Most of the superheroes on Arrow don’t have powers, so men like Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Rene (Rick Gonzalez) specialize in weaponry instead. While Oliver’s weapon of a choice — a high-tech bow and arrow set — is a little too fantastical to be controversial, Wild Dog’s array of guns have always been an elephant in the room. In this week’s episode, Arrow goes real hard on gun control commentary, putting both Wild Dog and the terrorist who attacks the mayoral office in its crosshairs.
In what feels like a “very special episode” of Arrow, our favorite vigilantes bicker mostly about terms in the aftermath of an attack on City Hall. Curtis (Echo Kellum) insists that he supports Rene’s right to bear arms “as long as it doesn’t affect my right to, you know, live.” Rene, firmly in the pro-gun corner of Arrow’s debate, corrects the rest of the team when they continue to call the terrorist’s AR-15 an “assault weapon,” as opposed to a “rifle.” We also learn that his wife was a drug addict, and that her dealer shot up Rene’s home years ago. For Rene, guns are a personal safety blanket, and he’s not willing to compromise.
Several moments in the episode don’t land well, mostly because Arrow needs to speed through any topic it handles in order to solve its episodic problem in 30 minutes. When Felicity (Emily Rickards) discovers the gunman’s identity, she proclaims him a 40-something white guy with no prior criminal record. “In other words,” she says, “he’s no one.” When she asks Curtis and Rene to stop arguing about gun legislation, Rene tells her that avoiding difficult conversations might be what landed our society in its current state. It’s a clunky attempt at timely political commentary.
In another definitive moment, Rene tells Curtis, “Hey, if the bad guys have guns, I’m strapping up too.” The show gives him the final word on the matter, and in the next scene, Oliver can’t bring himself to say he’s in support of more strict gun control. “Uh,” he says at a press conference, “it’s complicated.” Yeah, Ollie. It is.
The show tries to complicate its gun control message by giving both gunmen in the episode an emotional backstory. The terrorist lost his family to gun violence, so he kills seven innocent people to convince Star City that it needs a gun owner registry. The other gunman in the story, Wild Dog, acts out the exact same story, holding too tightly to his guns because he believes they could have saved his wife. The ironic twist is that Rene’s anger issues make him both an effective, inspired vigilante, and a shitty dad. We see the moment he takes up his hockey mask as Wild Dog in the episode’s final moments, just after his daughter is put in a foster home, and it’s not a triumphant scene.
Will Curtis make good on his promise to get Rene’s daughter back? We’ll see in time.
Arrow airs on The CW, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern.