First two hours of “Crisis on Earth-X” a powerhouse CW DC TV crossover
‘Supergirl’ Season Three, Episode Eight & ‘Arrow’ Season Six, Episode Eight – “Crisis on Earth-X, Parts One & Two”
By Don Alsafi. Last night kicked off the now-annual crossover between the four interrelated DC shows on the CW: Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. Last year’s “Invasion!” storyline was the first time the network attempted something as grandly ambitious as a single storyline crossing between the entirety of the Arrowverse, and it was such a success that the idea of making it an annual event was a no-brainer.
This year, in fact, they’ve heightened the “event miniseries” concept further by having it all four episodes air across two nights: Supergirl and Arrow on Monday, followed by The Flash and Legends on Tuesday. (Notice too how the shows don’t even have their usual logo at the start of the episodes, but simply emblazon “Crisis on Earth-X” at the top of each hour instead.)
Of course, as any reader of superhero comics can tell you, putting out crossovers on a regular basis means always having to raise the bar, or finding new ways to gather the motley collection of heroes and villains that feels both surprising and natural. Last year, it was the invasion of Earth-1 by the alien Dominators that had Oliver Queen, Barry Allen and their associates call on Supergirl (from Earth-38) and the Legends (from their time-travelling adventures) for aid in saving the day. As reasons for gathering these team(s) go, it was acceptably perfunctory for a first-time outing.
Here, on the other hand, the writers pleasingly went against expectations by deciding that the reason for all these disparate heroes coming together was not in fact because of some world-threatening peril, but rather for a happier cause: the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West.
One of the nice things about the first hour was just how comfortably paced the show is in the story’s opening stages. After a suitably tension-building start on the Nazi-ruled Earth-X, we get a few moments establishing the various heroes’ status quos (effortlessly catching up any viewers who aren’t tuned in to the entirety of the Arrowverse), before each scene turns to talk of the pending Allen-West nuptials. (Of course Barry Allen is such a big softie that he invited all his super-friends to his wedding, regardless of how far-flung across time and space they might be.)
So we get the typical pre-wedding scenes: Barry and Oliver – his best man, presumably? – having a heart-to-heart (which was genuinely affecting) while getting ready. The various ladies of the show gabbing while getting their hair done (which was half cute, half eye-rolling). In every one of these scenes, we get to see the various casts mixing and intermingling. It is undeniably a treat.
Full disclosure: After the last couple of seasons, none of us at DoomRocket can really take watching the constantly goofy tone of Legends of Tomorrow. But you know what? Hearing Caitlin Snow confide in Professor Stein about the problems she’s been having keeping her Killer Frost persona under control, or seeing the adorably unconcerned Mick Rory walk around in the morning dressed in a flowery robe, is really all it takes to remind us of why we fell in love with all of these characters in the first place.
As it happens, the capital-A Action doesn’t really kick in until about the 45-minute mark of “Part One.” And yet not only doesn’t the first hour drag, it in fact shows how much more confident the showrunners are in doing this kind of event than before. Last year’s “Invasion!” story was enjoyable, but it was really a two-hour story stretched across four; the Supergirl portion was an unconnected episode that only ended in the last five minutes with her being summoned by Barry and Cisco, while the fact that the Arrow segment was doubling as the show’s 100th episode celebration meant that a good chunk of it was spent with its characters living in an idealized dream world. (That made for an incredibly satisfying episode of Arrow, but a pretty filler episode of “Invasion!”) This time around, it really feels like the writers crafted a tale befitting its four-episode length, and even in the character-focused first part of the story it takes exactly as long as it needs to.
Then the action kicks in with a vengeance, as otherworldly Nazi forces invade to crash the wedding and wreak general havoc. The bad guys leading this invasion quickly turn out to be Earth-X doppelgangers of Oliver Queen and Supergirl (billed as Dark Arrow and Overgirl – and, oh yeah, they’re married), as well as Earth-1’s Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash (wearing his Flash Season One face of the villainous Harrison Wells). Mix into that some weighty themes about morality (as the bad guys gloat about how the heroes will never win because their values always prevent them from going far enough to do what’s “necessary” in stopping a threat), and you’ve got the first half of what looks to be one heck of a truly epic superhero event.
