Arrow aired its 100th episode this week as part of the "Invasion" crossover event with the CW's other DC TV shows (Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow). It was a tall order: provide a suitably action-packed crossover episode, as well as a fitting retrospective about how the show has progressed through five seasons. And yet, as we proclaimed in our official episode review, "Invasion" was a very successful episode.
Arrow proved how milestone episodes should be done right.
The Fun of Sci-Fi
Arrow's "Invasion!" episode focused on Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), John Diggle (David Ramsey), Thea (Willa Holland), Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) being abducted by alien invaders, The Dominators. In order to obtain intel from their captives, The Dominators hooked them up to a neural interface, which placed them in a shared dream. Within that dream, they experienced a more idealized version of their lives, where people they lost or deep regrets they had were all replaced with more favorable outcomes. In an act of great will (and masochism), Oliver led a mental charge to break free of the Matrix-like world, and get his friends back to Earth.
The Weight of Experience
The brilliance of Arrow's 100th episode is the poignant atmosphere it creates around tragic events from the show's previous seasons. These days, the impact of Moria and Robert Queen's death seem like faint echoes; Oliver and Thea seem like they've been career vigilantes forever, and all of the strained relationships between characters seem like the standard drama for the show.
And yet, "Invasion!" used a dream sequence scenario (often such a hokey, cheesy, gimmick) as more than just some "Elseworlds" novelty. The episode created a bittersweet juxtaposition to the established canon - one that perfectly frames how hard and painful the overall journey has been for Oliver and Co. Seeing our heroes - particularly Thea - having to give up their slice of heaven in exchange for stark and painful realities, was the sort of emotional head-trip that'd be right at home in an episode of The Twilight Zone.
The Weight of Performance
Arrow's "Invasion" episode had the solid foundation of a strong premise and smart story - but what really made an impact was the level of performance from the principal actors. Comicbook.com's Emily Donn already wrote that Stephen Amell gave his best performance of the series in "Invasion," and we're willing to be many fans would agree, after seeing the episode. Right behind Amell was Willa Holland, who made Thea's painful decision almost more heart-wrenching than Oliver's. The scene of brother and sister debate over staying or leaving the fantasy world was one of the best dramatic moments we've seen in any of these DC TV series.
The rest of the cast did equally as well, with former regular cast members like Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance) and Susana Thompson (Moira Queen) making welcome returns, still delivering their best game. Even the CGI-tinged shot of the all of Arrow's dearly departed (including Roy Harper and Tommy Merlyn!) tugged at the heartstrings, and made fans remember just how many actors have contributed to the journey. It was powerful stuff, and again highlights just how well of a milestone marker "Invasion!" was.
The Thrill of Action
The final minor miracle that Arrow's 100th episode pulls off is delivering some great action on top of all the well-done drama. This episode managed to pack in no less than:
- A team-up (Supergirl, Flash, and Team Arrow) battle against a new villain(Cyberwoman).
- Sci-fi battle sequences on the ground and in spacecraft while escaping the Dominator ship.
- An awesome climatic battle against many of the series' previous big bads (Deathstroke FTW!).
"Invasion!" balanced some of the series' best action, with its best drama, and great crossover elements - which only speaks to how much praise showrunners Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and director James Bamford deserve.0comments
Did you enjoy "Invasion"? Happy you've stuck with Arrow for all 100 episodes?
Arrow will continue to air (a much improved) season 5 Wednesday @ 8/7c. The "Invasion!" Crossover concludes with Legends of Tomorrow.