‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 5 Episode 13: ‘Spectre of the Gun’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
On this week’s episode, we learn the secret origin of Wild Dog! Also, gun violence erupts in City Hall as Ollie learns there are some problems he can’t fight as the Green Arrow. “Spectre of the Gun” was directed by Kristin Windell from a script by Marc Guggenheim.
Chris: Hello, dear Arrow-Heads, and welcome back to Pointed Commentary! Quite an episode this week, Emma. What did you think?
Emma: I was certainly surprised to get such a passionate debate about gun control! How about you, Chris? Did the episode meet your high expectations?
Chris: You know, I think this episode made my personal list of “Top 3 Episodes of Arrow (That I’ve Personally Seen) of All Time”™.
Emma: Oh wow. Chris, you are never this enthusiastic. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?
Chris: Before we get into the episode, I think that people read our recaps not just to hear talk about the show itself, but also our experiences with the show as we’re on this journey to figure out if we’ve failed Star City or not, so I have to tell you about something bizarre, but hilarious that happened during my viewing of the show. Would you like to try to guess what it was, even though I know there is no way you can possibly guess?
Emma: Somebody shot you in the leg with a green arrow? A black canary flew into your window? You smiled and laughed? I got nothing.
Chris: I guess I should have specified that it wasn’t so much something that happened to me, but something that happened to the episode.
So, for the first 10-15 minutes of the show, and I have no idea if this was just a local problem for my area or some kind of satellite malfunction or some kind of spooky dark sorcery, but everything was playing in a slow-mo that was just slow enough that nothing looked odd, but everyone had really deep voices. Imagine Ollie is using his “Arrow voice” when he’s just talking in the office… but also, everyone else is doing an “Arrow voice” impression. At first, I thought maybe I was going insane. Then all of a sudden it sped up to normal speed. It was strange and wonderful and it made me pay such close attention to those odd opening minutes.
Emma: Hahahahaha that’s amazing! I wish that had happened for my viewing too, but alas. I’m assuming it’s dark sorcery at work, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t losing your mind, Chris.
We were both super lucky with this week’s episode, though. I saw some chatter on Twitter when it was airing on the east coast that people were loving it, especially the directing, and I have to say I agreed once I was able to watch it myself. Of course, now that we’ve acknowledged it, next week is going to make us want to claw our eyes out, I’m sure.
Chris: Oh, of course. Such is the balancing act of Arrow.
This episode had a lot of things working in it’s favor to make it a stand-out for me. We get to learn more about one of the new characters that we like, with Rene’s “Secret Origin”. We got to see another new and interesting character dynamic begin to be established between Dig and Dinah. We got to see Ollie actually being the mayor for the majority of the episode, and the show actually did something with it. We were reminded a number of characters existed (like Thea and Vigilante) without pulling focus from the main plot(s) of the episode.
But most importantly, the episode had a clear story and message it was interested in telling, and it did so in admirable fashion.
Emma: Okay, so let’s talk about that story. Someone comes into City Hall and starts shooting up the place, killing five people, injuring 24, and putting eight in critical care. He doesn’t seem to be targeting Ollie as the mayor, he just wants to inflict some damage.
Rene, who has just been hired as the deputy mayor’s assistant, shoots the guy several times with a gun he probably shouldn’t be carrying around at his day job, but the bad guy’s wearing a kevlar vest so he gets away. Most of our faves make it out fine, but Adrian Chase did get shot in the shoulder. Team Arrow and Team City Hall then have to figure out who did this, why, and what to do about it.
Chris: This is exactly how I witnessed those events unfolding as well. Only with deep voices. Did we get any real explanation for how this guy could have gotten not just into City Hall, but this deep into City Hall carrying that much weaponry?
Emma: Not really. He had a uniform and duffle bag from Forefather Repairs, but I would have thought that there might be some kind of security he’d have to pass through to get into City Hall.
Chris: I’d have to assume at the very least there’s a metal detector!
Emma: Right? They have those at basically every governmental building. Was Forefather Repairs supposed to be a nod to the idea of fixing mistakes? Especially governmental ones? I feel like presidents are the only ones who get called “forefathers.”
