Welcome to the second part of the “Invasion!” crossover storyline review. Today, we focus more on Arrow’s world, so let’s see what the writers gave us.
We start with Oliver in… obviously not the world we last saw him. The most striking thing here to me is: NO SCARS! Laurel’s alive, and they’re ENGAGED! But of course, we’re shown that this isn’t a new reality, but something created by the alien abductors.
Meanwhile, the B-team gets introduced to Cisco. His vibing ability allows him to figure out where they’ve been abducted. Luckily, they just happen to have a pilfered piece of alien tech, which they try to figure out how to hack using something that Curtis happened to have tinkered with a while ago. However, three super geniuses fail to realize that the devices may not be compatible. Oops?
Conveniently, someone else has already created the technology needed, and it’s been stolen by a villain that they just happen to know the name of. Convenient, eh? Of course, they’re able to send the B-team out to collect the stolen tech with a little help from the left behind SuperFriends, Kara and Barry.
There’s an interesting conflict with Rene, who doesn’t like super-powered beings, blaming people like Barry on most of the world’s current problems. Thankfully, in the resulting fight with the tech-enhanced villain, Rene learns to appreciate that there are super-powered people upon which he can rely. There’s also a cute tag-team moment between Barry and Kara as they trade off their smackdown of the tech-villain.
The regulator they acquire does allow them to interface with the Dominator’s tech, but it’s in an ancient language that Rory just happens to know. Our team realizes that our five captives are on the alien space ship simultaneously with Oliver and co.
The illusion world: Oliver gets to see what life would have been like if the boating incident had never happened. His and Thea’s parents are alive, and there are hints that things are not what they seem for our trapped friends. For instance, Sara reacts to Laurel’s canary necklace. In an alley, when confronted with a mugger, Oliver is willing to stand up to him to protect his father, and stares in awe and confusion at the hooded figure that saves the day. After this, the illusion starts to fray as Oliver begins to remember parts of his past.
We get to see some cathartic moments for Oliver as he slowly figures out the truth. Sara and Ray’s realities begin to slip when they meet, which begs the question, why did the aliens put them in a shared illusion?
Curiosity causes Oliver to seek out the location of his secret base where he finds Diggle, who upon meeting, begins to remember as well. Even with the fabricated Felicity trying to hold John into the fantasy, and John wanting to believe in the new reality, he eventually succumbs as well. There’s one line that John says about having everything here, his family and life, and not wanting to mess it up. They all have to struggle to overcome the desire to remain on a fantasy world in which they would wish to remain.
One of the problems is, as the memories of their lives grow stronger, their villains come into being in order to punish or restrain them. Slade confronts Oliver and Diggle, with Sara saving them by rediscovering her fighting skills with a blade. They get together, and figure out the one out-of-place building is Smoak technologies. What, not the Merlyn building? That didn’t strike anyone as out of place too?
Sara goes to pull Ray out of the fantasy, and Thea refuses to leave the illusion, even though she knows it’s not real, because reality is so painful, and she wants so badly to be able to cling to the happiness. (The Supernatural fan in me sees the parallels to the Djinn reality that Dean was faced with in What Is And What Should Never Be. At least they don’t have to kill themselves to break out of this reality!)
With all of them finally on board with the plan, they have to fight an assortment of past villains in order to escape the grounds and make their way to Smoak Industries, where there’s a convenient glowing portal to take them back to reality, which is inside the alien ship. The nice glowing representation of some of the people he’s lost before going through the portal is poignant, if not exactly necessary. I do wonder why the aliens bothered to change them into the matching green outfits.
Now free to wander the spaceship, they confront the Dominators, and conveniently acquire a weapon that is apparently easy enough to fire, since Oliver doesn’t even pause to figure it out after taking one down off the ship’s wall. At least he gets in a comment about triggers being a universal design. When they find a craft that allows them to escape, once again, it’s convenient to use, accepts the touch of a human hand for activation, and is controlled by auto-pilot.
Thankfully, there’s this guy we haven’t seen yet, who’s apparently been driving the Waverider around, to save them from the attacking aliens. (I don’t really keep up with LoT any more, so I’m a little behind. He’s Nate Heywood, who is a historian who ended up getting some kind of special metal armor skin via something that happened on LoT.) Safely on the Waverider, they figure out there’s a weapon that’s almost complete, and appears to be headed straight for earth! This is where they leave us hanging in this episode, to be concluded on Legends of Tomorrow.
There are times the writers seem to make fun of their own plot’s stretched-thin reality, that they accept the liberal use of deus ex machina, and turn it into the occasional joke. While yes, it’s difficult to make the story work across three shows’ arcs, and make sense, and be exciting, I was able point to certain moments where the writers seem to have given up, and left little bits within the story to laugh at themselves, saying, “Yes, we know most if this is completely implausible, but work with us here, we’re at least trying to make it funny.”
Even though the writers struggled to cram this square peg into a round hole, they did a good job of making the 100th Arrow episode memorable and work within the crossover. If we had been able to re-work the alien plotline, it would have been an even more exceptional 100th episode. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from shows on the CW, they sometimes need to have a well-developed ability to make fun of themselves, and that helps this episode become less painful in its reality-stretching.