While many comic book properties can deal with politics in one form or another, rarely do superhero shows delve into the heart of a contentious debate the way the newest episode of Arrow does. Near the beginning of the episode, a well-armed gunman clad in body armor enters City Hall and begins shooting people indiscriminately, ultimately killing 7 and injuring more than 20 others – including Adrian Chase. This event sparks the debate, which is approached from all sides as most everyone on Team Arrow has an opinion on the topic.
Rene and Dinah are very much pro-gun while Curtis and, surprisingly, Quentin are more open to reform when it comes to gun control. Oliver, on the other hand, is non-committal generally relying on the phrase “it’s complicated.” Felicity and Diggle also sort of stay out of the debate, which is interesting that they decided to explore the issue with the ancillary cast members rather than the most established characters. Kind of makes one wonder if that was in an attempt to keep from alienating too many fans of the show considering this topic has the potential to do that.
Meanwhile, in what is probably the best and most interesting part of the episode we see flashbacks of Rene’s past. It’s been previously mentioned that he had a family, but now we essentially get the Wild Dog origin story. After returning home with his daughter, his wife was being held at gunpoint by a drug dealer she owed money to. Tragically his wife was killed after Rene and the dealer exchanged gunfire. Having been a victim of gun violence it’s interesting to note that he’s more or less on the pro-gun side, as that often plays out differently in shows and movies. His character really continues to get better and better and considering that Rick Gonzalez is doing a nice job, giving him more depth than seemed possible when we first met him.
All of that said, it can be risky to explore issues that tend to evoke the ire of some and not others, it’s commendable that Arrow would attempt to tackle a topic such as gun control. In this case, though it’s ultimately clumsily executed and fails to take a firm stand on the issue itself. After they apprehend the gunmen once Oliver brilliantly talks him down from carrying out his next attack, Oliver unveils new gun control ordinances that “respect our rights, and our lives.” While it’s a nice sentiment, nothing is said about what the ordinance involves to where it doesn’t restrict the sale or ownership of weapons while still making everyone safer. A perk of being in a fictional city in a fictional reality I guess.
There was also a strange subplot to the episode where Dinah and Diggle are potentially bonding? Truthfully, their scenes together in this episode seemed a little awkward and Diggle, in particular, seemed a little off. The only things revealed that could potentially be relevant are that she got herself a new place which could be a setting we see later and more importantly, she’s applied to the SCPD. They need someone on the show in the department to give them an excuse to keep using that set now that Quentin is in City Hall and Billy is dead.
One thing that does need mentioning is Stephen Amell’s performance in this episode. He only appears as Green Arrow once very briefly, instead doing a lot of heavy lifting as Mayor Queen instead. In doing so he delivered a couple of really impressive speeches with a lot of pathos and empathy. Amell has always been solid as Oliver/Green Arrow but it’s few and far between when we get to see him deliver these kinds of performances.
Lastly, there was a specific line of Curtis’ that felt like maybe the most important message of the episode. When Felicity tells him she doesn’t think everyone should argue over politics as it’s not healthy if it doesn’t accomplish anything, he responds by saying,
“I disagree – not about the part of it not accomplishing anything – this idea that it’s not healthy, we used to talk about things as a society you know. We’d debate and we’d argue and we would still respect each other after – it became impolitic to talk politics. I can’t help wondering that maybe that’s why our country is the way it is today.”
In spite of the episode being about gun control, this is the firmest political stance the episode seems to take. Aside from a few elements, namely the Rene flashbacks and Stephen Amell’s performance, this episode was more or less forgettable.
GEEK Grade: C
Check out the preview for next week’s episode right here, where they’ve decided to take some of Spidey’s villains instead of Batman’s for some reason?
Arrow airs on The CW on Wednesday’s at 8:00pm.
Images: The CW
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Directed by Kristin Windell