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CW Superhero Roundup: Crisis!

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All Nazis, all the time

In this weekly feature, we’ll offer up brief recaps of each of the CW’s ever-increasing stable of interconnected superhero shows – Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow. We’ll offer up brief recaps as well as some of our light impressions on each episode.

A small disclaimer: This week is a little different – the entire franchise is taken up with the annual crossover and episodes are airing on different nights than usual. This one is written more like a single story than any of the previous meetups, with each series even foregoing their usual title-card for a shared one. Each part really is like a single act in a larger story so we're going to adjust the usual format – the normal synopses first, then some impressions of the thing as a whole, wrapping up with a handful of observations that don't really fit anywhere else.

Supergirl S3E8 "Crisis on Earth-X, Part One"

To distract themselves from their respective heartache, Kara and Alex travel to Earth-1 to celebrate the wedding of Barry and Iris. At the rehearsal dinner, the gathered heroes mingle – Oliver contemplates his future with Felicity, who reacts in an unexpected way; Alex shares some drinks (and more) with Sarah; Stein and Jax clash over the plan to dissolve Firestorm. Meanwhile, on a parallel Earth taken over by Nazis, dark versions of familiar heroes find a path to another Earth – just in time to crash Barry and Iris' big day.

Arrow S6E8 "Crisis on Earth-X, Part Two"

Reeling from the attack at the church, the heroes learn their dopplegangers hail from Earth-X, an undesignated part of the multiverse in which the Nazis won World War II. Oliver is shocked to discover the captured Nazi Prometheus is actually the Earth-X version of Tommy, his deceased best friend – but their reunion is cut short when Tommy commits suicide rather than face captivity. The heroes learn that the dopplegangers of Oliver and Kara – Dark Arrow and Overgirl – are working with Eobard Thawne in order to obtain a power source. The team races to stop the Nazi villains, but leave STAR Labs undefended – allowing Dark Arrow to come in and take control, but not before facing some members of Team Arrow. Faced with a new version of Metallo, a robot powered by a chunk of Kryptonite, the heroes are captured and moved to a concentration camp on Earth-X except for Kara, who awakens in STAR Labs. She learns that Overgirl is dying of excessive yellow sun radiation – and the Nazis want to take Kara's heart to save her doppleganger's life.

The Flash S4E8 "Crisis on Earth-X, Part Three"

The captured heroes – Oliver, Sara, Barry, Alex, Jax and Stein – face a firing line in an Earth-X concentration camp, but are rescued by a version of Leonard Snart. With his help (and the help of another hero, Ray) the team is able to make it to the headquarters of the resistance, led by the Earth-X version of Winn. The teams join forces to assault a Nazi facility which houses the only known portal back home. On Earth-1, Iris and Felicity attempt to free Supergirl and the captured Legends and Star City heroes, but are captured. While Barry and Ray contend with a version of Red Tornado on Earth-X, the rest of the team infiltrates the facility. Stein is gravely injured trying to open the portal and the Nazis unleash a secret weapon on Earth-1 – their version of the Waverider.

Legends of Tomorrow S3E8 "Crisis on Earth-X, Part Four"

The heroes on Earth-X activate the portal and make it home, joined by Ray and Leo. Supergirl and the rest of STAR Labs is saved by Ray Palmer and the Legends. On the Earth-1 Waverider, Curtis discovers Overgirl's condition will eventually cause her to go nuclear, devastating the planet. Stein is in critical condition, and before long it becomes clear he won't recover from his injuries. The only thing keeping him alive is his connection to Firestorm, which means Jax's life is threatened as well; the two sever their connection and Stein dies. Before the heroes can grieve, the assembled heroes must deal with a full-on assault from the Earth-X dopplegangers and their army. Jax leaves to inform Stein's family of his passing while the assembled heroes face the Earth-X forces once and for all. As the battle rages, Overgirl's condition begins to overtake her, leaving Kara to fly her doppleganger into space before she detonates. Ultimately, Earth-1 is victorious and the invaders are driven back, leaving the heroes to pick up the pieces. Stein is mourned; the Legends, Kara and Alex depart; Barry and Iris make up for their interrupted nuptuals; Oliver and Felicity make an impulsive decision about their future.

