Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Truths Come Out As An Inconvenient "Invasion!" Brings Together The DC Heroes!

The Good: Decent character development, Good performances, Cool effects, Snappy dialogue
The Bad: Moments of predictibility, Does not allow some of the key ideas to truly develop.
The Basics: The Flash properly begins "Invasion!" when the Dominators arrive in Central City and Barry Allen assembles a superteam to try to stop them.

DC Comics have a tendency to create crossover events to sell comic books from a wide range of titles at one time, the thought being that in order to get the whole story, one will have to purchase from across a broad library of titles. The thing is, in order for such crossovers to work and include the full array of characters needed to present the threat as worthy of a team-up of all the various disparate heroes, the conflict usually comes up at times that are not necessarily organic to all of the characters involved. So, for example, when DC Comics did its "Brightest Day" crossover event, Wonder Woman was in the middle of a year-long pocket universe story, which made it entirely inorganic to include the character in any other storylines in the DC Comics universe. As DC Comics properties have been transitioning into television properties, the desire to do crossover events seemed natural, but the first massive crossover event, "Invasion!," is proving to be as difficult and inorganic as the comic book crossovers.

To wit, The Flash episode "Invasion!" properly begins the crossover event which features alien invaders in Central City. The invasion comes abruptly, without any respect for the ongoing plotlines in The Flash, which is fine. However, in order to pull together characters from The Flash, Arrow, Legends Of Tomorrow and (from Earth-38's alien-infested universe) Supergirl, the invasion had to be teased in other properties before it began. As a result, the Legends Of Tomorrow episode "Outlaw Country" (reviewed here!) climaxed with the Waverider crew being called back to Central City, 2016, to help The Flash deal with a crisis that did not yet exist in the narrative (ironically undermining the current season's story, which contains Firestorm getting a message from a future incarnation of Barry Allen, thus eliminating any possibility of menace for The Flash in "Invasion!"). Similarly, throughout the Supergirl episode "Medusa" (reviewed here!), Vibe portals appear at random before The Flash and Cisco appear on Earth-3 to ask for help . . . without detailing what the crisis is that they need Kara Zor-El to assist with.

So, after two exceedingly clunky set-ups, "Invasion!" arrives. "Invasion!" comes on the heels of "Killer Frost" (reviewed here!), which was pretty heavy with character conflict and set up a pretty massive falling out between Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon. It also revealed Alchemy, made Wally West a speedster, brought Dr. Snow back from the brink of being lost as Killer Frost and introduced the new speedster villain Savitar properly. In other words, there was plenty going on in The Flash before its momentum and storyline were broken up by "Invasion!" "Invasion!" does a surprisingly good job of keeping the character momentum of The Flash characters going while assembling the super hero team.

Ten hours before The Flash and Arrow end up pinned down in Star City, Wally West is being tested by Dr. Snow and Cisco Ramon. Iris tries to discourage the team from encouraging Wally West from using his powers. While H.R. attempts to pitch opening S.T.A.R. Labs up for tours, a meteor crashes down in Central City. The Flash quickly discovers that the crashed object is a ship and the aliens within break out. When Lyla arrives from A.R.G.U.S., she tells the S.T.A.R. Labs team about the Dominators and their abductions of humans in the 1950s. Lyla implores the S.T.A.R. Labs team to not try to take on the Dominators alone.

The Flash assembles the team by calling back the Waverider and getting Supergirl and bringing her to Earth-1. Dr. Stein and Jax present Barry with the recording from the future, before the combined team trains against Supergirl. The Dominators abduct the U.S. President, while Wally turns to H.R. to train as a superhero. Drs. Stein and Snow visit Stein's home, where they find his adult daughter, but not his wife. When Cisco finds the recording from the future, Barry is outed and most of the team refuses to go to with him to stop the Dominators. The Dominators, however, lay a trap for the team, which allow the aliens to take control of their minds and turn them against The Flash and Arrow!

Supergirl is used surprisingly organically in "Invasion!" Kara has extensive experience with extraterrestrials and the idea that her people encountered the Dominators is a good detail. "Invasion!" misses a good opportunity for Supergirl to be surprised that the President of the United States on Earth-1 is a man, but otherwise, Kara gels well with the characters in "Invasion!" The continuity is similarly well-executed when Ray Palmer tells Barry about Snart's death.

The conflict between Cisco and Barry continues well in "Invasion!" as does Wally West's desire to develop his super powers. Cisco prioritizes the mission like a professional, but he is unable to sweep aside the consequences of learning the truth about the ramifications in the Flashpoint Tangent in the prior episode. Cisco continues to be distrusting of Barry and when he hears the recording from the Waverider from the future, it is easy for him to move further from Barry's side.

Oddly, Dr. Stein makes the same mistake Barry Allen made after returning to the present from the Flashpoint Tangent; Dr. Snow knows that time has been altered and while Stein turns to her for help in learning about his home life, he does not bother to ask her what she knows. The clues in "Invasion!" are unsatisfying, but it is a case of "simple problem, simple solution" and it is poor characterization for both Stein and Snow that he fails to ask and she fails to volunteer information on what might have changed in Stein's life as a result of Flashpoint. The confusion over the status of Dr. Stein's wife is made inexplicable by Snow's reaction at the end of the visit to his home . . . if she knows something it is ridiculous that she does not tell him what she knows when they are out of earshot of Stein's daughter.

The Dominators are interestingly rendered in "Invasion!" and they are a decent special effect that does the job of creating a menace well worth assembling a super team for. "Invasion!" does a poor job of explaining where the primary villains for The Flash are during the episode. The Dominators arrive, sure, but Alchemy and Savitar sit out the episode as opposed to exploiting the chaos the aliens create.

Crossover events can be tough to pull off, but "Invasion!" starts off the Berlantiverse crossover well, even if it lacks deeper themes and has moments that feel very rushed.

For other works with mind control, please check out my reviews of:
"Flash Vs. Arrow" - The Flash
"Ye Who Enter Here" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Conspiracy" - Star Trek: The Next Generation

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


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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