Arrow: “Spectre of the Gun”

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Jim’s Thoughts

I’ve been really hard on Arrow lately. Kyle and I were talking recently about how the show has never really hit the heights it did in season 2, and I was beginning to wonder if it was time to adjust my expectations. Maybe this isn’t a slump the show has been in, but a new direction the series is pursuing. With that in mind, I prepared to go easy this week, to try to evaluate the episode without comparing it to what it was three seasons ago. I went in with the best of intentions, and then I saw “Spectre of the Gun.”

This was a long, ham-fisted public service announcement at best, and a desperate attempt to use headline fodder for relevance at its worst. Regardless of what side of the gun control debate you come down on, there is no denying this episode added nothing to the dialogue. Every point made for and against tighter gun control is one you’ve heard a thousand times. No one says anything surprising or original. Even Wild Dog’s backstory is as paint-by-numbers as it gets. What could have been a good opportunity to give his character much-needed depth was spent on a cliché.

Maybe the most ridiculous element of this episode was the expectation that we’re to believe this would be the first time any member of Oliver’s team would have been faced with the problem. Five years of fighting crime in Star City, and Oliver is just now pondering gun control? Is this even the first time the mayor’s office has been shot up? It’s that very point that prevents me from seeing this as an earnest attempt to address the issue, and to consider it a shameless exploitation of the political climate.

Maybe as the show’s final insult, the plot is resolved with a heart-felt speech from Oliver to the mad gunman, and a set of ordinances drawn up by Oliver and Wild Dog (who took opposing sides) off-screen to solve the issue and make everyone happy with a compromise. This is disingenuous tripe, and I have to take The CW to task for it. It’s an attempt to cash in on gun control without actually addressing the issue.

Oh, yeah, and still no movement on Prometheus. Can you tell I’m out of patience yet?

Kyle’s Take

I wouldn’t call “Spectre of the Gun” a public service announcement. Those are designed to raise awareness or change public attitudes/behavior. Most people have heard the arguments for and against gun control. This episode regurgitated those arguments.

“Spectre of the Gun” also didn’t offer a solution to the problem. Sure, characters on opposite sides of the issue made compromises but we don’t know what those were or how we’re supposed to achieve them besides buying off someone with political favors. If the episode tried to change public behavior, it’d be how people talk, or even scream, at each other when they discuss politics or any volatile subject. Perhaps a lot of people in our country don’t do enough listening.

But that’s giving Arrow too much credit. The dialogue was so familiar I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers room plagiarized newspaper articles or television spots on the matter. No one talks like the characters in this episode, not even when they discuss the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar article they read about gun control. Put it in your own words. Better yet, say something new.

Arrow’s desire to tackle a tough subject in “Spectre of the Gun” is true to the comic book character. The Green Arrow often tackles difficult subjects in a pseudo, public service announcement fashion but the Arrow TV show has never expressed any desire to flex its social conscience muscle. Why start in the middle of season five? It’s disingenuous.

The only good thing I can say about “Spectre of the Gun” is that I’m glad there was a sensitive material warning before the episode began. If the CW starts each Arrow episode that chooses to go the public information film route with that warning, I can skip Arrow that week.

Thanks for reading.

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