Crisis on Infinite Earths – Episode 1
The much hyped CW crossover event is finally upon us; it’s an epic tale of the fate of the universe, sacrifice and heroes from different TV shows working together.
Crossovers are nothing new in the Arrowverse; one might say that they’re basically part of the furniture at this point with characters regularly cropping up in other shows either as cameos or in extended appearances. That doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting when these things happen and the annual multi-episode event is always hotly anticipated.
Part of this is down to these characters being so well cast and having such excellent chemistry together that they are a joy to watch interact on screen. “Crisis on Earth-X” started with them coming together to attend Barry and Iris’ wedding which provided fodder for some really memorable character beats that didn’t rely on a high stakes problem to solve. In short, it’s always fun to see these crossovers and “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is no exception to that so far.
The opening salvo from this crossover wastes no time establishing the stakes with an explanation of the multiverse and a brief cameo filled tour of other universes as they appear to wink out of existence. We check in with the universe that started in Tim Burton’s Batman complete with a delicious music cue, the currently airing Titans universe, Earth-X and the 1960s Batman universe featuring a brief cameo from that universe’s Robin, Burt Ward who reacts to the situation with a beautifully placed “Holy Crimson Skies of Death”. It’s a great start for fans of these properties and officially makes them part of the shared multiverse the Arrowverse covers. Of course with the implication that these universes are also destroyed it’s perhaps not the best news for fans. Considering Titans looks to continue for a while longer I’m wondering if there will be an undo somewhere along the line.
Fresh off thwarting Lena’s plan in the most recent episode of Supergirl; team Supergirl get their first indication of Crisis with global seismic activity and all the alarms at the DEO going off. The anti-matter wave is practically on their doorstep with Argo City in its path first. There’s barely enough time for Kara to send a warning to Lois and Clark before it hits and destroys everyone. The speed of narrative progression to establish the stakes early on is wonderfully done; there’s pay-off to those that have been waiting for this event for a while and enough to go on for those who aren’t quite as invested in the multiverse concept so weren’t entirely aware of what was coming.
The episode also does a great job of balancing the stakes with the threat to the multiverse never being forgotten while also making time for more intimate character moments. These are important because it serves as a reminder that there are people with lives and relationships caught up in the midst of such an overwhelming situation. The first notable moment is between Lois and Clark who are tending to their infant son on Argo. Clark is taking a stab at changing diapers with Lois taking potshots at his inexperience. It’s a cute moment that acts as a continuation of the excellent chemistry established between these characters in last year’s “Elseworlds”. This version of Lois remains sassy just shy of the point of being irritating and it’s clear that she shares a strong bond with Clark. The subsequent moment where they put their infant son in an escape pod seconds before the anti-matter wave hits is deliberately reminiscent of both Superman and this version of Supergirl’s origin story. Even the dialogue calls back to prior versions of Clark’s Kryptonian parents sending him off into the unknown. It’s really well done and highlights that a civilisation is basically ending here through the reminder of the destruction of Krypton. It’s odd that there’s little in the way of protest from Lois or Clark when Allura takes them to the pod though Clark does ask where the rest of the ships are so it’s clear that he hadn’t considered the possibility that his son would be the only one to escape.
Unfortunately Argo City is lost which is the least of everyone’s problems though time is taken to mourn it in a conversation between Clark and Kara. Clark is especially affected by this loss because he was there when it happened and narrowly escaped it. As a man who lost his civilisation then found it only to lose it again his reaction is entirely justified. Tyler Hoechlin plays this grief in a more understated and contemplative way rather than a strong outburst which feels completely in character. Grief takes different forms so for someone who has been very level headed in every prior appearance his grieving process feels entirely appropriate. Clark expresses guilt over thinking he could give up being Superman and live a normal life. Part of him thinks that he had this loss coming to him for daring to think that he could leave the life of a superhero behind. Kara empathises with him because the recent situation with Lena has her wondering if the mistakes she has made act as a counterbalance to all the good she does but she refuses to actually believe that this is possible because it would render everything she fights for irrelevant if she were to lose hope like that.
She tells Clark that they will succeed and it surprises him that she can remain hopeful in the face of so much loss. Kara’s response to that is interesting as it gives a lot more insight into how she sees Krypton. To her it’s so much more than a place that can be simply destroyed; she sees it in a more spiritual sense and that spirit is something that will endure because of everything that has been shared about its history, culture and people. As long as some memory of its existence remains then it will never truly be destroyed. I really liked this exchange because it shows how much perspective Kara has gained in her time as Supergirl and how much clarity that gives her when fighting for what she believes in. There’s probably a lot of denial in there as well or at least an emotional focus on the current situation preventing her from letting herself feel the loss of her mother. This conversation with Clark is about getting him back on task which will prove essential for the battles ahead so it would make sense.
