Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Flash Season 3, Episode 8: Invasion!

This week on The Flash, the big multi-part Invasion! storyline continues! Well, that's not quite true. Actually it's just getting started, but more on that later.

Crossovers and team-ups have been a staple of superhero comics since the genre began in the late 1930s. There's just something appealing about seeing characters from your favorite books join forces. The comic companies recognized this, and that's why DC's Justice League and Justice Society regularly traveled to each other's dimension for an annual joint adventure. And over at Marvel, they actually had two monthly comics that regularly paired their heroes together (Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One).


That's why it was so awesome to see pretty much all the Arrowverse characters (plus Supergirl!) band together in an all-star teamup. It's amazing how much fun these DC TV shows are, especially when compared to their dour and dreary theatrical movies. I never thought I'd see something so cool on network TV. It's a wonderful time to be alive.


As wonderful as this crossover is, there are a few caveats. Viewers tuning in thinking they're going to see something like Captain America: Civil War will likely be disappointed. This is a TV show after all, so don't expect theatrical quality effects and storytelling. It's a budget-conscious alien invasion!

Also, if you watched The CW at any time in the past few weeks, you were no doubt bombarded by endless promos breathlessly announcing this amazing four part crossover event. According to these house ads, the big extravaganza would begin Monday night on Supergirl.

That was a big fat lie. Mostly. See, even though Supergirl is finally on The CW were she belongs, she and her world are NOT part of the so-called Arrowverse. She lives in another dimension, on a completely different Earth than the Flash, Green Arrow and the Legends Of Tomorrow. 


So Monday the midseason finale of Supergirl aired, and 99.5% of the episode was spent wrapping up several dangling plot threads that had been brewing all season. Then in literally the last thirty seconds, a dimensional portal opens in Supergirl's apartment, and Barry Allen and his pal Cisco Ramon step out of it. Barry tells Supergirl he needs her help, and that was it for the so-called "crossover!" Thirty seconds out of a forty two minute episode.

Even worse, that scene between Barry, Cisco and Supergirl is actually repeated verbatim in this episode of The Flash! So for all intents and purposes, the crossover event really started Tuesday night. You could completely ignore the Supergirl episode if you wanted and not miss one bit of the Invasion! storyline.

Another oddity— at one point Barry's forced to admit to the assembled heroes that he altered the timeline twice this season. A good chunk of the episode was then spent on the fallout of this announcement, as the characters reacted to the fact that their lives had been changed in various ways. Seriously? Is this REALLY the best time to bring up this plot point? Wouldn't it have made infinitely more sense to repel the alien invasion, THEN have Barry tell everyone he screwed up their lives?

I smell some script padding here. I have a feeling there just wasn't enough to the Invasion! storyline to fill up three episodes, so they needed to do some stretching.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
At STAR Labs, Wally's still being tested in the Speed Lab. According to Caitlin, he's faster than Barry was when he first got his speedster powers. This worries Wally's family greatly, as they fear his powers will get him killed or something. Caitlin suggests that she, Barry and Cisco join her for drinks. Cisco refuses, as he still blames Barry for Dante's death. HR gives a presentation outlining his plans to turn STAR Labs into a museum, which is as insane as it sounds. Suddenly the Lab's sensors detect a meteor heading for Central City.

Barry rushes downtown and sees the meteor's actually an alien spaceship. It lands and dozens of CGI aliens file out and disappear into the city.

The next day, Lyla from ARGUS meets with the STAR Labs Gang. She says the aliens are known as Dominators, and they visited the Earth once before in the 1950s. Back then they abducted a number of people (ten percent of our children, perhaps?) and then abruptly left. Now they're back, and have landed four ships on Earth. She says the Dominators sent out a message threatening anyone who tries to stop them. Lyla asks the Gang to let ARGUS handle the matter.

Meanwhile in Star City, Green Arrow and Spartan confront Vigilante in a warehouse (where else?). Vigilante opens fire on them, just as the Flash appears and whisks them out of the path of the bullets and into Felicity's apartment. Arrow's angry with Barry for letting Vigilante get away, until he hears about the aliens. Arrow's supporting cast shows up and vows to help the Flash defeat the invasion.

Team Flash and Team Arrow meet in an old STAR Labs hangar, which looks suspiciously familiar. Felicity says she somehow contacted the Legends Of Tomorrow, and sure enough, they show up a few minutes later in a time shuttle. They explain that Steel and Vixen stayed behind on the Waverider (no doubt for budgetary reasons).

