Arrow: Season 5 Episode 8 ‘Invasion!’ review

Arrow celebrates its 100th episode in alternate reality style

Night two of the Arrowverse crossover hit our screens tonight, but not only was it the crossover event, it was Arrow‘s 100th episode, something that shows these days seem to commemorate. So was it a worthy celebration?

The episode certainly has a lot to shout about for the die hard fans of Arrow. This reviewer would be the first to admit that she is a sucker for any sort of episodes when you see an alternate reality or universe (whether they actually exist like The Flash‘s ‘Welcome To/Escape From Earth-2’ or theoretical like Buffy‘s ‘Normal Again’) but something about this episode fell a little flat.

Maybe it was because, as a viewer, Arrow has felt harder to watch of late compared to its sibling shows, or maybe it is because it fell in the middle of the crossover. While they give the reason for the alternate reality to be because of a dream world that the aliens have put them in, but after the brilliantly well-paced episode that was The Flash.

Suddenly we see Oliver (Stephen Amell) and company in a world that is the same, but different. Oliver is running through the woods and suddenly back at the familiar site of the Queen estate from the early years of the show. Then he’s in the bathroom and we’re faced with an alive Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and the bombshell that Oliver and Laurel are only a day away from their nuptials. This is a world in which Oliver and his father weren’t in a boating accident. His parents are both alive, as is Sara (Caity Lotz), who isn’t off being a master assassin and Tommy is alive and well and now a doctor in Chicago (a cheeky mention to actor Colin Donnell’s inability to appear in the episode due to commitments to Chicago Med).

As events unfold, Oliver starts to have flashes of another life (it happens quite quickly for which we are fairly grateful for). He ends up in the Arrowcave with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) calling a security breach and the Green Arrow appearing to take Oliver down, obviously he can’t manage this because Oliver is still a badass, still totally capable of the salmon bars even if he doesn’t currently know he is. But who is under the hood? Diggle (David Ramsey) of course, and damn we love it.

We can’t help but feel for Laurel. Continuously misused and ignored during Katie Cassidy’s time on the show, even in this episode she is completely downtrodden. Oliver should not be marrying her, not because he should be marrying anybody else in particular in this world (though his tender remembering of Felicity was touching, and supposedly an adlib of Amell’s), Laurel doesn’t deserve this. He barely shows up to any of the wedding events, and she is understandably a little upset, regardless of what else is going on in his life.

The five abducted members finally reunite and acknowledge those things that they know not to be right. Sara knows she’s an assassin, Ray (Brandon Routh) that he isn’t in fact engaged to Felicity (note – this reviewer is still a little sad that his love for her was never completely requited), Diggle knows he isn’t the Green Arrow, and Thea is aware that their family is dead. They fight the aliens and wake up in the spaceship. Ray proves once again that he is truly a massive nerd (immediately picking up on language cues for Gideon to translate, and knowing that a spaceship layout will usually be the same in concept).

Interspersed between these AU scenes are small scenes between the Arrow team, who manage to get a piece of the alien tech, hack it and translate their findings only to figure out that the five abducted members are currently in space. You’re facing aliens, guys, you probably could have guessed that one.

While they aren’t in the episode all that much, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Kara (Melissa Benoist) continue to be the delightful highlight of the episode, their puppy charm and being able to instantaneously convince Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) that not all metahumans and aliens are bad people. When you think about it, you only see the bad ones because the good ones are just getting on with their lives like normal people.

We wanted to love it, and at any other time we probably would have lapped it up and enjoyed every reference and the setting so much, but because of the crossover event it just felt out of place, the pacing was off and it simply didn’t feel like it fitted in a story that had started out so strongly in the previous episode. Here’s hoping the conclusion brings it back around.