At the end of “Part Two,” most of the heroes have been taken captive and imprisoned on Earth-X, with only Felicity Smoak and Iris West left in the villain-occupied S.T.A.R. Labs back on Earth-1. Tuesday night can’t come fast enough!
“These guys are so last year.” – Kara, putting down a leftover Dominator from 2016’s crossover event.
Oliver: “I’m supposed to be the all-knowing mentor.” Barry: “I’ve been known to catch up.”
“Speak now or forever hold your peace.” – Barry & Iris’s unfortunate priest, milliseconds before being disintegrated by an Earth-X stooge’s laser.
“I finally convinced Oliver to admit it’s okay to have love in his life, now I’ve gotta convince you too?” – Barry, counseling Kara.
“Nazis? I hate Nazis!” – Oliver & Felicity.
Supergirl: “Why do you have a kryptonite arrow?!” Oliver: “In case I ever encountered an evil version of you!”
“Punching Nazis is definitely as satisfying as I imagined it would be.” – Alex Danvers, Nazi-puncher.
BEST MOMENT: The biggest shocker may have come at the start of Part Two, when the Earth-X version of Prometheus was revealed to be none other than Tommy Merlyn, Oliver Queen’s best friend (and sometimes rival) who died at the end of Arrow Season One, never to be seen since. (A rare feat for these shows, for which death is sometimes a revolving door.) The reveal was an especially apt one, considering Tommy had been one of the characters rumored to be the true identity of Arrow villain Prometheus last year. His seemingly heartfelt re-connection with Oliver, before revealing that it was all an act, was gripping. That he subsequently offed himself with a cyanide tooth meant that Ollie lost his best friend all over again, a most sublime final punch.
EPISODES’ MVP: Kara’s sister Alex Danvers may not have been crucial to the most plot-centric elements of these episodes, but Chyler Leigh is Supergirl‘s secret weapon every week, and she remains so here. Appropriately for a story where the stakes are personal as much as they are world-shaking, Chyler’s Alex is both believably vulnerable and a highly-trained badass. And from the moment Alex shared a bit of screen time with Sarah Lance, you knew the sparks were going to fly…!
– So why the name “Earth X”? The story of the Nazi-controlled Earth first appeared in Justice League of America #107, the first part of 1973’s annual team-up of Earth-1’s Justice League and Earth-2’s Justice Society. In writer Len Wein’s introduction to Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3 (which reprinted this tale), he related that he’d originally titled his story “Crisis on Earth-[swastika symbol]!”. But editor Julius Schwartz, having lived through WWII, declared, “No story I ever edit will include that symbol in the title.” Thinking for a moment, he instead used an eraser to remove the crossbars on the swastika… leaving only an X.
– Was anyone else weirded out when Jax accused Martin Stein of trying to turn him into Spider-Man? I mean, I get why they can’t use DC-centric heroes as pop-culture touchstones. But this has seriously been something like the fifth offhand reference to a Marvel property this season alone! I just imagine some bigwig DC exec watching the shows in his office, hearing his writers give their biggest competition some free advertising again and again, and just popping a blood vessel.
– Did that priest look a little familiar to you? Turns out that was a surprise guest appearance by William Katt, formerly the star of 1980s superhero show, The Greatest American Hero.
– Okay, the unknown girl who was nevertheless way too excited to be seeing the West-Allen wedding is clearly more than she appears. Given that last week’s episode of Supergirl revealed that Kara’s lost love Mon-El has been living in the 31st century (home to the Legion of Super-Heroes), and married to Imra Ardeen (LSH founder Saturn Girl), is it too much of a stretch to think this mystery gal could be Iris & Barry’s future speedster descendent, XS?
– At one point, Barry obliquely mentions to Kara how on their last team-up he learned about her other superpower. This would be a reference to the two-part musical crossover between The Flash and Supergirl last Spring … and, in fact, the song that Kara sings at the wedding is appropriately “Running Home to You”, which Barry sang to Iris at the end of that story as he proposed to her.
8 out of 10
Before: “Girl of Steel,” here.