Arrow tackles gun debate in heated episode
Arrow is going where it has never gone before.
During Wednesday’s episode of The CW super series, aptly titled “Spectre of the Gun,” Arrow will dive head-first into the issue of gun violence after a traumatic attack on City Hall divides Team Arrow on the Second Amendment.
“We went into season 5 wanting to do an episode about an issue,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim says, noting that the hour was born out of his throwback nature. “I grew up on St. Elsewhere, Picket Fences, and L.A. Law. I grew up in a time where it was commonplace — like literally every week — for a one-hour drama to tackle the issues of the day. Somewhere along the line, we got away from that — the whole industry got away from that. Now you have Black-ish and Carmichael Show, but as far as network dramas are concerned, [they’re] really not tackling current events, current issues.”
With that in mind, finding the right topic for CW’s flagship superhero series was easy. “Gun violence felt like the right topic because of its topicality, but also because of the level of gun violence that is on Arrow,” Guggenheim says. “We could have done an episode on abortion, but that’s not really where the show lives. So gun violence really felt like the right thing to tackle.”
“It’s the fifth season,” Guggenheim continues. “We’ve hopefully earned the freedom to — in 23 episodes of television, you can have 22 pieces of candy and one episode of vegetables. … I would never want people to watch under false pretenses, so I would probably be very upfront about the fact that it’s not a typical Arrow episode. We do explore the issue of gun violence. I would tease it as the best tasting broccoli you’ll ever have.”
The hour delves into the backstory of Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), one of the only members of Team Arrow who actively uses a gun when he goes into the field. “He is a character whose whole superheroics revolve around guns,” Guggenheim notes. Thus, Rene is a proponent of the Second Amendment, which won’t necessarily go over well with the rest of Team Arrow.
But as tensions run high in the Arrow bunker over how best to deal with the situation, Oliver discovers that suiting up as the Emerald Archer may not be the smartest approach. Instead, this is one issue that Mayor Queen must handle. “There was an opportunity also to do an episode where he wasn’t going to get in the Green Arrow costume,” executive producer Wendy Mericle says. “From a story perspective, it was really the challenge of figuring out what would an episode look like where we had to solve the issue of the day, or the problem of the week, with Oliver Queen as mayor as opposed to him gearing up as the Green Arrow.”
The issue of gun safety became a hot topic during the election, with Guggenheim writing half the script in the week before Donald Trump was elected president and the other half after. “As you watch the episode — I write chronologically and linearly — and I think you can see that, in the second half, it’s about guns and gun violence, but it’s also about the state of discourse in our country,” Guggenheim says.
Therefore, beyond the particular right to bear arms, the producers wanted to delve into the actual debate surrounding gun control. “It’s important to at least talk about this,” Mericle says. “At some point, we did get away from that, as a country, and we would 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 its ever been since the Civil War,” Guggenheim adds, noting there’s a segment of the population that considers talking about politics to be impolitic. “My point of view and suggestion as a writer is it happened because we all stopped talking to each other.”
Though the show is tackling a polarizing subject, both The CW and Warner Bros. were “unbelievably supportive of this episode from the beginning,” Guggenheim notes. “At the beginning of the season, we told them we wanted to do a gun violence episode, they were like, ‘Great.’ … 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 on The CW.