Arrow season 5 episode 8 review: Invasion!

Arrow episode 100 is part of the big Invasion crossover, and also the best episode of the season so far...

This review contains spoilers.

5.8 Invasion!

Obviously TV crossovers are a blast, especially when they fall under the superhero genre. However, if we’re being completely frank and honest with ourselves, a great majority of the fun comes from fan’s dedication to completely different TV shows being rewarded. Arrow’s instalment doubled down on that by bringing fans all the way back to Season 1 with a little alternate reality fun.

For those who didn’t commit to also watching The Flash part of this whole thing (shame on you) it ended with Oliver, Diggle, Sara, Ray, and Thea being abducted by an invading alien force known as the Dominators. Now, they find themselves in an alien-induced stasis that places them inside their ideal reality. However, it’s a pretty shoddy model as it doesn’t put them in separate realities. That’s some pretty poor craftsmanship. In the end, it allowed the heroes to easily figure out the ploy and escape through a door that was programmed inside the reality for… reasons.

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Plot points aside, it was a smart move for Arrow to use the crossover as an invitation to try out an alternate timeline story of its own. Why should The Flash have all the fun? Not only did fans get some really deep Season 1 callbacks such as the Hōzen, but they got to see some of their favorite characters happy and grounded once again. It’s no secret that the reality of the entire Arrowverse has flown a bit off the rails since the introduction of metahumans. That change was, obviously, for the better – but it’s important to show things like Sara and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) being friendly and loving. This helps put the former’s current plotline, captain of a time machine desperately seeking vengance on the man that killed her sister, into perspective.

Side Note: Without treading too much on Legends Of Tomorrow territory, it was so satisfying to see Sara battle Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) as well as get to say her heartfelt goodbye to her dearly departed sister.  

A lot of weight was riding on this particular instalment in the mighty “Heroes vs. Aliens” crossover. After all, Arrow was the show that essentially gave birth to everything except Supergirl. As a result, capturing key characters like Ray, Sara, and Thea allowed this to feel a lot more like a universe-defining event rather than a gimmicky crossover. There’s a lot of questions that can be answered across all the shows in the DC TV universe.

Will Sara drop her thirst for revenge? Would Ray have ended up with Felicity? Is Oliver changed for having admitted his love for Laurel out loud? Will Thea resent not staying behind in what was, ostensibly, a heavenscape? Diggle wouldn’t have become The Hood on his own… I’m just calling that one. Spartan? Maybe.

Even our main hero, Oliver Queen, felt a lot more like a human once again. Season 5 has forced him to become a leader, and a dad-like figure to many of the new heroes in his orbit. That makes sense for a Season 5 character, but it can be rough on your viewers when their main character has ceased to grow. If that is going to be the future of Arrow, this episode allowed him to squash all those early demons. It’s possible, in the larger canon of Arrow history, this will be remembered as the final stage of Oliver’s growth as a hero.

Then, just when you thought that the Arrowverse was simply stroking your Season 1 nostalgia, things go turned up to eleven as the characters started to discover their predicament. The programme that they’re in simply fought back, throwing villainous members of their past at them. Although this wasn’t quite the Deathstroke return fans were hoping for, it was still a lot of fun to see him, Darhk, and Malcolm Merlyn (welcome back John Barrowman!) all on screen at the same time. We knew we’d be getting a hero crossover, but villains too? Thanks CW!

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Despite the climactic final fight, the award for best fight goes to Deathstroke vs. Diggle/Oliver. Before Sara jumped in, the choreographer was doing a terrific job of still putting Oliver Queen in the fight, but with barely any grasp of how to throw a punch. It’s something fans only get to see in the flashbacks, which take away from the fun because those are hardly people’s favourite part of the series.

Meanwhile, the crossover continued back on Earth. Felicity brought Cisco to the Arrow lair to help the new team, minus the conspicuously absent Evelyn Sharp, find Oliver. That’s when it’s revealed that Wild Dog has a problem with metahumans… because he has a bad attitude about everything. He goes to find a crucial bit of tech with the backup of Supergirl and The Flash and makes the valid point that things didn’t start getting weird on the planet until metahumans showed up. What ensues is a fight with a hyped-up metahuman in which Flash and Supergirl brutally beat a tech-powered, but subdued, woman.

For real, it was cool to see them both tag team their powers, but she was done and on the ground after Flash hit her with a flurry of punches. They then still did a flying clothesline… That one was a bummer – not cool heroes, not cool. Anyway, they got the intel and the “save” made Wild Dog change his tune on metas a bit. So that story was done. However, it did allow them to discover that the aliens are planning to unleash a mysterious but massive weapon on Earth. There’s your setup for the Legends Of Tomorrow “Heroes vs. Aliens” finale.

If there is a gripe with this episode, it’s the tone. Relative to a normal instalment of Arrow, it was a high-concept romp, but relative to last night’s epic crossover episode of The Flash, this episode slowed things way down. It was like a DJ playing LMFAO’s “Shots” followed immediately by “Abby Road.” Two great songs, but not a stellar pairing. However, if this was the “Heroes vs. Aliens” way of making viewers eat their metaphorical vegetables in this delicious crossover meal, and squeeze a bit of emotional weight and future setup, then mission well-accomplished.