That was a lot of fun. The end.
Really, what more needs to be said about “Invasion!”, CW’s three show (Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) crossover event that also happened to co-star Supergirl? The alien invasion story told across the episodes wasn’t perfect. Characters often came and went with little to no explanation, no doubt a casualty of the insane logistical challenges in the shooting schedule. The special effects showed their financial limitations, particularly during the final battle between the heroes and CGI aliens. The inevitable easter eggs and metajokes were hit and miss, sometimes groanworthy. Major story points, like Oliver turning briefly xenophobic about Kara or Professor Stein pledging to essentially murder his own time aberration daughter, never convinced us they were anything other than complete and utter bullshit. The plot ramifications for Earth-1 as a whole (the government knows Barry is the Flash, the planet just stared down an alien invasion, etc.) so clearly won’t carry over, mostly because the producers have told us as much in interviews.
But who cares? The producers, writers, cast and crew responsible for these shows practically killed themselves to bring us their most ambitious crossover event yet. On top of that, they managed to make something that was actually coherent and mostly accessible for those people who might watch one or two of these shows but not all of them. The Flash episode felt like a Flash episode. The same goes for Arrow, and while Legends had to sacrifice more than the others since its episode served as the finale it still featured plenty of time travel and fun scenes on the Waverider.
Even as all the characters gathered to fight aliens, each episode of the event advanced individual storylines – Professor Stein met the daughter he inadvertently created through time travel but now wants to keep, Sara got her goodbye with Laurel, Cisco finally forgave Barry for Flashpoint, which ultimately became the primary arc of the three-parter. This was about everyone forgiving Barry, but especially Cisco. It was also about Barry finally earning the audience’s forgiveness through his selfless effort to give himself up to The Dominators.
On one level, that’s actually a bit disappointing, turning this grand cross-over into something a tad more mundane (or budget-conscious) than expected. An epic superhero movie just transplanted to TV this was not. On another level, this is actually more organic and certainly more preferable to the way they’ve done the crossovers in the past.
However, as is the way with so many Justice League storylines (and just about every episode in the first season of the Justice League animated series) the writers quite clearly had a huge Superman problem or, in this case, Supergirl problem. She could logically have handled this crisis with The Dominators almost entirely on her own albeit with an intel assist from the tech/science people like Stein, Cisco and Felicity. The Justice League answer is often to somehow neutralize Superman (oh, look, here’s some spare kryptonite we had lying around); “Invasion!”‘s answer was to mostly to hold Supergirl at arm’s length and use her sparingly. As a result, Kara was underutilized.
That’s not just the result of the classic Superman storytelling problem, though. It’s also probably a reflection of budget. On top of that, Kara is literally a character from another universe meaning she has no ties to Earth-1 outside of her friendship with Barry. Anything going on in her life over on Supergirl right now absolutely did not carry over into “Invasion!”. The Legends capper finally gave her something to play, specifically her efforts to win Oliver’s respect and trust, yet you could still see the “what do we do with Supergirl?” strain throughout the crossover.
And now that’s something they can try to do a better job on next time because there will definitely be a next time. Flash and Supergirl are already confirmed to have a musical crossover planned for early 2017. Then, should all four of the Arrowverse shows still be around this time next year (I’m not so convinced Legends will be back, not with its high cost and relatively low ratings) there will most certainly be another big crossover event. Maybe we’ll get to see Diggle’s reaction to meeting Martian Manhunter next time, although we’ve actually already seen that in the most recent non-canonical Superhero Fight Club video.
These episodes are just pure light-hearted entertainment, comic books brought to life, mimicking the medium’s event (or annual) issues in a way very few movies have outside of The Avengers. “Invasion!” was fun and goofy and overstuffed and not 100% perfectly coordinated. The next one they do probably won’t be perfect either, but it’ll sure be a heck of a good time for those who just want to escape into this world and watch these characters hang out, punch stuff, hang out, talk science, punch stuff, talk science one more time and then punch stuff before celebrating their victory.
As this “Heroes vs. Aliens” event frequently acknowledged, we’re insanely far removed from where we started five years ago with Oliver and that island. It was nice to see that history acknowledged, from Oliver’s Matrix fantasy world on Arrow to Sara reminding Oliver on Legends that his is all technically started with the two of them. However, after so much sci-fi craziness with aliens and time travel and whatever the hell you want to call Citizen Steel’s godawful costume it all ended about as perfectly as it could: Oliver and Barry having drinks together.
Some day, Kara will probably be at that bar with them, though I doubt Melissa Benoist will ever truly look old enough to drink. For now, this universe bends around Oliver and Barry, and the demands of their shows dictate they must constantly be living heightened lives. But, gosh, they – and everyone who worked on “Invasion!” – definitely earned those drinks and a hardy pat on the back.
Here’s how Marc Guggenheim summed it all up in an interview with Deadline:
I think when you do a season of television you go into it going I’d like the season premiere needs to be amazing. The season finale needs to be amazing. Then, of course you want the mid-season premiere and the mid-season finale to be great and we always include the crossovers in that. So, it’s a very big deal for us. It’s our big event of the year and we really give it our all, and we try to leave absolutely nothing on the field.
But to do that takes so much work on the part of so many people, the crew, the writers, the actors, everyone. It’s a job but they’re also doing it because they love the shows, they love the fans and they love these characters. So many of the people involved with these shows are fans of the characters of comics and love seeing all these people together on screen. We all get the same jolt that I think the audience gets which is oh my God, they’re all like Supergirl is sharing time with Flash and Arrow and Legends How fun is that? That to us is the whole reason we do this.
Nitpicks & Highlights:
1. Felicity remarking of Kara, “It’s like looking in a mirror,” is funny for the way it lampshades the obvious physical and personal similarities between the two characters. Having Ray immediately follow up with, “Hey ya know what’s funny? She kinda of looks like my cousin,” is also funny (i.e., she’s Supergirl, he once played Superman) but it steps over Felicity’s line and doubles up on the meta.
2. There is so much mirth and affability throughout the cast of the Arrowverse that Heat Wave turned out to be the perfect foil, be he speaking down to Supergirl or hitting on her or criticizing Citizen Steel’s terrible costume or having no patience for Cisco and Felicity’s shit or giving Barry a really terrible pep talk.
3. When Vixen called forth the elephant, and then charged with everyone behind her were we supposed to see some actual evidence of her being a one-woman stampede (no such evidence presented itself) or does her power not really work that way?
4. The government now completely knows about Team Arrow, Team Flash, the Legends and Supergirl to the point of even knowing some of their secret identities. Feels like a major change to this little universe which the shows will drop completely by this time next week.
5. Was Cisco’s “man, time travel is hard. I totally forgive you now, Barry” epiphany too thinly plotted for its own good or impressively realized and touching?
6. Who was cleaning up all of Felicity’s throw-up on the Waverider? Gideon?
7. Where was Thea during Legends‘ third of “Invasion!” Or Iris? Or Joe? Or Wally? Or..I’ll stop now.
8. First meeting of Kara with everyone other than Barry. First storyline involving aliens. First crossover between the four different shows of the Arrowverse. Arrow‘s 100th episode. So many monumental moments or memorable “firsts” in these episodes this week, yet the most lasting might be this: we heard “Franz Drameh (Jax) say the word ‘Poundtown’ to Victor Garber.” Our ears and eyes might never recover.
9. Remember this moment and lock it away because there might never be a better time to be a Supergirl, Flash, Arrow and/or Legends fan. The future crossovers might fail to recapture the unbridled joy that was this past week, the delight in realizing we were seeing a first in the history of comic book TV. This whole experience was just so much fun.