Arrow “Invasion!” Review (Season 5, Episode 8)

Christopher Reeve once said that a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. I’m pretty sure Mr. Reeve wasn’t talking about the folks in this week’s episode of Arrow when he said that, but the sentiment applies nonetheless. Arrow’s episode this week was part three of a four-part crossover event that The CW has been hyping pretty much since before the beginning of this season. So let’s get right to it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not watch Supergirl or The Flash on a regular basis. I’m familiar with the various characters and their abilities in a broad sense, but I’m not intimately familiar with the characters and storylines as they’ve been playing out on those shows. That being said, my ignorance of all the intricate details of those other shows didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this particular crossover event or this Arrow episode. That’s a good thing. Sometimes, a show that is part of a larger universe assumes that everyone who watches that particular show also watches all the other shows associated with that universe. That’s not always the case, and you can actually end up losing the audience if you jump right in without providing any explanation about any of the characters and relationships from the other universe. Arrow avoided this trap pretty well. Mostly it was done via Cisco showing up at Team Arrow’s lair to help Felicity track down Oliver and the other kidnap (or would it be alien-nap?) victims and then Team Arrow having to work with Flash and Supergirl to track down a piece of tech to help decipher the alien tech. It wasn’t overloading the Arrow audience with information about the new characters, but it provided enough info to allow the audience to figure out what was happening.

Although this episode clearly served the larger crossover story, it was still just an episode of Arrow. It wisely focused on characters and events with which all regular Arrow viewers are familiar, so it never took me out of the story. That was a prudent choice for the reason I mentioned above, but also because it allowed the show to bring back some characters we haven’t seen in a while. And that provided the heart of the episode. I was never really a big Moira fan, but the scene between her and Oliver after Oliver realized the truth was kind of a hit to the feels. At the time Moira died, she and Oliver had only just begun to repair their very fractured relationship. Additionally, Oliver had to watch his mother die without being able to do anything to stop it and that, among other things, has haunted him. When he hugged her goodbye in this episode, it was really his apology, his forgiveness, his love, his pain, and his sacrifice all wrapped up in that moment. The same is true of his goodbye to Robert. Oliver became a vigilante because he was trying to honor his father’s last wishes. The fact that Oliver got to hear his father say how proud he is of him and how much he loves him was something Oliver desperately needed to hear. Even if it wasn’t exactly real, Oliver still needed it. Oliver desperately wanted to stay, but he’s a hero. He knew he couldn’t stay because there were people outside the dream depending on him.

Thea had a different reaction to the alien-induced dream. Even after she realized the truth, she wanted to stay. She wanted to stay because all the best parts of her life were there. She was a successful business owner, her parents were alive, and the horizon only looked more and more sunny. I understand her desire to stay. She’s been through quite a bit in the last few years. She discovered that Malcolm Merlyn is her biological father; her mother was stabbed to death right in front of her; she was mind controlled into killing her friend; and she was stabbed to death then brought back to life. That’s a lot to handle in a relatively short period of time. So when Oliver confronted her with the truth, I wasn’t overly shocked by her reaction. But the question I had to ask was: If you know that it’s all a lie, can it still be the same? Will you be able to live out your life knowing that everything around you is fake? It seems Thea ultimately reached the same conclusion I did. No. It cannot be the same, and as difficult as reality may be, it’s better than spending the rest of your life in a lie.

Having most of this episode take place inside Oliver, Dig, Thea, Sara, and Ray’s head also provided an opportunity for Oliver to evaluate the man he is and the choices he’s made. From the moment Oliver chose to take up his father’s cause, Oliver was choosing sacrifice. He’s never going to be able to have the white picket fence and 2.5 children running around. He’s never going to be able to stand by while innocent people are getting hurt. Choosing to be a hero means choosing to give up pretty much everything except the mission. It means choosing to put others’ needs and wants before your own. That kind of sacrifice on such a consistent basis can cause a person to question whether they made the correct decision. Whether if given the choice, they would choose the life of a hero again. That’s the choice Oliver (and the rest) was given in this episode, and he again chose sacrifice. Not because it’s what his father wanted him to do or not because he’s seeking fame and glory. But because he believes it to be the right thing to do. Oliver needed that reminder.

Much of this season, Oliver has been struggling with whether he’s making a positive difference in Starling City. Given all of the horrible things that have happened since he revealed himself as The Vigilante, I can see why he’s having such a hard time. It seems like every time Starling City takes a step forward, it takes three steps back. Whether that’s people like Slade Wilson showing up to wreak havoc or Damien Darhk attempting to “purify” the City. Starling City and Oliver have been suffering loss after loss for several years now, and Starling City looks to be in worse shape than it was when Oliver started trying to save it. Having a chance to revisit, if only in a dream, the people who mean so much to him and hearing them remind him what they see in him and how proud they are of him may be the boost that Oliver needs to gain new perspective.

All in all, I enjoyed this episode. I especially enjoyed the last fight scene at the Queen mansion. Not only was it filmed very well, it carried a sort of emotional weight I wasn’t necessarily expecting. One thing that kind of fell flat for me was the relationship between Oliver and Laurel. I never really felt like their relationship was all that deep anyway, so them being together in this episode just kind of felt meh. Yes, they have history. Yes, Oliver loves, or rather loved, Laurel. But their relationship was pretty much history when Oliver came back from the island. Even when the show tried to rekindle it again, it just never really worked for me. I understand that it wasn’t supposed to really “work” in this episode either though. So ultimately, the fact that it fell flat didn’t bother me too much. The story concludes on Legends of Tomorrow, and as much as things usually don’t live up to the hype, I’m pretty impressed with what The CW has done with this crossover thus far. So what did y’all think of this week’s Arrow?

