It's the End of the World As We Know It

Arrowverse 2019/2020 Season: Week 10

And here we are, the main event. The ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. has been building to this moment since last year's crossover, Elseworlds. The upcoming "Crisis" was hinted at there, and ever since the groundwork has been laid out for this big, five series-spanning crossover (six if you count Black Lightning, and so many more when you throw in all the rest). And now it's here and it's... well, rather underwhelming, actually.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

We'll get to all that below, but first I just want to remind everyone that this crossover isn't finish yet. Unlike previous crossover events from the Arrowverse, this time the big show hasn't been wrapped up in a single week. Instead, the Crisis ended on a cliffhanger and we'll all have to wait until January for the conclusion. Damn you, CW. For now, let's recap what we got:

Supergirl, Season 5, Episode 9: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 1

We start on Earth-38, the home of Supergirl. I'm not exactly certain why it's Earth-38 except that Earth-1 (the main Arrowverse world), Earth-2, and Earth-3 were all already taken so Supergirl couldn't cleanly slot onto any of those. Regardless, Earth-38 is the first place our heroes have to make a stand because the Crisis is coming. As we saw a few weeks ago, once the Crisis begins in a universe, a wave of antimatter sweeps through the cosmos, wiping out everything in it's path. This is the fate for Earth-38 if the heroes don't find a way to stop it.

To that end, all the heroes come pouring in from the multiverse, with Team Arrow and Team Flash, plus a couple of Legends (Sara and Ray) to assist this world and find a way to stop the Crisis if they can or, barring that, at least save as many people as possible from being wiped out of existence. To aid the heroes the Monitor raises a techno-tower in the middle of National City, a single point that will push back the wave of antimatter. All the heroes have to do is defended it at all costs from the waves of Anti-Monitor enemies that are about to sweep through. If the beasties destroy the tower, Earth-38 is lost.

There's a further complication, though. Superman and Lois have been off-planet for months, living a quiet life on the floating Argo City. Unfortunately the wave of antimatter is sweeping towards Argo first. Clark and Lois put their baby boy into a pod, not unlike how Clark was shipped to Earth, and shoot up out hoping the baby will make it safely to the blue planet even while Clark and Lois die in the wave of energy. The Monitor save the two of them, but their baby's ship is knocked off course, until a different universe and a different time. Lois, Sara, and Brainiac head to this other world to save the babe while the rest of the heroes defend the tower.

Unfortunately for the heroes there are just too many bad guys and soon the tower loses power, meaning the wave of energy begins to push in once more. The only way to save the day is to have find a way off the rock, and that's where Lena steps in. She works with Alex to create a massive transmat system so all the alien ships on Earth can load up as many survivors as possible and then fly through portals to Earth-1. They're able to save over three billion people this way (while Oliver sacrifices his own life in the defense of the planet to delay the bad guys and save every life he can), but in the end Earth-38 is lost.

So let's get some of the critique out of the way right now. For starters, I understand the first episode of Crisis is hosted by Supergirl which is why Earth-38 is the focus of this episode. But the fact is that there are so many worlds out there in the multiverse, so many places that need saving, and the Monitor focuses all his effort and energy on Earth-38. It doesn't really make a whole ton of sense, all things considered. Sure, the show makes a hand-wave at it, saying that Earth-1 and Earth-38 are the central points for the "Age of Heroes" and that the superheroes there are needed to defend the multiverse. All well and good, but as we saw there were heroes on just about every planet, Earth-2 included, but no one tried to band together to save that world. It's a little odd.

Also odd is the fact that the episode is intently focused on saving Earth and nowhere else. Argo bites it, as noted, but so does Mars (since, you know, everything in the cosmos is wiped out of existence) and Martian Manhunter doesn't bat an eye at this. He'd literally just sent his brother to Mars the episode before but here he doesn't even comment on the fact that Mars is gone. No one things to send out a universe-wide signal saying "hey, guys, this place is toast so get to a different universe and save yourselves." Seems like a bit of an oversight.

