In last night’s very special episode of ‘Arrow,’ it was Oliver Queen versus the Gun Control issue, and to be perfectly frank, I’m not really sure who won. I know it wasn’t the viewer, as the preachy episode, while having some great moments, felt very heavy-handed, and while I understand that the Green Arrow in the comics is very liberal and tended to have spout his viewpoints often, it felt very odd to see the show go that route.
The episode started well enough, with Dinah and Diggle sparring in the Arrow Cave while Felcity was busy using her new super hacker harddrive to hunt down Prometheus’s mother, who apparently might be hiding out in Illinois (sure, ok). Oliver heads over to City Hall where he is greeted by Thea, who has finally returned after being very poorly written off for a few episodes by the writers due to supposed contractual limitations, and it is nice to have to her back, rejoicing at seeing Quentin back at work, non-plussed at seeing Rene as his new assistant, and very annoyed that Oliver is dating Susan Williams (I hear ya Thea). And then it all comes to a shocking halt as an armed gunman enters city hall and proceeds to go on a shooting rampage which Oliver and company can do nothing to stop, an attack that leaves 7 dead and 24 injured, one of the injured being DA Adrian Chase. During the confrontation Rene reveals a hidden gun on his person and tries to take down the shooter, but the man has body armor and Rene’s shots do no harm. So the episode inevitably becomes about that attack, gun control, people’s safety, and what Oliver the mayor can do to make people in Star City feel safe and prevent attacks like this from happening again. So like I said, a “very special” episode of ‘Arrow.’
So while the Quiver Crew tries to track down the shooter using a sketch made by Quentin (the only one to see the guy’s face before he put on the ski-mask), a raging debate ensues about gun control, assault rifles, the first and second amendments, and every member of the team seems to have their own perspective, and voice to lend to the argument, with the strongest proponent against gun control being Rene (who we later learn feels if he would have had a gun his wife would still be alive, more on that in the flashback section) and the strongest against being Curtis, due to the fact that he believes that as a black man he is statistically more likely to be shot by a gun. Felicity hates the debates as they distract her from her hacking work, and repeatedly asks the team to pipe down, and Oliver does not know what to think, as he demonstrates when he has to give the obligatory press conference about the horrific events, and when asked by the press for his thoughts on gun control, he tells them he is not sure what he thinks yet, making him look like a weak politician, and getting him a chiding from Thea and Quentin afterwords. After visiting DA Chase in the hospital he does get a lead, as Chase believe the gunner might have been after the people in charge of the Anti-Crime Unit, thinking maybe the Bertinelli crime family was behind it, so Oliver suits up and interrogates one of their members. However, the man claims they would never go to war with the ACU, right before Vigilante shows up and murders the criminal with his gun, reminding the Green Arrow that they are essentially the same, only he uses a more efficient weapon (anyone else wonder for a second if Vigilante was the shooter at that point?)
Eventually Felicity is able to identify the shooter as a man named James Edlund whose family died 16 months ago, and has it out for the City government for not enacting some gun control measures before the event, so the team starts to track him down, while Oliver invites the strongest opponent to the gun control bill, Council Woman Pollard, to his office, and basically demands she work with him on a new bill, and insists she not leave until they have figured something out. Meanwhile Rene and Curtis continue their debate as they head to a gun violence support group that Edlund had attended, whose councilor gives up private information about his patient to these two civilians despite the fact that they are not police, have no warrant, and he is legally not supposed to give out any information about the people in his group (but its a comic book show so we don’t have to take things that seriously! unless its an episode dealing with gun control rights…). As they head to Edlund’s base of operations, Rene reveals to Curtis about how not having a gun cost him his wife, and Curtis is shocked, not having known Rene was married. They don’t find Edlund, but they find plans for Starling City General Hospital, which they immediately radio in to the Felicity, and she reports to Oliver at City Hall. Oliver leaves Pollard behind (angry that he would leave after he demanded that she stay earlier) and heads to the hospital, having the team arrive there as backup while he and the ACU head inside to confront Edlund. They luckily arrive before he begins shooting, and Oliver gets to be a hero without suiting up. He talks down Edlund in what was frankly a very cheesy moment, discussing how the people Edlund shot at City Hall were innocent (somehow Edlund had not thought of that), and how none of this is going to change things for the better. I half expected to hear that ridiculous ‘Full House’ end of the episode sentimental music crap start playing. Edlund threatens to blow his own brains out, Oliver talks him out of it, and the ACU moves in and arrests the man. The day is saved. And to make matters even better, following this heroism, Oliver sits down with Rene and in a few hours works out some new magical gun control plan that he then presents to Council Woman Pollard, who agrees to the plan (claiming that after his heroics she probably would not be able to fight it anyway), meaning Oliver also solved the gun control issue! Double hero! Give me a minute to get over how ridiculous this was.
