The Flash – Season 3 Episode 8
The “Invasion” crossover really begins on The Flash after the smallest of teases on Supergirl. Barry brings together a group of heroes from far and wide when aliens invade Central City.
I’ll start by talking about the invaders as there is so little to them so far that there’s very little to say. We learn that they are called the Dominators, they have visited Earth before, Kara knows who they are in her universe and…that’s about it. This is only the first part and they perform their function of bringing the heroes together fairly well but it doesn’t alter the fact that they are underwhelming antagonists so far with unclear plans. There’s plenty of time to fix this over the next two episodes and they look really cool so far so I’m onboard with them so far.
The lack of time spent developing the Dominators allows the episode to have plenty of time allowing the heroes to interact which is definitely the important thing. After all, don’t we want to see these crossovers for the interactions between these characters? I know I do and this episode doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
It was a smart choice to not spend too much time getting the team together as it could have completely ruined this episode if everyone had to have a large scale introduction. This probably means that anyone not watching the other shows is at a bit of a disadvantage as the episode entirely expects you to simply go with it with no time spent letting people catch up. It actually reminded me of any crossover comic series I’ve ever read. In those the characters appear as they are at that point and refer to things going on in their own lives without giving context. It’s fine for me because I watch every CW DC show but I think if people aren’t watching the other shows then they don’t really care what the other characters are up to so don’t really need to know. Maybe someone can help me out in the comments or on Twitter on this one as it is only an assumption on my part.
Calling this a “four night crossover event” is a little cheeky on the network’s part since 99% of the Supergirl episode was a completely different story with only a 30 second tease of the event itself at the end. To make matters more laughable that scene is in this episode so Supergirl is the unnecessary part of this crossover in terms of viewing. It’s a genius way to get people to watch something unrelated to this particular event but also a little cheeky.
The characters are a blast to watch as always and the episode really takes its time playing around with the dynamics. Oliver’s standoffish reaction to Kara was pretty much what I expected from him and the contrast between his overly serious nature and her sunny disposition worked well without feeling overplayed. We don’t get much insight into why he feels that way about her but there’s plenty of time for that yet. I could be eating my words by the end of the week but for now I’m optimistic.
Mick and Kara have a really fun back and forth. Again, the contrast between their clashing personalities is what makes it work so well and the way Melissa Benoist played Kara’s varied reaction to Mick’s colourfully described back story was perfect. The fact that Mick is completely unimpressed by her and decides that he’s going to call her “Skirt” was a nice touch as well. Whether their banter will evolve remains to be seen but it was a nice touch to this episode.
I’m spending so much time on Kara because she is the real newcomer to this group who have all more or less met each other before. She acts like a ray of sunshine in the middle of a really tense situation and it’s the perfect way to use her. She’s the outsider here since she is both an alien and from another universe so it makes sense that she wouldn’t quite fit in with the others. Having her do role call to keep herself and the audience right on who’s who allowed the episode to deal with that need in a really natural way.
Since the Dominators couldn’t provide the necessary tension to carry the episode everything was anchored to the characters and how they all respond to “Flashpoint”. I’ve been very vocal about how pointless I think “Flashpoint” has been for this show but this is the first time I’ve felt that it has real consequence and this is accomplished by giving the whole thing scope that can only be accomplished by a well developed shared universe. Barry is forced to face a room full of people who have been affected in some way by Barry’s actions even though they aren’t in his life most of the time. He has to answer for what he’s done and really face the consequences.
The best example of this was Diggle finding out that his son used to be a daughter and being none too pleased with the situation. He has no idea this happened because his memories correspond to the new timeline but the look on his face says it all. It’s a subtle moment but really well played by David Ramsey and is completed by Diggle losing faith in Barry when they are forced to go into battle.
People react to this news in different ways as you might expect. Sara has something to say about it because she has experience with wanting to change the timeline but apparently knows the implications of doing so. That is why she hasn’t changed Laurel’s fate. It’s all well and good on paper but no way are Sara and her team as careful as she makes out here. It’s an effective moment that is actually somewhat ruined if you watch DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It works in context here and it’s definitely a nitpick but still it does feel rich coming from her.
Oliver’s reaction is exactly the opposite as he agrees with what Barry did. The exploration of their friendship in this episode is excellent as shown by their scene together in the Time Vault. Oliver tells Barry that he is entirely justified in wanting his parents to be alive as he would do exactly the same thing if he could. He talks about his father killing himself so that Oliver could live and points out how that changed him so can completely see how the loss of his parents has affected Barry. It’s a great scene as it’s a powerful moment between two men who have suffered loss and can relate to the choices that they are driven to make as a result of that loss. Oliver also has Barry’s back throughout the episode when he supports him as leader and sides with him when the team fractures after learning about Flashpoint.
Making matters worse is the secret message that Barry left for Rip that was discovered by Martin and Jax. We finally learn the entirety of it and it’s nothing earth shattering but it does cast doubt on Barry’s ability to lead the team. The fact that he selfishly changed the timeline gives most of the others enough reason not to trust him but I feel like there is more to it than that. Is something going to happen over the next two episodes that proves Barry can’t be trusted in some way? The implication here is that the consequences of Flashpoint are wider than Barry currently knows and it seems like this will come to a head over these episodes.
