While DC’s movie-verse has stumbled at virtually every roadblock in 2016, The CW has continued to grow and adapt. Now rostering four separate superhero shows following the addition of Supergirl this year, it all culminated in what’s become a yearly event: the crossover episodes. The first year The CW hosted a crossover, it was the wildly successful combo of The Flash and Arrow. Then Legends of Tomorrow entered the fray the following season for what was an overcrowded mess. This season’s was something of a redemptive effort though, giving us the runaway best part of each show’s respective season. How did it accomplish this exactly?
1. Each episode played to the strength of the show it featured
It’s important that something as massive as a four-part crossover event still remembers that each part is also a self-contained episode of an individual series. The first installment may be used to kick things off, but it’s still an episode of Supergirl. The second introduced our alien adversaries, but Barry Allen is largely the focus of the conflict. Arrow featured an alien abduction, but still focused on its titular vigilante. Unlike last year’s crossover that struggled to feel like separate shows, this season’s allowed each central character a chance to shine as the focal point of the greater “Invasion” narrative, and it worked beautifully.
2. Compelling character portraits
There’s a reason why the crossover event marked the best episodes of the season for both The Flash and Arrow. For the former, we saw the series continue to deal with the fallout of Flashpoint, as Barry began to see the direct consequences of his selfish meddling with the timeline. Over its early run, The Flash has allowed its hero a long leash in terms of what he’s been able to get away with, first by choosing to go back in time to save his mother in Season 1, and second by irrevocably altering the fabric of space and time to live in his own personal paradise. The Flash‘s crossover finally took Barry Allen to the woodshed though, putting Cisco’s justified outrage over the death of his brother at centerstage.
On Arrow, we got a different sort of character portrait. Oliver wakes up in an alternate reality, where he was never stranded on Lian Yu and lived happily with his family and friends. It’s not long before he sees through the ruse, realizing that none of it is real, and that he has to go back to his far grimmer life. At times, we see him truly consider what his life could have been, coming to terms with his past sins and reconciling them to become the hero we know him to be. The fact that Arrow managed to pack all that into a crossover chapter was that much more impressive.
3. Legends of Tomorrow finally found its place
There’s little denying that Legends of Tomorrow struggled its way through its first season. While there were a handful of highlights, there were also a good deal of flaws built into its basic narrative, and it was tough to feel like a full 16-episode run was at all necessary. Last year’s crossover was meant to be a backdoor pilot for Legends, and largely suffered under the weight of not knowing quite what to do with its new team of time-traveling heroes. For “Invasion,” we finally saw the full potential of the fledgling series.
Part of this was helped by the fact that an alien invasion was the central conflict. As the series that deals primarily in space travel and time-ships, Legends of Tomorrow was set up nicely to play a large part in resolving the story in the final installment of the crossover.
4. Supergirl‘s initiation into The CW fold is finally complete
Supergirl was something of a black sheep in The CW’s comic book universe over its early run. Originally airing on CBS, an early effort was made to establish it as an entirely separate entity, a decision that was (rightfully) rolled back by a Flash crossover late in its first season. Similarly, each time Melissa Benoist has been brought in to interact with the rest of The CW’s superhero cast, it’s been an absolute joy to watch. Supergirl’s unbridled joy has acted as an exciting foil to her decidedly more tortured counterparts on Arrow, The Flash, and Legends, and it all came to a head in “Invasion.” Suffice it to say, she’s been a solid addition to The CW family.
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