Not only was this the big “Invasion!” crossover, but also it was the 100th episode of Arrow! Oliver, Sara, Ray, and Thea were abducted by the Dominators and had to figure out how to escape while the rest of the super friends worked hard on finding them. There was a lot riding on this one, folks, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. Let’s all hop into a shared dream world and go over the details.
- Welcome to the Matrix, Oliver. Enjoy your complimentary glitches.
- Laurel is back! Moira and Robert are back! Tommy is . . . well, he’s back for about five seconds. Still better than nothing!
- Someone finally made an Oliver and Company joke! Thank you, Cisco! I’ve been waiting for that for YEARS.
- Sara and Laurel bonding time. Lance and Oliver bonding time. So many feels! Be still, my heart.
- The old villains are back! Special appearances by Malcolm Merlyn, Damien Darhk, and Deathstroke.
- Wild Dog is prejudiced against powered people. I bet you 100 bucks Barry and/or Kara will do something that helps change his mind for the better.
- You owe me 100 bucks.
- Oliver and Company make the tough choice between the blue pill (staying in fake utopia) and the red pill (going back to save the real world).
- Wave Rider to the rescue! Thank you, super nerds and convenient technology!
- The Dominators probed our heroes and now have all the information they need to attack Earth. Uh oh . . .
A Celebration of All Things Arrow
To me, this episode felt like a love letter to Arrow and its fans. Sure, it was also part of the Heroes Versus Aliens event, but more than that it was about celebrating 100 episodes. I have to applaud the showrunners for making those two big ideas come together in an episode that, for the most part, worked well.
The shared hallucination plotline gave us the opportunity to see what Oliver’s life might have been like if he’d never gotten on the Queen’s Gambit. But that picture-perfect life, while tempting, is not worth sacrificing the real world. For the audience, it offered a chance to get nostalgic about characters and seasons past, about what made us fall in love with Arrow in the first place. This show was the launching point, and without it, there would be no mega crossover. This utopian world was wish fulfilling for the characters and the viewers, and that was a special treat (almost as special as seeing Diggle as The Hood).
Personally, I was delighted to see Robert and Moira Queen return, to see Laurel and Oliver happy, and even to see past villains show up to throw down. But like all good things, it had to come to an end because as much as we love seeing our favorite characters happy, we love seeing them suffer more (don’t try to deny it). This episode reminded us of how much everyone has gone through, and how they manage to keep fighting even though their lives are (let’s face it) sh*tty.
Ghosts of the Past
Having these old characters back was entertaining, fake as they were, but what was just as entertaining was watching Oliver’s real memories (from Queen’s Gambit forward) flashing in random bursts, knocking at his brain to say “Wake up! This isn’t real!” It happened to Ray, Sara, and Thea as well, but since we stayed in Oliver’s point of view, his were so much more vivid. Like I said earlier, it was a way to pay respect to Arrow as a whole, honoring the suffering as much as the joy. It brings to light a question posed by all stories that involve mind manipulation: would you rather be happy . . . or free?
Our heroes are given the opportunity to live in a world without suffering, but they still choose to be free. The one exception was Thea, who chose the hallucination for about ten seconds. That is probably what bothered me the most about this episode. Thea’s choice to stay, to be with her fake parents, was an understandable one. She was happy living a fantasy of the past and free from all the pain in her real life. However, the gravity of her deciding to return to reality was undercut by how quickly she changed her mind. It would have had a lot more impact if even a couple of minutes had passed before she said, “LOL, JK, I’m sticking with you, Ollie.”
Checking In with the Powered People
While the non-powered people were stuck inside the Dominators ship, everyone else worked frantically to find them. Team Arrow gets a lot of help from Cisco because he and Felicity make a great team and he’s fun to have around. They also get a lot of help from Barry and Kara (who, as always, are adorable, especially when they are on screen together). As much as they spend this part of the episode trying to save the abductees, it was just as much about convincing Wild Dog that meta-humans (and aliens!) are not bad people by default just because some of them abuse their power. It’s a pretty cheesy subplot, though, let’s be honest. Barry and Kara save Wild Dog’s life and, because of that one instance, he begrudgingly admits that maybe powered people are so bad. If only solving racism was that easy…
Once our tech nerds discovered that Oliver and company were being held in space, they recruited a very special ship called the Wave Rider (courtesy of the Legends of Tomorrow) to assist in the daring rescue. I was pleased to see it, even though a ship showing up last minute felt very deus ex machina. The aliens made a big show of chasing them, but ultimately decided they have bigger fish to fry. Like the entire Earth, for example. I think the cliffhanger was a nice set up for the crossover’s conclusion on Legends of Tomorrow.
Final Thoughts and Quotes
This episode managed to hit us hard emotionally, an aspect of the episode I loved. Seeing familiar faces that were tragically lost, then having to say goodbye to them again, was especially tear-jerking. Everyone did a spectacular job in their respective roles and it was so much fun to see that many cameos, although I was sad that Tommy didn’t make a true appearance.
On top of the emotional stuff, we also got to see some kick-ass fighting between our heroes and the Big Bads of seasons past (and even a bit of with the aliens, too!). Despite a few flaws, this episode was wonderful. 100 is a landmark episode and I’m so glad they did it justice. It may have been a bit weak as a crossover episode, but I can overlook that and enjoy this episode for what it was.
What did you think of the episode? Do you think this is a sign that the rest of Season Five will be good? Share your thoughts in the comments. and enjoy a few quotes.
Diggle to Oliver: “You have everything. Everything! Stop trying to throw it away.”
Thea to Oliver: “What is waiting for us, wherever we are right now? Nothing. Nothing but pain and suffering.”
Oliver to Laurel: “The person you fell in love with, that’s not me. You’ll always deserve better.”
Cisco: “Your tech guy quotes movies, huh? Real original.”
Sara: “I have to go. We have to go.”
Laurel: “What? No, no, no. Whatever it is, we can fix it!”
Sara: “We can’t. Some things you just can’t fix.”
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