The heroes are so busy defending this planet in this universe, but let's be honest: the big battle scenes here just don't work. While the series spent some time setting up the Monitor we never really learn much about his adversary, the Anti-Monitor. We have no connection to the villain at all and don't understand why he wants to destroy the universe. So when he sends in his goons, a bunch of ghost-like beings to battle the heroes, it's just all so much noise. While we know the stakes are the defense of Earth-38, it's also pretty clear that the heroes are gonna lose. If they could stop the Crisis in the first episode of the event, that wouldn't be much of a crossover. It might have helped the battle some if the heroes weren't just fighting CGI ghosts, if there was something tactile about the battle, but the fact is that nothing here, from the villains to the motivations to the outcome really works at all.

Oh, and Oliver dies. We all knew it was coming sooner or later but, apparently, it happens here, at the start of the crossover. Don't worry, they're already working on a way to resurrect him. It's supposed to establish that any death could be on the table, that any one of our heroes could be next (you know, like Barry or Kara, although those deaths are already in doubt as well as we'll get to in a bit) but, really, we knew Oliver was leaving the 'verse so his death here doesn't really up the stakes at all. It's just another thing that happens, like all of reality getting wiped away, to raise the body count but it doesn't really connect and have any real weight to it.

Batwoman, Season 1, Episode 9: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 2

This leads us into the second, and so far best, episode of the crossover. With Earth-38 lost the team regroups on Earth-1. They need a new plan and, thankfully, the Monitor has one. There are beings known as "Paragons", avatars of emotions who are needed to battle the Anti-Monitor and, somehow, save the multiverse (whatever is left of it). As we learn, a few of the paragons are already on the ship: Kara, Paragon of Hope, and the Paragon of Destiny, Sara Lance. Two more are known but their identities aren't clear: Truth and Courage, so two teams are dispatched to find these paragons on other worlds and bring them back to the team. Supergirl and Batwoman head to an alternate Gotham City to take to Bruce Wayne who, supposedly, will be the Paragon of Courage. Meanwhile, Clark, Lois, and Iris go to a different Earth to talk to Clark Kent (of Superman Returns, played once again by Brandon Routh) and find out if he's the Paragon of Truth.

A wrinkle is thrown into their plans, though, when Lex Luthor -- brought back to life by the Monitor to play his part in the Crisis -- breaks out of his prison and finds a way to steal the Book of Destiny, the tome that can rewrite all of reality if the user is strong enough. Lex take the book and vanishes into the multiverse so he can go from world to world killing Superman over and over again. We get to see his plan in action when he bounces onto the world of Smallville to kill that Clark Kent (played by Tom Welling). He's interrupted by our heroes who realize what Lex is up to and try to stop him, but Lex vanishes them back to their world. He then tries to kill Clark with Kryptonite only to find that Clark isn't weak to it (having given up his powers, and weaknesses, at some point in the past). Clark then punches Lex and sends him scurrying to a different world.

Meanwhile, Kate and Kara arrive at the alternate Wayne Manor to talk to Bruce (played in real life by legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy). Then we learn that this Batman, never trusting Superman (as an "evil alien from another world who brought destruction with him") eventually got into a battle with Kryptonian and killed the alien. Superman left Batman a physically broken man in the process, but he thought it was worth it to keep Earth safe. He tries to kill Supergirl too, since she's at the house with Batwoman, but Kate save her, fighting off Bruce before the two of them flee. She learns that sometimes the path of the Bat can take you too far and it's takes self-control and will power to stay on the side of the light. When they get back home, the Monitor reveals that this was the plan all along, for Kate to realize her own true power and become the Paragon of Courage.

On the alternate world of Metropolis, Superman, Lois, and Iris finally drop in on the correct Superman. He reveals what's happened to his world -- that an attack on the Daily Planet by the Joker killed many of the people within, including Lois Lane and Perry White, leaving Clark as one of the few survivors. He took over running the paper while still upholding the ideals of Superman. This, clearly, makes him the Paragon of Truth. But before they can all travel back to Earth-1, Lex shows up to mind control this Superman into killing Earth-38 Superman (jeez this gets confusing to write about), and it's only with Lois and Iris fighting off Lex while Clark defends against Clark that they're able to clear Superman's mind of Lex's influence. They all travel back home, with four paragons revealed and three more to go.

