It’s Arrow’s turn to host the CW 4-way crossover party with episode 8 – Invasion! a/k/a “It was all a dream; we was hooked up in an alien machine!”
In The Flash’s time at bat (the less said about Supergirl’s contribution will be 100% more than its added value), Barry assembled the team of Supergirl, Green Arrow, Speedy, Diggle, Felicity and The Legends of Tomorrow crew to take on the invading Dominators. A few crossed wire dust-ups later and Oliver, Thea, Diggle, Sara and Ray (White Canary of Legends) are beamed aboard a Dominator ship. Hooked into a alien virtual reality ‘thingie’, they live in a shared universe which offers an idyllic setting where Diggle is a buffy Hood slinging arrows and taking names (with Felicity in familiar ‘Overwatch’ form) and Sara is a happy UN-ninja. Meanwhile Oliver and Thea have their fortune, family home and parents, including a practically exuberant mommy Moira. Plus Oliver is engaged and prepared to marry a ravishing Laurel Lance, like now-ish. Ray? He’s eating shrimp, I guess; he looks happy.
Despite being all that Oliver could have dreamed of (almost; more later), he is the first to see the cracks. Things are what we dream but not as they seem. Oliver gets Diggle to join him in the awakening but the fake reality fights back in the form of Deathstroke. Luckily, Sara jumps in, shocked at her ability to disarm, defeat and destroy Deathstroke in 5 seconds. Time to wake the others. Sara steals Ray away from the buffet line and his fiancée, Felicity. Oliver has to make Thea say goodbye to her parents all over again, a prospect Thea refuses to think about before she does think about it and does it 5 seconds later. Cue the obligatory crowd fight scene as our heroes battle a resurrected Deathstroke, Damien Dark and Merlyn to escape this hallucination. Actually they have to walk through a wall of smoke at the Smoak Technologies building. Next stop, waking up in an alien ship, walking around said alien ship like one alien ship is like any other alien ship (complete with Alien guns velcroed to the walls), steal another alien ship to escape the first ship, fly the alien ship with the power of ‘the script says so’ and evade attacking alien ships by way of ‘Diggle says please.’ Thank you, Waverider of Legends fame, for the timely rescue and setup for the crossover conclusion Thursday night.
All the while, Team Arrow 2.0 call in The Flash tech expert Cisco because Felicity needs him to use his Vibe powers to discern that the beams of light that snatched everybody up transported them to spaceship (because – duh!) Needing a regulator to hack a piece of Dominator tech Cisco carries in his satchel for just such an occasion, Felicity does an exposition dump to set up the villain of the ‘B-story’ – doctor Laura Washington. Cue The Flash and Supergirl saddling up with Team Arrow to take her down and change hearts (I promise - more later). The end result of these diversions from our main story is that Team Arrow knows exactly how high up in space their friends are, which is very.
THE GOOD –
It is no small feat in the landscape of television today for a series to reach 100 episodes. It is a hallmark to be appreciated and celebrated. Thus, even in the midst of massive promotional effort by the CW, the show honors its roots with callbacks to its pilot episode (Best – Thea giving Oliver the hōzen, an arrowhead symbol of connection) and a Elseworlds version of the Queen family with Moira (Susannah Thompson) and Robert (Jamey Sheridan) holding hands, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) being charming and sweet with Thea. The Queen mansion looked pretty swanky too. Gotham needs these set designers yesterday!
Big show, big budget and it showed. From the expansive greenery of the Queen estate, the multiple rooms of the factory fight set piece, the varied angles of the Arrow Cave to the 360-degree camera work and the visual effects of the space battle (on Arrow? YES! Viva la flagship show!) I see you, Arrow. Congratulations!
Nice nod to Tommy (actor Colin Donnell from earlier seasons, now saving lives on NBC’s Chicago Med): “It’s too bad Tommy couldn’t make it, though.” “They have him working triple shifts at the hospital right now. And Chicago isn’t exactly next door.”
Can we start the show over – erase the past 5 seasons – with Diggle (John Ramsey) as the Hood with trusty sidekick Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards)? Damn, that was cool.
Wild Dog doesn’t trust meta-humans because they play God with no regard to humanity’s bigger issues. Thea doesn’t want to leave Dominator-ville partly because the idea of masked vigilantes is irrelevant in a world with speedsters and super strong alien blondes. That’s intriguing exploration of a couple of characters who have been one note all season long. Good use of an anniversary-crossover episode to introduce complexities that may bear fruit in future episodes...
THE BAD –
…Or for a couple of minutes. All it took was a sprint on The Flash express for Wild Dog to change his tone about Metas; shame. It was an interesting turn of the coin for the character to be so mistrustful. It felt true to character rather than tacked on angst. And Thea’s switch-up was expected but so quick, though? There wasn’t even a commercial break. I know we had to highlight Oliver on Arrow’s 100 episodes but it would’ve cool to see the world through Thea’s eyes as well. It would’ve offered Willa Holland deserved screen time to flex her stuff. Plus it would have provided a counterpoint to Oliver’s rejection of the hallucination.
And this could’ve been accomplished by reworking the Team Arrow 2.0 scenes into bookend scenes. This way they don’t come off as…dummies that don’t realize their guys were taken into space. Cisco, the Flash and Supergirl could be there because they were with Felicity over on The Flash. You can still have little character moments (and the best reference to Oliver and Company ever).
THE UGLY –
Nothing. The show was stuffed – really stuffed – with bits of seasons past, guests from DC’s corner of The CW and some of Stephen Amell’s (Oliver) best work. It felt like an old school 1970s annual issue of a favorite comic book that gave you a little bit of everything to remind you why you love the book. I don’t love Arrow but this episode showed me why all of my friends do.