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Thursday 9:00 PM on The CW (Returning October 12, 2017)
So this is the one where an alien race traps the team in a mental landscape and... oh wait, they did that. This is the one where they discover that Squidward's evil twin has turned all the buildings in Star City into false fronts with almost nothing behind them except bare-bone furniture and… oh wait, somebody did that, too.


"Spectre of the Gun" is basically a message episode. The message is that more gun control is better than less gun control. It presents Rene as the primary "natural spokesman" in favor of mostly unregulated guns and limited gun control. Him and a never-seen-before councilwoman. While Curtis and Quentin as the primary "natural spokesmen" for increased gun control. The rest of the team gets in a few words edgewise--Dinah says that she basically agrees with Rene--but that's about it.


First the other subplots before the elephant in the room. Dinah is having some trouble coming back in from three years out on her own hunting down her lover's killer. Diggle gives her some advice on adjusting, and by the end we discover that she's now a member of the SCPD.

Felicity is doing a little bit of hunting for Prometheus' mother, Claybourne's mistress. From the fact that she glances nervously back at her computer screen a couple of times, presumably she's accessing the Pandora database and this involves her descent to the dark side of computer hackerdom.

We find out a bit about Rene in flashback. His wife Laura was an ex-junkie who isn't so ex. We never find out why, but it sets off a drug dealer breaking into their apartment to get his money. In the struggle he shoots and kills Laura. Even though Rene was the anti-drug "Get rid of the drugs or get out of here" person in the marriage, Zoe gets taken away from him and put into CPS. Which seems a little odd to me. So after CPS refused to talk further to Rene (after taking his call after business hours), he sees a newscast of Arrow killing Damien and decides to become Wild Dog.


Or maybe Zoe was taken away from Rene because he had a gun in the house. Although if he didn't, it sure seems like Rene and Zoe would also be dead.

Oddly, in the comics, Zoe Lawton is the daughter of Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot. And has issues with her daddy being a guy who shoots guns and isn't very nice. I'm not sure if the selection of first name was intentional or not.

There's also a very brief appearance by Vigilante. Who I'd almost forgotten.


All of these plots are adequate. There's still a fair amount of Rene's backstory to be told. But it's a good start and we'll see if they continue. There was nothing really new or phenomenal about Dinah's establishing a life for herself, but it needed to be addressed. The hunt for Prometheus continues. Felicity spiraling into her old dark-hacking ways continues.

The elephant in the room is the gun control issue. I'm not an adherent to one side or the other, so the politics don't bother me one way or another. I think the writers cheated in one regard, and erred in another.

The cheat is that they have Oliver and Rene hammer out a solution that manages to address the concerns of more and less gun-control advocates alike. But… we're never told what it is. If there were some kind of "make everyone happy" solution, it'd sure be nice to know what it is. The creative team claimed in interviews that they had a solution ("There's a way to have the second amendment and still have some reasonable limitations on gun ownership."). But then they said that they didn't want to present it because it would seem like they were taking sides. If it's fair and balanced to both sides... why would it seem like they're taking sides?


I'd say the issue has arisen and still remains a bone of contention because finding a solution that manages to address the concerns of both sides doesn't exist, and there are so many omissions on both sides (to say the least) that no one-size-fits-all answer is possible. So if the creative team has a solution like they claim... it seems kind of odd not to present it.

The error is their claim (and putting the claim in Curtis' mouth: "There's nothing wrong with a little healthy debate.") that people refusing to debate issues is some kind of thing because people are afraid of being rude. With all the cable news and debate shows and Internet forums, lack of debate isn't really a thing these days. It's also an oddly contradictory statement because then the creative team doesn't put their own solution up for debate. So they don’t seem to think it's very healthy, either.


Or maybe they don't think that people "respect each other afterward" in the current debate environment. A distinction that Curtis (i.e., the creative team) is careful to make. I'm sure there are times when a true lack of respect shuts down debate. There are also times when feigned outrage is used to shut down debate.

It's also a little odd to hear Curtis calling for a "good ole days" of conversation and debate. What era, exactly? When racial and sexuality name-calling was more common?

The whole thing seems a bit imbalanced. Diggle, the original "Guy who used guns on the team", is silent on the issue. Dinah gets a few sentences in one brief bit. The councilwoman who presents much of the less-gun-control argument is played as highly "political" at best, villainous at worst. She says that she's doing it mostly because of the optics, and that she will extract a political price from Oliver for her cooperation. And she's presented as the obstructionist to main character Oliver's "People are dying! Let's do something" POV. None of this presents her as a particularly sympathetic or believable figure.

That leaves Curtis and Quentin double-teaming Rene, argument-wise. And Rene's reasoning seems to be based a great deal on anger and frustration: that his wife used drugs and was then killed, that his daughter was taken from him. C & Q get the "rational" argument, while Rene gets the "He's reacting to bad circumstances that are affecting his reasoning" implied argument.


The creative team can do what they want, of course. If they want to present a message, then the show is theirs to present a message. If that's the way they feel, that's the way they feel. But the way it's presented here doesn't seem to be a particularly balanced argument as they claim. Message episodes can be great. Rod Serling used to do them all the time on Twilight Zone. But he never claimed that his episodes gave balance to both sides of the message, either. Either he focused on the personal and how it affected one man and stated just that man's point of view ("In Praise of Pip"), or he took on big targets like Nazis ("Deaths-head Revisied") and hatred ("I Am the Night, Color Me Black") where there really isn't any opposing side. Unless there were a lot more pro-Nazis back in 1961.

The creative team claims that their approach was balanced. But regardless of where you stand on the issues involved, did folks think that the two sides were presented in a balanced manner here?