Barry and Cisco create a breach and travel to Earth-38 to recruit Supergirl. She agrees to help and returns to Earth-1 with them. The rest of the heroes don't believe she's an alien until she demonstrates by flying and using her heat vision to burn her logo into the floor.

Meanwhile the Dominators set up a device inside yet another abandoned warehouse. They plan to capture and mind control the President.

Back at the hangar, Supergirl says she's familiar with the Dominators, as they invaded Krypton long ago. The Super Friends decide their new team needs a leader. Cisco immediately nominates Arrow, which sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Arrow says Barry should be in charge, since the whole party was his idea. Barry awkwardly fumbles out a few orders, telling everyone to start training against Supergirl (who's a thousand times more powerful than all the other heroes combined, and invulnerable to boot).

Professor Stein and Jackson decide this is the perfect time to tell Barry they found a message from his future self on the Waverider. They play the message, in which Future Barry tells Rip Hunter (former captain of the Waverider) that he altered the timeline and not to trust anyone, including him. Barry decides there isn't already enough going on, and wants to tell everyone about the Flashpoint timeline, but Arrow wisely says to wait until after the crisis.

While Supergirl mops the floor with the other heroes, Professor Stein has another attack. He asks Caitlin to take him home, and when he gets there, his adult daughter— who didn't exist before Flashpoint— greets him. Stein's so flustered he immediately leaves.

Meanwhile, Lyla meets with the President to discuss the Dominator threat. He agrees with her attack plan and leaves in his limo. The Dominators attack the car and abduct the President.

Back at STAR Labs, Wally's upset that his dad Joe and sister Iris don't want him to have powers. He asks HR to train him. HR refuses at first, but eventually agrees, which seems a bit suspicious.

Cisco finds Future Barry's secret recording and listens to it. Not cool, Cisco! He then confronts Barry about the message, and forces him to tell the others about Flashpoint. The heroes are all stunned, especially Spartan, whose son was a girl in the original timeline. Oddly enough the Legends tear Barry a new one too for tampering with time, despite the fact that they all do so on a daily basis.

Lyla informs Barry and the Super Friends that the President's been taken. Everyone's still sore at Barry, and they tell him to stay home while they rush off to save the Prez. Arrow stays behind with Barry.

The heroes easily find the building where the President's being held. They enter and are immediately surrounded by Dominators. The aliens disintegrate the President (!), activate a mind control device and mentally enslave all the heroes.

Barry whines some more about the mistake he made, and Arrow tells him that anyone in his place would have done the same thing. Suddenly the hangar is attacked by the mind controlled Super Friends. Flash and Arrow rush out and begin battling everyone.

Wally watches the fight on a STAR Labs monitor. He can't contain himself, and speeds away to help. He does OK at first, but is eventually violently K-Oed.

Cisco and Felicity locate the mind control signal, and relay the coordinates to Barry. He rushes to the empty warehouse, as Supergirl follows. They have a superspeed battle, and Barry eventually tricks her into flying through the mind control device, destroying it. The Super Friends revert to normal.

The heroes regroup and talk about what to do next. Suddenly White Canary is bathed in bright light and teleported away. Atom follows, then Spartan and Speedy. Arrow begins teleporting and Barry tries to grab him, but is too late.

To be continued on Arrow...

Thoughts:
• I'm puzzled by Joe and Iris' attitude toward Wally and his powers. They can barely contain their terror over the fact that he's now a speedster.

I can kind of understand Joe's reaction, since he's Wally's father, and that's what dads do— worry. But Iris? Why's she care so much? She didn't even know she had a brother until a few months ago.

Oddly enough they're not even remotely concerned that Barry has the exact same powers.

Why are Barry's powers fine, but Wally's are a cause for alarm? Are two speedsters in the family just one too many? Are they worried that Wally's too young to use his powers responsibly? It it because Barry's only a foster member of the family, while Wally's a blood relative? Is it because Joe and Iris have been on the sidelines lately, and the writers needed something for them to do?

• Kudos to the producers for the scene in which Supergirl tries to learn the names of all the assembled heroes. I've been keeping up with these shows for a while now and even I didn't know who everyone was (especially the Arrow characters, since I drifted away from that series a while back). I bet even with the roll call scene, new viewers were probably completely lost.

• When discussing the Dominators, Lyla says the government's been aware of them since the 1950s. She says, "In 1951, they appeared under the same sort of circumstances. A ship crash-landed. Little to no communication. We learned they were abducting humans to gather intel about us. They attacked, and hundreds of soldiers lost their lives. Then, for some inexplicable reason, they left."

Joe speaks up and says, "That was them! Redmond Oregon. The government tried to cover it up. What? I watch Syfy Channel!"

