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What Worked – and Didn’t – About the Arrowverse Invasion! Crossover

by  in TV News Comment
What Worked – and Didn’t – About the Arrowverse Invasion! Crossover

A week has passed since The CW wrapped up its much-vaunted “Invasion!” crossover, a week of television that brought all four of the network’s superhero properties — “Supergirl,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow” — together for one massive story. Aliens invaded, and so did a massive publicity push, driving up hype to levels that were nearly impossible to meet. The heroes of the Arrowverse rose to the fictional occasion, of course? Did the shows? Well, mostly — at least at a first glance.

RELATED: Arrowverse’s Invasion! Just Opened the Door to a Teen Titans Debut

Now that we’ve had a moment to catch our breath, however, it’s time to take a longer look. This won’t be the last “crossover event” on The CW or otherwise (we’re looking at you, “Defenders”), and as good as some of these moments were, there’s always room for improvement. Here’s what we liked, and didn’t quite like as much — and thus, what we’re hoping for the next time Kara Danvers comes to town.

GOOD: Characters First, Everything Else Second

No matter how much the writers, directors and actors value character development, most shows will eventually stumble from time to time. “Arrow” is no exception, but where “Invasion!” is concerned, they hit the ball out of the park. The strongest of the four episodes included in DC Week, the 100th episode of the Emerald Archer’s saga wisely focused on the people who populate its world and trusted that viewers who hopped over from “Supergirl” or elsewhere in the Arrowverse would be able to fill in the blanks.

RELATED: Arrowverse Crossover Propels The CW to Its Most-Watched Week In 6 Years

To say it paid off is putting it mildly. “Invasion!” might be the strongest hour “Arrow” has ever released, a psychologically dense trip to an alternate reality that simultaneously operates as an alien invasion plot and a celebration of the show itself. It’s a terrific showcase for the cast, particularly Stephen Amell, who too often gets stuck alternating between brooding and grumpy, but here gets a real challenge. It works because it focuses on the costs — of life, of security, of love, of peace — of the choices Oliver Queen and company have made. At the same time, it underlines something that’s key to the existence of “Arrow,” a fundamental thematic element that has remained firmly in place, even when the show has faltered:

“I did what I did because I thought it was right. And seeing all of this shows me that there’s so much more to do.”

In his fantasy world, Oliver has everything he ever wanted, but it’s still not enough — he needs to fight to make the world better. Diggle’s fantasy proves even more revealing, as he’s donned that green hood and taken on the vigilante role himself. There’s no mention of Lyla or children, as if his ideal world is one in which he suffers more for the things he’s done in the actual world. In Sara’s world, she never had an affair with Oliver and seems filled with joy to be helping her marry the love of her life. And Thea, poor Thea, has three living parents, all offering warmth and affection.

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While “Arrow” was most successful, all the shows flourished when they focused on the characters. Sure, it was a bit frustrating to see Barry yet again decide the only solution was for him to sacrifice himself for the world, but Cisco’s path to forgiveness, Stein’s discovery and eventual acceptance of his daughter, Oliver’s mistrust of Kara, and other character-driven stories were all highlights. If this crossover worked — and it mostly did — these arcs are the reason why.

BAD: A Four-Part Crossover? Really?

This one’s a no-brainer. Whether it’s the producers, higher-ups at The CW, or a marketing team that made this call, the decision to call this a four-part crossover was a seriously questionable one. The arrival of “Supergirl” at The CW has been great for both the network and the show which, now freed from the glossy and hygenic feel of most CBS shows, is soaring to greater creative heights than at almost any point in its first season. “Supergirl” has a chance to become the most reliable title in the Arrowverse, combining the sunniness that made the first season of “The Flash” such a joy with a political awareness that “Arrow” has had from time to time. So why on earth did they set “Supergirl” up to piss off people coming to it for the first time?

