[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 8.]
So far, The Flash season 3 has introduced Flashpoint, a slightly but significantly altered timeline of Barry's making; a new villain, the God of Speed, Savitar; a new co-worker for Barry who also, it turns out, is Doctor Alchemy; a new Harrison Wells; and given even more characters meta-powers, with Caitlin gaining Killer Frost's powers and Wally becoming Kid Flash. Frankly, there's been a lot happening this season, but that's all being put on the backburner for the CW's Arrowverse crossover event - Invasion!
During the final moments of last night's Supergirl, Barry and Cisco opened a breach to Kara's apartment where they asked for her help in fighting an alien threat attacking Central City -- the Dominators. In tonight's episode of The Flash -- written by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Aaron and Todd Helbing, and directed by Dermott Downs -- Barry continues seeking heroes from across the CW's DC shows, asking for more help from Green Arrow and the Legends. However, once the whole gang's assembled, another of Flashpoint's secrets is revealed and the Arrowverse may never be the same again!
The Super Friends
The selling point of any crossover event comes from watching characters interact who would not normally do so - and The Flash 'Invasion!' wastes little time gathering its various heroes. It may not be especially elegant about it, with Barry basically assembling his team like a roll call of available CW/DC stars, but it is exciting to finally witness the likes of The Flash, Green Arrow, and Supergirl come together on screen.
The Arrowverse has had crossovers in the past, but 'Invasion' is the first to feel like a true team-up, combining characters from all four CW/DC series - Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow - for a threat that none of them could hope to face alone. And it's a real treat having these wildly different characters bouncing off one another - especially Supergirl and Heatwave, who share some hilarious exchanges. There's a real chemistry among this expanded cast of DC heroes and already 'Invasion' is making good use of it.
In addition to seeing these heroes pal around, we also get to see them beat each other up in both a training exercise and later on when the whole team (minus Barry and Oliver) are mind-controlled. It's a classic comic book trope and 'Invasion!' makes the most of it, pitting The Flash against Supergirl and Green Arrow against... well, everyone else in an entertaining final act to part one of the crossover. Plus, the episode features an honest to goodness Hall of Justice - what superhero fan could ask for anything more?
Though 'Invasion' brings together the CW's largest cast of heroes - even introducing Earth-38's Supergirl to everyone on Earth-1 - at the heart of the episode is the relationship between Barry and Oliver. As Barry says to Kara, it was Oliver who first trained him, imparting to Barry the lessons he learned during his first couple years of superhero-ing. And in this episode, Oliver has more advice for Barry, with the two having a heart-to-heart about something Oliver is only all too familiar with: guilt.
All season long, Barry has felt extremely guilty over having screwed up everyone's life by creating Flashpoint. And in some ways, rightly so, since he did make a big mess of things. But if Barry is to ever move on, he'll need to stop blaming himself for absolutely everything that's wrong with the world. As Ollie wisely explains, "Change happens. Tragedy happens. People make choices and those choices affect everyone else," even echoing Jay Garrick with, "You're not a god, Barry."
It's exactly the sort of pep talk Barry needs to hear - especially in light of the mysterious message from the future which Professor Stein and Jax discovered. That little tidbit is clearly meant to tease further Flashpoint ramifications (or possibly another future crisis), but here its only purpose is to stir the superhero pot. Thankfully, it's again Barry and Oliver's bond which allows the whole team to overcome this startling revelation, with Oliver being steadfast in his loyalty and admiration of Barry. Still, it's good to see that even in light of the crossover event, The Flash hasn't lost sight of the repercussions from Flashpoint - in particular, Cisco and Barry's falling out, a subplot which definitely isn't going away anytime soon.
Take It Slow, Wally
On the decidedly more-Flash side of things, though Wally's super speed has finally manifested, he still isn't allowed to join in on the superhero jamboree. It's a bit unfair, to be honest, because it isn't as if Barry was especially experienced when he first started out, but then again, an alien invasion is pretty advanced for your first mission in the field; a fact only further proven when Wally arrives and is quickly dispatched with by the mind-controlled Supergirl.
Still, they can't keep pumping the brakes on Wally becoming Kid Flash for long - and not just because H.R. agrees to help him train by the end of the episode, though that's certainly a partnership from which nothing good will come. Much in the same way that Barry must accept the changes caused by Flashpoint, he and everyone else - especially Iris - will need to face the truth that Wally has powers and very soon they'll need him to use them. Once the Dominators are dealt with, there's still Alchemy and Savitar to contend with, and having another, even faster speedster is only going to help. Of course, allowing Wally to suit up as Kid Flash could still end in tragedy, but that's the kind of risk a hero takes.
The Flash 'Invasion!' was only the first chapter in what is shaping up to be an excellent crossover event. The episode had humor, heart, and more than few surprises for the assembled heroes of the Arrowverse. The premise is by far the most outright comic book-y that the CW/DC series have ever attempted, but by playing it mostly straight, the silly plot never gets too out of hand. It even deftly handled the fact that setup for this crossover occurred across four shows, never once feeling like viewers needed to have seen every episode of each to follow along (while still rewarding those who have).
Invasion! continues tomorrow night @8pm on the CW with Arrow, followed by Legends of Tomorrow on Thursday, December 1st @8pm. The Flash returns next Tuesday @8pm with 'The Present'.