Arrow: ‘Invasion!’ 100th Episode Review

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Arrow: ‘Invasion!’ 100th Episode Review

It’s a wonderful, artificial life.

Warning: Obviously, there are spoilers in this review, but not only are they for the 100th episode of Arrow, they are also for the “Heroes vs. Aliens” crossover episodes of Supergirl and The Flash.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be a very tricky Arrow episode to review because not only is this the monumental 100th episode of the series, but it’s the third part of The CW’s hyped up “Heroes vs. Aliens” four-way crossover event. I thought I’d have to review the other episodes of the crossover just to make sense of this review. Thankfully, that is not at all the case. There is plenty of great stuff to talk about in what is easily a great chapter of the crossover, and better yet, a truly great episode of Arrow.

So far, this whole crossover thing has been terrific. Although I wish the conflict that brought all these heroes together was something more creative than aliens, watching all these great characters working together feels like a dream come true. As a fan of all of the DC shows on The CW, I’ve found this experience very rewarding so far. But as a fan of Arrow, the events showcased in this 100th episode were rewarding in a thrilling and emotionally way. It’s quite appropriate this 100th episode of Arrow be part of a crossover. The 100th episode of any show is meant to be a major celebration. One of the most prolific accomplishments Arrow has done was spawn three successful shows as part of its “Arrow-verse”. Well, Supergirl is kind of its own entity, but the success of Arrow helped get the show a greenlight in some ways. So why not make Arrow’s milestone episode a part of a major event that combines all of these amazing characters from different shows?

The best part of this episode is, while it’s a crucial part of the “Heroes vs. Aliens” event, its main focus is to act like a genuine Arrow episode. Oliver Queen’s life has been one wild ride, taking on many twists and turns. He was a spoiled rich kid, living the life of privilege without a care in the world. Through some tragic events, he has taken on the role of guarding his city. He’s lost loved ones through violence. He lives a life of torment now. This episode presents a “what if” scenario of what life would have been like if Oliver never donned the hood and quiver. To me, I feel the “It’s a Wonderful Life” storyline was inevitable for Oliver Queen. It’s a common occurrence on shows like this in later seasons. But rather than just making it a cliché dream scenario, this crossover allows it to take place through alien mind control. I will say it was kind of convenient that the alien ship beamed up the main Arrow cast and not anyone else from the other shows – Ray counts in this situation since he originated from Arrow – but that’s a minor gripe when you look at the compelling character drama that was presented to us through this Arrow celebration. Seeing our heroes living through false happiness, interacting with fallen loved ones was quite heartbreaking knowing how tragic their lives have become.

Arrow -- "Invasion!"

Obviously, I like where our characters are in their present state on the show as crime fighters and warriors, but seeing them so happy, complete and accomplished felt so nice. Oliver had finally grown up and become a good, mature person, about to marry Laurel Lance. He was even on great terms with Quentin. Thea was successful and mature instead of the brat she was in season one. Sarah bounded with her sister in the most adorable way. Ray was confident and full of glee. It even felt right that it would be Diggle fighting as the Green Arrow. And somehow, this episode pulled off the feeling of making all of these events fill artificial.

It was nice to see past cast members come back for this episode. It wasn’t surprising but it for damn sure was welcomed that the lovely Katie Cassidy – who was excellent in this episode – reprise her role as Laurel. I got a warn feeling seeing Susanna Thompson return as Moira. She was a good character who lost her life tragically. Jamey Sheridan returned as Robert Queen. He never had enough screen time in the past to show us what kind of father he could have been, so it was great he had his chance here. It was kind of a bummer Colin Donnell didn’t make it back as Tommy Meryln – a terrible CG stand-in doesn’t count – but he was referenced as working as a doctor in Chicago… Donnell is currently starring in Chicago Med. Very cheeky, guys. John Barrowman returned as Malcolm and fought Thea, that was awesome.

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The major benefit with a 100th episode is all of the show’s veteran cast members’ acting abilities have improved since episode one. These actors all did amazing jobs as their respected characters. However, Stephen Amell slayed. This was his opus. You can tell he put everything on the line for this performance. Then there was his major scene with Willa Holland, who continues to impress me and win my heart. While everyone realized this was all a false reality they needed to escape, she was the one who wanted to stay. And who could blame her? She was happy in a reality where she had everything she wanted. Amell and Holland had their strongest scene together in the history of the show. It had me damn near tear up, even though I knew she would eventually reunite with her team.