Okay, first up – "Crisis on Earth-X" is great. This is easily the best crossover the Arrowverse has ever done; it really does feel like the shows doing their version of an Avengers movie. More than any previous' years events it leans into the opportunities that open up in a shared universe like this – the whole thing feels like it was written as a movie and then broken up into chunks. While you could easily recognize which part of last year's "Invasion" you were watching based on which show it was (Legends' contribution ultimately felt like a Legends episode, for example), "Crisis" feels like it was written as a whole without regard to which show it's going to be a part of – we've got major Flash developments in Supergirl and major Arrow developments in Legends. Each show foregoes its normal titlecard for a shared "Crisis on Earth-X" title card that has the same kind of flavor as the Marvel Studios intro at the start of each Marvel movie. The whole thing is a hell of a lot of fun.

Granted, I've always been a sucker for alternate universe stories and stories where heroes have to face evil versions of themselves, so this one hits a lot of my buttons. But the CW Arrowverse is really bringing its A-game here – the big fight in the church at the end of "Part 1" is exceptional, and among the best big setpieces any of these shows have done, even compared to the rest of the crossover. There are a lot of nice character moments we wouldn't get otherwise here – Alex and Sara as a pairing is a particular highlight; while it feels a little contrived to put the only two openly LGBT characters in the franchise together, it does allow for some time to explore how the characters approach the situation in different ways, and propel Alex's development forward a bit.

It's not perfect, though. It flags a little in the third episode, which feels a bit to stuffed and as a result needs to move a bit too fast to set us up for the finale, which is a shame considering that episode features the most time we spend on Earth-X. We've got a couple of nice cameos from characters who aren't as central – alternate versions of Winn and Quentin are fun, but it would've been nice to see these different versions of the characters explored some more. Not to mention that by the end of the thing we've got so many heroes in the fray we don't really have room for most of them to shine – like, I'm not sure Wild Dog gets a single line for the entire four episodes and I think Vixen only gets to comment on Zari's new superhero outfit. I guess that's a downside to the fact that most of these shows have, essentially, expanded to feature their own miniature super-teams – when you do a crossover, there are moments when you have too many cooks in the kitchen, and even with four episodes you only have so much time. Still, that's a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise excellent set of episodes, and it's not like I'm sitting here mad because Wild Dog didn't get a touching monologue about how evil Nazis are or whatever.

And "Crisis" has some big shifts for most of the shows going forward – the thing ends with not just Barry and Iris married, but Oliver and Felicity, too. I don't know how much that will actually shift the storytelling status quo going forward, but it does feel big for Arrow, which has spent a lot of its recent years invested in the "will they, won't they" of the central couple. We also give Victor Garber's Martin Stein a hero's sendoff, with him taking Nazi bullets trying to save the rest of the team. Even though we knew Garber was on his way out, I admit I was a little surprised that they took him off the board this way, rather than the more peaceful exit that Legends had been setting up. We've also got a version of Snart kicking around Earth-1 who we'll presumably see again at some point. The only show that doesn't come out of this with big changes is Supergirl, and even then we've got Alex using her hook-up with Sara to move on from Maggie.

Observations

  • The Nazis crash the wedding by literally disintegrating the priest. They go hard.
  • Speaking of, how does that fight not result in each and every secret identity in the franchise blown? I know we paper over that in the second episode, but Barry's boss and his husband are sitting right there, man! 
  • These shows aren't always the best at character moments and melodrama is usually the order of the day, but the moment where Iris is walking down the aisle and Barry's eyes are filled with happy tears is a nice touch.
  • Always nice to see Tommy Merlyn back, if only for what essentially amounts to a single scene. I don't think I was alone in harboring my pet theory that he was under the Prometheus hood last season on Arrow, so making him the Earth-X version of the character is a nice nod to that.
  • "I hate fire!" Snart's intro here is what makes Wentworth Miller so great on these shows in microcosm.
  • Speaking of that, the way they handle him sticking around Earth-1 is...awkward – he basically tells his boyfriend he's staying on another planet with all of the gravitas of someone telling another person their fly is unzipped. We established that The Ray is originally from Earth-1 – why not keep them both around, even if there aren't immediate plans to have them on any of the shows?
  • I'm not sure if David Ramsey needs to sit this thing out because he's got work elsewhere or if it's just a byproduct of the narrative hoops we've jumped through on Arrow to get Oliver back as the Green Arrow for the crossover, but it is nice to see Diggle get in on the fun a little bit at the end.

Next week: Supergirl meets Reign, the Flash is caught in Thinker's trap, the Legends get their Viking on and Team Arrow faces betrayal from within.


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Matt Liparota
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