After two months, five parts, and more references to cosmic destiny and fictional teddy bears than I can count, the CW's crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths" has completed. I don't know about the rest of you, but I thought it was terrific. None of the crossovers are the smartest pieces of television for sure, but with "Crisis," Greg Berlanti and the various showrunners of the Arrowverse showed us that they were willing to go into some pretty risky places, all with great mixture of fun energy, high stakes, and important character development across the network...and I completely bought into it. Well, ok not completely, but for the most part.
This week is going to be a little bit different than my other Arrowverse Recaps. When I say there's so much to cover from these 5 (technically 6) episodes, I truly mean TOO much (I could literally make an entire article about the cameos alone). So instead of recapping every show and their context, this is going to be more of a traditional list format, with what I think were the most signficant, shocking, and sensational moments of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" hopefully giving a pretty good sense of where the past few months have taken us. There will obviously be things that miss the cut, but I'm always down to talk online about them in detail.
***Note: This crossover, like the Marv Wolfman/George Perez comics that inspired it, is insanely convoluted and massive. Characters show up from different universes and timelines, often with the same name. While I will try to be as cohesive as possible, if I don't mention which specific Earth a character is from, assume they are from Earth-1, I apologize if anyone gets confused.
And, while this applies to every Arrowverse Recap, BIG. HUGE. UNIVERSE SHATTERING SPOILERS AHEAD, I'm Warning You!
Alright people...let's talk "Crisis!"
Kara and Clark at the DEO
Photo Credit: TV Line YouTube
While Sara and Lois (played by Elizabeth Tulloch) go to Earth-16 to rescue baby Jonathan, Kara confronts Clark, who apologizes for not being able to save Kara's mother, Alura (played by Erica Durance), from Argo City's destruction. Clark laments that he can't protect Lois and Jonathan, nor was he able to have a normal life. Kara tells him that she has felt similiar lately, but reassures him that they will save the Earth as they've always done. She tells him that she has been able to keep Krypton's culture alive on Earth and, as such, she will always have hope that things can be saved.
One of the question that has been posed a lot in the last number of years is what differentiates Supergirl from Superman? To be honest, I've actually been stumped on that question a few times, but scenes like this are so important to that conversation. It's not as simple as their age; while Clark is older than Kara on Earth, Kara has the distinction of actually living through Krypton. She's seen that culture, what it represents, and how it has been preserved on Earth. She's seen her dead world been kept alive, and that sense of hope is so profound to her character.
Clark, meanwhile, wanted nothing more than for his family to be safe and have a normal life, and we get to see that kind of conflict in being dragged into a fight that you can't control, but is the right thing to do. He also feels regret for not being able to save Alura - his own aunt I remind you - and it's Kara who convinces him that hope is never truly gone. Yeah, it's a bit cheesy, but in the midst of the trauma both characters are going through (this early in the crossover too), it's a scene that I hope reminds fans of why we love these characters.
Oliver's First Death
Photo Credit: We Got This Covered - YouTube
During the Battle of Earth-38, The Monitor (played by LaMonica Garrett) transports our heroes to Earth-1 to keep them safe. Oliver refuses and disarms The Monitor with a special arrow. Overhwelmed by shadow demons, Oliver makes his last stand to allow J'onn and the rest of the transport ships to flee, but is horribly injured in the process. The Monitor brings Oliver back to the Arrow Cave on the verge of death, where he is comforted one last time by Sara, Mia, Barry, Brainy, Superman and Lois.
Before we got the second half, I thought Part 1 was going to be my favorite part of the crossover. A lot of that has to do with the stakes and scale the episode seems to set up early on and keeps throughout the episode, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the death of Oliver Queen. My initial reaction was repeating in disbelief to myself "IN PART ONE?" But then I read an interview with series architect Marc Guggenheim and I changed my mind because it makes total sense.
In an event like this, the aura of characters dying is always there from a shock value perspective. Killing off the main focal point of the Arrowverse that quickly was certainly a risky move, but it worked. If we're playing the fan games of comparing this to 'Avengers: Infinity War'/'Avengers: Endgame,' its comparable to killing off Captain Americain the first 10 minutes; suddenly, no one is safe and you can't hide those stakes anymore.