It’s understandable that The CW wanted to make as much hay of the crossover as possible, and ratings-wise, it was a solid bet: “Supergirl” gave The CW the highest ratings they’ve had in that time slot since 2008. It also bumped “Jane the Virgin” to season-high numbers. But pity the intern they had staffing The CW’s Twitter account when it became clear that “Medusa” was pretty much just an episode of “Supergirl” (albeit a good one) with a little teaser scene for “The Flash tacked on the end and a few random dimensional portals popping up for no reason. That The CW would risk alienating potential “Supergirl” converts for a one-night ratings spike is baffling, and including that lone “Supergirl” scene in “The Flash” made it all that much worse.

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A little note to the decision-makers at The CW: no one likes to think they were tricked into watching something. One big night is great, but a growing and devoted viewership is much, much better. Either make it a real crossover (with more Kara-Cisco stuff, please) or call it what it is: “Supergirl,” with a Grant Gustin cameo.

GOOD: Cisco’s Earth-Jumping Brooch

Please don’t take the above item as a slight against “Supergirl.” If anything, the crossover needed more Kara Danvers, not less. On a purely plot-driven level, the single best thing to emerge from “Invasion!” was Cisco Cisco-ing up a very sparkly piece of jewelry designed to help Kara jump from Earth-38 to Earth-1. Better still, it also acts as a communication device, meaning that she’ll be able to reach out to Barry and friends, and vice-versa.

Think of the possibilities! What could Winn, Felicity and Cisco do in the same room? What would Alex make of the gang? Don’t you want to see Oliver butt heads with J’onn J’onzz, or watch James Olsen and Ray Palmer try to out-nice each other or see Thea and Sara scare the piss out of  Winn? Kara certainly shouldn’t push that button on a weekly basis, but the direct link between “Supergirl” and the rest of the Arrowverse is a very welcome development (if only because the writing staff, like the cast, is positively stacked with talent).

BAD: Anti-Climax, Much?

There wasn’t a bad installment in the bunch, but “Legends” did stumble a bit at the finish line. After all that build-up, the final confrontation between the heroes and aliens was just sort of… OK. It wasn’t helped by the fact that “Arrow” contributed a hell of a fight scene, a CGI-free affair that offered plenty of thrills (as most fights that involve Sara Lance do).

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The biggest problems wasn’t the CGI, however. By concealing the motive of the Dominators until the final installment, “Invasion!” missed an opportunity to tie their inherent threat to a character’s choices, something that would certainly have increased urgency. Instead, we got 2.5 episodes of a vague threat (including a Presidential assassination that delivered precisely no impact) and about 15 minutes of the actual plot. Of everything in the crossover, the entire reason for its existence was the least interesting element.

GOOD: It Was Fun!

Ray Palmer has a cousin who looks just like Kara Danvers! Thea wants to fight aliens so much she came out of retirement! Sara has a thing for Supergirl! Cisco makes an Oliver and Company reference! Time-travel makes Felicity puke and speak gibberish! Tommy Merlyn’s a doctor in Chicago! And this moment, this glorious moment.

RELATED: Legends of Tomorrow Featured the Best DCTV Easter Egg Ever

The list goes on, but the short version is this: it’s obvious that the cast and writers alike were very excited to make this crossover happen, and it shows in the end result. Enthusiasm: it’s a powerful thing.

BAD: The Only Possible Solution is Barry Sacrificing Himself — Again.

It’s mentioned above but bears repeating for further emphasis: “The Flash” needs a new plot point. At some point, martyrdom stops being noble and starts being kind of self-important. While it was likely intended to read as love and concern, the team’s exasperation with Barry could also be interpreted as frustration. Let’s allow this brilliant young man to at least think of a few possible alternatives before he decides he’s gotta fall on his sword next time.

Starring Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel, “Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The network is also home to Grant Gustin as the Scarlet Speedster in “The Flash,” airing Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/PT, Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer in “Arrow,” airing Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT and Arthur Darvill, Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz in “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” airing Thursdays at 8 pm ET/PT.

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arrowverse
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