‘Arrow’ Recap: What If … ‘Arrow’ Never Happened?

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Warning: This recap for the “Invasion!” episode of Arrow contains spoilers.

With these ever-growing Arrowverse crossovers, the motto seems to be “go big or go home.” Somewhat paradoxically, though, the Arrow episode of the Invasion arc reaps huge rewards by going small. Sure, there are huge fights and alien space battles, but the main focus of the show is on a What If…? version of everyone’s life, if Oliver had never got on the Queen’s Gambit five years ago, and it hits all the emotional points that make the show great.

The Plot

Oliver’s getting married to Laurel the next day, so clearly he’s in a dream. In fact, everyone who was abducted at the end of the last episode of The Flash is dropped into a Matrix-like false reality where Diggle is the Hood and everyone else — Thea, Ray, Sara, and Oliver — have never turned to fighting crime. Diggle stops a criminal about to mug Oliver and Robert (yes, both he and Moira are alive too) and Oliver, experiencing memories he can’t explain, stumbles into the Arrow Bunker. After trying to kill him, Diggle comes around. They “wake up” Sara, Ray, and Thea and battle past Deathstroke, the Dark Archer, and Damien Darhk to escape the fantasy through the Smoak Technologies building (which shouldn’t exist in this fake world). They then escape the alien vessel they’re actually on, only to be pursued by a swarm of alien ships. The Waverider picks them up and jumps them off into the timestream.

 (Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW)
Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Back on Earth…

Cisco helps a starstruck Curtis to hack the alien tech to find where the Dominators have taken their friends. In order to do that, they have to defeat Dr. Washington, whose technological additions have turned her into Cyberwoman. Wild Dog makes his distaste for metahumans known to Flash and Supergirl, but they save his life when Washington almost kills him.

What If…

On the one hand, it would have been great if they had found a way to not have the 100th episode of Arrow be part of a four-part alien invasion crossover. Have Team Arrow drugged by the League of Assassins and give us more time to explore this vision of a Green Arrow-less world. It was wonderful to see Susanna Thompson and Jamey Sheridan back as the Queens and Katie Cassidy as Laurel. It was nice to think that maybe Oliver would have straightened out on his own and that Quentin wouldn’t think of him as a “rich, entitled punk.” It was heartbreaking to see Thea choose the fantasy over reality and it was thrilling to see her eventually make the right call (even if it only took one commercial break to do it).

On the other hand, we did get all that AND Oliver blasting Dominators with a ray gun on an alien battleship — so we kind of got to have our cake and eat it too.

(Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW)
Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Inside Comics Moment

There is no Cyberwoman in the DC Comics canon, strangely enough. Though there is Cyborgirl, who she bears a very close resemblance to. That character is a foe of Cyborg, who is connected to S.T.A.R. Labs — so perhaps we’ll see her again over on The Flash?

Quiverful of Thoughts

*And the award for Most Ungrateful SOB goes to… Rene Ramirez for “I don’t do apologies, sweetheart,” to a woman who just saved your life.

*And the award for Most Likely to Get Their Butt Kicked by an Alien goes to … Rene Ramirez for calling Supergirl “sweetheart.” Anybody who condescendingly calls someone with heat vision “sweetheart” deserved to get punched into the stratosphere.

*Nice pre-Legion of Doom get-together with Neal McDonough and John Barrowman. Those two will be teaming up with Matt Letscher (Reverse Flash) and Wentworth Miller (Captain Cold) next episode. Y’know, in case this week wasn’t enough crossover for you.

*There’s a moment — right after Sara pulls Ray away — where Felicity is looking around the party like a video game character whose controller has just been flung on the floor. The beautiful part about that moment is that it works if it’s the result of the alien program glitching, or if it’s just Felicity’s natural awkwardness when left alone at a party where she doesn’t know anybody.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.