With a show like "Arrow," it's not often that you'd expect episodes dealing with vital social and political issues that are a source of debate in everyday life. Usually Oliver (Stephen Amell) is in the middle of some kind of crisis and needs his team to suit up to help him clean the streets of Star City.
Sometimes though, there are issues that you can't simply ignore. That's where the Feb. 15 episode of "Arrow," "Spectre of the Gun," comes in. When gun violence hits home with an attack on City Hall, Oliver's stance on the issue as mayor is called into question, while the team hunts for the shooter. Meanwhile, Rene's (Rick Gonzalez) origin story as Wild Dog and his connection to firearms is explored.
"...Gun violence felt like the right topic," executive producer and writer of the episode Marc Guggenheim says of the show's wanting to tackle an issue in Season 5. "Because of its topicality, but also because of the level of gun violence that is on 'Arrow.' 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."
The episode truly plays unlike just about any installment of "Arrow." From flashbacks that focus on someone that isn't Oliver, to a major lack of Green Arrow -- you'll see Oliver in a suit far more than you see him in that suit -- it's a unique experience for the show. Guggenheim compared it to a serving of vegetables, whereas the rest of the season would be pieces of candy. It's a comparison that actually resonates. While "Spectre of the Gun" may not have the over-the-top superhero flash of many "Arrow" episodes, it's good storytelling that's good for you.
It wasn't easy to pull off, though.
"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," executive producer Wendy Mericle explains.
Jumping that hurdle, both producers believe, was important for the show if only because debate and discussion are good and something TV doesn't do nearly enough anymore. "Somewhere along the line we got away from that, the whole industry got away from that," Guggenheim says. "And 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."
Leave it to a comic book show to give it a shot. As with shows like "Carmichael" though, "Arrow" isn't necessarily picking sides in the debate. "[We] like the idea of hearing both sides, and hearing both sides as fairly as possible," Mericle adds. Instead, it'll be up to the viewer to see who they agree and disagree with.
It all adds up to one very interesting installment of "Arrow." How it will be received by the audience remains to be seen -- but if this is truly the serving of vegetables this season, Guggeheim wants to make sure fans know it's "the best tasting broccoli you'll ever have."
Hopefully they'll agree -- because issue-based episodes sound like something the producers want to do at least once a season moving forward.
"Arrow" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.