Also, the episode doesn't address the real elephant in the room: how does Arrow itself contribute to the cycle of violence by glorifying it? Oliver breaks people's necks, Green Arrow blows up helicopters with people inside, Spartan shoots people and beats a seemingly innocent guy to get Edlund's address, Vigilante shoots mobsters and blows up motels. At one point Oliver says, "And sometimes (a violent world) only responds to violence, but we cannot dismiss the idea that we are just feeding into a vicious cycle." But... the episode does dismiss that idea. None of the characters with weapons give up using weapons. Next week Team Arrow will be back to shooting people and doing cool fights to get ratings, Guggenheim, in the interview linked earlier, says that they'll pretty much forget the ordinances in future when it comes to our team. And no doubt the people that they fight won't forget them. If the writers dismiss the idea of feeding into a vicious cycle... why shouldn't we?

It's also an iffy message when we don't know the setting. For instance, Oliver compares driver's licenses to a gun registry. But... wouldn't comparing driver's licenses to gun licenses make more sense? Do you have to have a gun license in Star City? If you do, and they're not working, why not? How is a registry going to help fix the problem if licensing doesn't?

So overall, "Spectre" was an okay episode. It developed Oliver's role as mayor as opposed to vigilante. And it really focused on Stephen Amell: not his angst about killing in the past. Which is curiously offset by Oliver's killing in the present. Remember when he broke the neck of one of Church's henchmen, and shot down a helicopter with a bomb arrow? But it gave Oliver and Stephen Amell a chance to be... well, mayor-like. He did pretty well as a guy caught in the middle of the two sides of the argument. I don't buy his magical unspoken solution to fixing the problem, but up to then (and add in his final speech at the end) sold it about as well as it could be sold.


But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think

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Disclaimer: I don't usually try to judge an episode by the creative team's "intent" or review that intent except from what we see onscreen. What you see is what you get reviewed. But a) "Spectre" is quite clearly a message episode, and b) creative people like Marc Guggenheim have given interviews (like the one linked above) on what they intended to "do" with the episode. If they want to talk about their intentions and put them out there... well, let's talk about them.
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Feb 18, 2017
After reading this review, I must say, there is definitively a gun message here, but this is the Arrow show and there was 42 minutes of TV approximately to sell this message along with a few stories.

Considering it also became an origin tale for Wild Dog as well, I would say that this episode did a good job of dealing with the issue where compromise is required in dealing with an evolving society where its constitution (2nd Amendment) provides the right to bear arms.

It's a touchy subject, but overall, it was handled very well, in fact, this was some rather solid good TV in my opinion and again, what the heck can one expect in 42 minutes?

One of the better shows we've seen so far, I would say this is a top ten contender.

It was also refreshing to see Oliver Queen actually take center stage here instead of the Arrow.

Whether you are pro or against fire arms, this episode's message was about balancing today's realities when it comes to gun control.

As Oliver explained to the shooter: The guns which killed his family were illegal, so, there was no registry here that could have done anything to prevent this.

On a Personal Note: I'm not for guns in our lives, but I respect the 2nd Amendment, see, I can agree to disagree about it, take note for those who are so hell-bent on "my way or the highway", for the most part, you are the f'ing problem in our society with your inability to dialog.

I think that the laws are way too lenient to those who possess guns illegally.

I would argue that when such individuals are caught in the act with illegal weapons and it can be proven without a doubt that they have used them to either injure or kill innocent people, that they should be on death-row and death-row should be expedited.

Then again, even those who own guns legally, should they kill someone in a premeditated way, a unlawful way, basically commit murder, which is not in self-defense, if proven guilty without doubt, well, death penalty for them too.

Why? Well, because nobody forced them to buy a damn weapon now right? Personal Accountability.. You know.. something most people are so good at evading..

Anyways that's my opinion, I don't have a religious bias of any kind to apply here, simply that personal accountability needs to be applied and that as our population grows, if we wish for sanity, then we should be aware that we simply can't save everyone and most of all, people need to be accountable for their actions.

Life should be sacred for those who act as if it is.

See, such a point-of-view respects people of all faiths and lifestyles. But let's stop trying to save people who simply don't give a crap about life, except their own and who act as if everything is owed to them and that they can go around and kill with impunity.

Our problem is that as a people, humanity, we are hypocrites. Simple. We see countries where children are dying such as Syria and turn a blind eye, but in our own backyard, we have killers doing unspeakable things to our very own people and somehow, for religious reasons, we have to try and save them. People leave their guns out in their home where their children live and these kids kill either themselves or others, because they think these guns are toys, but 'it's just an accident' when really, there are very specific laws that instruct gun owners on lawful handling of their weapons to ensure gun safety at home. I'm sorry, but what do I think this?

Where is f'ing common sense when you need it?

Anyways, bottom line, criminals using illegal guns aren't incline to look at other life as sacred, so I say that this privilege should be off the table for them. Live by the gun, die by the bullet. Simple poetic justice.

Quote: "Humanity is like a lawn, kill the bad weeds"
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Feb 18, 2017
Just as a FYI, I just focused on what was presented here (and what Guggenheim said off camera about the episode).

Folks are debating the issue over in the two Arrow interview threads.

I guess my thoughts on the non-political part of what you say is that a) folks have done message episodes in much less time than 42 minutes. Like I noted somewhere or another, Rod Serling could do it in a 30-minute episode with Twilight Zone.

And b) If the writer can't do what they set out to do... they shouldn't do it.
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Feb 18, 2017
There was a lot going on in this episode, not just about gun control. For what its worth, and we can always agree to disagree, but it ended on a note that we can always do better when we strive towards working together, so to me, message received. I enjoyed the episode and appreciated the intent behind it. Maybe it could have been done better, but, then again, for me, this was done well. If anything it does make people talk.
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