for everything they did wrong with Laurel. It’s like they needed a character that wasn’t romantically attached to Oliver already so they can build this character again. I hope they don’t screw up this Black Canary.

I really, really like Dinah. She’s a great addition to Team Arrow and even though she’s only been in 3 or so episodes, she’s already my favorite new member. Dinah has a lot of potential to grow and become a kickass female character and I hope Arrow will do this character justice. I like that her main relationship on Arrow right now is with Diggle. I pray she doesn’t get shoved into a relationship for a very long time. It’s time a female character operates outside of a relationship and I hope Dinah can achieve this. Dinah is shaping up to be a great addition to Arrow and I hope she continues to grow.

Sarah: In spite of my feelings about how she was shoehorned in as the Black Canary, Dinah I actually like a lot as far as new characters we’ve met and joined the team this season. She and Dig have a natural rapport that’s refreshing because we’ve not seen a friendship unfold naturally that was between the opposite genders that has no touch of romance anywhere near it. As nice as that is I’m left asking why did they have to wait to do it with her? Why couldn’t this have been done with Laurel? I doubt it’s something I’ll ever get the answer to but if the one part of this show I enjoy is this then I’ll take what I can get.

Dinah 2.0 is here to stay and I don’t mind in the slightest. She’s a strong (ie pretty decently written given Arrow’s standards these days) and it doesn’t feel out of place to have her there in the Arrow cave. Whatever else is going on in the show that I am not liking I’m looking forward to getting know her character better.

We’re 13 episodes into Arrow’s fifth season. Obviously we’ve all been in agreement that this season has been a massive disappointment. Do you think this season is salvageable? What do you need from Arrow to turn things around?

Alyssa: I feel like this season is beyond saving at this point. Honestly, how can they fix 13 episodes where they’ve basically rewritten a show that was not only working but thriving. I understand change and how it’s good for a show in its fifth season, but change isn’t a complete reinvention of what has established your show as a success. Olicity, OTA, character focus, stories that makes sense, characters that actually act like their characters. That’s what worked. The only way they can manage to salvage the end of the season is by undoing everything that they redid this season. At this point you have to be looking ahead to season 6 and praying that the end of season 5 manages to set the tone for a return to what made Arrow a success. But truthfully, I don’t have much faith in that.

Lizzie: I don’t think so, no. I’m going to be perfectly honest, if we’re on episode 13 and they’re still writing such crappy episodes, it probably means they’re writing the last few episodes of the season and they’re still in the same mindset. Nothing’s gonna change. They’re not going to put the focus back on OTA, they’re not going to suddenly remember that Olicity existed and lay the groundwork for re-building, they’re not going to ever give Diggle more to do. And, sad this is, if they don’t, why would I even watch Season 6?

Nora: I think we are too far gone to save this season. I have to start looking to season 6 at this point and pray season 5 wraps in a way that will make me hopeful for next season. I have a feeling nothing is going to change for the remaining few episodes. If Arrow wanted to surprise me and prove me wrong I would welcome that with open arms. I need some more OTA, I need Felicity to play a bigger role and I NEED storylines for my original cast members, namely Quentin and Thea. Arrow I will love the original characters you created, but I’m getting nervous that I’ll be living in your past episodes as opposed to focusing on the future.

Sarah: At this point, I think salvageable is out the window. The best I’m hoping for now, is any episode that’s not a character and plot trainwreck that spits in the face of all the well done storytelling in the past. If they show any kind of upward track during the rest of season 5 maybe it’ll be enough for me to be curious to watch Season 6. That includes any and all OTA, more of actual character Felicity, and  If not then I’m sad to say I likely won’t be a return viewer during the 2017-2018 season. I loved this show and it’s characters for 4 years, but if you aren’t willing to give them the respect, characterization or hell plot that remotely makes sense for them they deserve then I don’t have the motivation let alone desire to keep watching.

Arrow airs Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW.
Stay tuned for another Arrow roundtable next Wednesday.

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