Synopsis – The Legends work with The Flash, Supergirl and Green Arrow to kill the invaders; while working out how to defeat the Dominators, an alien species.
Episode – Invasion! – The Flash (S03E08), Arrow (S05E08) & Legends of Tomorrow (S02E07) / Medusa – Supergirl (S02E08)
My Take – As a huge fan of DC Comics & its characters, I can finally have a sigh of relief! While their live action counterparts continue to downplay their potential, thanks to some misplaced directors & writers helming the projects, their small screen fellows seems to be hitting the right spots i.e. being silly & fun! It’s hard to believe that this little show called Arrow, a Batman inspired take on the emerald archer, which started about four years ago has evolved so substantially (with its ups & downs), while subsequently expanding into two excellent spinoffs in the form of The Flash & DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. While we continue to hope to see more spinoff of characters overlooked on the bigger screen, as a fan I am glad to see the fellow underrated CBS show Supergirl has also found its new home in the Arrow-verse. As a fan it’s such a pleasure to see how CW’s DC crossovers have evolved thanks to some very tireless work especially from its writers. Two years back, when The Flash first came on the scene, all we got was an episode where Oliver visited Central City and an episode where Barry visited Starling. The episodes were very self-contained. Last year, we got a crossover that was basically the pilot of Legends of Tomorrow followed by The Flash visiting Supergirl’s parallel universe. This time, for the first time, the crossover we’re getting is something that rings true of the medium that created these franchises so many decades ago. Before I start talking more about the crossover event Heroes Vs Aliens! I must warn about the potential spoilers. While the crossover event was supposed to begin with the Supergirl episode titled ‘Medusa’, things dint kick off until the final moments, when The Flash/ Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) turn up to Supergirl/ Kara (Melissa Benoist) asking for her help. It’s fair to say that the audience was pissed. The crossover eventually kicks off in The Flash episode Invasion!, when a meteor crashes in Central City, The Flash arrives to discover the meteor isn’t a meteor but an alien spaceship carrying a group of invaders known as The Dominators. While the Flash team consisting of Cisco Ramon, Iris West (Candice Patton), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), parallel earth Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and the newly super powered Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) are usually up to handling things themselves, an alien invasion seems like something they have been prepared for.
The result, Barry calls upon the aide of the Arrow team consisting of Oliver Queen/ Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Spartan/John Diggle (David Ramsey) & Speedy/Thea Queen (Willa Holland), while the new recruits are tasked with a smaller mission. Joining them also are the current members of the Legends, White Canary/ Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Atom/Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), Heatwave/Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell), Vixeb/ Amaya Jiwe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), Steel/ Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber) & Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh) who form together Firestorm & of course their biggest weapon : Supergirl. While everyone is on board to fight the evil threatening the planet, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it with smiles and laughs as things complicate the moment when Stein & Jackson reveal about future Barry’s message (you have to watch the new season of Legends) & everyone finds out about Flashpoint. While, watching this I felt like I have to pinch myself every few minutes knowing I’m witnessing a 4-show 4-night crossover event pulled off by the CW which, all things considered, was one impressive feat accomplished by the show runners. The CW did a really good job this year of bringing 4 shows together and making it as epic as possible. Nothing felt like filler in any of the episodes, and although I felt the Arrow episode was less of a crossover and more of a nod to being the 100th episode, it still was really damn good! “Invasion!” is the most comic book inspired piece of storytelling ever committed to the Arrow-verse. The entire nearly 3-hour just screams “silver age,” which is basically how the more fantastical entries in the shared universe have operated. Never in a million years would I have thought of seeing a live action version of some of my favorite Superheroes vs. Aliens fight and also that in a TV show! I was so awestruck seeing the fights and surprised by how good the VFX were done. Despite the sheer scale of so many caped, masked and speedy pals together, as a fan it is also a good sign to see the deep bench and maturation of the show runners Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg– produced series and Supergirl’s new home on the Mark Pedowitz-run net this season. In my opinion, the Legends episode was the best among the three, as there was plenty of awesomeness to go around, and was the most successful in terms of delivering what was actually promised with this crossover – a giant mass of colorful heroes punching aliens and saving the world. And while there was a critical lack of certain characters in this episode (namely Supergirl); it served as a very epic and satisfying finish for the crossover.
