The Flash S03E08 “Invasion” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- An alien spaceship lands in Central City, and when Barry goes to investigate aliens swarm out.
- But they don’t actually attack. Yet. They just vanish into the night.
- Lyla fills in Team Flash with what ARGUS knows about the aliens; known as “the Dominators” they previously visited Earth in 1951 and abducted some humans. There was a fight between US soldiers and the Dominators which the military came out of really badly, then the Dominators just mysteriously vanished.
- Lyla warns Barry that he can’t take on the Dominators alone. So he decided to enlist some help…
• He travels to Star City to get Oliver, Felicity, Diggle and Thea on board.
• He sends a message to the Legends asking them to return home to lend a hand.
• With Cisco’s tech help he journeys to Supergirl’s universe and enlists her too. (Oddly she doesn’t say, “Can I invite Martian Manhunter, Mon-El and Superman 2? I’ve got them on speed dial.”)
- At a handy new STAR Labs hangar big enough for superhero sparring sessions they get into training.
- Barry is elected leader of the ad-hoc team but his authority is swiftly undermined when the message from his future self (discovered in a secret compartment on the Waverider in an episode of Legends Of Tomorrow) is made public knowledge. The message reveals how Barry changed the timeline and cannot be trusted.
- So when the Dominators kidnap the president, the rag tag team doesn’t want Barry coming along. Oliver stays behind to give Barry a shoulder to cry on (or something) and Supergirl leads the others into battle, locating the kidnapped president via his tracer.
- But the Dominators don’t really want to president; they’re just luring the metas out. So when the proto-Justice League arrives the aliens kill the president and and then mentally take over the superheroes, turning them eeeeeeeeevil!
- The Now-Evil League returns to STAR Labs forcing Barry and Oliver to fight them.
- Cisco and Felicity locate a weird signal coming from a nearby salt mine (which is where the Dominators killed the president). Turns out there’s a big glowy device there that’s enabling the mind control.
- Barry races there, tricking Supergirl into following him and destroying the device.
- Our heroes are good guys again! Hurrah!
- But just as they’re backslapping and/or taking the piss out of Mick Rory, the aliens teleport Oliver, Ray, Thea, Sara and Diggle up to their ship.
- In other plots:
• Wally’s fed up that nobody wants him to be a hero, but eventually convinces HR to train him in secret.
• Martin Stein discovers that his own meddling with timelines – getting his younger self to pay more attention to his wife in a previous Legends Of Tomorrow episode (see here) – has resulted in him having a grown-up daughter.
• Diggle discovers that he had a daughter, not a son, in the original timeline.
• Cisco is still in a massive sulk with Barry.
“Greatest team-up ever!” gushes Felicity as the heroes of the Arrowverse assemble in that defining symbol of small screen DC heroics – a warehouse. Yes, it’s crossover time of the year again, when the characters from various shows all battle it out to get some screen time. Losers this episode include Ray – because nobody can ever quite work out what to do with him even on his own show – plus Nate and Amaya, whose contracts clearly didn’t get drafted in time.
“Greatest team-up ever” is a bit of on exaggeration (we still have a soft spot for Spider-Man and Captain Britain) but there’s little doubt that this is the most fun crossover the Arrowverse has produced yet. Or that it’s infinitely preferable to sitting through Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice again. At least Barry doesn’t talk down evil Supergirl by going, “Your mother’s called Eliza? That’s amazing! My mother’s name ends in an ‘a’ too.”
So we get a lot of superheroes, a lot of quipping and banter, a lot of fighting and a lot of fan-pleasing Easter-eggs. The alien Dominators look great, the FX look a cut above the norm (the final fight is especially good) and it all zips along pacily with The Flash’s usual economic scripting. The way storylines from Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow are woven in is pretty seamless too. Though, to be honest, we’re not at all convinced that the Flash’s message from the future found on the Waverider actually has anything to do with this “war”; it seems like a deliberate red herring and a plot device to get Barry to come clean about his temporal cock-ups. Expect to hear more about this message in future when its meaning is properly explained.
We also get Supergirl and the Flash on screen together and they seem such a natural pairing you can’t help wishing the Legends had got lost en route, leaving more time on screen for Benoist and Gustin. But we are getting that later in the season, and White Canary is great in this episode so let’s not get too picky.
As usual with these Arrowverse crossovers, though, there’s a slight fast-food feeling to the action. The writers try to keep ongoing plots from the series on the boil so that this doesn’t feel completely disconnected from the season as whole, but the result feels a little like an episode trying to hard to tick boxes. It might actually have been better to take a week off from “Wally wants to be a hero too” and spend more time bulking up the alien threat.
After all, the first thing the Dominators do on arrival is run for cover. We have to take ARGUS’s word for it that they’re actually really terrifying bad guys. But for all Layla’s dire warnings it still seems out of character for Barry not to have at least one solo attempt at taking on the Dominators (that goes seriously wrong) before deciding to to bring in help.
Also, Oliver decides not to help rescue the president because the others were mean to his mate Barry? Really? Isn’t that all a bit junior school playground spat stuff?
