Saturday, 3 December 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E07 - 'Invasion!'

As the final part of the, so far, very entertaining Invasion! cross-over event, this episode of Legends of Tomorrow has quite a bit resting on its shoulders. For one thing, there is the small matter that, as great as those previous episodes were, neither of them really did much to push forward the overarching narrative of the cross-over.

Looking back, neither episode really revealed much about the nature of the threat that the Dominators posed – and, they certainly didn't go into any detail about what the Dominators' actual purpose might be. Coming in the final episode of the cross-over, it actually feels a little odd to have to admit that we still know next to nothing about the Dominators. Also, looking back, it feels a little odd to have to admit that we still haven't actually seen very much of the Dominators, themselves, in action (although, Team Arrow's desperate escape from the Dominators' mother-ship felt like a significant turning-point, in that regard).

Now, though, its clearly time for the cross-over event to begin to address those lingering issues – as Legends of Tomorrow seeks to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.

Of course, with the Dominators now seemingly set on an out-right invasion of Earth, the fact that our heroes still have absolutely no idea what these alien invaders actually want seems to have become a significant sticking-point. Fortunately, though, Nate Heywood (who made his big entrance at the end of the previous episode) has a plan – one that involves a trip back to the 1950s, when the Dominators made their last visit to Earth, in order to capture one and learn that they are planning. The question of exactly how a Dominator from over 60 years in the past would have any way of knowing what the present day Dominators are up to is never actually addressed, though – since, it seems that our heroes are desperate enough for any sort of clear lead that they are prepared to take the chance.

For the rest of the team, meanwhile, there is the small matter of a meeting with the new President – who seems to have reached out to the only ones that are taking direct action against these invaders. Of course, the episode is also quick to add additional complications of its own – as, in both past and present, our heroes find themselves confronted by a vaguely sinister 'Men in Black' style organisation, determined to take control of the situation.

Given the nature of what the team is up against, I do have to admit that Oliver's sudden decision to push Supergirl to the side-lines, all because he was suddenly uncomfortable with the idea of fighting alongside an alien, would have to count as one of the most idiotic decisions ever made by a fictional character. It felt much more like the writer's desperately trying to come up with some way of removing Supergirl from the equation, for a little while, than it did any sort of legitimate character decision – and, it had the end result of making Oliver Queen look almost irredeemably foolish.

I can understand the reasoning behind it, from a writer's perspective, of course. Having a character as powerful as Supergirl on-hand would, after all, significantly reduce any sense of danger for the rest of the cast, as they went about their respective goals. But, as a result of Oliver's decision, we had two separate teams walking into danger, while Supergirl stayed behind – and, from a story-telling point of view, that just didn't work for me. Also, it was a decision which resulted in less screen-time for Melissa Benoist – which, given how much fun her role in the cross-over has been, felt like a pretty drastic mistake. If the writer's really wanted to separate the rest of the cast from Supergirl, then I think it would have been much better if they had given her a goal of her own to pursue.

While I might not have thought much of the way in which Supergirl was pushed aside, I do have to admit that the sequences which resulted were suitably tense. The entire 'Men in Black' angle might have felt underdeveloped, over all – but, there was still a very interesting parallel to be found in the idea of both teams dealing with the same sinister figure, in different time periods.

Also, each led to a genuinely fascinating development for the overall plot – with the reveal that the present day invasion had been provoked by Barry's meddling with time (in another surprising connection to 'Flashpoint'), while Cisco's decisions in the 1950s seem to have inadvertently made the present day situation much worse.

While all of this is going on, there is also time for a much more personal sub-plot – as Martin Stein is forced to come to terms with the fact that he now seems to have a daughter, as a result of his last encounter with his past self. While I had, initially, assumed that this whole development was also going to be linked to 'Flashpoint', I do have to admit that I found the idea that Martin's lecture to his younger self, about taking his relationship with his wife more seriously, would result in a child that they never had the first time around to be both funny and genuinely emotional. Not only that, but it already feels as though Lily Stein (Christina Brucato) has the potential to become an entertaining addition to the cast – in whatever capacity she may serve, in the future.

Unfortunately, I do have to admit that there was something a little anti-climactic about the episode's final action sequence. It's not the choreography of the sequence, or the use of CGI, that I had any real issue with, though – both of those were great. Instead, it seemed like an unavoidable issue with the scale of the whole confrontation. There was just something of an odd disconnect between what we were told was a potentially world-threatening invasion, and what we saw as a single confrontation taking place on a single roof-top, in a single city – and, that disconnect just seemed to take me out of the moment.

Obviously, they did the best that they could with the resources they had – and, what they were able to achieve with this sequence was genuinely impressive. But, it also left me with the unavoidable impression that they may simply have set their sights a little too high, with this cross-over.

Once again, though, the sheer joy in seeing all of these characters on-screen went a fair way toward balancing that out – especially when you take a moment to remember that all of these characters have been brought together to fight aliens.

The sight of the Green Arrow and Heatwave standing back-to-back, while surrounded by aliens, really represented everything that I had hoped for from this cross-over, when it was first announced – as was the shot of Supergirl coming to Oliver's rescue, while her own theme music plays in the back-ground. Ray Palmer's truly terrible one-liner, at a certain point in the scene ("See you later, Dominator!"), also actually proves to be an enjoyably cheesy moment due to the simple fact that it's entirely in character for someone like Ray to toss out such a lame line. And, those are only a couple of examples. This entire cross-over was built around pure comic-book absurdity of 'Heroes vs Aliens' – so, it was fantastic to see that initial idea be so well-realised, here.

As the final part of the major cross-over event, this episode of Legends of Tomorrow had a lot resting on its shoulders – so, it was genuinely impressive that the episode managed to bring things to such a satisfying close. Sure, it's a bit of a shame that, even by the end, there was never really a moment in which the Dominators truly felt like the threat that they should be. Also, it could be argued that the three episodes don't really fit together as well as they would have needed to to form an entirely satisfying cross-over. But, I would also argue that this three-part cross-over event is filled so so many truly fantastic moments that none of that really matters.

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