Chris: I took it more as just a kind of very on the nose visual signifier of the idea of people who shout about their Second Amendment right to own an arsenal of assault weapons thinking of themselves as patriots.
Emma: Yep, okay. The Second Amendment comes up a ton in this episode after Felicity figures out who the shooter was. Turns out he was “nobody,” just a middle aged white systems analyst. I assume by “nobody” she means not a Big Bad, just an average, run of the mill bad guy. His daughters died in a big mall shooting 16 months before, and he’s angry about the previous city administration shooting down the Star City Gun Registry. Curtis and Rene then fight all episode about the right to bear arms versus the right to, well, not die.
Chris: Yeah, this episode was clearly trying to walk a very, very fine line between the point they were trying to make and making people with guns angry.
Emma: And it’s hard for a show about a vigilante who shoots people constantly (with arrows, but still) to say that violence is not an option, or that people shouldn’t be able to buy weapons. Rene straight up says, “Look at what we do, man! Our whole life is violence!” But the show does suggest that some limits to gun ownership might not be a bad thing.
Chris: Yeah, it’s really hard to try to tackle such a serious real world issue on a TV show, period, but even more so when that show was fighting an alien invasion a few weeks ago. I mean, I applaud them for trying and I think they did a great job, but this could not have been an easy script to finish. I did really appreciate Vigilante saying that guns are more effective than arrows. I mean, no one ever mentions it, and it is, at the very least, objectively true.
Emma: Yes, but do guns let you string people upside down? Or do any of the rad things that Ollie’s trick arrows do? Guns are more efficient for sure, but they not as cool.
Chris: You know, now that you mention it, I think that’s this show’s biggest problem: Ollie barely has/uses any trick arrows! He’s got like, a rope one and… pointy. That’s it! Where’s the boxing glove? Where’s the net? Where’s the impact resistant restraint foam?! His stance against guns and killing would make a lot more sense if he used less lethal arrows.
Emma: I am now Googling all of the trick arrows he uses in the comics. I honestly thought you made up the boxing glove arrow, but nope. Glue arrow? Phantom Zone arrow? Chimney sweep arrow? I want to see these.
I do think episode was probably hard to write, and they did a great job. I really appreciated that they had totally reasonable people arguing for both sides --- Curtis and Rene, Ollie and the councilwoman --- as much as I personally lean towards more gun control. There were no screaming fights, just respectful discussion, which Curtis later on tells Felicity there isn’t enough of these days.
Rene’s belief in guns solving problems stems from his wife’s death, which we learn about in the flashbacks this episode. Maybe that’s another reason why this episode was so refreshing --- no Ollie flashbacks!
Chris: Yes! I forgot to mention that earlier as one of the show's highlights! No Russia! Also, very little Felicity! Of course, your enjoyment of that may vary.
Emma: Felicity sucked in this episode anyway. She’s still using information from the Pandora data cache and lying to everyone about it, which isn’t great, and she spent most of her time onscreen telling Curtis and Rene to shut up.
Chris: What is the point of lying about it exactly? I mean, is it really any more unethical or illegal than all of the previous hacking she’s done? No. The answer is no.
Emma: Nope. It makes no sense to me. Maybe she just wants to hide her secret history as the Ghost Fox Goddess, because it is a terrible name.
Chris: I probably wouldn’t want people dragging my old online handles up either.
Emma: I was known as “llamanostrils” for a while. Don’t ask.
Chris: See, you say, “don’t ask” and yet that immediately begs for elaboration.
Emma: I have to maintain some mystery here, Chris.
Chris: Let’s talk about Rene’s backstory. What we were shown was certainly not what I expected Wild Dog’s origin to be, but what did you think?
Emma: I loved it. Rene is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters, and the idea of him as a husband and father makes my heart clench. It kills me that he wears the jersey he was wearing when his wife died as his vigilante uniform; I want to go back and rewatch his first episode to see if his jersey has that bullet hole. How did you like it? What were you expecting?
Chris: I don’t know, it’s just hard to imagine him as a family man, you know? I like the idea, but it’s a little hard to reconcile at first. It also seems like there was even more backstory there we could have gotten into to get him from dishonorably discharged from the Marines to a nicely furnished apartment with an addict wife and a 9-12-ish aged daughter.
