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?