What I like about this part of the event is that it keeps its focus squarely on the characters. The previous episode tried for big stakes and huge moments but, let's face it, the CW budget can only afford so much of that. That's how we get a lot of CGI enemies fighting heroes on back lot sets without much sign of the overall destruction of the planet. Here, though, there are less big battles -- just one action sequence of Superman versus Superman, which was executed very well -- and then rest of the episode focused on the heroes learning and sharing and exploring what it means to be a hero.

Part of why that worked was because the crossover did all this with characters we haven't really gotten to focus on much before. Batwoman is still new in her series so having her learn about what this alternate-Bruce did, how he become a broken hero, one willing to kill, helps her to explore her own questions about being a hero. This isn't something she's spent six years exploring (unlike other heroes in the 'verse) so it's a moment she needed. And to do it when facing off against a version of her cousin, someone she speaks so highly of, really helped to sell the moment, to make it work in a way it might not have if she's just gone and talked to Oliver instead (if he were alive).

Superman, too, got his moment to shine. He got to meet a new version of himself, to learn about the ways villains can beat a hero down, but also to realize what it takes to stand back up and fight again. Clark and Lois are, more than likely, getting their own show in the 'verse before too long, and this episode helped to lay the groundwork for the characters they're going to become on that series. Plus, they got to hang out with the Brandon Routh version of Superman, and that version is great. This episode helped to redeem Superman Returns, to a certain extent, a feat I never thought possible.

The one qualm I have, really, is with Lex. I get they needed a "villain" for the heroes to battle, and Lex was convenient. But his plan doesn't make sense: why bother killing all the Supermen when all of reality will be wiped away, taking them with it? Is Lex so laser focused that he'd so something so ineffectual? With all of reality bending at his fingertips because of the book the only thing he wants to do is kill a bunch of dudes that are going to die anyway if he just sits on his butt and plays chess? That's stupid. If they wanted the heroes to battle a villain they should have spent time on the Anti-Monitor so we could learn to hate that guy. Lex is a bad fit for this part of the story.

The Flash, Season 6, Episode 9: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3

Now we're into The Flash and here is where things go off the rails a bit. I've not been shy about the fact that the last few seasons of this show haven't exactly thrilled me -- despite the fact that the show had way too many evil speedsters, one after another, the evil speedsters have also proven to be the most compelling villains the show has had so far. This episode of Crisis feels like the worst impulses of The Flash, through and through.

With everyone gathered on an alternate version of the Waverider, the time traveling ship from Legends of Tomorrow, it's time to figure out who the last three paragons are. So Ray fires up his Paragon Detector, lets it run for a few seconds, a magically we find out that the other three paragons are basically under the heroes' noses the whole time: Martian Manhunter, Paragon of Honor; Barry Allen, Paragon of Love; and Ryan Choi, Paragon on Humanity. You might be wondering who this Choi guy is, and that's a good question. Iris leads a couple of heroes to go track down Choi and invite him to the team, even though he doesn't have powers and is just some scientist. This allows Iris to have one of her standard speeches about life and what it means to be a hero and all the stuff we've heard her say before. Choi, eventually, joins the team but we don't yet get to see what he'll bring to the table because a lot of other stuff happens.

While Iris is off tracking down Choi, Team Flash figures out that the device the Anti-Monitor is using the destroy all of reality is based on Earth-1, so they head over to the secret base it's hidden within (really just a single room, back-lot, science lab set) only to find another Barry Allen, the Flash of Earth-90 (John Wesley Shipp), trapped on a Cosmic Treadmill, forced to run at top speed. The treadmill is powering the device that is wiping each Earth out one at a time, but if he gets off the treadmill the device will explode and destroy Earth-1. It's a lose-lose proposition.

