‘The Flash’ 3.08 “Invasion!” Review – The Aliens Have Landed

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A lot of things happened in last week’s episode, “Killer Frost,” so having to sit for the annual and heavily-marketed crossover on “The Flash” immediately afterward felt a little jarring. As much as it’s fun to see all the superheroes join forces, the most frustrating aspect of the crossovers is the lack of focus on characterizations and the very little development in regards to the show’s season-long arc. The writing is more focused on the action rather than the interpersonal development. So while the crossovers are entertaining to a degree, “Invasion!” left a lot to be desired in terms of serving as part of the DC TV crossover and as a standalone episode of “The Flash.”

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

This year, to get the gang together, the universe brought them aliens (no, not Supergirl). A spaceship carrying the Dominators, a group of technologically advanced aliens, lands in Central City. Barry and co. quickly learn, via Lyla Diggle and A.R.G.U.S., that these aliens are… out to destroy Earth. Oh good, because if they were here to also give Barry a lecture about the consequences of time travel, then that may have been overkill. (Update: After watching the “Legends of Tomorrow” episode, it became clear that the aliens were also upset with Barry’s time traveling. Go figure.).

Barry locates the various superhero friends across cities, multiverses, and the time-space continuum–Team Arrow, the Legends, and Supergirl–to fight the alien threat and protect Earth. The Dominators weren’t a large part of “The Flash” episode, but after having learned why they came to Earth to begin with, the entire Dominator plot felt incredibly hollow and seemed like an excuse to bring everyone together without any real substance. Most of the fun stuff in this episode came from the superheroes interacting with each other. Everyone attempting to fight Supergirl in a training sequence was pretty funny and the hero vs. hero fight at the end of the episode was all highly entertaining. I enjoyed the race between Flash and Supergirl even more this time around because there was more at stake. And Barry using his powers to help take down the alien tech that was holding his friends captive (they were brainwashed) was a nice touch.

You made a mistake, Barry. That’s part of the job…. The world isn’t different because you changed the timeline. Change happens. Tragedy happens. People make choices and those choices affect everyone else. You’re not a god, Barry.

Far more interesting was all that was happening with “The Flash” characters. Although there were aliens in Central City, the show wasn’t quick to forget about everything else that has been going on this season. Wally’s subplot about his newfound speed was intriguing. He really wanted to go out and help everyone deal with the aliens (he’s already way faster than Barry), but Iris and Joe are against it because he has no training. I understand where both of them are coming from, but I was just a bit surprised that Iris especially would want to lie to Wally about the results regarding his speed. If only because she’s been supportive of his need of helping people so far and she herself was lied to in the past.

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Perhaps she was coming from a big sister/overprotective place as this is the first time she’s having to handle a speedster at the beginning stages (Barry didn’t tell her about his powers until later) and Wally has been reckless in the past. But maybe all of what’s happening with Wally and his powers, paired with Iris wanting to help, will eventually lead to the brother-sister crime-fighting team the show keeps reiterating. Wally does get about thirty seconds of glory during one of the alien attacks and the episode ends with H.R. agreeing to help train him (because that’ll go so well, right?).

It’s nice to see “The Flash” changing a little bit of its S.T.A.R. Labs dynamic also. Not only with the friendships between Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin, but also in the building toward The Flash museum and The Flash Family. Hopefully, the show won’t be afraid to turn Caitlin into Killer Frost more often or give Cisco more for Vibe, especially as the team of speedsters grows (Bart, where are you?). Because in order for the show to grow, the dynamic has to be able to change. Following up on the events of the last episode, Caitlin is still scared of her powers and is saddened by the fact that she almost killed her friends and caused even more tension between Cisco and Barry. Beyond that, the show doesn’t delve into anymore the aftermath.

I didn’t think about it, Oliver. I didn’t think about the future. I was so focused on the past, I didn’t think about it ’til now. I changed so much. This is an article from the future, it’s a story about me vanishing. It used to be written by Iris West-Allen. But now, I don’t know. Something’s changed with Iris, something’s changed with our future. God, what did I do?

Another aspect of the episode that laid out breadcrumbs of what may come is the realization that Barry didn’t just alter the present, but possibly the future. In a nice scene, Barry takes Oliver to the room where the future newspaper from 2024 is still housed (and where Gideon used to be, but where the A.I. has gone is anyone’s guess). After being on the receiving end of Cisco, Caitlin, and every other person’s ire, Barry truly comes to grips with the full ramifications of time travel after seeing that Iris West-Allen is no longer the writer of the article regarding his disappearance in the future. Aside from the fact that Barry is seemingly unperturbed by the fact that he still goes missing, what does this mean for Iris?

