The greatest event in television history has concluded, leaving us all wanting much, much more from the Super Friends. The CW's "Invasion!" crossover puts pretty much all other superhero team-ups to shame, as four of DC's flagship shows came together in an impressively written "Heroes v Aliens" plot.
There was so much potential for things to go wrong, considering just how many characters the writers were juggling. And yet, the crossover was rich in character development, as plot threads and foreshadowing from all the shows were utilized. "Invasion!" was superhero storytelling done right, more similar to a comic book crossover arc than any other live action team-up in recent memory — and yes, I'm including #Avengers and #BatmanvSuperman.
Obviously, The CW had the luxury of much more time to explore crossover and team-up possibilities than superhero movies do. "Invasion!" was building on years of character development, and one of the reasons the crossover was so satisfying was because we've been waiting a long time for this veritable army of heroes to finally team up.
But still, there are many reasons why "Invasion!" felt just so much more comic-book-y than any other superhero adaptation — and both the MCU and DCEU could learn a lot from this little TV crossover.
Everyone Played Their Part
With three different ensemble casts in one place (#Supergirl made it easy on the writers by crossing over without her backup team), it would have been easy for "Invasion!" to sideline or ignore some of the many heroes. And yet, especially in the finale, each heroes' specific powers were utilized.
Barry and Kara's super speed was crucial to taking out the Dominators across the world, while the the non-meta heroes battled Central City's Dominators on the ground, and Firestorm used their awesome transmuting abilities to destroy the meta-busting bomb.
But aside from the grand battle sequences — which were fantastic — even the smaller scenes made the most of the crossover potential, as characters who otherwise wouldn't have met, came together in interesting ways.
#Arrow gave us Wild Dog butting heads with the Flash and Supergirl, before realizing in the fight that super-powered people aren't necessarily just a threat to the world. This may have been a small little character beat, but it made the world feel big, and all the more real.
Yet, my personal favorite unlikely relationship was that between Kara and Mick Rory who sparked off each other brilliantly.
Building On Themes & Plots
One of the most sophisticated ways "Invasion!" excelled at the superhero team-up trope was the way these episodes built of themes and story-arcs from all the contributing shows. (Except Supergirl, and honestly that may have been an opportunity missed.)
The most obvious, naturally, was Flashpoint, as Barry was forced to reveal how he changed the lives of everyone in the #Arrowverse. After most of #TheFlash Season 3 has been dealing with Barry's guilt, it was nice to see Oliver give him some sage advice, and Cisco finally forgive Barry for Dante's death after he accidentally changed the timeline himself.
The issue of Flashpoint was neatly contrasted with Stein's own effect on the timeline, as he discovered that in his interactions with his younger self in 1987 he inadvertently caused the creation of a daughter he didn't previously have. Young Lily Stein proved to be very useful in defeating the Dominators, and Stein decided not to correct this "time aberration" — proving that Barry Allen isn't the only one who loves to mess with timelines.
But there were other little plot threads continued too, like the formation of the JSA during World War II leading to the Dominators seeing Earth as a threat, and the ongoing tension between humans and metas.
The Best Of Each Show
Although the consequences of time travel were a major theme in "Invasion!", there was also a nice continuation of the human/meta tensions that have been running through the Arrowverse ever since the first episode of The Flash. Because the Dominators were on a mission to destroy all metas on Earth, this really brought the problems with metas to the surface.
"What happens when a man like him inherits abilities like yours?"
What happens when metas go bad is the driving force of The Flash, while Arrow continues to be populated with (mostly) non-powered heroes — meaning that it was Team Arrow who fell prey to Dominator abduction in the third episode of the crossover. Subsequently, Oliver struggled with feeling deficient in the face of Kara's impressive abilities, leading him to bench the Super Friends' most powerful asset, though of course they all came together in the final fight.
This really highlighted how each of The CW's shows deal with the concept of superheroes. For The Flash, heroism is meta-abilities and science; for Arrow it's ingenuity and training. Then of course there are the Legends, a motley crew of non-metas, augmented heroes, and those with superpowers, who make the most of each team-member's abilities.
At the end of the episode, as Earth-1's new president honored the group of heroes, the moral of "Invasion!" became clear: Everyone can be a hero, regardless of superpowers, as ultimately strength comes from togetherness.
Superheroes Done Right
So while the DCEU struggles to get on its feet, jumping straight to Batman and Superman fighting when they first meet, and the MCU falls back on tired origin story structures, it was nice to see this sunny little corner of superhero-dom revel in its own possibilities.
Sure, The CW shows aren't perfect, and they'll never be as glossy and impressive as the live action superhero movies. But there's something to be said for the sheer joy the Arrowverse takes in the superhero genre, sending messages of friendship and teamwork above all else. Honestly, right now we all need a little optimism from Earth's new mightiest heroes, and ultimately that's why "Invasion!" may have been the best superhero team-up of 2016 — and possibly of all time.