Team Flash (plus Flash) have to figure out what to do, especially since the Earths keep getting wiped out one by one (which we see as Lois, back on the Waverider, watches a display tracking each Earth as it's erased). They get some assistance, though, as Black Lightning shows up, sent there by the Monitor right before his own Earth was destroyed. Using his power they're able to take down the defenses on the antimatter device. The Flash-90 then elects to jump back on the treadmill, sacrificing himself (instead of Barry-1) by running the other way on the treadmill to destroy it (or something; his exact goal wasn't entirely clear). Flash-90 gives his life while the other heroes flee but, sure enough, the treadmill is destroyed, presumably ending the Crisis.

Except that this was all somehow according to the Anti-Monitor's plan. Our villain (under the guise of a harbinger they trust, Lilah, who has otherwise been totally useless this crossover) appears on the Waverider, takes everyone down with his super powers, and then steals all of the Monitor's magic granting the villain the ability to wipe out all of existence on his own (without the need for magical exercise gear). As they watch, Earth-1 is wiped away. The only hope for reality is that the seven paragons are able to escape (which they do, whisked away by harbinger magic) and can find a way to stop the Anti-Monitor and reverse what he's done... somehow. And then Lex Luthor find a way to switch places with Paragon Superman, and that's where the crossover ends for now.

So, here's my big issue with part three of Crisis: like the worst episodes of the Flash, this episode never stops to let things sink in. It rushes around, constantly, papering over issues and plot with techno-babble. Things happen, the heroes react (usually with violence) but it's hard to say anything actually connects because it's all just so much noise.

Take the Cosmic Treadmill, for example. This is a major plot device, something huge and important that was a big part of the machinations in the comic book version of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Here, though, it's introduced and tossed off in a single scene, quickly thrown aside so we can move on to the next plot point. I'm not saying we had to focus on the treadmill, to learn it's back-story, but it's brought in here as if it has some special purpose and then is discarded just as quickly. It's treated like a tech device in Doctor Who, right down to them reversing the polarity on it as if that somehow makes sense. We don't understand it, the show doesn't bother really explaining it, and then we move on.

Similarly, Black Lightning is brought in here (and we'll cover his episode leading up to this momentarily). He's there to serve one job, de-power the treadmill machine, and then just as quickly as he appears he's caught on the Waverider as the anti-matter wave rolls through and he's off the show once again. I was intrigued they brought his character in, somehow assuming he'd be a paragon or at least get wrapped up in what they were doing. But no, the show uses him, barely explains what his purpose is, and then chucks him aside. Why?

And we still have yet to get an explanation of what the Paragons are supposed to do. It's really just a way to gather a random selection of heroes (and Lex, oh delightful Lex) together so they can probably team up with a resurrected Oliver Queen (on part four of the crossover, the Arrow episode) and the rest of the Legends (who, I would assume, have avoided the end of reality by jumping around in their own Waverider) to find a way to save the world. Then we'll likely get some tossed off explanation but it's not going to feel like it amounted to anything.

This episode makes a much sense as any one tossed off scene. The worst offender follows probably the best scene in the show. Constantine, Mia Smoak, and Diggle travel to Earth-666 to talk to the Devil (Lucifer's Tom Ellis), and for one scene the show comes together; it slows down, let's Ellis do his magic as Lucifer, it explains what will be happening next, and everyone gets to delight in how charismatic the Devil can be. And then, right afterwards, it tanks it by having the three heroes go on a pointless journey to Purgatory to find Oliver's soul. And then, even after they find it the come back empty handed because Oliver has already become the Spectre, a different hero in the DC universe. Which, again, what was the point?

I just... ugh. I'm going to need a moment before I can go into how much this is all annoying me.

Black Lightning, Season 3, Episode 9: The Book of Resistance: Chapter Four: Earth Crisis

Black Lightning

While all of this was going on in the main Earths, we have Black Lightning dealing with its own crap. Up until now this series hasn't crossed over with the other shows on the CW (be design as the show runner was steadfastly against it). But this episode see Black Lightning joining the crossover fold, full force, and, I gotta say, it just doesn't work. This episode is a distraction, both from the main Crisis event and the storylines going on in the rest of this series. It's a tossed off story that tries to have its own weight but really adds nothing to anything going on around it.

