Arrow: Spectre of the Gun

It's hard to judge an episode like this based solely on quality. If I did, I'd say this was a good episode, a little light on the stuff that usually makes Arrow, well, Arrow. But that wasn't the point. This was a rare topical episode that explored the hot button issue of gun violence and how our (American) society has no clue how to deal with it.

Let's start with the actual content of the episode, which had some small stuff about Dinah allowing herself to move on with life after being just a vigilante for three years. The highlight of her story was her interactions with Diggle, which looked vaguely romantic, but were also full of thoughtful conversations and good advice on his part. I like how she is already a part of the group without the usual growing pains associated with being new in such a well established team.

Speaking of which, wow, the team has gotten big. With Quentin and Thea back, the Arrow cave looked more like a hero convention or a board meeting than the hideout of a solo hero trying to save his city. Of course Oliver hasn't been alone in a long time, and that's probably a good thing because he is still a bit miserable and hasn't entirely moved beyond that first year where he killed a bunch of people.

Much of this episode hinged on Oliver and his role as Mayor. In fact, he finally felt like a politician, working all the angles and trying to be both a leader and snake oil salesman at the same time, pushing awful partisan council members into signing useful legislature despite the inevitable political retribution. It allowed him to act as the middle man in the main argument of the episode; not that we need some kind of gun control, but how do we pursue it when no one listens to the other side.

Curtis: "There's nothing wrong with a little healthy debate, Felicity."
Felicity: "It's not healthy if it doesn't accomplish anything, and it's not going to accomplish anything."
Curtis: "Actually, I disagree. Not about the part of it not accomplishing anything, but this idea that it's not healthy. We used to talk about things as a society, you know. We'd debate, and we would argue, and we would still respect each other after."
Felicity: "Somewhere along the line that just became..."
Curtis & Felicity: "Rude."
Curtis: "It became impolitic to talk politics. I can't help wondering if that's why our country is the way it is today."

This short exchange really hit at the heart of the issue. It isn't whether legislation will infringe on constitutional rights, it is that gun owners are totally unwilling to listen to basic reason. Which then puts the gun control activists on the offensive, attacking when they should be using patience and reason as tools to find some kind of compromise. Compromise. How did that become a bad word? Seriously, compromise is what this nation was founded on, compromise to get our nation started in the middle of a revolution at the cost of generations of black American lives remaining in slavery.

I get it. Compromise is awful, a settlement where no one gets what they want. It's half-assed and often cobbled together, and never actually that functional. But it is literally the best we can do, when issues are so complicated there is no other answer. Because without compromise, without seeing the middle of things, we lock into a never-ending tug of war where nothing ever is accomplished and each side grows more and more embittered and intractable (sound familiar?).

As far as the episode is concerned, it managed to walk the tight rope rather well, talking about each side but not committing to either as right or wrong. Each character had a stance, and occasionally it was a bit simplistic, but given how much they had to do in such a short period of time, I think the episode was very effective in getting its message across.

Flashback:

Serving as both a reason for Rene's stance on guns and a heart-wrenching origin story, these flashbacks were an effective narrative device. I'm happy we finally got some answers about why Wild Dog came about, and some elaboration about why he started. When he had nothing left, after his wife was killed in a home invasion and his daughter was taken from him, he saw the Green Arrow kill Damien Darhk, and that inspired him to put on the mask. This explains so much about Rene, and makes me like him even more. I am really curious as to why are they putting so much into this character, though.

Bits:

As an answer to my questions brought up in last week's Bits, both Vigilante and Thea returned. I didn't realize how much I missed Thea until she came back and filled the hole that's been around since she left.

Dinah got a nice new apartment and joined the SCPD. I guess she is putting down roots. It also gives her an excuse to be away from the Arrow cave and only show up as a guest star.

We were introduced to Doris, Adrian's wife.

Dinah worked undercover for a gang called the Pilgrims. I wonder if this is connected to Pilgrim, a villain that hunted the Legends in a season one episode of Legends of Tomorrow.

Nice continuity using the Bertinelli's as one of the only active crime families left in Star City.

Quotes:

Oliver: "A lot to catch up on."
Thea: "Yeah, like you and Susan Williams?" (Oliver sighs) "People talk, Ollie, and some people vomit a little."

Dinah: "In fact, it's the most popular gun in America."
Curtis: "Land of the free, home of the incredibly stupid."

It's hard to put a rating to an episode like this. On one hand it was excellent in how it dealt with an important issue that is relevant to the kind of superhero show this is. On the other hand, it wasn't able to really dive down and look at the issue with as much time and thought as it deserves. Still, for what we got here, I have to give it:

4 out of 4 Pieces of legislation

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

3 comments:

sunbunny said...

This must have been a tricky review to write. For my part, I hated the episode. The stuff with Rene was good (he actually feels like a character now!) but it was just so heavy handed I felt like I'd been hit over the head with a frying pan. I do think it was bold of such a serialized show to take on the gun issue, considering the very real risk that they might have had to delay this episode out of sensitivity to a recent shooting, as often happens to episodes about mass shootings. Great review, JD!

TJ - Not so grumpy anymore said...

It's interesting that I didn't even realize the hot issue before I read your review JD. Maybe I am so used to gun violence in American shows? Usually lots of people die and our heroes always survive. Unfortunately, I think this episode fell into that category. Although heart-wrenching, the flashback story didn't hit me as it should, because we never knew the character that died. I feel terrible that I didn't react more.

Can't help thinking about two Buffy eps that dealt with the issue differently. Earshot and Seeing Red. Totally different approach that hit me where it should right in the gut.

And yes - compromise is a difficult thing that sometimes fail. (e.g. Ask-Don't-Tell). But I firmly think it's the right way to go, and combined with patience it pushes the issue forward.

Great review JD:)

Patryk said...

This episode might also be a nod to how Green Arrow used to have those Very Special Epiosdes as a comic book.

Apart from that I think we can have some doubts about the DA being Vigilante as he was injured in the hospital during the episode.

Felicity still uses the secret hacker pendrive thanks to her conscience - Rory taking a hiatus. Wonder if we are heading for an Evil Felicity storyline. :)