While I still feel a bit betrayed that Diggle wasn't by his side (seriously, what the heck?), having Barry, Kara and especially Mia there for Oliver's death was executed perfectly. It also leads to one of the best moments The Monitor has had in the entire series. He knows Oliver is supposed to die in the Crisis, but as he dies a different way than was predicted, we finally see the sense of fear behind the facade. Part 2 may have taken those pieces in some messier directions, but this was a gut punch early on that set a great tone moving forward.
The Smallville Cameo
On a quest to find the Paragon of Truth that The Monitor spoke of, Clark, Lois, and Iris West (played by Candice Patton) journey to Earth-167, where they meet an older version of Clark (played by Tom Welling, and the same universe as the 'Smallville' TV series). They attempt to convince him to hear them out, but are transported away by Lex Luthor (played by Jon Cryer). Luthor attempts to kill Clark with Kryptonite, only for this Clark to reveal that he has given up his powers for a normal life with Lois (played by Erica Durance) and his two daughters. Dismayed, Luthor returns to his crusade as Lois asks him to check on the kids.
"Crisis on Infinite Earths" served up a whole slew of DC cameos across their film and television archives, but really, there were two that got everyone talking. We'll get to the other one later, but for right now, let's celebrate the return of 'Smallville,' the series about a young Clark Kent played by Tom Welling that became the definitive DC story for an entire generation of fans in the 2000's. Now, here's where I lose a bit of my credibility: I didn't grow up watching 'Smallville' and I still haven't finished it, but I have watched about 70% scattered throughout its ten seasons if that helps.
I heard a lot of discourse online over this cameo; did it feel earned? Was it too little screentime, too late? What on earth were they thinking with Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor incarnation? For me, I actually really liked it, albeit with a caviat. Within the context of the Arrowverse, Superman is not the central focal point of the multiverse like in the comics, so having a huge focuse on him doesn't feel nearly as huge here.
However, it's still Superman, and having an incarnation like this, even from what I've seen of 'Smallville' makes sense. In some ways, he's even what our Superman from 'Supergirl' wanted; a normal life with a loving family. I say let him have that, and seeing Tom Welling back a little bit felt just fine by me (although I would have still bet $20 that we'd see him back in the suit, we couldn't have gotten that writers? Really?)
Kara and Kate on the Waverider
After meeting a darker version of Bruce Wayne (played by Kevin Conroy) on Earth-99, Kate is shocked to hear that she is in fact the Paragon of Courage. Kara confronts her in the basement of Earth-74's Waverider, where the two discuss their newfound statuses as Paragons over a beer. Kate is afraid that she'll grow up to become like Bruce, but Kara assures her that Kate's will and kindness make her worthy of the mantle. Kara also gives Kate a photograph of her Earth-99 counterpart with her sister Beth (played by Rachel Skarsten), and resolves to finding a way to bringing back Earth-38.
Part 2...had it's issues for me. It's a lot of setup, a lot of find the characters in the multiversal haystack, and a lot of mindless cameos (I'll give some of the dissenters of the crossover that much). That being said, I would argue that one of the highlights of Part 2 is viewing it as an episode of 'Batwoman.' Kate, along with Jefferson later on, is the outlier in "Crisis;' she's experienced none of the shenanigans before with very light interactions with the rest of the Arrowverse, and yet, this episode still manages to do great work with her character.
I'm not a huge fan of the choice the writers went with for the future version of Batman (even with Kevin Conroy giving an effort), but I liked what it represents for Kate. By having Kate (and to an extent, us as the audience) finally see the potential of living with the mantle of the Bat, she's allowed to have meaningful internal conflict. Could she turn into a killer being redemption? Is she on that path now? Especially in the wake of the mid-season finale, Kate seems more willing than ever to use more brutal tactics, but this feels remarkably dark for her and a welcomed conflict in the narrative.
