Before this season of “Arrow” started, we heard from Stephen Amell and others that one of the goals was to ground the series more, and bring it back further to its roots. While this may be a superhero show in both name and content, it’s also a crime drama featuring characters doing their best in order to survive. Sometimes, that tends to be glossed over when you are putting most of the focus as a viewer on the battle scenes and the special effects. It’s fantastic entertainment, but you want to keep the humanity of the series intact.
Wednesday night’s new episode “Spectre of the Gun” did just that. It may be controversial, but is the sort of controversial we approve of and respect. This may be, bar none, one of the series’ strongest episodes in terms of writing and acting. It handled a delicate issue with respect, and didn’t seek to make anyone feel stupid or wrong for their particular point of view. This is absolutely what you want for a show taking on this sort of content.
The story – After a shootout in City Hall that left seven people dead, Oliver Queen had to confront head-on the issue of gun violence in the city. This required him to justify his viewpoint to the media, and fight with City Council members and constituents to figure out a solution that worked for everyone.
Meanwhile, we saw tension brewing among the team as the team started to make more and more of their opinions clear on the subject of gun violence. Was it a means for self-defense, or something dangerous that we’d be better off without? We saw through Curtis a man eager to take on the issue and embrace different viewpoints; meanwhile, Rene was combative with his perspective that the 2nd Amendment was important, and Felicity was at first eager to shut it down before engaging in it more down the line.
The performances – We want to give a copious amount of credit to Stephen Amell for taking on this weighty material, and giving us so many different wrinkles to Oliver that we haven’t seen in some time. Meanwhile, Rick Gonzalez gave arguably the performance of the season as we dove into Rene’s backstory, something that he doesn’t talk about all that much but we understood was incredibly important to who he is and why he became Wild Dog. We saw a violent stand-off involving his wife (who was an addict who owed money) end in her death; eventually, he also lost his daughter when Child Protective Services took her away and put her into a foster home. He eventually became Wild Dog after seeing Oliver’s famed alter-ego on television, and decided that he wanted to fight. All of this material was nothing short of fantastic, and we feel so much more for Rene than we ever did before going into the hour.
The aftermath – Eventually, Oliver and the team found the man responsible for the shooting — he wasn’t a villain in a mask, but rather a broken man who turned to violence out of fear and heartache after losing his family. Oliver talked him down without using violence himself, and from there decided to enact a new gun-control measure with Rene’s help.
While it was a small storyline in the episode, we do want to give a small shout-out to the Diggle / Dinah story tonight where we saw her eventually establish some roots in Star City. She signed up for the SCPD (hey, she needs a day job), and she also found herself a studio apartment.
Overall, the main thing we want to address with this episode is how important it is sometimes to stop in and focus hard on the characters you have, what makes them the way that they are, and the importance of empathy in this world. “Spectre of the Gun” had all of that; it had some vintage “Arrow” moments, but also a smart and serious discuss. This was one of the better episodes of the series, and to date one of the best episodes of 2017. Grade: A.
Next week – The show will be getting back more to its comic-book identity, as you will be seeing the return of three important female villains. Want to read more about that? Then just head over to the link here. (Photo: The CW.)