‘Arrow’ Showrunners Talk Tackling Gun Violence In This Week’s Episode

Stephen Amell Arrow

This week on Arrow, the superhero drama is set to tackle the gun debate when a violent attack on City Hall divides Team Arrow over the issue. The attack will bring painful memories from Rene Ramires aka Wild Dog’s past back up to the surface which we’ll get to see via the flashbacks rather than continuing Oliver’s story in Russia.

During a recent press screening, executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle explained why they’ve chosen to take the gun debate head on and what they hope the takeaway will be for viewers when they see this week’s episode titled “Spectre of the Gun” which will not see Oliver hood up as the Green Arrow but instead solve the problem as the Mayor of Star City:

Marc Guggenheim: We went into Season 5 wanting to do an episode about an issue… 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. The whole industry got away from that. And now you’ve got Black-ish and Carmichael Show, but as far as network dramas are concerned, [they’re] really not tackling current events, current issues… You know, it’s the fifth season. We’ve hopefully earned the freedom to in – In 23 episodes of television, you can have 22 pieces of candy and one episode of vegetables. We felt that gun violence felt like the right topic, A.) 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.

Wendy Mericle: We knew that we were talking about the Mayor’s office. There was an opportunity also to do an episode where he wasn’t going to get in the Green Arrow costume. 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 other thing when Marc and I talked about doing it and when we talk about doing potentially more episodes like this going forward … is the idea that you want to start a conversation. It’s sort of what Curtis says in the episode, which is, “It’s important to at least talk about this.” And 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.

Guggenheim revealed that he penned the script for this week’s episode during the week of the turbulent Presidential election of 2016 and that he hopes it will help bring into focus the current dysfunctional state of discourse in the United States:

I wrote the first half of the script before Nov. 7 and the second half of the script after Nov. 7. That week I was writing the script. And I think actually as you watch the episode you can kind of 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, as Wendy was saying. I’m an unapologetic progressive, but the thing that I’ve noticed is that not talking about issues serves a conservative agenda, not a liberal agenda. And I do agree with Curtis that I think the country is where it is right now because we stopped talking to each other.

Wild Dog’s past has been shrouded in mystery during the season so far. When it comes to the canon of the series, the most we know is that he was dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps. Mericle and Guggenheim revealed that not only did they want to further explore Rene’s past through flashbacks but that gun control was a perfect issue to tackle from the perspective of the gun-toting vigilante:

Mericle: I think he is someone whose background we really wanted to explore. In my mind, he carries a gun. He’s a natural spokesman for that point of view.

Guggenheim: We could have done it through any number of our characters. 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 just getting to learn more about them. We know a lot about Curtis, obviously. Rory left the team in [Episode] 12. Evelyn had betrayed the team. We also sort of already knew her backstory from Season 4. Rene felt like the right recruit at the right time for all the reasons Wendy was saying. You know, a character whose whole superheroics revolve around guns.

As the series draws closer to the season 5 finale, the closer we get to the end of the flashbacks as the past timeline will finally catch up to when the series began in season 1. While Oliver’s flashbacks will come to a finish, the component of the series may not necessarily dissolve altogether. On the subject of using Wild Dog’s flashback as an experiment for future flashbacks in the series, Guggenheim told the press:

Guggenheim: Well, we’ve been doing those – what I call the non-Island flashbacks – since Season 1. We sort of felt like we’ve done the testing ground. We love those episodes. We love those kind of flashbacks.

Mericle: I think of it as more of a testing ground for the recruits and whether we’d be able to generate enough story and be interested in those stories from the perspectives of those characters. But yes, going forward, for sure, given that we won’t have the Island to go to and the flashbacks for Oliver, knowing that we could use other characters and that we have a device that’s well-established on the show and knowing we can go to that well if we need to.

The series will tackle the relevant issue of control this week but when asked whether or not current events will play into storylines in future episodes, Guggenheim was reluctant to guarantee it will definitely happen again:

Guggenheim: It’s tough with a superhero show. I think one of the things Wendy and I have struggled with on Arrow is every year we go into the season going, “This year we’re going to make it more about the city. This year it’s going to be more of a character and you’re going to learn what’s going on in the city.” It wasn’t until this year where we actually started doing that. The reason I say that is it just shows how difficult it is getting the city it’s set in to influence the stories. Getting the rest of the country in is just hard.

Lastly, Guggenheim was asked if had received more notes than usual back from the network after turning in the script for “Spectre of the Gun”, Guggenheim revealed the initial draft sent out a very different message than the final product:

Guggenheim: Thank you very much for asking that question, because it gives me an opportunity to say that the studio and network were so unbelievably supportive of this episode from the very beginning. At the beginning of the season, we told them we wanted to do a gun violence episode, they were like “great.” We gave them the story idea, which is always the first piece of information the studio and network get; they were like “great.” There was a plot twist regarding Edlund’s motivations that was in the original conception that, it was actually even in the first draft of the script, that the studio talked us out of. Not because it was controversial, not because they were scared of it — both the studio and network were incredibly fearless in their support of this episode, but because the plot twist sort of sent … a message very different from the one we were trying to send. But there was no “this is too far, this is too much.” 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.

Mericle: They were excited about it. They liked it, and they welcomed also that it was taking on an issue, which we hadn’t done before, really, on the show. They were genuinely, I think, very enthusiastic and excited.

Guggenheim: I don’t think Wendy and I have taken on an issue on television since Eli Stone, which is like nearly 10 years ago, which is a long time ago. Sad.

Arrow airs this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. Be sure to check back here at Heroic Hollywood after every single episode of Season 5 for Andy’s reviews.

Source: TV Guide

Michael Mistroff

Michael Mistroff

News Editor, Film/TV Reporter at Heroic Hollywood.