  • RobPattinsonWeb

    Them giving more time to a failed “relationship” just proved to me this was total fan service for these LOLiver fans. I can’t help myself. I will keep calling it that because that’s what it is LOL worthy.

    I don’t know how anyone can like this pairing. It’s not like we were shown why they loved each other. We were shown how Oliver continuously bedded other women and getting one pregnant all the while we were being TOLD he loved her. Sorry never bought it. They really saved themselves or Emily Bett Richards and saved the show along with Stephen and David Ramsey. People can say what they want about Olicity but we were shown their journey to their love. We were shown the Original Team Arrow trio partnership from the beginning. That’s why these aspects of the show work so well and have resonated because it was the story told and fleshed out.

    Them spending so much time on LL in the 100 episode showed so many flaws they conjured up all throughout the series. I hear she’s going to be in an episode soon. I just hope to God it’s the last one ever. They need to stop giving this character so much time on the show. She’s dead get over it.

  • Kathleen Kervin

    I think the Dream World was well done, especially for Oliver and Thea. Sara got to pretend that she never competed for Oliver with Laurel (what happened to that party where she got grounded while Laurel hooked up with Oliver?) and Diggle and Ray got very little. There was a whole lot of Laurel/Lauriver fanservice though. When Laurel was alive Oliver cheated on her in the past and tried to keep her out of his present. This was Back To The Comics.

    I notice that you barely mention the real world though except noting Cisco as an introduction because it didn’t even matter and that highlights my dissatisfaction with this season.

    What got me into this show was the Team Arrow of Oliver/Diggle/Felicity. I understand that in season 5 they want to bring in new characters but it’s too many, too soon, and too unpleasant (especially Wild Ass, who is a bully and a thug and doesn’t care, as he let Kara and Barry know this episode). Curtis has gone from sweet and charming to annoying, Evelyn is barely there and as much as I like Rory, magic rags has no place on this show. Why not just send him in every time like Barry? Meanwhile, the original team, that hooked me, is split up as they try to write group fights for the new characters.

    In season 5 women have fared the worst (Thea is stuck in the mayor’s office helping Oliver and getting Quentin sober) and Felicity in this episode epitomizes it. In the present, she’s not only doesn’t worry about her five very good friends being kidnapped by aliens, she needs Curtis to mansplain’ to Cisco her tech idea and later tell her it’s okay, they can handle this, and Rory to point out the Torah parallels. I really liked Curtis last season but now that he’s on the team, he’s taking over Felicity’s jobs and algorithms even though as an engineer and not an IT specialist, he shouldn’t be anywhere as good at it as she is. It’s like the writers dropped Felicity’s IQ 80 points this season along with taking away her CEO job and ideals and leaving her to fetch coffee for her white bread boyfriend and take being insulted by Wild Ass in the bunker.

    She doesn’t fare much better in the dream world either. In the Arrow bunker she squeals for Diggle like a little girl when Oliver shows up, and Ray’s Felicity is a literal doll who spins in circles when he leaves her side.

    I don’t know what the thinking behind the show this season was but they’ve taken a hard turn into comic canon with more masks! more fights! men! men! Lauriver! fights! men! this season and I’m barely hanging in. They need to pull off a great episode this week or I’m out.

    • Jessica Breaux

      I understand your frustration, and I share some of it. If you read any of my reviews from the last couple of seasons, you already know of my disappointment with the way they’ve written Felicity. She was one of my favorite characters during the first two seasons because she was smart, strong, and resourceful. Even when she was out of her depth, she wasn’t the typical damsel in distress. They started changing that in season three, and they haven’t really written Felicity consistently awesome since. She’s had her moments, but overall it’s like the powers that be forgot what a great character she is.

      I also agree with you about Rene. I really don’t like him at all, and the show has done nothing to redeem his character. He’s rude. He’s mean. He’s arrogant. He doesn’t follow orders. They’ve tried a couple of times to show his “softer side,” but I’m just not interested. With the exception of Curtis, I’m not really interested in any of the new sidekicks. Rory is ok, but he’s just kind of bland. As is Evelyn. I disagree with you about Curtis though. He’s behaving exactly as I would expect someone with his background to behave if they were tossed into similar situations. Specifically to your point about his IT abilities, he was always pretty much on par with Felicity and they always spoke the same tech language.

      • Kathleen Kervin

        late reply…. I agree that Curtis has been on a par with Felicity but they have different skill sets, or at least they should. Curtis is an engineer like Cisco, and Felicity is an IT programmer. I wish the writers would separate their functions, have Curtis build new tech for the team like the bio chip he built for Felicity (they could really get into some great comic book-y stuff), and have her do the programming and hacking she got her degrees in. Right now, it seems like they write a computer-related thing or a funny line and flip a coin to see which one will say it.

        It’s a pity that the new team is so blah because I like Oliver not for himself but through his interactions with other characters like Diggle, Thea and Felicity, and this new team isn’t bringing out anything I’m interested in in him.