Ever since 'Elseworlds' last year, I've adored any scene we get with Kate and Kara, and "Crisis" luckily gave us plenty of them. I think their best moment comes in Part 3 (unfortunately not discussed here), but this scenes is also great between them. While you get the parallels of Clark and Bruce's relationship from past iterations, Kara and Kate's seems much more genuine and more mutual as a result.
Black Lightning Arrives and The "Death of The Flash"
On an unidentified Earth, Jefferson Pierce, also known as Black Lightning, is attempting to save his daughter Jennifer from her powers going haywire. Suddenly red skies appear, as the anti-matter wave destroys everything in its path and Jefferson is transported to parts unknown.
Meanwhile, in Central City on Earth-1, The Flash, Killer Frost, Vibe and Pariah (played by Tom Cavanagh) discover the weapon powering the anti-matter wave; a cannon being powered by the Earth-90 Flash (played by John Wesley Shipp). They save the Earth-90 Flash, only for Jefferson to appear as summoned by Pariah. Jefferson attempts to de-power the machine, only for the Earth-90 Flash to steal Barry's speed and attempt to destroy the machine by sacrificing himself, thus fulfilling The Monitor's prophecy that "The Flash will die in Crisis."
BLACK LIGHTNING IS IN THE ARROWVERSE NOW AND THIS STILL DOESN'T FEEL REAL! In all seriousness though, while everyone else was hyped for the narrative implications or the cameos, the part of "Crisis" that I was dying to see was how the characters of 'Black Lightning' would be incorporated after years of insisting that it would never happen. Briefly talking about the 'Black Lightning' tie-in episode - "The Book of Resistance: Chapter Four" - it admittedly feels a bit rushed to establish the connections to the multiverse, but on the bright side, we get some great 'Christmas Carol'-style stories around Jennifer(who sadly is not involved in the crossover at all aftterwards).
Once we properly get introduced to the character, Jefferson quickly feels like a natural fit into the madness of the Arrowverse (similiar to Kate's introduction as well), but never feeling like the new surroundings take away from his character. Maybe a lot of his action bits get watered down by the Earth-90 Flash plot, but the scene thereafter with him and Barry more than makes up for that, and feels like a legitimate friendship even with how quick it is.
As far as the death of Earth-90's Flash, I can't say I was that impressed. I understand the reasoning in giving a legacy character a proper send-off, but I still found it pretty muddled, mainly because of the reality that the 90's Flash is not THAT widely recognized, both in the larger DC fandom and within the Arrowverse where this is only his second appearence. Again, it allows us to keep Earth-1 Barry alive, which is nice I suppose, and it's a great homage to the original comics, even if it still feels like one of the more hollow deaths in terms of the story.
The Superman/Lex Luthor Swap
As the anti-matter wave destroys Earth-1, the Waverider, and most of the remaining heroes, the Paragons - Kara, Barry, Sara, Kate, J'onn, Ryan Choi (played by Osric Chau), and Earth-96's Superman (played by Brandon Routh) - are transported by Pariah to the Vanishing Point. The Vanishing Point is a special place outside of time and space that Pariah believes the Anti-Monitor (played by LaMonica Garrett) cannot go to find them. Suddenly, Superman begins to fade into red light, only to be replaced by Lex Luthor. As the heroes stare in disbelief, Lex reveals that, just before the Waverider was destroyed, he wrote his name in the Book of Destiny, succeeding in replacing Superman as the Paragon of Truth.
A lot of fans went into Part 3 of "Crisis" with a simple question: with a month off between the two halves of the crossover, what could be THE thing to keep us engaged? Well, as it turns out, it was Lex Luthor being his usual devious self. I don't think that this scene works nearly as well without Brandon Routh and Jon Cryer, as, if this is your big cliffhanger, you have to be sad that one is gone and furious that the other would do something like this. Brandon Routh does an incredible job returning to the red cape, and gives us a very distinct approach from our mainstay Tyler Hoechlin's incarnation.
