Right away, let me commend the writers and actors and director. They clearly felt the weight of the importance of this episode, and there was a whole lot of talent on display here. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but an episode chockful of feels wasn't it.
(spoilers beyond the fold)
So yesterday's The Flash ended with several of our heroes being abducted by the bad-news aliens, the Dominators. I don't know how I missed it, but the people taken were all non meta-humans, as Cisco ends up pointing out in this episode. That sound you're hearing is me rolling my eyes at myself, because I don't normally miss something that big. But yeah, the abductees were Oliver, Sara, John, Thea, and Ray. The aliens didn't want the metas at all.
This episode begins with something we haven't seen in a long, long time:
Hellllllooooo, Queen mansion, we haven't seen you in forever!
Oliver is clearly living some idyllic life, one where his parents and Laurel are still alive. But within minutes of seeing Laurel with a giant rock on her finger, it becomes obvious something is not right. Oliver has a flash, like he's remembering something from another life.
Still, how fabulous to see Laurel again. You never should have killed her off, Arrow. The episode just started and I am already hurting.
Back in the Darkest Timeline our heroes actually inhabit, Felicity and Cisco arrive at the Arrowcave and let Team Arrow (minus Artemis, who for some freaking reason isn't in this episode at all) know that Oliver has been abducted. Cisco asks for something of Oliver's that he can vibe to try to find out where the missing team members are, and the minute it becomes obvious that he's a meta, Wild Dog gets a stinkyface. "You're one of them."
Yeah whatever, dude.
It's okay though, Cisco and Curtis hit if off immediately, and suddenly what I need in my life that I never knew is a Vibe and Mr. Terrific team-up. Pronto.
Cisco's vibe reveals that the missing team members are in Matrix pods. Cisco also reveals that he brought along a piece of the alien ship that landed in Central City, so Team Techie (Felicity, Curtis, Cisco) get down to the business of trying to hack it. But they end up blowing it up because human tech doesn't play nice with alien tech. They need a thing. Never you mind what the thing is, just know that it is a thing and they need it. This is the most macguffin thing ever in the history of writing, but it was an excuse to track down a freak-of-the-week who has stolen the thing.
Ragman, Mr. Terrific, and Wild Dog team up with Flash and Supergirl to get go the thing, and Wild Dog is decidedly unimpressed with both Barry and Kara and tells them so to their faces. At least we didn't have to wait long to find out what Rene's problem is: he feels that metas attract bad metas, and that aliens attract bad aliens, so the world would be better off without any and all of them. The Dog then proceeds to get his butt kicked by a cyborg lady, and Barry and Kara have to save him, after which Rene has a sudden about-face in his opinion of them.
Meh. I honestly could have done without this whole worthless side-plot. The only cute part of it all was Ragman and Terrific gushing over how awesome Barry and Kara are. But Supergirl's role in this episode of the Invasion seemed particularly superfluous.
And where in Hades was Artemis???
Okay but are you ready for some feels?
I was not prepared for how I would feel at the sight of Oliver's parents, especially Moira. Not gonna lie, I suddenly realized with this episode just how much this show has been missing Moira (and specifically, actress Susanna Thompson) and her incredible warmth and depth. Moira Queen was not the most admirable of characters in the first two seasons of the show, to be sure. She did some pretty crappy stuff. But I never got the sense that she was evil, and her being such a flawed mother and wife and human being and yet ultimately striving to be better, was great story-telling.
I think this episode made me mourn her more than her actual death scene did. And did Stephen Amell and Susanna Thompson always have that level of chemistry, or has Stephen matured enough in this role, I guess? Either way, they were fabulous together.
Anyway, Oliver's fantasy life is pretty rad: it is the eve of his wedding to Laurel, Robert and Moira Queen are there, Sara arrives to be her sister's bridesmaid, and all is awesome!
Except Oliver keeps having these crazy flashes of another life. And despite supposedly never getting on the Queen's Gambit, and thus never learning to fight in Lian Yu, he has some pretty crazy superhero reflexes and instincts. During one scene where he and Robert Queen are in a dark alley that was wayyyy too obviously reminiscent of a certain Batman origin story, Oliver faces down a thug with a gun. But ultimately it's the Hood, a dude with a bow, who shows up to save the Queens. But that only seems to exacerbate Oliver's weird flashes, so he ends up following his instincts and arrives at the Arrowcave, only to find that a tragic John Diggle is the Hood.
Sara and John seem to also be having weird flashes, but it's hard to tell how much, because the episode is fully filmed from Oliver's perspective. Ultimately, though, Sara and John both realize Oliver is right, and that this place is fake. Ray is almost nonexistent in this shared fantasy world, but he is there, kinda. And he also accepts that this isn't right.
Thea is apparently aware of the wrongness, but she doesn't care, because she has her family back. When Oliver and Sara try to convince her that they need to all find a way out, Thea resists. And in a scene that again taps into some crazy feels, Stephen Amell and Willa Holland really amp it up to the max. Oliver doesn't want Thea to suffer, so he accepts that she wants to stay behind in this fantasy world, and his goodbye scene made me genuinely teary-eyed.
There's a fight scene because we need some action now, and the Matrix is fighting back against these guys getting out, so it sends in Damien Darhk (who Sara fights), Deathstroke (who Oliver fights), and some random thugs who keep John and Ray busy. Oh, and Malcolm Merlyn as the Dark Archer is there too, and Thea ends up deciding that she doesn't want to lose the only real family she has left (Oliver), so she shows up to fight the Dark Archer.
What I liked about the fantasy world overall was that the alien device picked out things and people from all of their memories, so there are a bunch of Arrow easter eggs all over the place, and I'm pretty sure I didn't capture them all.
Still, we cannot leave this fantasy world without a final gutpunch, because the writers want you to cry. Joke's on them, though, because I'm not crying ur crying!
The Matrix (this is not actually the name of the alien device, by the way, it's just my name for it) sends Laurel to make a final plea for Oliver to stay.
By this point in the episode I cannot handle all the feels anymore.
I don't care how badly it screws things up, Barry Allen, you need to go back in time and save Laurel Lance. Killing off Black Canary was the single dumbest thing this show has ever done, and this episode, and these moments with Laurel, made me realize how badly this show needs her. Please, I am begging you, Comic Book Gods, wave your magic wand and bring her back for good. There simply cannot exist a Green Arrow narrative without his Black Canary. It is wrong. It feels wrong.
Uggh, okay. So our heroes exit the alien mind probe thingie, and come to realize they are actually in an alien spaceship. In space. They manage to steal an escape pod, but they can't fly it.
But wait! Remember that thing that Team Arrow needed? Well said thing helped them get coordinates for our heroes, and just when all seems lost, the Waverider, piloted by Nate and Gideon, show up to save the day!
Sidenote: this seemed like a huge missed opportunity to have Supergirl fly into space and kick alien ass. I mean kicking alien ass is why they brought her to Earth-1, no? She has done incredibly little alien asskicking. Just sayin'
Anyway, turns out that while Oliver and Co. (no not the Disney movie, which yes, Cisco totally referenced!) were dreaming of better times, the aliens were probing their minds for something. And that something leads to the ominous end of this episode:
Probing their minds helped wrap up some kind of weapon the Dominators are now ready to deploy. Things are looking pretty grim.
We'll have to wait and see how Legends of Tomorrow wraps up this storyline!