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The Flash: Reacting to “Invasion!” (S3:E8)

At long last, the big DC TV four night crossover event is finally here. Supergirl got it started Monday by, um, having a completely standalone episode which made time for a one-minute cameo from Barry and Cisco at the end, a cameo that was then repeated almost in its entirety on The Flash.

Okay. Maybe the CW has been overhyping this just a little bit. Turns out, this is really just a three-night crossover event beginning with The Flash‘s “Invasion!” in which some cheap CGI aliens came and did mean alien things, Barry gathered together all of his friends and then everyone other than Oliver and Kara took turns ripping him a new one for Flashpoint. I think the President actually died (unless that was a hologram), but pish posh. There were more important things to straighten out, some of which probably made no sense if you haven’t been watching Legends of Tomorrow (and really after that first season who could blame you for bailing?). But, hey, there were no hawk people on the run from some immortal Egyptian prone to excessive scenery chewing. So, at the very least we’re off to a better start than last year’s Arrow-Flash crossover.

Really, though, these crossovers all deserved to be graded on a curve and cut plenty of slack, especially as they grow increasingly larger in scale. It’s not easy putting these together, both from a logistical and storytelling point of view. In years past, the producers of the Arrowverse have wrestled with how to best tackle these events. Two years ago, they opted for a more traditional strategy wherein Flash did its thing and so did Arrow, they just happened to guest star in each other’s episode. Then last year the strategy was to make a Flash episode which was more like Arrow and an Arrow episode which was more like The Flash (remember Barry’s time travel which saved everyone and erased Felicity’s sudden break-up with Oliver happened on the Arrow side of the crossover). Mainly, though, their goal was to help set-up Legends of Tomorrow, thus the damn hawk people and Vandal Savage (may we never speak of them again).

This year, their ambition is to create a mini-movie stretched across three nights of television, and their strategy to accomplish this is to repurpose a 1980s comic book villain (i.e., The Dominators) and use them as an excuse to bring all of the good guys together. As far as “Invasion!” is concerned, The Dominators don’t matter, not really. You could call them The Terminators, and say they were robots from the future and it still wouldn’t change much. Point is, big bad guys doing big bad guy things, so big that Barry can’t take them on his own. So, Bob’s your uncle, Barry pops on over to Earth-Whatever to recruit Kara, saves Team Arrow from their Big Bad of the moment before asking for their help and sends a raven for all we know to call in the Legends.

Quick note: Right before the Waverider arrives with Sara and the gang, there is a line of dialogue about them (“They call themselves legends”) which is NOT immediately followed by an obvious joke pointing out the inherent absurdity of these people calling themselves legends (not that they are unworthy of the title, just who the heck goes around calling themselves that?). Real missed opportunity.

And suddenly all of the characters are together in the same nondescript air hanger, and it’s so much fun, especially when Kara delights in memorizing all of their names before showing off her powers. Oliver elects Barry as their leader, over Cisco’s objections. They train for a while, all of them fighting Kara because she’s an alien, ergo training with her is probably the same as fighting one of those Dominators, right? Right?

Hey, shut up about that. They essentially took one of those Superhero Fight Club special videos and incorporated it into an actual episode, and I’ll hear no more sass from you. Look at Supergirl kicking everyone’s ass. It’s so adorable Oliver thought he ever stood a chance against her.

But there’s a problem here, and it is this: Much as the episode and CW’s advertising might like to pretend otherwise, this is not actually a summer blockbuster brought to TV. Sure, it has the trappings of a big movie. There’s an imminent alien invasion. Our makeshift Avengers are all rallying together, and trying to overcome their differences and mistrust, particularly once Barry is forced to come clean about Flashpoint (e.g., sorry about changing your kid’s gender, Diggle, not that I have any idea how exactly Flashpoint caused that). The President of the United States is even kidnapped by the bad guys, thank you very much, Iron Man 3.

However, even with all of this going on we have to see Professor Stein meet his adult daughter for the first time, paying off a Legends storyline kickstarted a couple episodes ago. We have to watch Wally repeatedly try to help out with his new powers despite Joe and Iris’ wishes, ultimately leading him to make a pact with HR to train in secret. We have to drop in on Caitlin’s drama for a minute (mostly, still not using her powers because the show has decided to play a Jekyll & Hyde thing with her powers for some reason). We have to see the next chapter in The Trial of Barry Allen, which is how I’ve come to think of the Flashpoint storyline, holding his feet to the fire. In short, we have to watch, well, an episode of The Flash that just happens to have a lot of guest stars, and thus can’t help but feel overstuffed.

As such, by the time the most legitimately awesome thing happens in the episode, i.e., everyone other than Barry and Oliver are briefly brainwashed by the Dominators and attack STAR Labs, it doesn’t land as much as it should because the episode has been a tad too busy advancing Flash‘s season 3 storylines to give the guest stars (beyond Professor Stein and Oliver) and new villains enough time. The episode then turns into a series of repetitive fight scenes, although they at least wisely divvied it up to pit Oliver against the non-metas (not to mention those with whom he has a long history like Sara and Diggle) and Barry against the metas, most specifically Supergirl, perfectly paired with Flash not just because of her powers but also because he’s the only one in this crossover who she has any kind of relationship with.

Yet as I fill out my favorite moments and least favorite moments section of this review I struggle to come up any least favorite moments. Re-reading this review, it sure seems as if I must have disliked this episode. I didn’t. It was fun, lighthearted escapist entertainment at a time when that could not be more welcome. There were a set of expectations which were not met, but that’s partially a result of the CW’s relentless advertising as well as the fact that a crossover of this scale is always going to struggle to get everything right. Like I said earlier, perhaps it’s best to just cut them some slack and rejoice in the geeky joys of “Invasion!”

Favorite Moment(s): Any time Heat Wave talked to Supergirl, or should I call her Skirt?

Seeing them in the hanger together for the first time.

Sara’s amusement at Barry and Oliver’s Cyrano act.

Iris’ response to Wally’s half-hearted apology for putting himself in so much danger before he was ready.

Least Favorite Moment(s): “Beast team-up ever!” Felt too much like a line written specifically to be used in promos.

Nitpick:

1. Where the heck were Vixen and (don’t make me actually type this) Citizen Steel, Legends’ new recruits? Same goes for Oliver’s new recruits over in Star City.

2. Barry, Oliver and Wally sure could have used the help of someone with ice powers. Just saying.

What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments.

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About Kelly Konda (1782 Articles)
Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

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