What happened last week on The Flash isn’t as important to the show’s latest episode as what happened Monday night on Supergirl, or even as what’s been happening lately on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. The CW’s DC block is in crossover mode this week, and unlike past seasons where the big multi-series events have been teased out slowly over many months, this year’s big team-up arrives somewhat suddenly, interrupting some fairly complicated arcs on all four programs. The ultimate effect of The Flash’s “Invasion!” is the same, however: It’s pure superhero crack, designed to give a rush to longtime comics fans who’ve always wanted to see their favorite characters together in live action.
The Splash Page
The key image in “Invasion!” bookends the episode, introduced in the opening scene (before what amounts to an hour-long flashback), and then brought back near the end to set up the crossover’s next chapter, tonight on Arrow. When Team Arrow and a handful of the Legends discover that the Flash has selfishly altered their timelines, they lose faith in him as a leader, forcing Barry and Oliver to stay behind while Supergirl, Spartan, Speedy, White Canary, Heat Wave, the Atom, and Firestorm all try to rescue the President of the United States from an alien abduction. The heroes end up getting brainwashed by the invading “Dominators,” and then they all face off against the Flash and Green Arrow in a visually stunning scene that begins with Kara and her mind-controlled crew approaching their former friends en masse. The image of their attack is breathtaking, especially for die-hard comics geeks.
Eventually, the Flash challenges Supergirl to a race, and when he tricks her into flying through his vibrating form, the gambit shakes her out of her funk, setting off a chain reaction that frees everyone else as well. Before that happens though, “Invasion!” gets a lot of mileage out of the sheer fun of having all these costumed heroes in one place, interacting and, yes — for a while at least — fighting. Because this episode is part one of three (following the prologue that constituted the final five minutes of last night’s Supergirl), it’s hard to evaluate how well this episode fits into the larger cross-series mini-epic. But so far at least, it’s a lot like last year’s delightful Flash-meets-Supergirl story, which set the standard for how to do a big TV superhero “event.”
As far as the larger plot is concerned, what matters about this episode is that it introduces the Dominators, an alien race that the U.S. government has been aware of since the 1950s, which has returned to Earth for reasons as-yet-unknown. But for devotees of the CW’s meta-humans, the big deal about “Invasion!” is that it brings so many amazing characters under one roof, including otherwise sidelined heroes like Thea Queen, who suits up as Speedy again because she wouldn’t want to miss a chance to fight aliens. It helps too that the special guest for this particular hero convention is Kara Zor-El, who’s so sunny and upbeat that she brightens up even the grimmer Arrow crew. For a good long stretch of this hour, the stars of four different fantastic shows just trade quips and punches, and it is exactly as Felicity Smoak says: “Best … team-up … ever!”
A lot of what happens in this episode is more relevant to the stories on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, including Professor Martin Stein’s discovery that after chatting with his younger self in the past, he now has an adult daughter. That’s a huge development … for Legends-watchers, anyway. Folks who only watch The Flash may have been left fairly cold by the moment when Stein knocks on his own door and finds unexpected progeny. For fans of this show, it matters more that H.R. Welles finally makes his pitch to the gang to open S.T.A.R. Labs to the public (complete with Segway tour!), and that he casually refers to Barry Allen as “B.A.” (and then is told never to do that again).
The biggest Flash-related subplot in “Invasion!” though has to do with Wally West, whom his sister Iris tries to keep safe by lying about how powerful he’s become as a speedster. After Kid Flash discovers the truth about what he can do, he races to Barry and Oliver’s rescue in their fight against Kara and company … and then promptly gets beaten to a pulp, becoming baggage that Green Arrow has to lug around for a while. After he’s brought back to S.T.A.R. Labs, Wally claims to have learned his lesson, but then H.R. agrees to become his trainer, setting in motion a partnership that’s sure to become significant to the season’s overall narrative.
To Be Continued
In terms of the “Invasion!” saga, what’s up next for her heroes will take place in Arrow, where a sizable percentage of this episode’s heroes have just been transported to the Dominators’ mothership for … well, let’s just presume extensive probing. Meanwhile, in terms of The Flash, next week we’re ticketed to pay our first visit to Earth-3, where perhaps Jay Garrick can help Earth-1’s Flash figure out how to defeat Savitar — or at least how he can get his friends to stop being so mad at him.
Right now, perhaps the biggest problem on Barry’s plate isn’t Doctor Alchemy or the speedster god who intends to kill him, but rather how upset Cisco (and nearly everyone else) is about how much he messed with their lives when he changed the timeline. In this episode, when Stein and Jax play the audio they intercepted of Future-Flash warning them about his universal disruptions, Green Arrow tries to convince Barry to keep it a secret, saying, “One sci-fi problem at a time.” But then Cisco finds the recording and forces everything out into the open, including what the Flash did to Diggle’s family by changing a daughter into a son. The Legends, whose entire raison d’être is fixing chronological anomalies, are especially annoyed. Oliver may think this is just a superhero’s privilege, to make catastrophic mistakes; but until others can forgive and forget, The Flash is going to suffer from a team divided.
- Barry gathers all of his friends at an abandoned S.T.A.R. hangar that he refers to as “some kind of hall.” Super Friends fans, rejoice!
- For those of not watching Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a shame this episode didn’t feature the team’s newest members Vixen or Steel, who were assigned to stay with The Waverider by White Canary. Stick around until Thursday, though, and odds are they’ll make an appearance.
- When the Flash first arrives in Star City, he saves Green Arrow and Spartan from Vigilante, and then an annoyed Oliver asks why he’s in town, grumbling, “Is there another evil speedster we can help you with?” Barry hesitates for a second, then admits, “Maybe.” It’s that kind of winking self-reference — light in tone, but not overtly silly — that these shows handle so well. It’s what makes them more fun than most superhero fare, yet still genuinely involving.
- Because of the cross-pollination of the Arrowverse, it’s easy to forget which character knows which other character well. So it was good to see Caitlin Snow hanging out with Martin Stein again, and to remember that they were close colleagues (and intimately linked via the first Firestorm), before he went time-hopping.
- We have an official ruling on what part of the multiverse Kara Danvers hails from: Earth-38. Here’s the real question, though: Is hers the only Earth with a Supergirl?