It's Oliver vs. gun violence in a Very Special Episode of Arrow

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Feb 16, 2017

Spoilers ahead for "Spectre of the Gun," the latest episode of The CW's Arrow!

The short version: A gunman shoots up city hall after his family was killed in a mass shooting; everyone debates gun control/violence, then finds a way to work together; Oliver talks down the shooter and convinces him to surrender; Oliver writes a mythical gun ordinance that makes everyone happy.

The good: Not bad for a "Very Special Episode," Rene's heartbreaking backstory

The Arrowverse has taken a crack at some real-world problems over the years, but none as overtly as this episode. Put simply, it was Arrow vs. Gun Control, and it was neither as cheesy nor heavy-handed as one might imagine. The episode opens in an all-too-familiar scene, with a mass shooter busting into city hall and mowing down civilians with an AR-15. Oliver has had more than a few crises as mayor, but this was one of the best efforts yet to grapple with the actual challenges he faces in this new role. The gang chases a few false leads and eventually realizes there's not some grand conspiracy or DC bad guy behind the shooting: It's just an average guy who lost his family due to gun violence, so he reaches his breaking point and becomes violent himself.

Along the way, Team Arrow debates the pros and cons of gun control, filtered through the lens of a failed gun registry initiative that died (no pun intended) under the previous mayoral administration (though, considering all the insane violence in Star City over the past five years, it's shocking there wasn't more support for a few stricter gun laws, but whatevs). So Oliver tries to tackle the issue through a new gun ordinance for the city and plays a little politics to get it supported.

The episode never goes overboard on one side of the issue or the other, though it's likely a call for any basic safety regulations and compromise will be seen as biased. But, for a superhero show, it made for a surprisingly nuanced take on a deeply divisive and complicated issue. Not bad at all.

We also got a break from Oliver's flashback saga to focus on Rene with a story that tied in to the raging gun debate. It turns out Rene was married and has a daughter, though his wife was killed in a drug deal gone bad ... which Rene believes he would've been able to prevent if he'd have been carrying at the time. The reveal provided a good thru-line for the episode while also explaining a whole lot about the character. Rene's always been one of the most broken members of Team Arrow, and now we know why. With him now working with Curtis to get his daughter back, it could make for a rich new angle to his redemption story.

The bad: The fact that logical compromise like this could almost never happen, Vigilante's cameo

The episode ends with Oliver introducing a mythical new gun ordinance that seems to appease the gun advocates and control advocates — and if Star City really has this magical unicorn of legislation, they should share it with the real world, because it's proven quite elusive. Curtis makes a call for civil debate while Oliver approaches the issue and makes it clear he sees it as a safety issue, not a political one. This is all great, logical and makes a whole lot of sense.

But for anyone who follows the news, it's also bordering on fantasy. America has had mass shooting after mass shooting, and none have been able to galvanize political leaders to make any real changes. Seeing it happen in this story gives us something to aspire to, no matter how far away it might seem. With all its dysfunction, it seems Star City is run more efficiently than pretty much all of the United States. Anyone else thinking Oliver Queen for president in 2020?

Oh, and there's also Vigilante’s brief cameo to mow down the Bertenelli crime boss that Oliver was questioning. It's not been 100 percent confirmed, but it seems pretty likely that DA Adrian Chase is under that mask (there's mounting evidence on the series, and it matches the comic storyline). But having him pop up here just felt unnecessary; there's enough going on, and besides, where the heck has he been the past several weeks?

Lingering questions

So, Felicity is still using her super-shady thumb drive. We still don't know where that story is going, but hang tight, because you know it's going somewhere. Well, probably. This episode also brought us some nice growth for the new Canary as we see Dinah bonding with Diggle and trying to figure out how to find some semblance of normal now that her vendetta mission is over. Teaming pretty much anyone up with Diggle makes them more likable, so it was a good episode for Dinah — even if she does still reek a bit of fan service.

Next week: The Green Arrow gets busted by the Anti-Crime Unit. Uh-oh.