Cisco leads the charge on the anti-Barry agenda as he is still hurting over the recent revelation that Barry changing the timeline was the cause of his brother’s death, at least as far as he’s concerned. This could so easily be tedious but for me it works really well as Cisco seems to be working hard to hate Barry and punish him for what he’s done. I get the impression that he really wants to not be around him at this point but has no choice because there’s important work to be done. This crisis needs him and he won’t let his personal feelings get in the way of that. This is really mature and it stops their fractured friendship from feeling too angsty.
Martin and Caitlin’s scenes together were really interesting as well and are definitely helped by the fact that these characters have history after his extensive role in this show across seasons 1 and 2. Caitlin still feels terrified of her powers and is concerned that she could become the thing she became last week. Martin doesn’t think that she will as he has faith in her while also knowing that she has an unconditional support mechanism should she go over the edge. Could Killer Frost help the group out before this is all over? I know I’m asking a lot of questions but this episode poses them effectively.
Speaking of Martin, I mentioned earlier in this review that this episode expects the viewer to simply accept what’s going on even if they don’t watch the other shows and Martin is the biggest example of that. The latest episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow shows his memory being reconfigured to feature a young woman who he loves. I correctly assumed that this would turn out to be a daughter created by encouraging his younger self to be a more attentive husband. Having this reveal in what essentially counts as an episode of The Flash is an interesting choice as anyone who only watches DC’s Legends of Tomorrow will completely miss this reveal and be a little lost. I don’t see it as a big deal but I did find it to be worth mentioning.
One thing about the massive team-up had me scratching my head a little. Barry is fairly casual about giving away his secret identity which is something I’ve accepted at this point but it doesn’t sit right with me that he is so casual about revealing the identities of others. It’s a bit bizarre that he doesn’t do a double take when Mick is around considering he was a villain last time they met and he definitely has no problem with him knowing Oliver’s identity. Oliver is also fine with this which seems a bit strange as well but Iris’ reaction to finding out Oliver is the Green Arrow was amusing and surprising as I had just assumed that she found out off screen as a perk for being on Team Flash.
Amazingly this episode still manages to address events going on in The Flash and tie them into what’s going on here. Savitar and Alchemy take a break for the episode but Wally’s recent Speedster status keeps things moving in terms of the story progression for this particular show. Naturally Wally is anxious to get out there and help but Iris, Joe and Barry are all reluctant because they don’t want him to get hurt. This is completely misguided of course but makes sense from an overprotective point of view. They should probably all realise that Wally is a force of nature and won’t be dissuaded from something he really wants to do.
This plays out as you might expect with him rushing headlong into danger and getting himself hurt to prove that the hero life isn’t an easy one. With some training he could be an effective partner for Barry and he will certainly be useful in battling the Dominators when it eventually comes to that.
The lack of encouragement makes me wonder what is next for him. H.R. is training him on the sly so I wonder if his training will be less than effective and Wally will become more frustrated by the team trying to coddle him. This might be a bit of a stretch but I wonder if Savitar could be a future version of Wally. Given all the hints at a dark future and the fact that his powers are growing very quickly it makes sense to me that he might be heading to being that powerful and having his world view skewed by a lack of acceptance. It would certainly make for an interesting villain story and having Wally face against a dark future version of himself could be great.
Last but by no means least I’ll talk about the action. There’s surprisingly little of it but it is saved for the end when everyone except Barry and Oliver are brainwashed by the Dominators and have to fight it out. There’s a lot of variety with Barry taking on those with powers and Oliver taking on those without so we get a good mix of powers and choreography. Sometimes one can overtake the other but the balance is right here and the extended chase involving Barry and Kara was really exciting. All in all it’s a great start and I look forward to more.
There’s nowhere else to organically mention this but the new/old S.T.A.R. Labs facility looks a lot like the Hall of Justice. Could it be that we’re about to get that?
This is a difficult episode to review and rate because any shortcomings it had could be fixed in subsequent parts. Also, do I treat it as a stand-alone story or part of The Flash? I’ve decided to stick with my enjoyment based scale and leave it at that while making note of the shortcomings it has as an episode. It definitely excels in how the various characters interact and the scope added to the Flashpoint story has been a long time coming. Using Kara as the outsider is a good choice as it allows her to be the audience surrogate in a lot of ways but the greatest strength is Barry and Oliver’s friendship being explored in a new way. There are some niggles such as Barry being too cavalier with secret identities and the Dominators failing to be a credible threat so far but there’s plenty of time to fix that. Amazingly there’s even time to develop Wally in amongst all of this.
- the characters coming together
- Barry and Oliver’s friendship
- some much needed scope added to the Flashpoint arc
- impressive action
- the Dominators being underwhelming so far
- Barry casually revealing secret identities without even blinking