Another big part of this crossover’s success is the smooth chemistry between the Scarlet Speedster, Arrow and Supergirl leads Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell and Melissa Benoist – though I did find the Krypton native oddly under used through portions of the crossover. Add to that quips and in-jokes by the bucket full, an alien invasion with some very good visual effects and very good source material, a nod to the Hall of Justice from the Super Friends cartoon of the 1970s, a whole lot of twisted timelines and the deadpan malcontent of Legends ‘Heat Wave, played excellently by Dominic Purcell – and you’ve got yourself something in sight of big and bold to watch – and watch you should. However, I would be remiss in not spotlighting the exceptional work on the Arrow’s 100th episode, a pivotal part of the crossover and also featuring a lot of familiar faces from the five seasons of the Emerald archer show, the Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle– written episode manages the surprising feat of being a solid stand-alone in the big wave of the multi-night extravaganza. The first of the DC properties to hit the CW, the Amell-led Arrow has found new gritty focus this season while expanding its own range in terms of narrative and drama – to which this 100th episode is a worthy tribute to a trailblazer of sorts. Even though the time travel aspects of the story made it a Legends of Tomorrow episode, thankfully the focus still heavily remained the pioneers Barry and Oliver. Barry’s friendship with Cisco is restored when Cisco and Felicity join a trio of Legends (Amaya, Nate, and Mick) in the past and Cisco alters the timeline because he wants to make things better; he ends up making things worse, and once Cisco is in Barry’s shoes, he realizes just how hard he’s been on his friend. The temptation to change the past is difficult to resist, and there’s no way of knowing how small changes will reverberate through the timeline. If you have seen the earlier episodes of Legends you know how terribly Martin Stein is dealing with himself after the realization that he now has a daughter because of the pep talk he gave his younger self in 1987, and while he tries to keep his distance from Lily, he can’t stop himself from forming a personal relationship with his kin. He certainly tries, but when his behavior starts to impact Lily’s development of a weapon to use against the Dominators, Martin is forced to connect with her so that she can complete her work. Honestly, I have not been a fan of the Flashpoint development in The Flash, and believe using time travel to manipulate the present-day status quo is a lazy way of creating big changes. Toying with the timeline is one of the big reasons why superhero comics’ continuity can get so confusing, and I worry about The CW’s superhero shows falling into that same trap. By the end of this episode, it looks like Barry has released most of his Flashpoint guilt, and hopefully he’s learned enough from this lesson that he won’t try to alter the timeline again. But when one of the shows is all about time travel, it’s hard not to worry that writers will continue to take these kinds of shortcuts to enact quick change.
The best thing “Invasion!” has going for it is feeling like the first time we’re getting a real crossover out of the Arrow-verse, which is all fans have wanted since Barry first arrived in Starling. This isn’t a throw away and it isn’t a backdoor pilot. “Invasion!” is a crossover in the truest of comic book fashion. It’s an event. It’s a multi-part arc that could be sold as a stand-alone trade paperback. It bleeds comics and breathes camp, which is exactly what we needed this time around. What I didn’t like here was that Supergirl is pushed to the side for most of this episode because Oliver wants to minimize her involvement, and while it would have been nice to have more of Kara Danvers’ brightness throughout this chapter, Oliver’s fear of Supergirl is tied into his general reluctance to embrace change. Ollie’s sudden inability to reconcile working with an alien from another universe was a very random shift in character. I assume the real issue is that the writers were sensitive about relying too much on the multi-talented Supergirl and robbing the episode of any sense of danger or immediacy. And there’s probably something to that. But on the other hand, the real solution to that problem is to escalate the conflict to the point where even someone as powerful as Supergirl becomes the underdog. I get it, there is a lot of pressure for a non-powered human with a bow and arrow, and it makes sense that he would push back hard against this development, particularly when he’s experienced first-hand what these aliens can do to their targets. Luckily, Supergirl saving Oliver’s life does a lot to make him appreciate her, and when she’s out of costume, Kara reminds Oliver that hardship is the thing that makes them stronger. New challenges are scary, but overcoming these challenges is how people grow. It’s not the most revolutionary statement, but there’s genuine warmth in Melissa Benoist’s delivery that makes it sound like the perfect answer to everyone’s problems right now. I loved seeing the gorgeous Melissa Benoist interact with the likes of Stephen Amell, Dominic Purcell and, of course, Grant Gustin, and her lack of screen time in the first two thirds of the episode felt like a real wasted opportunity. Yet, “Heroes Vs. Aliens” has been a hugely ambitious undertaking for The CW, and as a lifelong superhero fan, it’s brought me a lot of joy seeing so many colorfully costumed characters join forces to stop an alien threat. The episodes of the crossover have done admirable work advancing the overarching narrative while maintaining each show’s distinct perspective and the first two chapters gave the crossover a strong emotional foundation by staying focused on Barry Allen and Oliver Queen in the midst of this rapid cast expansion. Arrow’s installment was a particularly pleasant surprise, and while Legends Of Tomorrow’s crossover finale doesn’t pack the emotional punch of Arrow’s episode, it’s a strong conclusion that has the good guys saving the day and learning more about themselves in the process. I’d really like to see a smaller-scale crossover in the future that places the emphasis on the core Kara/Ollie/Barry trinity. PS: Next time please get Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman on board. Please?
Network – CW