WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Thursday’s episode of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” the finale of the “Invasion!” crossover.
Well, Supergirl has stepped back to Earth-38, Oliver and company have bounced back from their alternate world, and Barry Allen has once again managed to avoid sacrificing himself for an entire planet. "Invasion!" concludes the ambitious three-episode crossover ("Supergirl" was basically just business as usual) in appropriately epic fashion, and while Thursday's finale lacks the emotional wallop of Wednesday's terrific "Arrow," it's still a hell of an accomplishment and a terrific way to end The CW's "DC Week."
Unlike the preceding episodes of "Arrow" and "The Flash," "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" makes little attempt to center on the emotional lives of its main characters, with one exception. While Sara Lance and Ray Palmer stepped into the spotlight on "Arrow," this episode zooms in on Martin Stein, who realizes the talking-to he gave his younger self resulted in the birth of a daughter, who's now a grown woman -- and a complete stranger. To call that anything but a subplot would be dishonest, but giving more screen time to Victor Garber is always a good thing, and his conversations with Caitlin and Jax provide the episode with some much-needed moments of simplicity.
Why exactly are those moments so needed? Because the rest of "Invasion!" sees both the heroes and the writers tying up as many threads as they can, to the point that the episode sometimes appears on the verge of capsizing. It never quite does, thanks to moments (like Garber's) that slow things down just a bit. Case in point: Oliver's mistrust of Kara, a discomfort he comes to realize is less about aliens or meta-humans and more about his own resistance to change and a need to have everything under control. It's a nice piece of character development totally in line with Oliver's journey this season, and seems especially fitting given the events of the crossover's "Arrow" installment.
Yes, it's unfortunate that this choice sidelines Kara (and Melissa Benoist) for the majority of the episode, but with the already-crowded "Legends" roster, it seems to be a good call. Ms. Danvers still gets a few minutes in the sun, first saving Oliver's life and then reminding him that pain, struggle and change can help to shape us and push us to grow. It's a fitting moment for the star of "Supergirl," a series that has more brightness in one episode than "Arrow" gets to in an entire season. Cisco's gift to Kara, a pretty brooch-type device she can use to call or jump to Earth-1, opens the door for more frequent crossovers, a development that's definitely welcome. Of all the combinations we got to see in "Heroes vs. Aliens," Kara and Oliver may not have been the most fun, but it certainly offered the most promise for future storylines.
The most fun pairing has to be Cisco and Felicity (though one wishes "Supergirl's" Winn could join in), who geek out about time travel, get to drop some of the most colorful dialogue of the week -- "You’re gonna use 'Princess Bride' against me? Against me?!" -- and generally make a mess of things. Both Carlos Valdes (the MVP of the Arrowverse, for my money) and Emily Bett Rickards have spent a lot of time brooding recently, and while they're certainly capable of doing some emotional heavy-lifting, it's a joy to see them going full "funky fresh."
The quick-and-tidy resolution to the Cisco-Barry rift feels a touch too convenient, but it's such a pleasure to watch the two of them as friends that it's tough to complain. While it's true this plot has been bubbling since the beginning of the season, Cisco's realization that the creation of Flashpoint resulted in the death of his brother occurred only last week. It makes perfect sense that Cisco, who has always been capable of empathy and self-examination, would come to terms with Barry's actions through his own well-intentioned screw-up, but it still feels awfully fast. Still, "The Flash" hasn't been the same without that particular element of cast chemistry, and their re-connection will be nice to see in next week's midseason finale.
What does that leave? Oh, right, the giant alien battle. Impressive effects do a lot of the work here, but "Invasion!" suffers by comparison to Wednesday's tremendous final battle, in which no superpowers are needed and the enemy is flesh and blood. An uninspiring human villain, who pops up both in the present and in 1951, does nothing to heighten the circumstances, but the revelation that the Dominators are simply there because Barry meddled with time again certainly adds something more menace to the proceedings. Barry's willingness to sacrifice himself feels both honest to the character and appropriately grandiose for the climax of a week-long, multi-show crossover, but it's likely such a choice would resonate a touch more deeply if it wasn't happening for what feels like the dozenth time. Cisco's decision to stop Barry by calling him a friend certainly hits home, as does Barry's brief conversation with Digg about forgiveness.
All in all, "Invasion!" is a solid ending to a solid week. The big story may be the terrific ratings these episodes managed to draw, but it would be a shame to overlook the artistic accomplishment. Seamlessly blending the darkness of "Arrow," the major storyline of "The Flash," the time-traveling high jinks of "Legends," and the number-one asset of "Supergirl" -- Supergirl herself -- Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim and company managed to make four distinctly different shows feel as though they're merely a small part of a larger whole. With luck, we'll see more such episodes in the future (get Winn in a room with Cisco, please and thank you). But for now, audiences will have to content themselves with four individual series that just keep getting better. Not such a bad burden to bear, eh?
Airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” stars Brandon Routh as the Atom, Victor Garber and Franz Drameh as Firestorm, Caity Lotz as White Canary, Maisie Richardson-Seller as Vixen, Dominic Purcell as Heatwave and Nick Zano as Citizen Steel.