Happy 100th episode, Arrow. We got you some spaceships, some heartbreak, and a whole lot of awesomeness.

I’ve quite enjoyed most of Arrow this season, but it feels like the big crossover between the CW’s DC shows has really made each show up their game—while this week’s Supergirl wasn’t exactly heavy on the crossover, it was a solid midseason finale that left plenty to build up to for the reason of the season. The Flash brilliantly used the crossover format to deliver an incredibly important evolution of a story it’s been telling all season. And Arrow—the show that started this whole, delightful universe—arguably had the toughest part to pull off, what with this also being the show’s 100th episode.

But it did indeed pull it off.

Like Flash before it, it managed to use the nature of the big alien invasion crossover madness to tell an important, intrinsically Arrow-ish story that honored how far the show has come over the past 100 episodes. Okay, the big moment of actual crossing over was mostly inconsequential—Team Arrow need a doohickey to pinpoint the captive Ollie’s location, so Barry and Kara showed up to beat the shit out of a random cyborg woman for about a minute, and then promptly dashed off—but getting to use the conceit of the Dominators’ abilities to influence their victim’s minds allowed Arrow to tell a story that would usually be a bit too outlandish for the show: an alien-induced fake reality where Oliver never got on the Queen’s Gambit or became the Green Arrow.

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What we see is probably what a lot of people wouldn’t be too surprised by—a life where Ollie is about to marry Laurel, where his parents are alive and well (lovely returns from Susanna Thompson, Katie Cassidy, and Jamie Sheridan), a life where everything seems a little too perfect. We don’t actually spend all that much time in this dream world before Ollie, Ray, Diggle, Thea, and Sara start getting flickering visions of their real lives, but it’s enough of a look at what might have been that it stings.

Arrow’s lost a lot of characters over the years, and the wounds of departures were slowly getting ripped open all over again the moment Ollie and co. started remembering things weren’t quite right. If yesterday was all about crossover happiness, then Arrow was about some heartfelt losses—and, poignantly, the people he loves the most reminding Ollie just how far he’s come as a person (and as the Green Arrow).

All that culminates in the completely gut-wrenching moment Team Arrow decides to abandon the happiness of this faux-reality and head back to the real world. While Sara, Ray, and Diggle don’t face that much of a sad departure from this reality (although Sara does get some final, touching moments with Laurel), it’s the Queens who bear the brunt of this emotional storytelling. Ollie tells his dead parents about the man he’s become, and apologizes for not being the man they always wanted him to be, and it was downright excruciating to watch. So was Thea’s initial decision to stay in the dream reality, because she was so scared to lose her family all over again—even if it was pretty quickly resolved when she comes to join the rest of the gang in their escape, moments later.

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While the actual crossover material might have been slight (although Ray and Sara count at this point I guess, they did get their starts on Arrow), this was a story to celebrate Arrow itself more than anything else. Sure, the “dream world” is a pretty common trope in superhero fiction—hell, Supergirl did it earlier this year!—but the show really earns this melancholy moment of reflection because we’ve spent the past five years and last 99 episodes with all these characters. The fact that it still managed to earn that emotional payoff, while also dealing with the impact of the crossover’s wider story (after all, the episode does end with Team Arrow breaking out of a goddamn alien spaceship), was nothing short of remarkable.

Some people might be a bit grumpy we’ve yet to actually get that much “crossover” material in this crossover, but I’m more than happy it’s provided some solid, meaningful episodes of Supergirl, Flash, and Arrow instead of just having a break from all these ongoing storylines to punch some aliens.

Now we just have to see if Legends of Tomorrow can stick the landing to make this crossover one of the TV highlights of the year. No pressure, Sara and friends.

Other Things I Loved:

  • Flash and Supergirl high-fiving. I just want to watch this forever.
  • The shot of Oliver taking one look back to see the holograms of the friends and family he’s loved and lost as the Green Arrow, while they all tell him how proud they are of him, had me in pieces. Such a sweet little moment, even if the effects used to bring back Tommy and Roy were a little dodgy.
  • This bit of the Team Arrow v. Malcom, Damien Darhk, and Deathstroke. Thea, she was right next to you, you could’ve just tossed it!
  • Ray thinking he knows the layout of the Dominator ship (and being wrong) and Ollie figuring the Dominators would have easily accessible laser guns just hanging around on a nearby wall (and being right).
  • And of course, this bit:
  • Speaking of which, wasn’t what Barry and Kara did to random cyberwoman kind of extreme? Like, she’s pretty much dead after that, right? And they ripped some tech out of her body? AND YET EVERYONE WAS FINE WITH IT BECAUSE THAT TEAM-UP MOVE WAS EXTREMELY RAD. I am fine with it too.
  • Imagining, after watching the pilot for Arrow, way back in 2012, someone had told us 99 episodes later we’d have Flash, Legends, Supergirl, and a climax to this episode which sees Ollie and his gang break out of a spaceship, pursued by alien fighters.