Wow. What a phemomenal episode. Part 2 of the “Invasion!” crossover also happened to be Arrow‘s 100th episode, and the show celebrated this landmark with a superb and incredibly emotional tribute to Arrow‘s legacy. Better than anything it’s done in 2 years, “Invasion!” was one of Arrow‘s best episodes ever.
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Arrow reviews here.
The bulk of “Invasion!” took place inside a shared hallucination between Oliver, Thea, Diggle, Sara, and Ray, who were kidnapped by the Dominators. In this dream world, the Queen’s Gambit never sank. Oliver never became the Green Arrow (Diggle did instead). Both of Ollie’s parents were alive, as was Laurel—whom he was about to marry. It was a perfect life, until the illusion started breaking and the awakened heroes tried to escape it.
It’s remarkable how well-written “Invasion!” was. Every detail in the dream world was intricately crafted to resonate on a character, story, and emotional level.
Oliver’s perfect life saw him surrounded by loved ones he’s lost, all of them telling him how proud they are of the man he’s become. Diggle’s guilt over his brother’s death manifested itself in the dream world as him becoming the Green Arrow to atone for his sins. Thea, who in reality gave up being a vigilante, was living free of suffering in a world where she never was one. Sara, happily standing by the side of the sister who never died, her bisexuality out in the open. And Ray, who never lost a fiancée because in this world he was engaged to Felicity.
After nearly 5 seasons, seeing the heroes in these situations felt wonderfully cathartic. And as the hallucination began to unravel and the heroes began willfully abandoning their perfect world, the emotion was cranked up to maximum.
Easily the most powerful scene of the whole episode was Thea refusing to leave the dream world. Willa Holland has evolved into one of the show’s emotional cores, and “Invasion!” demonstrated that wonderfully. She made a compelling and very heartfelt argument, tearfully imploring Ollie to let her stay behind. Suggesting that maybe this was their reward for all of their suffering and sacrifices. Which led to one of Oliver’s best quotes of the series:
“I didn’t make those sacrifices for a reward, Thea. I did what I did because I thought it was right. And seeing all of this shows me that there’s so much more to do.”
The emotional freight train hit me in a few other scenes as well, especially the ones that involved closure. Like Ollie hugging his parents, knowing it was the last time he would do so. Or Sara getting to say goodbye to her sister. Or Oliver finally telling Laurel “I love you”.
“Invasion!” was essentially Arrow‘s take on the classic Superman story, “For the Man Who Has Everything”. Supergirl tried to do its own version last year, much less successfully. The reason it worked so well here is that Arrow has 100 episodes under its belt and used this plot device to celebrate its rich history. From the sense of nostalgia we got from seeing Moira, Robert, and the Queen mansion again, to the aforementioned emotion and catharsis.
Aside from great writing and stellar acting, “Invasion!” was also very well-directed, thanks to James Bamford. And it wasn’t just the action; things like circling camera shots stood out, or long uninterrupted takes in dialogue scenes that helped them flow better.
But the action was excellent as well. When escaping the hallucination, Oliver and company met resistance in the form of past seasons’ villains. The battle of Oliver, Sara, Diggle, Thea, and Ray versus Deathstroke, Merlyn, and Damien Darhk may not have been as dazzling as the superhero action on The Flash, but it was no less enthralling.
And the fight was just as well-crafted as the rest of the episode. Thea battled her personal demon, Malcolm. Diggle fought against Darhk’s ghosts, of whom his brother was a member last year. Ray shot members of Deathstroke’s mirakuru army, who had killed his fiancée. Ollie ended the fight by putting an arrow through Deathstroke’s eye. And there was that awesome shot of Thea firing an arrow that Sara caught and used to kill Darhk—much like Darhk had caught Ollie’s arrow and used it to kill Laurel.
Arrow‘s legacy isn’t just about 100 episodes of one show, though. The fact that it spawned 3 successful spinoffs and started the wider DC TV universe is also something to be celebrated. Which is why it’s so fitting that its 100th episode was also part of a mega-crossover. And that the episode ended in space. There will always be tonal dissonance between the show Arrow was and what it became, but I think “Invasion!” handled it very well. Who in 2012 could have possibly guessed that the then-grounded Arrow would come this far?
The B-plot of “Invasion!” dealt with Felicity, Cisco, and the Team Arrow recruits trying to find and rescue Oliver and company—with the help of Flash and Supergirl. This was a much more rushed affair, with a brief villain (Cyberwoman) and a far-too-hurried mini-arc for Wild Dog. But I can very easily overlook that because this subplot was there to serve the excellent main story. Plus, who can say no to a team-up between Barry and Kara? Especially if it involves fun action like them literally tossing Cyberwoman back and forth.
I can see some people being disappointed that “Invasion!” was more about Arrow‘s 100th episode than the crossover, especially if they’re not regular Arrow viewers. But heroes punching aliens for 3 episodes in a row would have gotten tedious. And Arrow needed this episode, now more than ever. “Invasion!” made me feel more than any Arrowverse episode has in 2 years. I wouldn’t have it any other way.