Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Wednesday’s episode of Arrow.
This week’s Arrow dove deep into the controversial issue of gun control and public safety, using a shooting at City Hall to pull Oliver (Stephen Amell) into a political minefield and giving him the opportunity to try and save his city as its mayor, rather than the masked vigilante Green Arrow.
According to executive producer Marc Guggenheim, the episode, titled “Spectre of the Gun,” is something he’s been wanting to tackle in the Arrow-verse for quite some time.
“We went into season five wanting to do an episode about an issue,” Guggenheim told reporters on Monday. “I grew up in a time where it was commonplace -- literally, every week -- for a one-hour drama to tackle the issues of the day. Somewhere along the line, we got away from that.”
“Now, you've got Black-ish and The Carmichael Show, but as far as network dramas are concerned, [they're] really not tackling current events, current issues,” he continued. “We felt that gun violence felt like the right topic because of its topicality, but also because of the level of gun violence that is on Arrow. We could have done an episode about abortion, but that's not really where the show lives. So gun violence sort of felt like the right thing to tackle.”
After discovering that the City Hall attacker is a man who lost his family in a mass shooting, Oliver confronts him -- in his mayoral suit and tie, rather than the Green Arrow’s hood -- and talks him out of his vendetta. He also takes some important political steps, working with a conservative councilwoman to enact the Star City Firearms Freedom Act.
“There was an opportunity also to do an episode where [Oliver] wasn't going to get in the Green Arrow costume,” Arrow EP Wendy Mericle explained. “From a story perspective, it was really the challenge of figuring out [how] we have to solve the issue of the day or the problem of the week with Oliver Queen as the mayor as opposed to him gearing up as the Green Arrow.”
The episode also provided the origin story for Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), a “natural spokesman” for the Second Amendment as one of the only members of Team Arrow to carry guns as part of his vigilante getup.
“I think there was a real appetite for us and the writing staff to do flashbacks from one of the perspectives of one of our recruits, so that we were getting to learn more about them,” Guggenheim noted. “We know a lot about Curtis, obviously. Rory left the team in [episode] 12. Evelyn had betrayed the team… Rene felt like the right recruit at the right time -- a character whose whole superheroics revolve around guns.”
Despite the reveal that his wife died as the result of an accidental gunshot from a home invader, Rene still advocates for the freedoms of the Second Amendment. This leads to some pushback from his friends and team members, like Curtis (Echo Kellum) -- who notes that, as a black man, he’s the most likely member of the team to die from gun violence -- and Lance (Paul Blackthorne), who muses that cops are always in favor of having less guns on the street.
Others members of Team Arrow, like new recruit Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), support Rene’s stance, while still others, like Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), don’t want to have the debate at all, a point of view that the producers emphasized as one of their inspirations for writing the episode in the first place.
"It's important to at least talk about this," Mericle said, echoing Curtis’ point. “At some point we did get away from that as a country. And we like the idea of hearing both sides and hearing both sides as fairly as possible.”
“I think maybe the only thing we can agree on as Americans is that the country is as fractured now as it’s been since the Civil War,” Guggenheim added. “My point of view, and suggestion as a writer, is [that] it happened because we all stopped talking to each other.”
While the episode might have dealt with a controversial topic, the Arrow producers said that The CW and Warner Bros. were “incredibly fearless” in allowing them to carry out their vision for “Spectre of the Gun.”
“The studio and network were so unbelievably supportive of this episode from the very beginning,” Guggenheim said. “We got the usual [standards and practices] notes in terms of the amount of gun violence, but nothing was compromised. This was very much the episode we intended to do.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.