Joe's referring to an actual incident, in which a bright, fast-moving object appeared over the city of Redmond, Oregon. Air Force jets were scrambled from a nearby airbase in Portland, and began pursuing the glowing craft. The planes chased the UFO, but it was too fast and maneuverable and quickly lost them. The Air Force later debunked the incident by stating the object was actually a weather balloon (that could somehow outrun jets traveling at 600 mph).

The only problem here is that the Redmond Incident occurred in 1959, not 1951 as Lyla stated. Whoops!


I wonder… did they fudge the date of the Redmond Incident because of Agent Smith? He looks to be about thirty years old in 1959. That would make him eighty seven when we see him in 2016! That's seems reeeeeally old for a government agent. Jesus, don't these guys ever get to retire? 

It gets worse though. If they had used the proper year of 1951 for the Redmond Incident, then that would make Smith a whopping NINETY FIVE in 2016! No wonder they changed the date!

• From the neck up, the alien Dominators looked pretty close to the comic book version, which was a nice touch.

For some reason, the producers decided the Dominators should be completely CGI. I get that they probably wanted to make them look truly alien, and that's fine. But creating realistic-looking CGI aliens is expensive, which drastically limited their screen time in the episode.

In fact this budgetary limitation ended up affecting the plot. Instead of battling a vast army of CGI Dominators, the Flash and Arrow spend most of the episode fighting a group of mind-controlled fellow superheroes. Aliens are expensive. People are cheap!

Seems to me like it would have been much better dramatically and budget-wise if the Dominators were a practical effect. Guys in prosthetic makeup and long robes, just like in the comic. There've been some amazing looking aliens on Doctor Who the past few seasons, so it's not like it's impossible.


• I recently learned that many comic fans are deeply offended by the Dominators. Apparently their skin tone, prominent teeth, slit-like eyes, long claws and the Japanese "Rising Sun" motif on their foreheads makes them horrible "yellow peril" Asian stereotypes.
 

Jesus wept. I really don't want to live on this planet anymore.

I've been aware of the Dominators since the Invasion! storyline first appeared in the comics back in 1989, and this never once occurred to me. In fact I think if you see buck-toothed Tojo stereotypes in these characters instead of evil aliens, then the problem lies with you, not the comics.

• According to Cisco, Supergirl lives on Earth-38. I'm assuming the 38 refers to the year in which Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold Superman to DC Comics (they actually created the character in 1933, but that's another story).

One wonders why they didn't say she's from Earth-59, since that's the year Supergirl was actually created. I guess because Superman got to Earth first in her universe?


NOTE: I've been informed that in the DC Comics universe, there are currently only fifty two parallel worlds in the multiverse, so it would be impossible for Supergirl to come from Earth-59. 

I'm aware of the New 52 thing, but… does it apply to the shows as well? When I hear "multiverse," I think of MILLIONS of worlds, not just fifty two. I can't remember if the series has ever clarified this though.

• During the briefing, Supergirl says she's familiar with the Dominators, as they invaded Krypton years ago.

Obviously she's talking about the Dominators from her dimension, since she's not from Earth-1. Hopefully her Dominators are the same as the ones here, or her intel's going to be useless.

By the way, how did Barry's world get to be "Earth-1?" Do people from Earth-2 or Earth-19 feel inferior when they find out their planet's not "number one?"


• Barry gathers the various Arrowverse heroes together in an old STAR Labs hangar.

Amazingly this hangar looks exactly like the Hall Of Justice from the 1970s Super Friends cartoon. The only thing missing is Ted Knight's pompous narration ("Meanwhile, at the Hall Of Justice, Batman makes an amazing discovery!").

I'm wondering if this hangar is just a one shot deal for this episode, or if it'll become the new headquarters for the STAR Labs Gang. Is this why HR keeps wanting to turn the current building into a museum? Will Barry take up residence in this hangar now that he's no longer has his day job as a CSI?


• Barry's awfully casual about revealing various the secret identities of the various heroes in this episode. I know he gave up trying to keep his a secret long ago, but here he blurts out Arrow's real name right in front of everyone.

Did Oliver really want a criminal like Heat Wave to know his true identity?


A few weeks ago on Legends Of Tomorrow, the Atom's suit was destroyed. He's never let us forget this fact, as he's whined about the loss in every episode since.

Now suddenly he has a new suit in this episode, courtesy of the white dwarf matter he found in the Old West in Outlaw Country, along with the Waverider's replicator.

