[Review] Arrow Episode 5×08: “Invasion! Part Two”

written by Brandon Moore

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Wait what? We’re reviewing Arrow this week? But nobody here cares enough about that wannabe Batman to…ohhhhhh, it’s a crossover episode? That explains it.

This week on Arrow, aliens are invading. A group of ninjas, scientists, vigilantes, and a borderline god(dess) have come together to fight the threat. Somehow Oliver Queen still manages to make it all about him.

When we last left our intrepid heroes at the end of The Flash, several of them had been kidnapped by the invading Dominators. In an effort to find them, Felicity brings Cisco back to Star City, giving the rest of Team Arrow a chance to get in on the crossover party. Curtis geeks out, Rene’s abs glisten, and Rory…stands around, but doesn’t do much. I guess the CW needed to save on the special effects budget. As long as Felicity and Cisco are in the same room, though, I’m happy.

The group hacks some alien tech, defeats a totally random cyborg woman, gets some brief help from Flash and Supergirl for kicks, and realize their abducted buddies are totally far out. Like, way far out. Like, outer space far out on a Dominator mothership. Oh, and Rene gets a really forced arc about learning that not all metahumans (or aliens) are bad.

None of that matters, though, as the real meat of this episode resides in the mind palace of lies where the Dominators have trapped our heroes. Kept in stasis pods, Oliver and company live out a false dream life in their minds. Why? More on that later. What’s important is that the entire Queen family is alive and well, Oliver is about to inherit the company, Sarah is home with a not-dead Laurel, Diggle is atoning for his sins at war by continuing to serve and protect the city as “the Hood,” Ray continues to advance science while having perfect hair, puppies and kittens can be summoned on demand, rainbows adorn every sky, and you can combine coupons at supermarkets. It’s all pretty great.

At least until Ollie stars getting glitchy flashes of the truth. As he finds himself standing heroically in front of muggers, getting visions of zombie!Laurel, and entering Diggle’s Hood Lair more easily than strangers get into S.T.A.R. Labs, he realizes that everything is wrong and eventually remembers the truth. The others similarly come to their senses slowly but surely.

It’s a well-worn trope, the idea of keeping you pacified by giving you your heart’s desire. It feels straightforward and a little dull here. Almost nothing is unexpected or surprising. The only interesting bit is the implication that Diggle is most fulfilled continuing to be a vigilante rather than, say, leading a calmer life with his wife and son/daughter. But the show doesn’t take time to explore that, as Oliver is the focus and delivers his heroic speech about rejecting the fantasy and sacrificing for the betterment of others, right on cue. Don’t get me wrong; Stephen Amell plays the brooding hero well, but the material is just a bit stale.

The shining jewel of the episode, however, is Thea, the poor soul on the receiving end of Oliver’s Heroic Speech™. He needs to convince her that they must fight on, because she expresses a true desire to stay. She knows it’s all false, but it’s everything they could want. All the wrongs are right and everyone is happy. (Think of Cypher from The Matrix, only less evil and with cuter hair.) Willa Holland delivers a heartbreaking plea that could convince even the hardest of hearts, even Oliver’s. He agrees to let her stay in the dream and it was the first time I really perked up the entire episode. It’s almost a shame she changes her mind exactly one commercial break later.

With everyone on board, the system bent on keeping them asleep and docile throws their sworn enemies at them and the show gets to do what it does best: fun fight choreography. In the spirit of this crossover bringing main characters together, Ollie fights Deathstroke, Sarah gets her grudge match against Damian Darhk, Thea takes on daddy dearest Malcolm Merlyn, and Diggle and Ray get to deal with masked goons 3 through 9. It’s a fun moment and a good way to cap off an otherwise fairly bland episode. Especially bland, considering it’s part of this big crossover event.

With their proverbial demons defeated, the crew click their heels three times and return hometo an alien spaceship filled with angry CGI. Apparently the Dominators were using their minds to create a weapon? And their language is based on numerology and the Torah? No time for that! The gang has hijacked a small ship and escaped, but they’re about to be blown out of the sky! Nothing can save them except for…the Waverider! Nate swoops in to carry our heroes and our questions into Legends Of Tomorrow.

All in all, it was a pretty average episode for Arrow. I haven’t seen Legends Of Tomorrow yet, but I have a feeling that, of this crossover’s three main parts, this middle chapter will be the weak link. The Flash really made the whole ensemble feel important, and Legends is already used to juggling several characters. This has been a fun geekfest so far and I look forward to seeing its culmination.

And Kate Spencer’s puns.

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW ON LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

Arrow airs Wednesdays on the CW at 8 ET/7 CT. Brandon can be reached on Twitter @BluThundur.

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