Tonight’s flashbacks featured the sad origins of Rene, who we learn had a wife and child (Zoey), who on the night we see he was planning to take to a hockey game in the dangerous part of the Glades (never a good start to an origin story, especially since we never heard about this daughter in the present). As he prepares to take a gun out of the family safe for protection (an item we learn in the episode he is not supposed to have due to his dishonorable discharge I believe) his wife and him get into an argument about the weapon, which she does not like and claims she only allowed him to buy because she thought it would stay in the house locked in the safe. The argument turns when she says she’s not going to the game and Rene confronts her with drugs he found in the apartment and accuses her of using again, ending by telling her that when he and their daughter return home, either the drugs are gone, or she needs to be gone. Yet when he does return home later that night, he finds a gun-toting junky demanding money from his wife for her last purchase. Rene lies and says he has cash in the safe, going for his gun, and he just gets it open when Zoey appears, startling the dealer who starts shooting wildly. Rene manages to get his gun out and take down the dealer, but the man’s final act as he falls is to pull the trigger one last time, sending a bullet into Rene’s wife, killing her. Later, we learn that a social worker deemed Rene’s home unsafe for Zoey, and took her into foster care, a fact that is confirmed as permanent for Rene on the night he sees on TV the Green Arrow and the crowd of Star City citizens take down Damien Darhk. He looks over at the jersey he wore with his daughter the night his wife was killed, and the hockey mask beside it, and Wild Dog is born.
The episode ended with Oliver giving a speech over a candlelit vigil for those who died during the shooting, another schmalzy bit about the city being better, and not answering violence with yet more violence, and not running from hard choices, yada yada yada. He of course mentions his new gun control bill, the Star City Firearms Freedoms Act, which apparently is capable of gun control but does not make it harder for people in Star City to buy, own or carry a gun to protect themselves. Uh, so what exactly does it do then? The people of the United States would love to hear how the Green Arrow solved the Gun Control issue. In the Arrow Cave, Curtis reveals that he googled Rene and learned about his daughter, and says he and a lawyer friend of his will help Rene get Zoey back, which Rene is very thankful for (but is it really good for Zoey to take her out of a foster home that Rene even says is a good home, and stick her with Rene, a violent vigilante who is out all night, and will be presumably leaving his little girl home alone all night, unprotected, while he stalks the streets with the Quiver Crew?). Oh, and another running storyline of the episode is wrapped up, in which Dinah was reluctant to apply for an apartment because of the normalcy aspect, because she did not yet feel ready to return to a normal life after three years in action seeking vengeance, which Diggle said he understood from when he tried to return to civilian life after years in the military. He told her to take small steps and apply for that apartment, and at the end of the episode, we learn she not only got the apartment, but is also a new recruit in the SCPD, which is great because without Quentin there, we have no more cop friends for Team Arrow, and they are useful.
- Hey look! Vigilante is still out there! And with DA Chase currently injured and in the hospital, that means it can’t possibly be him… right? I mean, Chase did send Oliver after the Bertinelli crime family, and then Vigilante just happened to show up and take down the very same Bertinelli crime man the Green Arrow was interrogating, but Vigilante did not appear to have any of Chase’s injuries, or he could have been hiding them… I dunno. I’m confused.
- Alright, Dinah Drake is now a police officer in Star City, so her character is even more lining up with the comics. We just need to get her a mask now (she can’t be running around as the Black Canary without a disguise now that she’s a cop) and maybe that blonde wig, and she’d be all set
- When we have a number of episodes without Prometheus, I like to think he is sitting at home in his workshop building booby-traps and sketching out elaborate sets for torturing Oliver Queen, that each of his schemes and plans takes that kind of time and planning, and that’s why the showrunners feel its ok to only show the major villain of the season every once in a while.
- So can Thea stay for awhile? And can we have her be the one to take down Susan Williams? Can that be her storyline? Cause that would fix my hatred of everything Susan Williams this season and deal with that awful storyline, and finally give Thea something real and concrete to do.
- Could there be potential for Thea and Rene? She definitely seems to dislike him, which is often times TV code for ‘this character secretly likes this character, but is going to hide it by being mean to him.’
Would have been an alright episode if not for all the overt preachiness, which is not something I am a fan of in my fiction. I like a more subtle point, not one like this that is literally beat over our heads, though I do appreciate why the show would attempt something like this, especially when characters like Diggle, Rene and Dinah are all using guns frequently on the show and ok with it. Maybe it was even something that was forced on them by the network, who knows? But I will be glad when ‘Arrow’ returns with a regular episode next week. What were your thoughts on this episode? Did you find some of the easy solutions a bit preposterous? Share your opinions down in the comments section below!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.