As for Cryer, I'll echo the majority of fans: if you had told me two years ago that Jon Cryer ('Two and a Half Men' Jon Cryer) was going to be a great Lex Luthor, that seemed impossible. Yet the writers have consistently given Cryer some great, ten steps ahead material as is core to the character. Because of that, when Lex re-wrties the Book of Destiny so that he is the Paragon of Truth instead of Superman, it not only feels natural, but it provides a great set-up. What do our remaining six heroes think of this? Is he going to be the key to all of this? Objectively it's not the most shocking thing they could have showed off, but at the time, it was a pretty interesting half-way mark.
In the Speed Force, Barry is confronted by Oliver, now The Spectre, who reveals to him that the Anti-Monitor sabotaged their trip to the dawn of time. Connected by memories of distinct events, Barry must find Oliver, Kara, J'onn, and Kate before the anti-matter universe engulfs them. Barry's first stop is a version of S.T.A.R. Labs where he encounters an unlikely stranger; Barry Allen (played by Ezra Miller, and the same version from 2017's 'Justice League'). This version is doesn't go by The Flash and seems to have no knowledge of the Crisis. A few quick conversations later, this version vanishes, saying that he told his friend Victor something like this was possible.
EVERYONE was talking about this scene. You want to talk the CW giving fans (and the cast apparently as well) a shock? THIS was it. I barely avoided getting spoiled by this; since I don't have cable, I usually watch these the following morning online and there were times mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed where I got close to finding out...and MAN I'm glad I didn't! To see Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller acting against each other as the same character (especially they both were starting out with the character around the same time) is the definiton of surreal fan service.
Now, getting away from the shock value of it all, how important is this scene? Well, it's a bit difficult to tell at this point, and there's been plenty of interpretations. It could have just been a great surprise cameo or it could be significantly important to Andy Muscietti's upcoming 'Flash' project, we really don't know yet. As far as the narrative of "Crisis" itself, this is much more akin to the Tom Welling cameo - small, not entirely important within the story, but the kind of pleasant surprise we all secretly hoped for.
Oliver vs. The Anti-Monitor and Oliver's Second Death
Photo Credit: Artex Studios – YouTube
At the dawn of time in the anti-matter universe, the Paragons attempt to defeat the army of shadow demons. Oliver prepares to restart the multiverse using his new abilities as Spectre, but is confronted by the Anti-Monitor, who tells him that death is the only thing immortal in the multiverse. The two engage in an intense battle, with Oliver seemingly destroying the Anti-Monitor, but exhausting his abilities and body in the process. As he dies for a second time in front of his friends, Barry and Sara thank him, saying that they will watch over his family.
While I would contend that Oliver's initial death in Part 1 feels more emotionally investing and dire, this is probably the way out that most people saw coming. If we're playing the pointless game of comparing Oliver to the MCU's Tony Stark, this is the most obvious comparison to that character's end; going up against the big bad of the story, going out in a mass of energy to save everyone, being surrounded by loved ones (even in a desolate field like "Avengers: Endgame"), and of course one last twist on an iconic line ("You have failed this universe!").
I will say I wish that we had gotten more time with Oliver as The Spectre, especially going towards a second death of the character. For such a huge shift and with abilities this universe-shattering, it does feel a bit too easy with "Oliver becomes a God, has one conversation with his predecessor (Jim Corrigan played by Stephen Lobo), then saves the multiverse." If nothing else, the final passing of the torch between himself, Barry, and Sara almost makes it worth it.
Barry and Sara in Star City
As the universe is seemingly reborn and anti-matter spikes are popping up, a giant demonic version of Beebo, a blue plush toy that the Legends had faced before, wrecks havoc on Star City. The heroes stop the furry menace, but Sara is not with them. Barry goes to see her, finding her outside a tree where she and her sister Laurel (played by Katie Cassidy) would play as kids. She tells Barry that, even though they have seemingly won the fight and saved so many lives, the fact that Oliver isn't with them is still a loss that she's trying to process, as he was the only one that knew her life before she became captain of the Waverider. Barry confides that, even after losing his parents, family can be found anywhere and that, althought life might be different now, it'll be alright.
