‘Arrow’ 5.08 Recap: “E.T.s Are Real, But Unfortunately They’re Dickwads”

Sadly, the ‘Arrow’ portion of The CW’s big ‘Heroes vs. Aliens’ crossover event this week is a lot less fun than the start on ‘The Flash’. That may be reflective of the relative merits of each show.

I’m not a regular ‘Arrow’ viewer. I only watch the show during crossovers. Tuning in for this one, I had no idea who most of the characters were. Tuesday night’s episode of ‘The Flash’ made an effort to give an even-handed amount of screen time to characters from all four connected shows. This one is dominated by ‘Arrow’-specific characters with pop-up appearances from the others. From what I can tell, Oliver Queen now has a whole squad of Li’l Arrow sidekicks to fight crime with him, and most of them are really annoying. The black tech nerd guy is obviously trying to channel Richard Ayoade from ‘The IT Crowd’, and even if I thought that was a good idea in the first place (which I don’t), he’s pretty awful at it. I can’t even figure out why the show needs another quirky tech nerd when it already has Felicity, who’s way more adorable.

The ‘Flash’ episode ended with Oliver, Sara, Ray, Diggle and… Thea, I think?… being teleported away and kidnapped by aliens. They spend most of this episode plugged into cocoon pod things while their minds are stuck in a shared fantasy delusion. You know, like ‘The Matrix’, and a thousand other things that have ripped off ‘The Matrix’ over the past couple decades (perhaps the least of which was a whole stupid season of ‘Under the Dome’).

In the fantasy, Ollie is living his perfect life as if he’d never been shipwrecked on a tropical island. His parents are still alive. He’s engaged to Laurel Lance, who’s still alive. He’s being groomed to take over the family business. Sara visits to attend the wedding, and she’s pretty happy too. Having never trained to become a badass superhero, Ollie is kind of a wimp. However, when he and his dad are saved from a mugging by a masked hero wearing a green hood and carrying a bow, memories from his real life start to break through.

Ollie learns that the vigilante is known as “The Hood.” Experiencing more memory flashes, he makes his way to the secret base and simply walks right in. There, he discovers that The Hood is Diggle. Felicity (a delusion) has much the same sidekick role she does in real life. They toss him out of the base. However, the next day (the day of the wedding) Diggle goes to talk to Ollie at his mansion and says that he’s having weird memory flashes too. This life just doesn’t feel right to him.

From out of the blue, Ollie and Diggle are attacked by a ninja assassin in broad daylight. They struggle to fight him off when Sara, wearing an elegant bridesmaid dress, saves their asses and kills the ninja. She isn’t even sure how she did that. Ollie gathers everyone and explains the shared delusion. He believes the exit is in the Smoak Industries building. Thea is happy in this life and doesn’t want to leave, but eventually changes her mind. Before they can leave the mansion, they’re attacked by more baddies, including Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough).

Fight fight fight… kill kill kill… They murder all the bad guys and the bodies simply disappear. Ollie ditches Laurel at the wedding.

They make their way to Smoak Industries, where a big glowing portal is conveniently waiting for them. They walk through and awaken in the cocoons on board an alien ship, where (also conveniently) the aliens have simply left them alone and unmonitored. The five of them skulk around through the big, empty hallways of the ship unnoticed until stumbling upon a room full of aliens. Luckily, the aliens left a big gun mounted on the wall at the entrance to the room. Ollie grabs it and shoots at the aliens. They get chased around the ship until discovering that… oh my god, they’re in outer space!

The team run to an alien shuttlecraft and are able to launch it, but have trouble steering when a thousand other alien shuttlecraft fly out of the ship after them. Much pew pew pew-ing ensues. Oh noes, they sure look doomed! Too bad our heroes don’t know anyone with a spaceship who can come rescue them…

Ta da! The Waverider arrives right on cue and picks up the team. Weirdly, the only person on board is Nate, who apparently learned how to pilot a timeship/spaceship in between the last episode of ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ and this one.

Ollie theorizes that the aliens plugged them into the Matrix to probe their subconscious for… something.

The episode ends with the giant alien mothership heading for Earth.


Cisco is introduced to the rest of Team Arrow and works with Felicity and the annoying tech nerd guy to hack alien technology recovered from the ship that crashed in Central City. Unfortunately, in order to interface with it, they need a regulator doodad that can only be obtained from one specific lab. Dammit, it was just stolen by Dr. Laura Washington (lame supervillain name, lady) who’s been augmenting her body with technology to turn herself into an evil cyborg.

Felicity calls for backup, so The Flash and Supergirl make a trip to Star City to help out. This displeases the Arrow sidekick called Wild Dog (Rick Gonzales, whom I used to enjoy on ‘Reaper’ but is a major dick here). He has a raging prejudice against people with super powers. Naturally, that will all get cleared up when The Flash and Supergirl save him from Dr. Washington, easily beat the snot out of the woman, and take the regulator away.

Using that tool, Felicity and Cisco decrypt the alien language and learn that it’s based on Old Testament-style Hebrew. That’s odd.

Episode Verdict

In addition to being part of the crossover, this is also the 100th episode for ‘Arrow’. That might explain why it feels like a big fan-service extravaganza filled with cameos from numerous ‘Arrow’ characters who were previously killed off. All of that would probably be more meaningful to me if I watched ‘Arrow’ regularly.

As far as the crossover goes, the trapped-in-the-Matrix storyline is a huge cliché. All this episode really serves to do is sideline some characters for a little bit and stall the plot, only to put them back in play at the end as if nothing had happened, with little narrative progression or new information learned.

I hope the conclusion on ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ is stronger than this.


  1. Guy

    As a regular Arrow viewer, I was not all that into this despite all the 100th episode fanfare. Ignoring completely that the episode was a terrible entry in the crossover event, the “If I had a regular life” thing is one of the most well-trodden paths in superhero storytelling. It certainly happens in other genres, but nearly every superhero of prominence has at least one of these. Comics do it. Animated shows do it. Supergirl and The Flash have both already done it in the last 12 months.

    Writers will not stop going to this well and it’s never as compelling as they think it will be. It always plays out the same way. Meta jokes fly around (the actor that played Tommy is on Chicago Med now so the character is a doctor in Chicago that can’t get off work to come to the wedding), the hero is always happily in love with the one that got away or a not-so-bad villain/antihero, dead relatives and allies are back around and ultimately choosing to reject the easy illusion comes with some speech about the nature of heroism. It’s a damn checklist and they hit them all last night.

    I just wanted more awesome crossover fun with less whiny Cisco. What I got was less crossover with a whinier Cisco. Considering Arrow’s possibly (shockingly!) been the best of the shows this season, I had high hopes here. They barely participated in the event, leaned heavily on the 100th episode celebration and took the easy, obvious path doing that. Thank goodness they’re back to normal Arrow business next week and it looks like it’ll be an awesome Fall finale.

    Also, while not exactly perfect, the Legends of Tomorrow entry in this crossover is indeed a far better fit with the opening Flash episode. In fact, what we have actually ended up with is a two-parter with characters from four shows, a tangentially related Arrow episode (a tie-in issue in comic terms) and a stand-alone Supergirl mid-season finale that The CW’s marketing department tricked people into watching.

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