But overall, The Flash’s instalment of “Invasion” delivers the requisite thrills with style and a smile. It’s just a shame that the show is broadcast second in the week, because we’d love to have seen the “Invasion” finale on The Flash.
- Barry’s cry of “Aliens!”
- Cisco: “I have to say it this is a nice universe you got here.” (Although we have to share that line with this week’s episode of Supergirl.)
- Barry and Kara make a great partnership… again. This is a good sign for the next Supergirl/The Flash crossover episode coming next year – the musical – which should give them more screen time together.
- “Yeah, it’s kind of hot.” There’s a hint here that Sara has a bit of a crush on Kara. (Which may resurface in another of these crossover episodes… just saying…)
- The Dominators looks great. Excellent CG work guys.
- Wally’s hero moment was gorgeously shot.
- As was the Arrow v White Canary fight, which seemed to owe a lot to the final sword fight in Highlander. Look at that carefully-positioned arc light at the back.
- And, let’s face it, it’s just great fun seeing a bunch of superheroes laying into each other. This episode may not have been the most subtly plotted or scripted but it is superb comic-strip entertainment.
- HR’s idea for Particle Vision (“a moment-to-moment reenactment of the particle accelerator explosion, but seen from the point of view of… the particle!”) is probably the blackest and sickest moment of humour the show has ever produced, and the expression it leaves on Cisco’s face is priceless.
- “Right now I can’t be trusted.” Blimey, Barry’s being a bit of a martyr to guilt here. The message actually says, “When you come back, don’t trust anything or anyone. Not even me.” But moments later Barry is heaping all the untrustworthiness on himself and not even Ollie – who’s usually good for a reality check – calls him up on it.
- Sorry, but that composite logo is just plain ugly!
- The rubble around the spaceship doesn’t say, “Aliens have landed their craft in the city,” so much as, “Urban rock garden under construction.”
- How come nobody seems to care what’s happened to Rip?
- We’re not sure the cold open actually worked. There didn’t seem to be much point to it other than a gimmick to bring a bit of action forward to the start of the show, but rather than being intriguing it was just a little confusing.
- The STAR Labs warehouse locations looked nothing like the establishing CG shot of a massive art deco warehouse. However, they did look exactly like the warehouse where the president met his aides and ARGUS. There are for too many warehouses in the Arrowverse.
- Some of the more expository dialogue was pretty interchangeable and at time mystifyingly attributed. For example, would Kara really be the one to ask Barry about whose lives he had changed by altering the timeline? Wouldn’t her first thought be, “Does this affect my world?”
And The Random:
- The entire four-part “Invasion” crossover is inspired by Invasion! (published late 1988, with a 1989 cover date), a three-part DC mini-series, with a broadly similar plot. Main differences include an almost completely different cast of DC heroes (though the Flash and Firestorm were involved) and the Dominators being ringleaders of a vast array of different invading alien races. The Dominators in the show, though, are impressively similar to the ones designed by Todd McFarlane for the comic, though the circles on their forehead – which denoted caste in the source material – seem to have become part of their thought-control powers in the TV show.
- This episode finally gives Kara’s alternate reality a designation – Earth-38. Many fans speculated that 38 is a reference to the year that Superman first appeared (in Action Comics #1) but ComicBook.com has another theory: “This was after-hours chatter, not a real interview, so we weren’t recording and can’t remember. It has something to do with CBS. The joke being that Supergirl takes place on ‘Earth-CBS’.”
- The art deco STAR Labs warehouse bears an amazing resemblance to the Hall Of Justice” from the 1970s Superfriends TV series for a very good reason. The building in The Flash is stock footage of a museum with a hefty CG makeover. That museum in question was once the Union railway terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, which just happens to be the building that inspired the artist who created the Hall Of Justice in the cartoon series.
- When Thea/Speedy tells Supergirl that she heard she was “stronger than a locomotive” it’s a reference to the introduction to the 1940s Superman radio show and the Adventures Of Superman TV series (1952-1958): “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”
- 52-Spotting Returns: after countless episodes where all we were getting were the good old stand-bys – Channel 52, News 52 (which is back this episode), outlet 52 (next to the one pipeline cell that always seems to be available) and the little 52 in the corner of STAR Labs computer screens – we finally get a proper new sighting… and maybe (at a stretch) another one. Anyway, here’s the definite one, on a banner in the STAR Labs art deco warehouse (it’s repeated on a couple of other signs in the place too):
- And here’s the one that’s a stretch… it’s the first half of Stein’s house number.
- The journalist who now has the byline on the news report from the future to which Barry keeps referring is Julie Greer who is a character from the DC universe. She’s a reporter who works for KN news in Keystone City who once interviewed Jai West, the son of the Flash. She first appeared in The Flash Vol 2 #231 (2007) and only appeared in one other issue, The Flash Vol 2 #238 (2008).
- We’re a little confused about why there are STAR Labs crates in the salt mine. Did we miss something? Is it a STAR Labs facility? Does that mean Barry owns the mines as well?
- Did the death of the president remind anybody else of Mars Attacks?