“Invasion!” Part 2 Review: Arrow’s 100th Episode (Season 5 Episode 8)

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How many shows really make it to 100 episodes anymore? The great ones, no longer found on the networks, run roughly ten episodes a season for six or seven years. Even comedies struggle to stay alive for that long. The fact that Arrow has remained relevant for 100 hours is an accomplishment, more so than it was even five years ago. The writers are clearly aware, taking precious time within this massive crossover, which includes shows that owe their own success to Arrow, to harken back to storylines, characters, and moments from the show’s rich mythology.

In a way, Oliver gets his own Flashpoint in “Invasion!” Starting with him running through the woods, like the opening of the pilot, Oliver makes his way to the Queen mansion. He’s greeted by his fiance, Laurel, and his parents, all of whom are deceased. It’s like an eery reunion special. As Oliver comes into contact with aspects of his life that are truly gone, he gets flashes of memories. His father shooting himself. Deathstroke stabbing Moira. Laurel dying in the hospital. The only one missing is Tommy, and it’s sadly noticeable.

As these memories invade Oliver’s life, he stumbles upon the Arrow Cave, where Diggle is masquerading as the Hood, with Felicity’s help of course. He’s shoved out of the lair after correctly guessing the Hood’s identity. The next day, Sara is seen helping Laurel get ready for her wedding with Oliver. The closer the Dominators’ captives get to each other in their shared consciousness, the more they seem to realize what’s going on, as Sara also seems to get flashes. But appropriately, it’s Diggle who first teams up with Oliver, just as they did in season one, to get out of this mess. This also causes Deathstroke to suddenly appear on the Queens’ grounds. Sara swoops in to save them and kills the villain, now joining the set of heroes aware they’re in a joint hallucination. Ray, Felicity’s fiance here, is quickly convinced, but Thea takes some extra time. The scene the siblings share is surprisingly earnest and poignant. Watching Oliver hug his parents goodbye is difficult, and Thea makes a compelling argument to stay, just to be happy with their family. It’s a moment that collects all the suffering these two have had to share over the years and asks them whether they want to keep it. At first, Thea says no, but after realizing that her answer means losing Oliver, the only member of her family actually alive, she joins the other heroes for a psychological battle against some of Arrow‘s biggest villains right on Oliver’s front lawn.

Malcolm Merlyn, Deathstroke, and Damien Darhk, as well as a gaggle of soldiers, take on the heroes in the more action-heavy part of this reunion special. Thea fights her father, while Sara fights her sister’s killer. Oliver, meanwhile, gets to go toe to toe with Deathstroke, the best enemy Arrow has had him face, once more.

After their victory, it’s time for Oliver and Sara to say goodbye to Laurel one last time, though this scene wasn’t quite as emotional as the ones shared between the Queen family. It makes sense, Laurel was never exactly Arrow‘s emotional high point until she died. Much closer to the show’s emotional high point was the images of his loved ones Oliver sees just before going through a portal to the alien ship. Encouraging past lines from Moira, Felicity, Tommy, Laurel, Roy, and Robert Queen push this soldier on through the hell he puts himself through. It’s an emotional moment as Oliver chooses to leave this much easier version of his life, one that reminds him what he fights for.

Upon walking through the portal, the heroes now have to escape the alien ship. Oliver leads the charge, grabbing an alien weapon and firing away until they escape to a fighter. But who’s there for the assist?

That’s where the other half of the crossover comes in. Back on the ground, Felicity and Cisco get the help of Team Arrow’s new recruits, minus Artemis, to hack an alien device and stop a meta-human using the technology that can help them use it. Naturally, this is where Flash and Supergirl provide the assist. Their screentime was severely limited, but they do offer a unique perspective to the ever-angsty Wild Dog of what a superhero can look and sound like. Upon defeating the meta-human, they get the technology to call the Waverider, which swoops in the save Oliver and co. just as it seems a space battle is about to break out. It’s a fun moment as more worlds collide, with Thea noting that she’s been on two space ships in one day.

Ray manages to decipher what the aliens were saying through some ridiculous manner that wasn’t nearly as plausible as anything in Arrival, but it does point to the Dominators posing an actual threat, as their weapon heads toward Earth. Now it’s time for the final battle, with the crossover concluding on tomorrow’s Legends of Tomorrow.

But for an episode that doubles as a crossover and Arrow‘s 100th, the second part of “Invasion!” packed an emotional punch with it’s guest stars back from the dead. There were enough superheroes around for it to still feel like a crossover with the other shows, but this entry still put enough time toward honoring all the work that has gone into these hundred episodes and the fans clamoring for another hundred. It had it’s clunky bits, but there’s no question that Arrow pulled off something extraordinary here. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • I’m not totally sure it counts, but this was definitely the best episode of season five thus far.
  • Though it wasn’t without it’s slightly disappointing shortcomings. The lack of Tommy, an unmasked Slade Wilson, and even Ra’s al Ghul held the episode back from being a wholly rewarding reunion show.
  • Stephen Amell and Willa Holland were honestly great in this episode. From the emotional bits to the comedic relief, these two actors have really grown into their roles over the years.
  • So where was Firestorm?
  • There’s a great Batman: The Animated Series episode titled “Perchance to Dream” that shares a lot of things with this episode. In it, the Mad Hatter captures Batman and shows him everything he desires. Bruce Wayne wakes up in a dream where his parents are alive and he’s dating Selina Kyle. It’s pretty excellent, as all of Batman: The Animated Series is, if you’re itching for more superhero stories like this.
  • Finally, I just have to say that Arrow isn’t always my favorite show to review, but it’s always rewarded me for doing so. I’ve been covering it since the pilot and there are always a few episodes a season that makes sticking with it worth it. “Invasion!” was a great reminder of that. For those who’ve been reading since the beginning, thanks for sticking with me for so long in my sometimes over-enthusiastic, sometimes very frustrated reviews. I look forward to Arrow‘s next great reward.

By Matt Dougherty

 

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