This review contains spoilers.
It’s tough to review these crossover episodes every year. There are so many moving parts to get the casts of two or three, let alone four shows together, right in the middle of their seasons, while they’re all right in the thick of their own storylines that it’s bound to cause problems. And The Flash‘s chapter Invasion! definitely shows some signs of that.
But seriously. Who cares, right? The only way to judge an hour of TV like this one is on how it makes you feel, and in my case, to the surprise of absolutely nobody reading this, it made me feel pretty darn good. Of course, it’s tough to be objective when the show literally throws the frakkin’ Hall of Justice in my face, but again, the annual CW superhero crossover is meant to be a distraction. It’s a treat. It’s basically dessert, except served in the middle of the meal (season) instead of at the end.
And yes, it was delicious. The TV equivalent of ice cream.
Last year’s crossover, I’ll admit, was disappointing. To be fair, it had a lot more work to do. Both Arrow and Flash suffered a little early on last year with all of the heavy lifting being done to set up the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow, and that ended up being a primary driver of the crossover episodes. It was fine, but it was awkward, and I think even die-hard superhero movie and TV (let alone comic book!) fans are a little wary of stories that only exist to set up future stories these days.
But this one? Nah. Invasion! doesn’t have that problem. Invasion! is exactly as advertised. Sure, we’re going to get an important moment or two for key characters during their respective chapters, but that ain’t what we’re tuning in for this week. We’re tuning in for nerdy stuff, the largest cast of live action superheroes this side of Captain America: Civil War or X-Men: Apocalypse, and to see said live action heroes whup the asses of some CGI aliens.
Invasion! wasted no time getting to the good stuff. We got some lip service with Wally’s growth into a hero, but very little that won’t be better developed in future episodes. We got a lot of Flashpoint stuff, though, which I remain a little bit mixed on, and I worry some of this may still end up getting resolved a little too neatly. On the other hand, it’s good to see that they’ve found ways to make these repercussions count in ways that go beyond the obvious (or, in the case of the Flashpoint comics, the over-the-top). This stuff with Cisco is going to continue all season, as it should, and possibly beyond.
The Flashpoint stuff was a little talky, and I question the wisdom (both of the characters and the writers) of using this moment to bring future Barry’s message to everybody’s attention. Couldn’t this have been done with Stein and Jax in a guest spot right after the mid-season break when the stakes were lower? The way that Sara called out Barry was correct and on point (and for real, I can’t think of a single reason why she shouldn’t have been leading this league from the very start), but maybe that could have been driven home a little harder in a smaller episode. These are minor quibbles, though.
It’s yet another tribute to how well cast each of these shows are that the same wonderful chemistry that drives each individual show also seems to apply when you get everybody together. Wally and Oliver’s oddball friendship is naturally the most developed of them all, but I don’t think it has ever felt as right and as real as it did in this episode. For that matter, the two biggest opposites imaginable, Heat Wave and Supergirl, had a perfect on screen moment together, too. There was something in the perfectly matter-of-fact way that Dominic Purcell delivered that “Skirt” crack. Just perfect.
Speaking of Supergirl, almost to make up for the fact that Medusa was hardly a crossover at all, and perhaps to further drive home the CW’s commitment to make Supergirl the priority on their network that it never was for CBS, they sure did give her a lot to do. As they should. When you have a Kryptonian in your arsenal, you use them. I loved how they made it a point to make it absolutely clear that Supergirl was the most powerful member of the team, and likely the single most powerful individual they’ve ever encountered. That “S” should stand for a lot of things, but one of them should be that even if you’re the nicest person in the room, you’re also the biggest badass.
It’s also worth noting that Invasion! perhaps unsurprisingly, looks great. At least, the Dominators look as good as a fully CGI creation of a wonky, spindly alien design are going to look on a TV budget. Would I have preferred it if maybe at least there was a lead Dominator (they tend to not have names in the comics, either) that was a practical creation, maybe something akin to some of the alien makeup we’ve seen on Doctor Who over the last decade? Sure. But since these guys tend to be fairly anonymous anyway, this works fine. If there’s an FX standout it was the Supergirl/Flash “race” particularly some of the bits when they got to the warehouse, which employed some clever angles and rendering to make the most of what they had. The few seconds we got of the Green Arrow/White Canary fight were pretty wonderful, too.
Like nearly any superhero comic book, movie, or TV crossover event, Invasion! is perhaps a little bloated and perhaps too self-referential for its own good. On the other hand, it’s such tremendous fun, so utterly free of pretension, and made and performed with such genuine love for the material that it’s tough to fault it. I’m of the opinion that all four of these shows are in the process of delivering special seasons, and we can get back to the real impact of their larger themes later on.
Read Mike’s review of the previous episode, Killer Frost, here.