Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Flash 3x08 Review: "Invasion!" (We Do Not Come in Peace) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: November 29, 2016

Now we’re talking. We’ve got a massively impressive opposition with all the power. We’ve got a gathering of heroes, ready to fight despite the odds seemingly not in their favor. We’ve got kidnapped presidents and transdimensional travel. This right here is the epic, multi-night DCTV crossover event that I was promised in those cool promos. I mean, look — there’s an exclamation mark in the title of the episode and everything! That’s how you know it’s going to be exciting, people. Exclamation marks.

Oh, and also because it opens on a flash-forward battle and Supergirl nearly heat-visioning Barry and Oliver. We saw her cook a turkey with that heat vision in DC Week’s Supergirl episode, remember? Can’t imagine what it’d do to those two.



When a meteor headed for downtown Central City turns out to be a spaceship full of hostile aliens, Wally’s speedster training is put on hold (much to his disappointment) while the team prioritizes the invasion of Earth. Sorry about that, Wally. At first, Lyla of Arrow and A.R.G.U.S tells Barry that he and Team Flash should stay out of the situation, since the aliens that invaded are called the Dominators and — as the name would suggest — they’re very strong and unfriendly and will strike at the slightest hint of hostility. For some reason, Lyla believes that her (admittedly well-equipped) A.R.G.U.S research agency has a better chance of stopping the Dominators than Barry and his geniuses. I’m not sure what her logic is for that, but it does inspire Barry to go out and get Star City’s Arrow crew, the Legends of Tomorrow, and the real muscle: Supergirl. Who is apparently from Earth-38, even though I’ve been calling it Earth-3. Shrug.

The newly formed super team needs a leader and, while Oliver falls naturally into that role, it’s Barry who brought everyone together and Barry who gets the job. It actually kind of makes sense, since Barry is the one who knows the most about the people joining in on the fight. But Cisco isn’t happy about it and Barry’s own Flashpoint-induced guilt makes him unsure of himself as a hero. After the Legends ("Egotistical, but catchy." Bless Thea Queen) reveal a voice recording from the future to Barry — in which Future Barry says that Current Barry is untrustworthy — and then Current Barry reveals its contents to everyone else, Barry Allen’s role as leader gets even shakier. But I’ll save my thoughts on the world vs. Barry theme in this episode for later in the review.

After a training session in which Kara gleefully displays her wide array of incredible powers and everyone else just tries to keep up, the real business of saving the world begins. The Dominators have made the first move against Earth by kidnapping the President of the United States. Team Crossover splits off, with Supergirl leading a group intending to save the president from the Dominators while Barry stays behind with Oliver. Predictably, the whole “we kidnapped the president” thing is a trap. President Nameless gets blasted into atoms and all the members of the Supergirl-led offense team get brainwashed into turning against the good guys.

Barry knows that getting Supergirl back on their side is slightly more important than worrying about the others, since she is legitimately invincible on Earth-1 without any kryptonite there to weaken her. Even if everyone else got un-brainwashed, fighting against Supergirl plus the Dominators would definitely be a losing battle for the good guys. Furthermore, Barry realizes that he can use Kara’s invulnerability to his advantage. He lures her into attacking him around the pink, glowy stone that hypnotized everyone and she destroys it, ending the Dominators’ control.

The “mind-whammied allies” fights are the bulk of the action in this episode and what we saw in the flash-forward at the beginning, but that’s not a bad thing. Since “Invasion!” is more of an Act I for the Heroes vs. Aliens event as a whole, I didn’t expect much more than some setups to future events and one or two action sequences to pad it all out. What we did get was fun and exciting, and I always love when these crossovers happen. The characters are amazingly fun together — from the golden retriever floppy adorableness of Barry and Kara to the So Done attitude Diggle has when confronted with anything remotely strange, metahuman, or sci-fi.

But this is just the first night. There’s still plenty crossover left for us to enjoy, and when the Dominators transport “Oliver and Company” (ha!) to their ship, it’s time for the Arrow portion of the big event to begin.


Hey, guess what? Barry did something stupid at the end of last season and it affected a lot of people’s lives. Besides Wally — who is biased because Barry’s shenanigans gave him superpowers — the only person willing to completely forgive and forget Barry’s actions is Iris. Joe hasn’t lent much of his opinion to the matter. Caitlin is trying to mend burned bridges, but it’s unclear how much of that stems from her own guilt over saying terrible things as Killer Frost and how much is genuine forgiveness. Cisco is unambiguously anti-Barry, on account of the whole “Dante was alive in the previous timeline” thing (which, I still don’t get how Cisco didn’t figure that out on his own — guess the show just wanted him to be mad at Barry again) and the rest of Team Crossover falls into that camp when they learn about what Barry did.