The episode ends with the surprising death of Oliver Queen. I’m not surprised that he died because we’ve known that was coming for a while but I’m surprised that he died so soon as we’re right at the beginning of the crossover so I had expected he would be around for most of it. It’s possible that this is a red herring of some sort and he will return later on through some technicality or perhaps another version of him will be recruited such as the one seen in this very episode.
Much of the episode builds up to his death such as his brief moment with Sara where she does a quick list of the various hats -or should that be hoods?- that he has worn over the years with the latest being “Parent Oliver” which apparently looks good on him according to her. This gets Sara thinking about all the growth that has been achieved for everyone including herself which she applies to her conversation with the alternate universe 2046 version of Oliver. He is a much more broken man in that universe presumably because he kept losing those close to him without anyone to support him like our Oliver does. He acts like he’s seen a ghost when faced with Sara and blames herself for her death but Sara lets him see that it wasn’t his fault because it was a decision she made on her own. That decision led her to some really positive experiences in her life as well as the darkness she has had to endure so she wouldn’t change a thing about her life. It’s basically the same realisation that Oliver came to in the latest episode of Arrow and it’s a strong message about negative experiences being channelled into something positive. Whether we’ll see this version of Oliver again or even if his universe will survive is anyone’s guess but it’s a really effective contrast to our Oliver as well as a kindness from Sara who helps alleviate some of the burdens he carries.
Further foreshadowing exists in a scene he shares with Mia where he gifts her with a Green Arrow costume made to fit her. They both know his death is coming and know there’s a limited amount of time before they’ll be called into action so there’s real weight behind the words spoken here as they are both taking advantage of what could be the last moment of calm they’ll ever share. He tells Mia that she’s earned the mantle and encourages her to accept the responsibility that comes with it. She does put on the costume but Oliver’s death coming so soon after she does this will probably create some self doubt as to her readiness to truly become the next Green Arrow.
Oliver’s death is the very definition of heroic sacrifice. The Monitor writes off Earth-38 and starts evacuating the heroes against their will. The exception is Oliver who has a trick arrow up his sleeve that stops The Monitor from taking him away. His reason for doing that is simple; Earth-38 hasn’t been fully evacuated and he refuses to leave until it is. Unfortunately for him he runs out of arrows right at that moment and faces an army of Shadow Demons -more on them later- with his bare hands which proves to be too much for him to handle. It’d be easy to say that Oliver acted wrongly in that moment and his sacrifice made no real difference but The Monitor points out that a billion people were saved thanks to Oliver’s sacrifice. His actions made a difference to that many people which makes it very meaningful. Even The Monitor seems humbled by it as well as more than a little afraid that things are playing out differently to what he has seen of the future.
The last words Oliver speaks are powerful and emotionally raw. He tells Barry that he gave up his life for him and Kara before encouraging him not to waste that opportunity. He calls Barry his friend and “the best of us” which tells us everything we need to know about his motivation behind the sacrifice. It’s up to Barry and Kara to use their considerable powers to save the multiverse and he has made that possible through the decisions he made. He also tells Mia to find Felicity and William to tell them how much he loves them followed by his very last words asking Mia to keep him in her heart. As death scenes go it’s really brutal and having everyone crowded around him to witness the end highlights how much of an impact Oliver has made on all of their lives. As much as I think this will be undone somehow I hope that it isn’t because it’d be a shame to diminish the poignancy of this moment.
Another loss in this episode is Kara’s entire universe; this surprised me as there are lingering story threads native to that universe that still need resolved. More than ever I think that Crisis will end with the restoration of the multiverse rather than sanding it down to the one universe like in the original comics. This question won’t be answered until January but for now I find it difficult to believe that this will stick.
Putting that aside, it was really well done with a perpetual sense of urgency created by the rapidly approaching anti-matter wave and the need for an immediate solution. J’Onn has the idea of asking all of the aliens on Earth to assist in the evacuation of the people while Alex tries to convince Lena to open a portal to Earth-1 so that they can all be safe for at least a little while. This is very in character for J’Onn and Alex who always lurch into solution mode while all of the super powered heroics are happening elsewhere. There are discussions around the willingness of the aliens to help those that treated them so badly recently but J’Onn has faith that grudges won’t be held in such dire circumstances which makes for a nice sentiment and furthers the idea that people are stronger when working together.