Emma: I figure he and his wife were together before he joined the Marines, and probably had Zoe then too. After he came back he wanted to make sure they had a good life, so he did what he had to do to get them out of the Glades. But now I’m basically writing fanfiction about Rene, who knows. I do hope we find out about what led to his dishonorable discharge.
Chris: My main question throughout those scenes was I was dying to know what his job was.
Speaking of jobs, our new Black Canary has found a job with the SCPD and a place to live with a garden!
Emma: She needed a bit of pushing from Dig, but she got there. Dinah’s still figuring out what life is going to look like now that she’s done with her quest for vengeance. How do you deal with three years that you can’t talk about? How can she manage both her regular life and her night time vigilantism? Will she make time for romance? She’s basically wondering how to be normal again, and takes Dig’s advice to start with the apartment.
Chris: What I want to know is what she put on that employment application with the SCPD. I feel like they have to have some pretty serious questions about the blank three years, right? I guess Ollie could try to pull some strings.
Emma: Anyone sensible would have questions about those three years, but she was also dealing with her partner dying and a long time undercover. I’m sure other cops would understand the need for some time away. Her references from Hub City would be pretty stellar, I think.
Chris: Yeah, that makes sense. It’s these boring, everyday questions that really nag at me or pique my curiosity.
Emma: Dinah was also on the pro-gun side of the debate, talking about people’s right to defend themselves. This seems to line up with Rene’s stance --- he believes that he could have saved his wife’s life if he had his gun on him. I’m not sure I buy into that, though. He had a gun in the house, that didn’t help. Even if he had his gun on his person, who knows if he’d have been able to get a shot off first? You know what probably would have helped his wife? More city services to help those struggling with addiction.
Chris: And what are the odds that this whole situation would go down the same night he’s just had a whole guns vs. drugs argument with her?
Emma: Oh right, it did! I appreciated his taking a hard line with her about the drugs. “When I come back, either there’s no more drugs in this house, or there’s no more you in this house.” That’s a really tough call to make, but it’s clear that the safety of his daughter is the most important thing to him. Which makes it even more heartbreaking when child services takes her away.
Chris: I really hope that part of his arc for the rest of this season is the team helping him get his daughter back. I mean, the guy works in the mayor’s office now! Sure, I haven’t seen that he even still has a place where he lives, but surely he can get that sorted?
Emma: Speaking of family, we saw Thea return to Star City. I’m glad Thea hates Susan Williams as much as I do. Now that she’s back in town she’s doing her sisterly duty by questioning Ollie about his relationship choices. Ollie’s response was hilarious: “She’s good at her job, and she’s a good person. So there.” I’m sorry, Ollie, are you two years old?
Chris: Also, is that seriously going to come back to bite him in the ass or what?
Emma: His relationship with Susan Williams? For sure. It’s not wise to invite a journalist into your home where who knows what sketchy secrets are hiding.
Chris: I’m still very curious to see which way everything with Susan shakes out, but there is no way there’s not going to be a very awkward conversation at some point before the season is over.
Emma: Susan is all about making people have awkward conversations, that’s her whole job. It’ll be entertaining at the very least!
The episode ends with a vigil at City Hall for those who died. Ollie has a whole speech about how easy it is to become desensitized to violence and how easy it is to respond with more violence. It’s not a terrible speech, but it’s not a great speech. It’s very Ollie. There was some stuff about being brave, but honestly it was a bit hard to follow.
Chris: I liked it. Ollie’s not the best public speaker or anything, but Stephen Amell seemed to be calling on every iota of acting ability he’s capable of, and I mean that in a complementary way, and not a snarky, sarcastic way. I could be inclined to believe this is a cause he believes in.
What about how he saved the day as Oliver Queen and not as The Green Arrow for a change when he talked down the shooter?
Emma: We’ve been asking him him to do that all season and he finally did! He made use of his power as mayor and a regular human person to do good, like we knew he could. He used his words. Well done.
Chris: Like I said, a lot to like this episode! Let us know what you thought in the comments, dear readers, and be back here next week when we probably have to deal with Russia flashbacks again!