Arrow: Invasion!

Thea: "It's real enough. It's better than our real lives."

One hundred episodes ago I sat down to write the review for the pilot of Arrow. The series started in the shadow of Smallville which had ended only a year before, which also had a much more charming (at the time) version of Green Arrow that had been recast for reasons that didn't seem to make much sense. This was a show standing alone, without the long mythology of a very long running series to back it up. Could it survive a hundred episodes without that exhaustive DC comics related history? Of course the answer is pretty obvious now, but in retrospect there was no way to know we'd be here: in the middle of a four series crossover.

The actual crossover parts were a lot of fun, with the Flash and Arrow teams working together fairly well, and the new members of team Arrow reacting to the otherworld powers of the Flash and Supergirl in a fun way. Wild Dog's change of heart was a little fast, but I get that it had to be truncated to get the point across that he had never seen people that good with powers before. Of course Barry and Kara are lovely examples of what gods among mortals should be like.

Still, the bulk of the story and the emotional and character stuff was all saved for the elaborate dream/simulated reality sequence our five kidnapped human characters were stuck in. The focus was on Oliver figuring things out, and torn between the life he could've had and the life he actually has. One is bright and happy, with everyone who has died in the last five years back and proud of the man he has become. Tommy (although he didn't really appear in the episode), Moira, Laurel, and even his father were alive and played a significant role in making this new reality real; the real one a stark, black almost nightmare where he dons a hood and kills people with bows and arrows.

What's even more complicated is that despite it being a fantasy, the good aspects of it weren't all that fake. None of Oliver's family acted false or out of character. They never broke into the usual fantasy security system turning it into horror. Instead, the way the Dominators' simulated reality functioned was very polar: good was almost real and safe, bad turned out to be an assortment of the last five years of Arrow's supervillains.

It was a delight getting to see Deathstroke, Damien Darhk, Malcolm Meryln and Andy (I have no idea who Ray was fighting) all standing together, even if a couple of them were wearing masks and were obviously not the original actors. But seeing Laurel again, before she ever became the Black Canary, and getting to have her back interacting with Sara and Thea was a little more touching than I expected. Watching the way the world could've unfolded, it was easy to see why Thea had trouble letting go. Everything she had lost was back (save for Roy), and it was so much better than her reality. In the end, though, she accepted her life, and stepped up to fight their way out of the Dominators' reality.

The escape was kind of hilarious as they stumbled their way out of the alien ship and were rescued by the Waverider. Like all good comic book crossovers, it of course ended with a tease for the finale in Legends of Tomorrow (which will be reviewed by Sunbunny). And that is exactly what this has been, a really good comic book crossover, with all the heroic moments expected from this kind of situation (although perhaps restrained by the budget a bit).

Bits:

Supergirl might be a bit too powerful for this particular team up. She works wonderfully with the rest of the characters, but her powerbase is so much bigger than the rest of the collected heroes of the Arrowverse that it's clear why they are keeping her isolated in her own universe.

I really liked how the group started to realize they were in a false reality. Oliver flashed to the real world when his father mentioned "You're quite the hero, son" and Sara when Laurel mentioned "Canary."

I loved the idea that Diggle would become the Arrow without Oliver being there, but it doesn't quite work because he was never an archer or would have a reason to become one.

The bridesmaid dresses looked like the White Canary costume.

Watching Cisco, Felicity and Curtis interacting together was a lot of fun.

Quotes:

Curtis: "My whole life, I've waited to see a sign of intelligent life. And now that I'm seeing it, they're not intelligent at all. They're just mean. I can't believe it."

Cisco: "Guys, we have to find Oliver and company, and I'm not talking about the cherished Disney animated film starring Billy Joel, okay?"

Cisco: "It's a little Alien, a little Star Trek, J.J. Abrams-style, and a whole lot of tech."

Curtis: "We're going to hack alien tech. This is seriously the best day of my entire life."

Curtis: "I'm so conflicted. You know, on the one hand, I get to hack actual extraterrestrial technology. But on the other hand, ETs are real, but unfortunately they're dickwads who are gonna kill us."
Rory: "Don't worry. It's gonna work out."
Curtis: "You're not gonna tell me God has a plan, are you? Look, I respect your religion annd all, but I just find it a little hard to believe that there's some divine plan to the universe that also includes space monsters."

Curtis: "I feel like Elliott in ET. 'It's working, it's working!'"
Cisco: "Your tech guy quotes movies, huh?"
Felicity: "Yeah."
Cisco: "Real original."

Laurel: (re: Ray) "Are you sure you prefer girls?"
Sara: "He was hot."

Sara: "You're lucky I'm not a trained assassin or anything."

Ray: "Apparently we have to get to an office tower that my non-fiancee doesn't own, which is a little strange, all that coming from a guy who's been having memories that he's able to shrink."

Ray: "That's either the way out of here, or we got to click our heels together three times and say, 'There's no place like home.'"

Nate: "Oliver. Nice clothes. Shopping at Alien Gap?"

Nate: "Hi, I'm Nate Heywood."
Thea: "Thea. And, and this is exactly twice as many spaceships as I ever thought I'd be on."

This was an excellent episode, with all the emotion and nostalgia one would expect from a landmark episode, and it was almost perfectly balanced between paying tribute to the 99 episodes that came before it, while still being a solid installment in a crossover event.

4 out of 4 Perfect Realities
---
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

It was a strong 100th episode, although the spaceship stuff at the end was somewhat silly. I really enjoyed all of the returning actors as well as all the crossover actors, all the references to what happened in the past. Oliver hugging his mother and father before he left them behind was probably my favorite moment because I could just feel his sadness. For some reason, I was also oddly touched by Sara and Laurel having so many scenes together. I've never cared for Laurel, but I've become very fond of Sara.

I also thought Supergirl was a lot of fun. You're absolutely right, J.D., about her being too powerful for this particular group of superheroes, but I really love how she and the Flash seem to deeply enjoy each other's powers.

Victoria Grossack said...

Congratulations on reaching 100!

TJ said...

I loved it!

I was a bit surprised with myself realizing I have missed Susanna Thompson a lot! She was a fantastic Borg Queen and a wonderful Moira Queen. Can they please Lazaruspitting her back?

Would have loved Roy and Slade back as well (Colton Haynes and Manu Bennet - where are you?)

Fantastic crossover though The Flash and Supergirl were underused here.

Can't believe it's been 100 eps!

Anonymous said...

As an Arrow episode i thought that was the best episode without doubt since season 2.
Is it possible that Oliver's character and Stephen Amell just got episode MVP twice now.. Some real solid acting moments..Thea was heartbreaking..When Sara said ''she already worked it out''
I knew we was going to get her wanting to stay, it reminded me of Angel when Conner wanted to stay in Jasmine's world even though he had seen through it and her. However Thea's situation was far more realistic and it gave a good reminder of were the characters at right now..Sara and Laurel parts were also good.I never got the hate for Laurel and i think her character really is in that you don't know what you got til its gone pile.
Felicity should have died instead.

As part of the crossover it was a bit middling and convenient, very fillerish and felt like the middle of a movie...Not to say it was bad, just not as good as it could have been. The escape at the end although entertaining was unbelievably convenient..Things just kept happening...But the episode was excellent enough in places for it not to bother me too much.