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

The show has been dropping big anvils about her importance to Barry that I can’t help but fear for her safety down the line. The fact that the writers have brought the focus back to the future newspaper is important and hopefully, it simply means that she’s moved on to broadcast journalism instead of print. Having said that, I’m excited about the possibility of her involvement in the Savitar/Alchemy storyline. It might actually put her investigative journalism to good use because it was rather a crime that her reporting skills weren’t featured in an episode like this one. There are aliens in Central City and Iris isn’t doing her job letting everyone know about them? A definite fail on the writer’s part and a huge missed opportunity.

Oliver gives Barry the “you’re not a god” speech (third time’s the charm?) and tells him that everyone has been tempted to do what he did. It was a good moment and although Oliver is far from my favorite character, I enjoy his presence more when he’s on “The Flash” and his and Barry’s interactions are usually good. What was most frustrating about the episode, though, were the plot threads that were happening with guest starring characters. Stein finding out he has a daughter could have been handled further on “Legends of Tomorrow” and didn’t need to be featured in this episode of “Invasion!” And I understand crossovers are a logistical nightmare, especially with so many characters involved, but are we supposed to believe that Amaya and Nate were just hanging out on the Waverider while everyone else was fighting aliens? It’s little details such as this one that call the bigger things and decisions into question.

Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW

Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW

The aliens’ motivations are lacking and, like so often with these crossovers, the characterizations take a back seat in order to serve the action. The events don’t weigh very heavily when we’re watching heroes fight space creatures in a bubble. Where are the city’s citizens? How do they feel about all that’s happening? The scope of the episode becomes limited and the stakes don’t feel very high because of the lack of interaction with the outside world. And so “Invasion!” doesn’t really deliver any major impact. There were a lot of fun moments, the CGI and action were great, and I’m glad that the tension between Cisco and Barry is still there (but watch “Legends” for its lackluster conclusion).

Regardless of the fun and entertaining aspects, the entire episode is weighed down by everyone finding out about Flashpoint and even managed to make the Legends look hypocritical when telling Barry he shouldn’t have done it. Their entire show is based on time traveling! Ultimately, “Invasion!” left a lot to be desired even while still being entertaining. A lot of characters weren’t properly utilized and, with the Dominators invading Earth and the superheroes teaming up to stop them, it’s hard not to feel a bit disconnected from everything when the alien plot feels empty and underwhelming.

On the next episode of “The Flash,” Barry pays a visit to Earth-3 and Savitar messes with Barry’s mind!

Random Thoughts: 

  • “Barry, this is a weird-looking newspaper article. It doesn’t mean anything. You need to stop beating yourself up over this.” Oliver thought it was a weird-looking newspaper article. That is all I took away from that sentence.
  • “We’re going up against a bunch of aliens and you want to tell everyone that their lives have been affected by time travel? One sci-fi problem at a time.”
  • So Iris’ name on the newspaper byline is gone and the article is now written by someone else. But the other writer still managed to write Iris’ article word for word? The horror of plagiarism!
  • “Friend is a loose term. We work together.” Ouch, Cisco. Man didn’t even blink.
  • H.R. wants to train Wally. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea?
  • Diggle and his reactions to the various super-powered heroes are always hilarious.
  • We saw the Hall of Justice! Sort of. It’s currently serving as the S.T.A.R. Labs hangar… that Barry owns…? Yeah, he doesn’t seem to believe it either.
  • Iris teases Barry about how much hotter Oliver is now that she knows he’s the Green Arrow. It was a fun callback from an episode in the first season. The exchange was hilarious.
  • Barry’s attempts to give everyone a speech while being not-so-secretly helped by Oliver’s whispering on the side was humorous and awkward. “Are we supposed to pretend like we don’t hear him?” Sara asks.
  • “Legends? A bit egotistical, but catchy.” Egotistical indeed, Thea.
  • Could H.R.’s idea of changing up S.T.A.R. Labs eventually lead to The Flash museum?
  • “What makes her so super?” Kara flies and shoots heat from her eyes. “I’m convinced,” says Diggle.
  • Can we talk about how completely unconcerned Barry is about the notion of him disappearing in 2024? He finds out he may have messed up the future and he checks the newspaper to ensure that Iris’ name is still on that byline. Bless his heart.
  • Are there any theories as to the reason Barry disappears in 2024? Reverse-Flash, maybe? I mean, he leaves a message from 2056, so we know he lives. Or maybe that will change too.
  • 2056 Barry to everyone: Don’t trust Barry. Everyone: Distrusts Barry because they decide to trust Future Barry. The joke’s really on everyone in 2016.
  • Oliver’s head turn when Supergirl mentions that she’s heard of the Dominators. He’s probably thinking, “Man, I can’t deal with this.” Fighting aliens and working with one is above his pay grade.
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"Invasion!" left a lot to be desired even while still being entertaining. A lot of characters weren't properly utilized and, with the Dominators invading Earth and the superheroes teaming up to stop them, it's hard not to be a bit disconnected from everything when the alien plot feels empty and underwhelming.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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