Last we saw of Arrow, we were 99 episodes deep and nowhere near the throes of an alien invasion. God, we were so young. Now? It’s the almighty 100th episode, complete with alien invasion (“Invasion!” as the crossover event is called) and decent to absolutely traumatizing hologram usage. And you know what? There are even tears to be had when Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) hugs his “parents” and tells them he’s sorry.
There’s a lot to cry about. As a fan of Arrow, theres so much to enjoy about this episode and also a lot to handle, given how many people this monster of a show has brutally murdered. There are plenty of callbacks to the first season (“Thea gave me a rock.”) that would almost make you misremember that season as “happier” times — even though Arrow Season 1 is the reason for present day Oliver Queen Serial Killer arguments. In this world, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is alive, and Oliver, Sara (Caity Lotz), and even a less boozy Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) couldn’t be happier. Also, do you miss Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell)? Of course you do, because you have two eyes and a heart. Well, in hallucination world, he’s alive and doctoring it up in Chicago, just like in “real” life. It’s all, in a word, perfect.
Less happy and more absolutely staggering, considering the implications, is the fact that Thea Queen (Willa Holland) was planning to stay in an alien hallucination world simply because she considered it “real enough.” Now, while it’s been boiling under the surface as Thea has mostly said goodbye to her vigilante ways, this episode really hones in on the fact that Thea feels an intense emptiness and unhappiness in her life. Yet, she’s the one who has to keep things together in the normal world. We talk a lot about Oliver’s happiness and lack thereof, but Thea truly deserves to be happy too. Brainwashing, death, betrayal by the literal patriarchy — she may be the kid sister, but she’s seen some shit.
The plot is all so bittersweet and heartbreakingly beautiful that Arrow finally figures out a way to have Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) work in this show’s world … two seasons after his actual tenure here. Now if only there were a way to take the emotional resonance of this episode and try to cut away its less compelling characters so that we don’t get a plot that ends up meaning nothing.
No one was actually thinking that, but it’s what happens outside of the shared hallucination, since the B-Team Arrow not being a part of this alien crossover event would ultimately lead to the B-Team Arrow whining about not being a part of this alien crossover event. So now here we are.
In fact, as far as arguments against shoehorning the B-Team Arrow in go, this episode is a major one. Because let’s be real, this episode absolutely serves as a reminder that one Susanna Thompson is worth more than all of the B-Team Arrow, at least twice over, and that’s probably the last thing it intended to do. Sorry, Ragman (Joe Dinicol). You’re cool and all, but you’re not Moira Queen … or even a really frightening hologram of Colton Haynes’s Roy Harper.
As has become the norm in all arguments the B-Team Arrow, the major factor here is (yet again) Wild Dog himself, Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez). This week, he adds bigotry to his list of qualities! Yes, on top of all his other unpleasant characteristics, Rene also hates meta-humans and any type of aliens. Is it because he knows he’ll never get to star in his own Wild Dog show, unlike them? No, it’s just because, “superpowers are evil.” Since evil meta-humans only started to exist once the Flash (Grant Gustin) showed up, and aliens only showed up once Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) did, Rene thinks superpowers are some bastardized cause and effect, only he simplifies it to “superpowers are evil.”
Sure, Rene completely changes his tune as soon as the Flash and Supergirl save his ass — because of course he needs that saved — in record time, but that doesn’t change one simple fact to come out of what could have been the perfect episode of Arrow, and that’s that Rene has taken the crown as worst character on any of these Arrowverse shows. And that means a lot. When he’s not spouting his bigotry in this episode, he’s reminding everyone that he hates nerds and ends the show with an “I don’t apologize, sweetheart” to Supergirl. Even though his constant screw-ups are the types of things that require mass amounts of apologizing.
It may come across like mental whiplash going from the broken beauty of the dream world situation of the episode to the nightmare reality of where Arrow actually is 100 episodes, but that’s unfortunately the one downside of this episode. What could arguably be the best thing the show has ever done and has completely earned is basically hurt by the show’s present circumstances. So when you rewatch the episode, make sure to only watch the dream and space parts of the episode. Your tear ducts could use the emotional Salmon Ladder.