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Warning: spoilers ahead for the 100th episode of Arrow.
Arrow is the show responsible for launching The CW's lineup of superhero series, and all four of them consistently bring solid ratings and lots of buzz to the network. In fact, a lot of comic television today might never have happened if not for Arrow's success back in 2012. For its big 100th episode, Arrow really deserved a special night to showcase itself, and though it seemed unfortunate for the milestone installment to fall smack dab in the middle of the crossover extravaganza, Arrow still pulled off a killer 100th episode that honored its history while still fitting into the overarching events thanks to a few key tricks.
I'll admit that I had my doubts when news started to break that the Arrow crossover episode would somehow bring back Laurel, Moira, Robert, and Deathstroke while there were already four shows' worth of characters running around. An awesome blast from the past filled with familiar faces from days gone by just didn't seem like something Arrow could manage when there were aliens to be fought. The Dominators' use of mind control was the perfect way to split the episode in half and do justice to both the 100th episode milestone and the crossover. While Oliver was in his hallucination world with Diggle, Thea, Sara, and Ray, the rest of the heroes were rallied by Felicity and Cisco for a rescue mission. "Invasion!" was an episode with two distinct halves, and it really worked.
The shared hallucination world was filled with so many callbacks and shoutouts to past seasons of Arrow that longtime fans may need to rewatch a time or two just to catch them all. "Invasion!" brought back some of the most unforgettable characters from all five seasons of Arrow for a scenario of what might have been if Oliver had never been shipwrecked for his five years of hell. We got to see Moira and Robert Queen alive again. We got to see a Laurel who avoided getting murdered and lived long enough to look lovely in a wedding dress. We also saw villains ranging from Damien Darhk and Deathstroke to Billy Wintergreen.
The best part? The episode didn't even need to make all of the cameos and callbacks make sense. The entire scenario was a hallucination that was falling apart into glitches the longer that Oliver and the others stayed immersed. Arrow could go nuts with rules and logic and physics, and it didn't even make a difference. The emphasis could be on emotional impact rather than plot because the plot specifics just didn't really matter. "Invasion!" brought most of the key players from the history of the show together at Queen Mansion for a wedding, and it actually worked in fantasy where it might have backfired spectacularly in whatever stands for reality these days..
The hallucination world of "Invasion!" also managed to honor the very real bonds that Oliver has forged over the years on Arrow, even if the scenario was fake. Oliver's sparks of recognition when he met with his best bro John Diggle and his lady love Felicity in the bizarro Arrow Bunker gave tribute to the original Team Arrow that started it all back in Season 1, and I'll admit that I teared up a little bit when Oliver saw images of all of his loved ones right before he left the hallucination world forever. He even got to see Roy and Tommy on top of everybody else, and my heart grew three sizes like the Grinch discovering the meaning of Christmas.
Was the episode perfect in and of itself? Not really. The music was crazy loud, but unfortunately not loud enough to drown out Wild Dog's escalating complaints about...pretty much everything. Curtis and Rory both stole lines that would have gone to Felicity prior to the invasion of newbies into Team Arrow, and the escape pod looked like the unholy offspring of the TARDIS from Doctor Who and the drop ship from The 100. So no, "Invasion!" wasn't faultless television, but it was the best 100th episode we could have possibly gotten in the middle of such a wild crossover. Besides, we got the reveal that Tommy couldn't make it to the wedding because he's a doctor in Chicago. What's not to love about meta-references with meta-humans in the area?
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