Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Spectre of the Gun”:

The fact that Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have off this week very much seems to underscore the oddity of Arrow having its very own gun control episode. Granted, there’s a rich precedent of Green Arrow comics tackling social issues (the series itself even used Deadshot flashbacks to explore PTSD), and there will likely never not be a good time to spread awareness of the divide in gun control beliefs.

As you can probably imagine, “Spectre of the Gun” does tend to walk the line between legitimate commentary and “a very special episode,” even if it’s admittedly something of a strange topic for a darkly violent show like Arrow to weigh in on in the first place. All sides are well-represented, between the hardened Rene feeling from personal experience that guns ultimately save lives, Curtis’ idealism and race informing his desire for transparency, and Felicity feeling like the discourse has become so contentious in America, that there’s little point in repeating the debate.

What trips me up a bit, is that Arrow very much has its own problems drawing lines of morality around killing or guns, and while some of that garnered lip service, “Spectre” didn’t really land anywhere on the criminality of their own vigilante pursuit. It’s a strange sight, to have one scene arguing the nuance of constitutional rights, and immediately follow that with a helmeted vigilante assaulting someone in an alley, absent due process. If anything, the focus on gun control* offered the clearest showcase for Stephen Amell, both as a beleaguered politician, and someone who could take down the bad guy with an appeal to their shared interest in a better future, rather than a hood and a bow.

*If you’re wondering about the specifics of a “Firearm Freedom Act” that would appease both sides, you’re not alone. As producer Marc Guggenhiem apparently puts it, the details were left intentionally vague. “We wanted to leave that open to the audience as almost like a Rorschach test.”

Arrow Spectre of the Gun Review
“That’s weird. It just looks like a list of NRA donations.”

It bears mentioning that “Spectre of the Gun” also gave us our first Rene-centric hour, flashbacks and all, and I appreciate how well the series has managed to ingratiate Rick Gonzalez this year. As with the Deadshot episode, the brief glimpse of Rene’s family life felt a bit on the nose; generally the price of having only one episode to tell a complete backstory. I do hope Gonzalez stays with the series through Season 6, but it’s starting to seem unlikely, if indeed the endgame is to get his daughter out of foster care, and put some of those old demons to rest.

Understandably, the focus on gun control left a lot of other stories dancing around the edges; likely the most under-served of which was Diggle helping Dinah re-acclimate to the trappings of real life. I couldn’t help noticing some of the chemistry between Juliana Harkavy and David Ramsey either; handwaved away easily enough, I’m sure, but it could offer an intriguing wrinkle to Lyla’s absence. The hour also gave us a brief chance to check in with Vigilante (seeming more juxtaposed with Adrian Chase than ever), and even Thea got to come back form her offstage exile!

You could probably spend hours dissecting what “Spectre of the Gun” does, and doesn’t’ say about gun control, but it’s an interesting experiment for Arrow nonetheless, and nothing if not a great showcase for about everyone involved.


  • Still very down for Rene/Thea shipping, whenever that finally gets off the ground.
  • Admittedly, the sight of Oliver in full Green Arrow regalia with an AR-15 is pretty jarring.
  • I don’t even have kids, but if you came home with your daughter and saw signs of a struggle in the house, YOU TELL HER TO WAIT OUTSIDE, OR GO TO A NEIGHBOR.
  • Also, if an intruder in your home already has a gun to your wife’s head, I have to imagine surprising him with a gun of your own isn’t the greatest plan.
  • Next week, on The Flash: A very special episode … with Gorillas!

Arrow Season 5 will return next Wednesday with “The Sin-Eater,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

Check Out 100 TV Facts You May Not Know!

More From ScreenCrush