Of course we had to get some cool ass fight scene while in the alien created reality. What a cool trick to have past villains like Damien Darhk, Malcolm, and mother f**kin’ Deathstroke come back to square off with our heroes. It would have been awesome if Ra’s al Ghul were there. And having Digg fight off a few Ghost agents was kind of lame. He should have fought his evil brother, Andy. But whatever, the fight was amazing. Truly epic and satisfying. Hopefully Sarah got some satisfaction from stabbing the projected Darhk since she’ll never be able to do it for real. It would have been the best if Manu Bennet returned to play Deathstroke, but just seeing the image of the bad ass villain, was rewarding enough.

Once Ollie and his team awake from their dream state and roam around on the alien ship, that’s when the tone drastically changes from gritty and dramatic to cheesy B-grade sci-fi silliness. Now if you think I’m complaining about that, I am not. Yes, the shift was jarring at first, but you have to keep in mind, this is part of a crossover involving aliens. The only thing that lowered my excitement a little were the CGI effects in space. Yes, I know, they are Network budget effects, and I don’t want to be hard on the effects team, but a few effects looked too bad to ignore. However, most of the time, I thought the effects were fine. By the way, how did Ollie manage to work that alien blaster so fast?

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Elsewhere, the rest of Team Arrow, along with Cisco, Supergirl and The Flash did what they could to pinpoint the whereabouts of Oliver and company. I bet they’ve been dying to say that line for a while. I loved the enthusiastic reaction of Curtis and Rory as they watched The Flash and Supergirl work. Rene’s mood was a buzzkill, but his paranoia with super powers added an interesting opposition to the group. He changed his tune a little too quickly though once Barry and Kara saved his life. Cisco helped the team by doing his vibe thing but didn’t really seem to add too much more afterwards. Yet, he fit right in with these guys while helping Felicity at the bunker. Weird, huh? The Laurel Washington character seemed like a cool villain. Unfortunately, her introduction was terribly brief and just as sudden as her exit. I’m guessing she’s just a throwaway character just there provide the tech Felicity and Curtis needed to find the team. If so, that’s kind of a waste. Still, the way Flash and Supergirl kicked her ass was an awesome highlight.

The absence of Evelyn aka Artemis stood out like a sore ass. According to IGN, the producer of the show, Marc Guggenheim says having her as part of the event would have been a distraction because in the previous episode, “Vigilante”, she was revealed to be a traitor working with Prometheus. I’m guessing they were just playing it safe and taking into consideration that when people look back on this crossover, they can see all the true heroes in action, saving the world, and not a traitorous member who is only pretending. It kind of makes sense in terms of the crossover, but as part of the Arrow season, it feels off, especially when they don’t even mention her.

Unfortunately, this third part of the crossover – or second part if you choose not to include Supergirl’s episode, which only brought the crossover element at the end of its episode – didn’t do much to explain what the Dominators wish to achieve by invading the planet. Sure, it’s probably a generic hostile takeover plot, but so far, there has been no focus of these evil aliens. It’s now up to Legends of Tomorrow to give us more insight on these creatures, but I feel there won’t be enough time to develop the Dominators as a well fleshed out evil threat. They don’t seem very competent though. Oliver and company weren’t very well guarded on the ship. Once they left their pods, they roamed around the ship pretty freely. Then there’s their exit point, the Soak Industries building. Why would the aliens give them such a big clue like that? These faults really lie more on the crossover itself, but the episode is affected by these flaws because they exist within the actual Arrow episode.

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This 100th episode of Arrow was a fine commemorative piece of the show’s history and accomplishments. It presented a fascinating look at what life could have been for these characters if Oliver and Sarah never went on that yacht. We saw familiar faces and settings, and for once. The Queen family was whole. Now even though the happy setting was a lie, it was interesting to see our fierce warriors living a normal life instead of the violent world they chose to pursue. This episode reminds us that while we enjoy every bad ass moment of Team Arrow’s adventures, they have to sacrifice so much to fight for their city and to help change the world for the better. Kinda makes you appreciate them as people more, no?

Though having plenty of plot holes, wonky special effects and various other issues, this was a truly fun and well produced episode of Arrow, and a great middle act for the crossover. The team behind the show promised a grand event, and they delivered big time. The truth of the matter is, this episode had the huge task of not only being an eventful retrospective episode for the series, but it had to fit in with this colossal crossover event. The results weren’t completely seamless, but they were effective and spectacular. The Arrow portions worked much better than the crossover bits, but every piece of this episode was great to watch. The emotional aspect was everything I could have hoped for, as the cast pretty much gave the best performances of their careers so far. The action was spectacular in every fashion. I mean, did you see Thea shoot an arrow in Sarah’s direction, so she could catch it and use it to stab Damien Darhk? Amazing. The crossover event is one thing, and it’s been fun, but it needs to pick up its pace with the final portion it has with Legends of Tomorrow. However, after this 100th episode of Arrow, I hope the series can keep doing what it’s doing by bringing us more gritty action and emotional storytelling similar in tone with what we got this week.

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