Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s Arrow 100th episode, “Invasion!”:

As I said with yesterday’s Flash review, much of the “Invasion!” crossover will inevitably going to end up celebrating the achievements of the Arrow-verse, moreso than offer any real progression for the 15+ characters involved. Arrow obviously deserves the longest victory lap of the four series, even apart from its 100th episode milestone, though you still have to question the attempt to have Arrow eat that cake at the same time a three-part event wants to have its own.

Arrow’s retrospective is earned; both cast and crew have every right to lean back and enjoy the some of the series’ highlights, if only perhaps to ignore the myriad questions from mashing these two events together. Why would a shared hallucination of the primary Arrow players (in which neither Felicity nor Laurel nor Quentin have any real emotional role) present as an alternate reality that slowly awakens them to the truth? Why would “Smoak Technologies” offer them an exit to stroll out of, once imaginary villains were defeated? Who was guarding these five in stasis, and apparently drunk at the wheel?

The CW

That’s the thing about these kinds of parties; you’re never accomplishing much more than a stroll down memory lane and a few glasses of bubbly, so you mingle to pad the time. In this case, that amounts to Oliver and company sharing the same slow realizations over and over in different settings, occasionally pausing for the cameo from the series’ past, while the outside world butts in to remind everyone of what’s at stake with the crossover.

It’s a format that steps on emotional resonance, like the idea of Oliver accepting Thea’s choice to stay within the simulation for fear of losing her family again. There’s something to be said of Thea’s attachment to her parents, as well as Oliver’s willingness to respect his sister’s more destructive choices, but the span of a commercial break sees Thea changing her mind offscreen anyway. After all, what was she going to do, stay on the alien ship? How was Arrow ever going to follow through on any of the emotional beats presented tonight?

The outside story only fares so much better, largely serving to keep the Arrow players busy while reminding everyone that Supergirl and Flash are still involved. And like Thea’s breakdown, there might have been a larger story to tell behind Rene’s prejudice against superpowers, but not one “Invasion!” had the resource to expand beyond Barry and Kara saving him … you know, once. To say nothing of one of the more weirdly-specific one-off villains to introduce, and dispatch in a single hour.

The CW

I’m all for victory laps, and the return of beloved characters like Moira Queen to bask in the remarkable achievement of 100 episodes. Less so, when the indulgence and pacing of that story leaves five minutes for Oliver and co. to stumble their way to an alien escape pod, plummet into space and serendipitously end up saved by the Legends. Someday, these three hours will make a great theatrical special, one that doesn’t require wiping the slate clean in the final five minutes of each act.

The idea of Oliver Queen’s Wonderful Life (or more aptly, his own Flashpoint) is a potent one, and I’m intrigued by Thea’s notion that human heroes could embrace Metas as a cushy reward for their sacrifice as well. None of that was really a great fit for the second act of this particular crossover, however, and ends up dragging both down.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I’ll say it – Diggle is much more impressive Green Arrow.
  • It’s a testament to Katie Cassidy that Laurel seemed so heartbroken by Oliver and Sara leaving, to the point I’d hoped it was somehow genuinely her. Whatever happened to that series regular deal, anyway?
  • Obviously, it was too much to ask that every Arrow actor return, but where mentions like Walter Steele and in-jokes of Colin Donnell’s current gig are appreciated, HOLY GOLDENEYE 64 ROY.
  • I’m going to miss happy-go-lucky Quentin!
  • Seriously, did they just run out of money, and want to reuse the Smoak Technologies backdrop?
  • Are we not allowed to say “Deathstroke,” just show the costume?
  • I understand the impulse for an all-out brawl to showcase Arrow’s stuntwork, but it was hard to make out who was who in all that dimly-lit rain.
  • Let’s agree to quietly ignore Curtis and Rory’s religious asides.
  • Nobody worry about all the expensive costumes, and/or equipment you left behind, replicators are here!

Arrow will return Wednesday, December 7 with winter finale “What We Leave Behind,” while the crossover concludes with a Legends of Tomorrow “Invasion!” Thursday, airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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