As we've seen, all the Earths are dying, one by one. Black Lightning and his team, of course, don't know anything about this because they've never crossover with the rest of the shows before this. As such, when the sky turns red and the antimatter levels in the universe start rising, everyone is terribly confused. To make matters worse, Jennifer (aka Lightning) falls into a coma, a by product of her own powers mixing with the antimatter. He family starts stressing, trying to figure out how to stop whatever is happening to her and wake her up, but there's also a lot going on, like rioting on the streets and the ASA continuing their war against metas.

Jennifer, meanwhile, isn't in a coma so much as she's reliving the lives of alternate versions of herself from Earth-1 and Earth-2 (we as of yet have no clue what Earth Black Lightning exists on. In one reality, Jennifer stands up for her father's morals but that just ends up with her a prisoner of the ASA while her father gets shot for working for the secret resistance. Meanwhile, on Earth-2, Jennifer jumps in with both feet as a stooge for the ASA, a fully evil killer (not unlike Painkiller in the main universe). She ends up killing the rest of her family in cold blood before her reality is wiped out by the anti-matter wave.

What's the lesson of all this: don't just follow what your father or the ASA want. Be your own person and make your own decisions. The issue is that Jennifer has never shown herself to be easily swayed and, generally, can think for herself. I'm not sure why we had to have an episode to drive this point home when Jennifer could have easily figured that out for herself. My only guess is that the producers needed a way to work the "Infinite Earths" idea into the episode and this was the best they had.

Not that any of it matters since the antimatter wave rolls through at the end of the episode, killing all life in this cosmos. Only Jefferson (Black Lightning) is able to escape, although I also suspect Jennifer was able to somehow transport herself out to. If I gad to guess, she'll somehow show up in the last two episodes of the crossover, hopefully to do something more important than have a single action scene and then get killed off.

My issue with this whole episode is that it really didn't serve any point. Jennifer meeting other versions of herself only served to teach a lesson Jen should have already known. None of the characters contribute in any way towards trying to stop the antimatter wave, meaning that what happens to them is inevitable. And its not like this Earth is going to remain wiped out as the show has a bunch of episodes left and the ASA plot line to finish up. Someway or another, everyone here is coming back, so nothing of consequence happened in this episode.

But then, Black Lightning has had a ton of episodes where nothing happens and nothing is resolved. This episode just feels like so many of those other ones, a lot of wheel-spinning and waiting for the next big episode to come up eventually.

Thoughts on the Crossover So Far

I think, as you have probably already guess, I'm not such a big fan of Crisis on Infinite Earths so far. There are great moments in each of the episodes, moments where the potential for what the crossover could be is illustrated. But so much of the crossover is mired in techno-babble and rushing from one event to the next without letting anything settle and sink in. After having Earth-38 wiped away in the first episode, Earths are erased quickly, one after another. But instead of really seeing that in action most of the time the Earths are just blips on a display, there and gone without much consequence.

That really illustrates the big issue I have here: nothing of consequence really happened. Oh, sure, we're down to five heroes, some scientist, and Lex Luthor (although bet money Oliver/Spectre will arrive quickly in the next episode after the winter break), but that's not going to become the status quo. There are too many actors with contracts on all these shows for all of them to be fired after this. More than likely most of the key Earths will return, maybe in some new version of "The 52", with 52 Earths that the heroes can travel between. All the shows will be back (or, in the case of Arrow, will get relaunched as a spin-off), all their major character will return, and things will go right back where they were before the Crisis happened.

This crossover could have been a bold and daring way to reinvent the Arrowverse, but instead it feels like the crossover is just spinning its wheels, biding time until the event is over and everyone can go back to their positions right before this all started. Ugh.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse

The crossover isn't done yet and there's still time for it all to come together and prove me wrong. New episode come out in January, so our regular coverage will return then. For now, though, we're looking at finishing off our look at past crossovers so stay tuned for the next few weeks as we get caught up on past events before Crisis returns to underwhelm us all.