Speaking of these two, with Oliver's passing, Barry and Sara are essentially the new pillars of the Arrowverse, but unlike Supergirl or Batwoman, they have ties to Oliver that few of the other characters have. Significantly, this is the first time we've seen these two have a proper moment with each other since...actually I can't even remember the last time this might have happened.
If I really have to nitpick, if you look at this scene as the two realizing the value of surrogate families, it does feel a bit redundant at this point, but I don't think that that's the point. It's more about that they knew this universe at the start and now they have to come to terms with their own legacies. It's also a pivotal scene about loss and dealing with the loss of key friends and mentors that, if any characters deserve screentime to process that, it's the woman who was revived from the dead by Oliver's hand and the guy who came to Oliver for advice when he initially got his abilities.
Prime Earth and the New Multiverse
After the Anti-Monitor's defeat, the multiverse is shown to still be alive, including Earth-2 (where the upcoming 'Stargirl' series will take place), Earth-9 (where DC Universe's 'Titans' takes place) and even Earth-96 (where the film 'Superman Returns' takes place with Brandon Routh's incarnation). At an abandoned S.T.A.R. Labs facility on the main Earth, now known as Earth-Prime, Kara, Barry, Sara, Kate and J'onn are joined by Clark and Jefferson to memorialize Oliver. Barry reveals that the facility will be used as a base in case the seven of them (and their allies) ever need to come together to save the world again. He reveals a table for the new league of heroes with their insignias, including a chair with the arrowhead symbol for Oliver, as they all enter a new world.
Well, it actually happened; the Arrowverse is officially in a new post-Crisis era, with the worlds of all of the main Arrowverse shows being combined into Earth-Prime. To be honest, I didn't think they'd actually want to combine their Earth's, nor did I think it would be the smartest idea for storytelling purposes, but I have to admit that there's some pretty fascinating world-building developments by the crossovers end. In yet another move that feels surreal to say, the Arrowverse now has a proper Justice League! I don't think we'll be seeing a lot of this group together until the next crossover, but it feels like this is the proper time and stakes. This group of seven feels like the logical choice (at least until Mia grows into her role as the new Green Arrow) and seeing the insignias on the table is the icing on the cake.
I say we probably won't see the League together for a while because of the other big narrative point. With Earth-Prime now encompassing all six of the Arrowverse shows, we have got some serious world-building to tackle in the back half of the seasons. Among the changes, we see that LexCorp owns the D.E.O and John and Lyla have a daughter again, so what else has changed to our heroes' pasts? 'Supergirl' and 'Black Lightning' took place on entirely separate Earths, so how do their histories and current storylines factor into this new timeline? Will 'Legends of Tomorrow's fifth season try to tackle some of these issues or just kind of pass off bigger continuity as they've been doing recently? How will 'The Flash's second half of season six address Barry when he didn't actually have to die, and what kind of story points will the last few episodes of 'Arrow' tackle beyond the Canaries pilot?
If nothing else, beyond all of the fanservice and foreshadowing, "Crisis on Infinite Earths" was still probably the most fun I've had with a crossover since 2017's "Crisis on Earth-X." Not everything fits nicely, not every story element feels completely necessary, and certain supporting charactes/antagonists don't feel as compelling as they should. But the characters who do get focus feel like solid representations of the universe with great interactions, along with better than usual visual effects, shockingly high stakes, and a respect for the eight years of storytelling we've gotten thus far. Just think for a second; years ago, we thought the movies had spectacle and multiple crossovers locked in the bag, and no we're turning to the TV universe for just that spectacle. It's certainly not perfect, but this is a pretty special paradigm shift for this universe, and a pretty fun story to boot.
Oh no, it's over? We didn't get to talk about Lena saving the people of Earth-38, Mia officially taking up her father's mantle, Jenny using Guardian's shield, the Lucifer cameo, Barry learning about Oliver's deal with The Monitor, Lyla's entire arc, Mick being a well-known writer, the countless easter eggs - I TOLD YOU THERE'S TOO MUCH!
What were some of your favorite moments from "Crisis on Infinite Earths?" Did you like the crossover as a whole or just felt it had its moments?
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