‘Arrow’ Recap: An ‘Afterschool Special’ Gone Wrong

Warning: This recap for the “Spectre of the Gun” episode of Arrow contains spoilers.

Less than a month after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, The West Wing put out an episode called “Isaac and Ishmael” that was, for all intents and purposes, a stage play in which many of the nation’s unprocessed feelings about the attacks were put into Aaron Sorkin’s trademark rapid-fire prose. It was preachy, but a noble effort to use entertainment to address real world issues.

“Spectre of the Gun” is a similar effort, but on the topic of gun control. Oliver and company argue for and against gun rights in a way that feels a little like an Afterschool Special, a little like your Facebook page, and very little like an episode of Arrow.

The Plot Thea’s return to the mayor’s office coincides with a shooting rampage that kills seven staffers and sends Adrian to the hospital. Oliver interrogates the head of the Bertinelli crime family, but instead of someone from some large criminal organization, the shooter turns out to be a 44-year-old “nobody” whose family was killed in a mass shooting at a nearby mall. He’s taking revenge on the city for not passing a gun law that could have prevented it. Realizing that he can’t solve the problem as Green Arrow, Oliver meets with Councilwoman Pollard (Laara Sadiq), who had shot down the law previously, to find a compromise. Wild Dog and Spartan figure out he’s attacking Starling General Hospital. Oliver stops him, not as Green Arrow, but as the mayor who promises reforms. With Rene, he crafts a bill to satisfy both sides of the gun debate.

The Flashback Wild Dog’s origin story begins with the death of his wife, Laura. Rene intervenes when her dealer tries to shake her down for $500 she owes; Rene kills him, but a stray bullet from the dealer kills Laura. Child Protective Services takes his daughter away, and Rene sees Oliver kill Damien Darhk on television, inspiring him to put on the mask.

Hooray, We Solved the Gun Debate A lot of time is given over to everybody’s stance on the role of guns in society today. Curtis and Quentin are pro-gun control; Rene and Dinah think everybody has the right to protect themselves. Both sides get little monologues explaining why guns are good or bad. The problem is that the show’s writers don’t have a solution and wrap up the episode by having Oliver and Rene come up with gun control legislation that — they say — is a sensible compromise that both sides are happy with but there’s no explanation of what that compromise is.

On that level, the show fails. One valuable point the show does make is that we used to be able to talk about these sorts of divisive issues and still be friends afterward. There was such a thing as healthy debate where two people could argue an issue and not cling so doggedly to their convictions that friendships were ended. Though it doesn’t do much to make for an exciting or engaging episode of Arrow, it’s a damn good point and maybe we’ll get back to a place — as a nation — where politics can be dinner conversation and not bloodsport.

A Studio Apartment With a Garden Some of this season’s high points have come during quiet interludes when the new blood get some time to establish their characters. This time it’s Dinah, who is dealing with the baggage that comes with spending three years off the grid pursuing a crazed vendetta. In theory, going outside the law to kill drug dealers and avenge your partner’s death is pretty cool, but the reality is that sort of thing is going to wreak havoc on your credit score. It’s all a little pat — Dinah gets the apartment and applies to join the SCPD — but it’s good to see her making progress like that.

Quiverful of Thoughts *The vague explanations of Thea’s absence, says showrunner Marc Guggenheim, are the result of Willa Holland being under contract for only half of this season’s episodes. Bad news for Ollie, who could really use a sisterly smack on the head every time he thinks dating Susan Williams is a good idea.

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*Next week: Rutina Wesley is back as Liza Warner, aka Lady Cop! Who — we must assume — was bitten by a radioactive cop and gained the proportional strength and speed of a cop! In actuality, the Arrow version of the character bears almost zero relation to the ’70s comic, and thank heavens because — even by the standards of the time — it’s a pretty embarrassing characterization.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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