'Arrow' season 5, episode 13 recap: Oliver tackles gun control in "Spectre of the Gun"


This week's episode of Arrow was unlike any other in the series' five seasons. Season five, episode 13, titled "Spectre of the Gun," tackled politically topical issues while still maintaining the tone we have come to expect from Arrow. Episode 13 once again put the hunt for Prometheus on the back burner, this time after a masked man unloads on city hall with an automatic weapon, resulting in the deaths of several municipal workers. 

(Editor's Note: Spoilers ahead for season five, episode 13 of Arrow.)

"Spectre of the Gun" was not a Green Arrow-centric episode, but rather, one that focused on Oliver Queen as the mayor, while also giving us further insight into Rene's path to becoming Wild Dog. The episode also featured the return of Thea Queen, who had been absent for the last several episodes of the season, and gave us the brief return of Vigilante — an appropriate inclusion.

The primary focus of "Spectre of the Gun," though, was a debate on gun control — a debate in which members of Team Arrow were quick to take part. Taking on such a heavy topic may be a bit out of place for Arrow, but it worked rather well in the narrative, giving us as an audience a better understanding of the various characters' — primarily Rene's — motivations and beliefs.

While I would like Arrow to return to the main Prometheus storyline sooner rather than later, I appreciate the uniqueness of this episode, and frankly, the narrative risk that was taken. 

A problem for Mayor Queen

Katie Yu/The CW

It is not often that Arrow places more emphasis on Oliver's civilian life than that of his nocturnal activities as a masked vigilante. But in "Spectre of the Gun," the man who shot up city hall was not a gangster, hit man, drug dealer or anyone else that normally encounters the Green Arrow. Rather, the shooter was, as Felicity described, a nobody. 

The main adversary in "Spectre of the Gun" was an ordinary man who lost his family in a tragic shooting — one that occurred after Star City failed to pass a gun registry ordinance. And thus, while Felicity, Diggle and Dinah Drake worked on finding the man responsible for the city hall shooting, Oliver had to figure out his administration's position on gun control. 

It was certainly different seeing Oliver actually in action as mayor. We have seen it before, but only sporadically, and not for nearly as long as in this episode. While I do not want Arrow to become a political show, nor follow around Mayor Queen like this is House of Cards, for one episode, it was an interesting deviation from the norm. 

In the end, after Oliver convinces the shooter to give himself up, he does enact a law aimed at protecting freedom, safety and gun rights. Of course, the actual compromise was not spelled out on the show, or else politicians would start calling for advice.

How did Rene become Wild Dog?

Katie Yu/The CW

In another deviation from the norm, Arrow's flashbacks this week had nothing to do with Oliver Queen, but rather, focused entirely on Rene's life before he strapped himself with guns and donned a hockey mask. We also learn why Rene, as opposed to Curtis, is against heavy gun control. 

Prior to "Spectre of the Gun," we knew very little about Rene. We knew he was dishonorably discharged from the Navy and that he was inspired by Green Arrow's war against Damien Darhk. But that's about it. Here, we see that Rene was once a family man with a loving wife and daughter. And while the flashbacks, combined, only lasted several minutes, there was more than enough for us to learn quite a bit more about the man we know as Wild Dog.

In the flashbacks, we see Rene attend a sporting event with his daughter. He wants to bring a firearm for safety, but his wife objects. Rene leave his gun behind, only to return home after the game to find his wife being held at gunpoint by her drug supplier.

Rene's wife is killed during the scuffle, and we later learn that his daughter was placed in foster care. During the present storyline, while defending his position on guns, Rene tells Curtis that if he'd had his gun, his wife would still be alive. And while this notion does not necessarily change Curtis' mind on the topic, it makes him realize that there is more to Rene than meets the eye. 

Diggle and Dinah

Katie Yu/The CW

There wasn't a lot of time for side stories in "Spectre of the Gun," with so much emphasis placed on the gun debate, as well as Rene's flashbacks. Still, John Diggle and Dinah Drake did have a few scenes together that helped flesh out some of the latter's struggles since ending her vendetta

After Diggle beats the hell (this is the second episode in a row he's done this now) out of a low-level street thug, he asks Dinah why she hasn't moved into a proper apartment. Dinah tells Diggle that she found a studio apartment (with a nice garden, mind you), but couldn't get herself to apply for a lease, because that is what normal people do. 

Diggle explains to Dinah that after his discharge from the special forces, he too found it difficult figuring out who he was but ultimately realized all he needed to be was himself. Apparently, this conversation hits the right chord, because at the end of the episode, Dinah reveals that she not only will be moving into the studio apartment, but that she has joined the SCPD. I guess the question now is whether that means she will be leaving Team Arrow.


Katie Yu/The CW

"Spectre of the Gun" is likely an episode of Arrow that will elicit a wide range of reactions. I can easily see loyal fans being put off by the political undertones and the lack of progress made on the season's primary storyline. Personally, I felt it was a well-done episode that proves that the writers are not afraid to take on a tough subject. But as I said earlier, this is not something I would want to see every week from Arrow

I do hope that Arrow soon returns to the Prometheus storyline. The season's main antagonist was briefly name-dropped in the beginning of the episode, as Felicity was able to narrow down the search for his (or her) mother to somewhere in Illinois. Hopefully, the masked villain will play a larger role over the next few weeks before ultimately taking center stage in the final stretch. 

It was also nice to see Thea back from her several episode absence. While I am not sure how popular of an opinion this is, I am still of the mindset that Oliver's girlfriend, Susan Williams, is either Prometheus, or connected to him in some way. I can't help but think that Thea's disdain for Susan is acting as some sort of foreshadowing to an "I told you so" moment. 

Ultimately, "Spectre of the Gun" is likely to be seen as a polarizing installment of Arrow. For one week, though, I think this type of episode worked. It also doesn't hurt that the flashbacks were intimately connected to the plot of the episode, making them feel actually relevant. One thing that is for sure, though, is that Arrow still has plenty of questions to answer in season five, with only so many episodes left. 

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