Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Invasion!" Continues When Arrow Is Abducted Into A Holodeck!

The Good: Decent performances, Good character journey for Oliver Queen, Special effects
The Bad: Very predictable plot, Where is Firestorm?!
The Basics: Arrow continues the "Invasion!" with an episode that focuses on Oliver Queen and his allies trapped in a Dominator simulation.

When Warner Brothers created a new DC Television Universe, I was not an immediate convert. After all, their more recent attempt was with Smallville and between me not getting the television network it aired upon and having no interest in Superman, I was not overly impressed. As a result, I did not get on board with Arrow. However, given that the DC Television Universe is doing a massive crossover between its four television series', I figured I ought to be sure to catch the Arrow chapter of the crossover at least. The Arrow episode "Invasion!" follows on the heels of The Flash episode "Invasion!" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the Arrow portion of the crossover event without some references as to where The Flash chapter of it concluded.

It is worth noting that I am virtually illiterate in Arrow; all I know about where the show is in its storyline in its fifth season is that Diggle's daughter was transformed into a son as a result of Barry Allen's temporal meddling in "Flashpoint" (reviewed here!) and that for some unknown reason that truly upsets Diggle . . . even though there is no indication there is anything wrong with his son. Thea has retired from being Speedy, but has come out of retirement to deal with the alien invaders, the Dominators . . . and she has some papers from the City Council that Oliver Queen needs to sign. And Green Arrow and John Diggle's attempt to take down the Vigilante nearly got them killed, but The Flash arrived just in time to rescue them from a hail of bullets to tell them about the alien invaders. Thus ends my knowledge of current Arrow before "Invasion!" begins, though from The Flash episode, I know that Oliver Queen, has been abducted along with Sara Lance, Thea, Ray Palmer, and Diggle.

Oliver Queen is running through the woods and arrives back at his home where Laurel Lance is alive and now engaged to him. Queen is actually in the custody of the Dominators, plugged into a virtual reality table. Cisco Ramon arrives with Felicity at the Arrow's command center, where he meets Curtis and two other members of his team. Inside the simulation, Thea gives Oliver an artifact before their parents arrive and Sara experiences a minor glitch when she sees Laurel and she has a canary on an artifact. When Oliver stands up to a mugger, an archer appears and takes the would-be assailant away.

While Cisco and Felicity and the team attempt to hook up Dominator technology to track where the Dominators have taken the others, Oliver Queen and Sara Lance continue to experience glitches within the simulation. Oliver enters the Hood's secret laboratory, where he is confronted by Felicity and The Hood (Diggle). Oliver Queen begins to put together that his life is not quite right and he starts to confront the people from his regular life. The Flash, Supergirl, Mr. Terrific and two others begin a hunt for Laura Washington for the technology she stole in order to find the alien ship. Diggle and Queen meet up in the simulation and both feel that the Smoak Building in Starling City is out of place and they begin to compare notes, with Diggle figuring out that the Dominators exist and are real. While Oliver tries to convince Thea to leave the simulation with him and the others, The Flash and Supergirl incapacitate the technothief.

The Arrow section of "Invasion!" is largely an introspective character study, as opposed to a firm continuation of the Dominator invasion story. Oliver Queen starts to put things together faster than anyone else in "Invasion!" while characters like Sara Lance deliver ironic barbs based on who their characters are in other incarnations of the DC Television Universe ("You're lucky I'm not a trained assassin!"). Queen is essentially falling apart in the simulation, by having the family and love he lost given to him and that is interesting, though it has been done in science fiction a lot. The plot of this segment of "Invasion!" is very much a "distract the heroes by giving them what they most want" simulation, though even as one who is not a viewer of Arrow, this one held up remarkably well.

In fact, when John Diggle notes that the Smoak Building exists in their shared hallucination, it is hard not to suddenly appreciate the writing in the "Invasion!" Crossover event. The Smoak Building was something that Sara Lance and Ray Palmer would have seen in at least one future, so it would have been anomalous in Diggle, Thea and Oliver's reality. Sara Lance quickly asserts her pragmatic nature, which grounds those who are fans of Legends Of Tomorrow, but not Arrow.

Despite the intimate characterizations in "Invasion!," the episode is remarkably accessible once one understands the premise. The performances in "Invasion!" are good, with Stephen Amell giving a solid portrayal of a man who is torn between what he wants and what he knows to be real. Amell has surprisingly good range for his facial expressions in the moody, quiet moments of the episode and his reaction shots to Willa Holland's Thea are brilliantly conflicted.

"Invasion!" becomes its most original for a depressingly short amount of time, when the episode allows Thea to choose to stay in the simulation. For a few moments, Diggle, Palmer, Lance and Oliver Queen prepare to leave without her and the fact that she would knowingly choose to stay within (essentially) The Matrix is an interesting and comparatively original character twist.

The Arrow component of the "Heroes Vs. Aliens" crossover takes a strong, character-centered detour from the main conflict begun in The Flash episode "Invasion!" but it manages to work. The Dominators take until the very final moments of "Invasion!" to be classified as a threat worthy of the massive crossover, but once the episode gets there, it sets the next chapter up well . . . even if it leaves viewers wondering just where the hell Mick Rory and Firestorm are!

For other works with Stephen Amell, please check out my reviews of:
"Out Of Time" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Star City 2046" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Pilot, Part 1" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Legends Of Today" - The Flash
"Rogue Air" - The Flash
"Flash Vs. Arrow" - The Flash
"City Of Heroes" - The Flash
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Injustice: Gods Among Us
The Tracey Fragments


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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