‘Invasion!’ Was Fun. Here’s How The Next DC TV Crossover Can Be Better

A review of tonight’s Legends of Tomorrow — and on the whole DC/CW crossover event as a whole — coming up just as soon as I use The Princess Bride against you…

On the whole, I would call “Invasion!” a creative success. It’s fun to have all these characters together, bouncing off each other in pairings both familiar (Cisco/Felicity, Oliver/Barry) and new (Heat Wave and “Skirt”), for both banter and fighting. If the CW plans to do the four-way crossovers annually, I can see it working.

That said, there’s definitely room for improvement for next time out:

1. Supergirl needs to be more involved.

The week started off with a Supergirl episode that was 99% nothing to do with “Invasion!,” followed by a scene that reaired in its entirety during The Flash. And once Kara showed up, she was mostly off to the side, occasionally interacting with Barry, and then with Oliver a bunch in Legends, too often feeling like an afterthought. There’s the obvious challenge that she lives on a parallel world and thus has much less history with any of these people than there is even between, say, Barry and Mick Rory, not to mention the fact that her power set is probably greater than the rest of the heroes combined, which makes it hard to not have her save the day in every situation. But personality-wise, her sunny enthusiasm and relative lack of angst adds a different flavor from all the other costumed heroes, and I wish we had gotten a lot more of her in combo with both the darker heroes like Sara or the lighter sidekicks like Felicity or Cisco. Oliver asking Supergirl to take a step back from things felt like the Berlanti-verse creative team trying to justify why they weren’t using her more, rather than something Oliver the genius tactician (who trusts Barry implicitly, and thus would trust someone Barry vouched for) would actually do in this circumstance.

2. There needs to be more balance between the crossover and the needs of the individual shows, or else it needs to be all-crossover the whole way.

Doing the crossover in the week that Arrow was celebrating its 100th episode wasn’t ideal timing. As an episode of TV, that was easily the best any of the four series had to offer this week — the Green Arrow version of Alan Moore’s famous “For the Man Who Has Everything” story, more or less — and was a nice trip down memory lane for the show that kicked off this whole TV franchise. But there was so much emphasis on Oliver and the others moving through this dream world that the “Invasion!” storyline as a whole felt like an afterthought.

As mentioned, Supergirl wasn’t really a crossover episode at all. The Flash episode probably did the best job of the three main shows involved in giving all the guest stars things to do while also servicing ongoing Flash arcs, and a lot of the crossover wound up being about the repercussions of Flashpoint, down to the invasion itself being Barry’s fault (more on that below).

Legends of Tomorrow, meanwhile, nearly went in the opposite direction from Arrow: though it featured the show’s full cast and had a Legends-specific subplot about Martin Stein accepting the adult daughter he now has as a result of time-travel shenanigans, this was largely all-“Invasion!” all the time, and the episode even concluded on a Barry/Oliver conversation, with no Legends castmembers to be seen. As someone who doesn’t watch all four shows every week — a description which I imagine fits a lot of the audience — I probably appreciate that approach, but in that case, all the shows involved should be going the same way, rather than trying to juggle the crossover and individual subplots at the same time.

3. Ideally, find ways for less to be more.

The single most satisfying action beat of the whole thing was Barry and Kara playing tag team late in the Arrow episode, because it was a moment informed by the sibling-like relationship these two have, rather than just being a bunch of CGI-enhanced blurs using their powers side by side.

It’s hard to go small in a crossover featuring a couple of dozen characters (and that’s even with the entire Supergirl supporting cast staying home on their earth, oblivious to this all), but if the plan is to keep crossing over all four shows, rather than doing occasional two show team-ups, anything that can be done to break the huge group down into the smallest subgroups possible (which, to be fair, we got a bunch of times throughout) is ideal.

Smaller might also be better for the threat being faced. Yes, alien invasion of earth is a circumstance that arguably calls for this combined level of superpowers, but the budgets and production logistics of doing a weekly TV show meant that the ultimate battle for Earth’s survival largely took place on the roof of one city building.

Again, I enjoyed this overall, and it may have accomplished the ultimate goal of any superhero crossover in convincing me to give one of the series (in this case, Legends of Tomorrow) another try even after this story is done. But there are always ways for these things to get better.

Some other thoughts:

* Even if we’re on the road to getting Fun Cisco back, I’m still mostly frustrated with how the creative team handled both Flashpoint and its aftermath. I groaned when Cisco came to realize that he, too, had potentially made things worse by going back in time — especially since the two situations aren’t comparable (Cisco didn’t go back intending to change things; Barry did) — as it felt like the path of least resistance towards getting back to the friendship status quo, letting Barry off the hook rather than letting him redeem himself. (Though, to be fair, he was willing to sacrifice himself to save the planet before the other heroes told him not to.) But it’s also tough to make this such a key part of a crossover involving a team of superheroes who regularly travel into the past and make small alterations to history without upending the space-time continuum.

* Arrow has long since moved past the idea of Oliver’s alter ego being on the run from the law, but it still felt a bit odd to have him standing up on a dais with the new POTUS, accepting accolades with all the other heroes for their work in saving the world. Be interesting to see how, or if, that changes his relationship with the public going forward.

* Great nerd in-joke: Felicity, her language center temporarily scrambled by the trip back in time, blurts out a link from “Darmok,” the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode about Picard learning to communicate with an alien race that speaks only in metaphor.

* Nate Haywood’s new superhero costume is definitely reminiscent of the original Commander Steel costume from the comics, but this may be one of those designs not meant to be translated directly into live-action.

What did everybody else think? Did you have a favorite moment or episode from the crossover? Do you want to see Berlanti and company try something this big again next season?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com