The sticking point is Lena who isn’t exactly on the best of terms with Team Supergirl at this point. She quickly pushes that aside because the entire universe is at stake but allows herself some jabs at Alex for the lies she has told and her contribution to the way Lena currently feels. This did allow for some really well acted dialogue between Alex and Lena but it’s hard to see it as necessary conversation to be having when time is running out for the universe. It’s been a while since Alex and Lena worked together on a problem but it’s just as fun to watch as ever with their keen scientific minds complimenting one another to accomplish something neither could have done alone. Once again, people are stronger when working together.
There are some things the episode doesn’t do quite so well. One of those is the Shadow Demons. They’re an antagonistic force with no definable traits which makes them difficult to accept as a viable threat. The heroes seem to fear them but it is never established what they’re capable of and they seem to be dispatched with relative ease. As far as I can tell their sheer numbers make them formidable and nothing else. It would have been better had the heroes been met with a more tangible or better developed threat when trying to protect the tower as it would have been easier to accept how much danger the heroes were in. Hopefully this will get better as the crossover continues.
Another misstep was sidelining Kate; she gets very little to do in this episode when she would have been a great point of view character in certain scenes given that the multiverse concept is new to her compared to the others. There is a brief moment where Kara is able to calm her down but beyond getting one of her Batarangs upgraded by Ray she has little to offer here which makes it difficult to understand why she was recruited so early on.
There is also an issue with characters popping in an out without any warning to explain big plot points to us. Lyla literally appears and disappears with little more than some vague words about having a job to do. Nash Wells randomly appears in his new role of Pariah to tell everyone that he released The Anti-Monitor and that everything is doomed. It’s a bleak note to end on for sure and risks ruining the moment of Oliver’s death with too much supplemental dialogue rather than letting it properly sink in. Thankfully it’s not enough to disrupt such a poignant moment but it’s certainly unnecessary.
An excellent opening to the most ambitious crossover event the Arrowverse has ever attempted with near perfect balancing of stakes and some really powerful character beats. The opening that explains the multiverse and takes the viewer on a tour of some cameo filled universes is great for fans of other DC properties. No time is wasted in establishing the stakes; the episode strikes a near perfect balance between the multiverse threatening threat and how the characters are affected on a personal level. Seeing Lois and Clark tend to their infant son before placing him in an escape pod just as both Clark and Kara were was an appropriately moving moment as was the understated grief exhibited by Clark in the aftermath of this. His conversation with Kara where she wins him over with her optimism in the face of such loss was another great character beat. Oliver Queen’s death is surprising because it comes so early but the episode does a great job of building up to it with a neat summary of all the growth that has been achieved, the passing of the mantle to Mia and a look at a more broken version of Oliver from an alternate future. His death is the very definition of heroic and is very meaningful thanks to a report of how many people his actions saved. His final words are powerful and the impact he’s had on all those around him on his deathbed is very apparent. The loss of Earth-38 feels a little less impactful as it’s hard to believe it’ll be a permanent loss considering how many plot points remain unresolved but within the context of this story it’s impactful. Devoting time to Lena still feeling salty over being lied to is perhaps less important in the face of everything that’s going on though her scenes with Alex make for good viewing.
There are some missteps such as the Shadow Demons failing to register as a decent threat because it’s unclear what they’re capable of. As far as the episode presents them it seems that their numbers are all that make them formidable. A more tangible threat to the heroes would have made this work a lot better. Sidelining Kate was a bit of a mistake as well as she could have made for a good point of view character considering how new she is to this level of threat and the tendency for characters to pop in before saying something vague happens a little too often. Minor niggles aside this was a really engaging beginning to what promises to be an epic crossover and I can’t wait to see more.
- finding the near perfect balance between multiverse threatening stakes and meaningful characterisation
- the parallels drawn between the Superman/Supergirl origin and the last moments on Argo City
- Kara winning Clark over with her ceaseless optimism in the face of a horrific situation
- Oliver Queen’s surprising and meaningful death
- excellent build-up to Oliver’s death
- his powerful final words
- fun Alex and Lena scenes
- the shadow demons making for an underwhelming antagonistic force
- sidelining Kate when she would have been a great point of view character
- the tendency for characters to pop in to say something vague
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