Arrow takes on gun control and it means well, but by not giving Felicity, a victim of gun violence, a point of view, the episode falls short.
Before we get into what didn’t happen in this polarizing episode of Arrow, let’s rehash what did.
A gunman storms city hall with a machine gun.
In the chilling scene, the audience is given a first hand account of innocent people not only being shot in cold blood, but killed in front of their very eyes. It’s triggering. And, it’s probably supposed to be. The writer’s intended for this episode to stay with us.
On the short list there are multiple casualties from the shootings, but even more injuries. Injuries including District Attorney Adrian Chase. The purpose? This hit Oliver’s “home.” He’s personally invested and so are the highest officers in the city government.
Not-so-subtly setting up the counterargument of the episode, Rene, who is now officially Lance’s assistant, is ready to get into action to take down the shooter. Lance heatedly tells Rene its illegal for him to have a gun being that he was dishonorably discharged. Rene counters back and assures him that it’s easy to get one.
The episode is heavy on plot. Oliver is put into action by Adrian to get the shooter after he convinces the wounded man to honor his wife’s wishes and stay in the hospital. Curtis and Rene get into a gun control debate in the lair, where Curtis vehemently petitions for stricter gun control as Rene staunchly defends gun rights. But, Felicity puts an abrupt end to their argument. Which, as I’ve seen a number of people on the interwebs point out, is a wee bit strange for someone who was nearly killed and paralyzed by a heinous gun attack only one year prior. To all of you: I wholeheartedly agree. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to this.
After some light torture Oliver does to a man who they think has ties to the shooter, he is also shot at by Vigilante. Meanwhile, back at the lair, Felicity finally finds out shooters name he’s apparently a, “nobody.” She then elaborates that the gunman’s family was killed in a mall shooting 16 months ago and the team realizes this is a revenge killing.
On the mask-less side of things, Thea reminds Oliver that the media is not-so-patiently waiting for the mayor to give a statement on the shooting. He gives an unconvincing one, and gets countless questions on gun control that he realizes he can’t really answer. He is even asked his personal opinion on the matter and he actually tells the press that it’s, “complicated.”
Thea tells Oliver its not his fault. Oliver says they’re feeding into a vicious cycle. Lance and Thea tell him the solution is with him as they mayor, not the Green Arrow.
After some tough love delivered by Lance, Oliver finds his resolve. He becomes determined to make the issue less complicated. He meets with a councilwoman who killed a previous gun ordinance law and tells her they aren’t leaving his office until they set up limitations on guns.
Back at the lair, Felicity dodges the gun control talk again. Curtis doesn’t let it fly. He tells Felicity they should talk about things like this. (Again, fear not. We will get back to the “Felicity” of it all).
After, Rene and Curtis go to a support group to find the shooter. Despite what he hears, Rene’s mind isn’t changed after hearing a sympathetic story on the matter. He tells Curtis his wife would still be alive if he had a gun. The duo then find the shooter’s lair and figure out where he’s going next.
Oliver gets a phone call from Digg, alerting him to the shooter at Starling General. Oliver takes Lance’s advice and goes, as the mayor, not the Green Arrow, to save the city.
Oliver gets there and talks to clearly unhinged shooter as the swat team closes in. He tells him he’s going to enact the Star City gun registry, but that the person who killed his family last year got his guns legally. He explains that no registry would’ve protected them. Oliver’s impassioned and level headed speech prompts the shooter to take the gun off of him and the others, but he instead turns it on himself. Oliver pleads for him to live for his family despite the pain and hurt and anger in the world. The man finally reaches his breaking point and when Oliver asks for the gun, the shooter gives it to him.
After the dust settles, Oliver and Rene come up with gun ordinances that respect gun control and ownership and get the reluctant councilwoman to go forward with it. Oliver holds vigil at City Hall and informs the public of the gun ordinance that will “respect lives and rights.”
Wild Dog’s Flashbacks
As it turns out, Rene was married. He and his wife “made it out of the Glades” and were living a more hopeful life with their daughter. But, things weren’t perfect. Rene kept a gun (in a safe) in their home that his wife was not happy about. To boot, Rene also accuses his wife of using drugs again after finding a stash in their bedroom. He gives her an ultimatum to get clean or get out and takes his daughter to a hockey game.
When they get home, Rene finds the house in disarray. He no sooner finds his wife being held at gunpoint by a drug dealer that she owes money to. The dealer is unhinged and impatient and shoots at Rene which prompts him to get his gun. He shoots back and gets the dealer, but not before the dealer falls to the floor and releases the trigger, shooting his wife fatally.
Rene’s daughter ends up getting taken away from him and in a vulnerable moment after a phone call with child services, Rene sees the Green Arrow kill Damien Dahrk on TV and gets inspired.
In present day, Curtis finds out about Rene’s daughter tells him that they’re going to get her back.
Let’s Talk About The Elephant In The Room
Whether they notice we notice or not, Arrow has avoided Felicity, her experiences, her voice, her emotions, and her connection to Oliver nearly all season.
This kind of avoidance can be overlooked on a more superficial level, though incredibly frustrating when character and relationship continuity is concerned. But when it comes to an issue as big as this, avoiding Felicity is a glaring misstep. Not because I enjoy the character or because I think she’s due equal screen time. It’s because this character was brutally gunned down and paralyzed just last season.
Felicity might have her mobility back, but it doesn’t mean the emotional and mental scars still don’t linger. Now, when I saw Felicity avoiding the gun control issue, I initially thought they were going to address that because of the turmoil she went through, talking about it would be too much for her. But, no. Nothing was said of Felicity’s shooting. Not even Oliver, who listed the deaths of every friend and family member, even mentioned his ex-fiance nearly dying in his arms. Why? I wish I knew. Oliver used to be concerned about Felicity, whether they were romantically involved or not. Then again, the show used to care about her, too.
For Arrow to insinuate that Felicity doesn’t have an opinion on the matter is not only a mischaracterization, it’s just plain wrong. How can you have a gun control episode, tie in a new character’s backstory to it, and not have one of the main characters address her direct victimization? The answer is that you can’t. Because no matter what flowery language Oliver uses, or the way the episode was neatly tied together at the end by marrying the ideas of both for gun rights and for gun control, they glazed over the heart of the matter. If you’re going to tackle a real life issue on a fictional show, it has real life implications. Meaning, that the show did a disservice to those who have been subjected to gun violence, by silencing the character who went through that very experience.
They simply skipped over what an actual shooting victim’s thoughts, feelings, and sensibilities were post-attack. And while she wasn’t the one targeted in this episode, not one character even had the decency to ask her if she was okay. As if she wouldn’t be affected by her ex-fiance and friends suffering an almost identical fate to hers.
If Arrow wanted to take on gun control and mean it, they shouldn’t have conveniently forgotten they subjected their own beloved character to a grizzly fate at the hands of men armed with multiple machine guns.
And if Arrow wants us to care about the goings on of this season, they should no longer sideline a character that is central not only to the success of show, but to the heart and soul of the main character.
HollywoodLifers, do you think Arrow did the characters justice in this gun control episode?