(Except for Kara, who is Barry’s platonic soulmate and will never abandon him.)

We get a full scene of people just yelling at and berating Barry for something he has been yelled at and berated for all season, and the scene feels like serious overkill. I’m all for giving Barry the exact level of chastisement he deserves for acting like an idiot and ruining the timeline (and heaven knows I’m not going to stop calling him an idiot who ruined the timeline) but I don’t want to exceed that level. This episode, I felt like we might be reaching maximum capacity Barry guilt.

All I ever wanted was for him to understand that he made a huge mistake, make a promise never to do something so selfishly idiotic again, and then keep that promise. I have never wanted the characters (or the fans, for that matter) to refuse Barry forgiveness — he is still a hero, and one of the more positive, optimistic ones we have in the comic book TV show lineup. The world needs positive, optimistic heroes who are able to make mistakes and learn from them. A lack of perfection does not automatically void someone’s status as a hero.

To my utter shock, it was Oliver Queen: Unlikely Voice of Reason who echoed my feelings on Barry’s situation in this episode. Considering that he started the crossover out by snapping at Kara (who is not only an adorable sunshine puppy deserving of only good things, but is also fully capable of squashing Oliver Queen like a bug in a matter of seconds), I really didn’t think I was going to like him this week. Instead, he told Barry exactly what he needed to hear: Mistakes were made and Barry should pay for them, but he should not pay for them forever. He did something that anyone suffering a loss would probably do, if given the chance. Yes, Barry is supposed to be on another level from other people. He’s supposed to take his responsibilities seriously and not use his powers selfishly. But Oliver grants him a certain amount of grace, acknowledging that, while Barry’s powers might make him something “more” than human, he is fundamentally, absolutely human and prone to very human mistakes. Those mistakes just happen to be more damaging, on account of the time travel.

I’ve had my issues with Oliver Queen as a character, but I recognize his history of bad decisions as being conducive to gaining perspective and wisdom, which can probably help Barry out. At the very least, Oliver’s words should put Barry on the path of healing while not exactly forgiving what he did, or saying that what he did was with “good intentions” or in any way not terrible. Because I love Iris to pieces, but her point of view on all matters related to Barry Allen is understandably skewed, which makes her — the only one to sit down and tell Barry that he’s forgiven — the wrong person to talk to Barry about Flashpoint’s ramifications. Iris is too quick to brush Barry’s actions aside because he’s Barry; Oliver is able to evaluate the whole picture, remove any biases he might have for Barry as a friend and fellow hero, and arrive at an honest conclusion.

That honest conclusion is that Barry did something bad, it was something that most people (and definitely Oliver) would have done, and he needs to move on before he drives himself insane.

Other Things:
  • Prediction: Barry will almost die and Cisco will save him, then forgive him again.
  • "I watch SyFy Channel." Joe, the alien shows are on The History Channel now.
  • Drink every time they say “aliens” in this episode.
  • "My life was somewhat normal before I met you." Good use of the "somewhat" modifier there, Dig.
  • I could actually watch a full episode that’s just Diggle reacting to weird sci-fi stuff. Freaked Out Diggle is my favorite.
  • Kara is so enthusiastic about being part of a team of superheroes. She learns everyone’s names! She’s so eager to meet everyone and learn their backstories! She’s the best!
  • Iris’s crush on Oliver and Barry’s despair of her crush on Oliver: the best.
  • Oliver is so lucky that Kara is the sweetest nigh-invincible superhero ever to exist, or else he would be a green and red smear on the pavement minutes into this crossover.
  • “I shot him...” “He did. Shoot me.”
  • “We’re going up against a bunch of aliens and you want to tell people that their lives have been affected by time travel? One sci-fi problem at a time.” Excluding how mean he was to Kara, Oliver was pretty great in this episode.
  • Okay, in this episode Professor Stein has a time travel-caused daughter? I’m pretty sure that had nothing to with Barry, though. There’s no way he could affect things that far in the past.
  • Wally gets H.R. to train him and there is no way that’s ending well.


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