Well that was certainly easy! So why the hell didn't he create a new suit immediately after the original one was destroyed, instead of moping about if for months? And doesn't it seem odd that he'd do something important like this offscreen, instead of in an episode of his own show?

• When Barry asks Atom why Captain Cold isn't with the Legends, he tells him that Snart was killed in the Legends Season 1 finale. Barry takes the news hard. OK, I get that the Flash and Cold made a deal a couple seasons ago and were "friendly adversaries," but it's not like they were family or anything. Barry's reaction seemed a little over the top.

• Shouldn't Supergirl's heat vision be red instead of light saber blue? Just asking.

• In the Legends Of Tomorrow episode Shogun, Professor Stein and Jackson found a secret message from future Barry Allen to Rip Hunter. Apparently the contents of the message were so shocking that they dared not to tell anyone about it. Until right now, of course. Because everyone knows the perfect time to reveal a momentous secret is right before going into battle against an alien invasion. But I digress.

So what are the astonishing contents of the message? That prolonged exposure to the time stream is deadly? That none of them are real, and they're all just characters in a television show? That Soylent Green is people?

Nope! Nothing remotely that interesting. Instead, the message says that Barry Allen altered the past, and Rip Hunter shouldn't trust him or anyone. That's it? That's the shocking secret, that Barry changed the timeline? Jesus Christ, he's done nothing all season but announce that to anyone within earshot!

• When the Dominators abduct the President, Lyla springs into action. She calls for help into her mic, saying, "He's gone. Traveler has been taken. I repeat, Traveler has been taken. The Dominators have the President."

Um... which is it, Lyla? Are you going to call the President by his codename or not? It doesn't do any good when you broadcast both (I'm guessing the "The Dominators have the President" line was for the dimmer members of the audience).

Oddly enough the Arrowverse's current President is white. I wonder... did they cast a white man as President because Obama's term is nearly up? Or did the producers fear online PC backlash if they disintegrated a black President?

• Thanks to Barry's time-changing shenanigans, Professor Stein now has a grown daughter. I guess his wife Carissa didn't get erased then?

• Wally asks HR to train him in how to use his newfound speed. HR refuses, saying if he trains him and the others found out, "he'd be gone faster than humor in a Liam Neeson movie." Apparently there's a Liam Neeson on Earth-19 too.

• The episode's best interaction was between Supergirl and Heat Wave, of all people.

Supergirl: "How did you get the name Heat Wave?"
Heat Wave:
"I burned my family alive, and I like to light things on fire."
Supergirl:
"Aah. Well, that's a... colorful backstory."
Heat Wave: "Well, my shrink thinks so."

Supergirl (seeing the President inside a warehouse): "Yep, he's in there."
Heat Wave: "How do you know that?"
Supergirl: "I can see him. Oh, I have X-ray vision."
Heat Wave: "Oh. You can see everyone's bits with those little peepers, huh?"
Supergirl (flustered): "No, I... "
White Canary: "Ignore him."

• Heat Wave decides he's not going to call Supergirl by her name.

Heatwave: "By the way, I'm not gonna call you Supergirl. It's stupid."
Supergirl: "You could call me Kara."
Heatwave: "That won't work either."
Supergirl: "Well, what're you gonna shout if you need my help?"
Heatwave: "Skirt."
Supergirl: "Seriously?"
Heatwave: "Seriously. But I'm not gonna need your help."

Predictably, several seconds later the Dominators attack, and Heat Wave yells, "Supergirl, do something!"

I knew the second he said he wasn't ever going to call her "Supergirl" that he'd end up doing so before the episode was over. It's called "set up," folks!

• The most puzzling (and frankly stupid) part of the entire episode was the attitude of the other heroes when they found out that Barry had altered the timeline. Oddly enough it's the Legends Of Tomorrow in particular who rip into him, lambasting him for committing such an irresponsible and selfish act.

This is epic hypocrisy on their part. The Legends change the goddamned timeline on a weekly basis! In fact, ALTERING (or "fixing," as they call it) THE TIMELINE IS THE PREMISE OF THEIR ENTIRE FERKAKTE SHOW! And to make it even worse, they SUCK at it! They're constantly screwing up history! What the hell gives them the right to scold Barry for doing the same thing?

I have a feeling this was another case in which the writers needed something for all the excess characters in the episode to do. Apparently yelling at Barry Allen for doing the exact thing they do was all they could come up with.

Unfortunately all this did is make the Legends look like two-faced assholes.


And wait a minute... if Team Flash and Team Arrow are both pissed at Barry for changing the timeline, shouldn't they be ready to tar & feather the Legends for regularly doing the exact same thing? No one says a word about their antics.

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