TV ReviewsA Review of “Invasion!” – The CW’s DC Superhero Crossover Event

December 3, 2016

*If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my standalone review of The Flash which was part one of the crossover event.

The much anticipated Arrowverse crossover week concluded after three episodes of some of DC’s best superheroes. We’ve gotten used to seeing Barry and Oliver connect, but this year was even better with the addition of Supergirl and the Legends. Each episode was different in that they stuck to each shows problems and tendencies, but also reminded viewers that these heroes are in the same universe (CW’s universe that is).

We have seen different shows on different networks dabble with crossovers in the past. Just this season Brooklyn 99 and New Girl did a crossover. The Simpsons and Family Guy have done it, and even Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens existed in the same universe. But what the CW is doing with their DC shows is different. Superheroes are supposed to coexist and seeing it happen semi-frequently on the small screen is amazing. What’s better is this year didn’t just feel like a three-hour Avengers movie (different world, I know). Each show played to its strengths and complimented the others, all while fighting a common enemy.

This year’s crossover, “Invasion!”, based off the DC comic series, followed the Arrowverse crew as they fought off an alien invasion. These aliens, also known as the “Dominators”, set out to eliminate metahumans from Earth because they viewed them as a threat to their kind. The Flash episode of the crossover was by far the slowest of the three and was really used as an introduction to the story. That doesn’t mean it was bad, though. The first battle with the Dominators gave our heroes a taste of what they were up against and it presented their first problem when Oliver, Ray, Diggle, and Sara were abducted. Where the first episode really exceeded, though, was showing off the personalities of everyone and the conflicts that would come with them.

I’ve said many times that the biggest asset of The Flash is the chemistry the team has together and the same can be said for the CW’s other DC shows. Bringing this many characters together from four different shows might have changed this, but it didn’t. Producer Andrew Kreisberg and the rest have done a great job creating this universe and it was on perfect display in this year’s crossover. Each character stood out while also meshing well to create a very likable team.

Things really picked up in the episode of Arrow, which also served as the show’s 100th episode (congrats!). Superheroes of every era and every universe often struggle with the question “what if?” A common theme in this genre is people get their powers because of a tragic event in their life and they often ask themselves, what if they never hand powers? What if their life was back to “normal”? Oliver found himself struggling with exactly this in the second episode.

When the Dominators abducted him, Sara, Ray, and Diggle, they were sent into a shared hallucination. Oliver never got on the Queen’s Gambit. His parents were still alive, Sara still had her sister and was never the White Canary, and Diggle lived his life as the man in the hood. They eventually realized it was a fake world used to distract them and they were forced to leave it behind, but not without hesitation. This part of the episode did a great job at paying homage to the past 99 episodes. The flashbacks and cameos from past characters were fun to see and made us remember where the CW-verse got its start.

The downfall of this episode, though, was that it was still part of the crossover, so non-Arrow things interrupted what would have been a great standalone episode. Everything dealing with Cisco, Team Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl and their attempt to save their comrades from an alien abduction felt forced. Cisco and Team Arrow had to do some techy stuff and the others fought some bad guys. It just felt like a distraction. The end wasn’t much better too. Once Oliver and the others escaped the Dominator’s mothership a cheesy space battle ensued. I know I’m going to get some serious hate for this, but the whole thing felt like a mashup of Space Invaders and the original Star Trek. I don’t want to knock the show for only having a TV budget, but the whole time I was just picturing everyone sitting in front of a green screen pretending they were flying a spaceship back to Earth.

The final hour of the crossover delivered the most action by far. This episode was full of capes, masks, aliens, and explosions, which is what I expected from the three-part event. This was also the episode that finally gave us some background on why the Dominators were invading Earth. Watching the first two hours without any context was a little aggravating but watching Heat Wave, Citizen Steele, and Vixen take Cisco and Felicity back to 1951 was entertaining.

The fallout of time travel was a central theme of this episode, with multiple characters realizing its danger. Professor Stein struggled to work with his previously unknown daughter who only existed because of his time travel and Barry was ready to surrender himself to the Dominators because of the role Flashpoint played in all this. Cisco also learned the risk of messing with the timeline when he decided to rescue one of the aliens from 1951. When they got back to 2016 they found out the Dominator he saved from death 65 years’ prior was the one who wanted Barry dead and was leading the assault on Earth. Some of this just felt like unnecessary character drama and an easy way to resolve Cisco’s problem with Barry. At this point, I was just looking for cool battle scenes and superhero stuff.

Luckily, the rest of the episode was just that, but even the showdown on the rooftop was a bit of a letdown. It was cool to see the DC stars of the three shows majestically lined up ready to save the world, but the fight itself didn’t live up to the three-day buildup. Again, I know there is only so much they could’ve done on a TV budget. I guess it was just my imagination fueling my high expectations but it was still entertaining to watch. Another gripe I had was the overall lack of Supergirl. Melissa Benoist plays the role so well and has great chemistry with the team (especially with Grant Gustin). This should have been a breakout event to bring her into the Arrowverse.

In general, though, this year’s crossover exceeded my expectations. The first two episodes did a lot to set the story and develop the characters into a unified group. I was worried it would be tough to mesh so many characters’ stories together but it turned out great. It helps when you have some fantastic actors leading the way. Although the final showdown was a bit of a letdown, the whole event turned out to be a fun three days of TV. What Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim are doing for DC and the genre is great. Unlike some of the recent DC movies, the Arrowverse is becoming must watch TV if it wasn’t already. Like Felicity Smoke said, “best team-up ever”, or at least on recent TV!

Score: 8.5/10

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