Crisis on Infinite Earths – Episode 2
The CW mega crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths continues with a hunt for paragons that will prove essential in stopping the Anti-Monitor.
Things look bleak for the assembled heroes going into the second part; Earth-38 has been destroyed, Oliver Queen is dead and The Anti-Monitor grows more powerful as The Monitor grows weaker. The next move involves tracking down 7 Paragons that can help in the fight and this naturally comes with vague clues pointing towards there whereabouts. One of them is a Kryptonian that has suffered more loss than any mortal could endure -the Paragon of Truth- and the other is the “Bat of the Future” -the Paragon of courage-. Another two are Kara -the Paragon of hope- and Sara -the Paragon of destiny- which makes for a really handy start to the collection. The remaining three are a mystery but presumably Black Lightning is one of them.
To find the two Paragons the team split up to go universe hopping in search of them. Lois, Clark and Iris task themselves with finding the Kryptonian while Kate and Kara go looking for the “Bat of the Future”. Naturally there are snags in all of this such as The Monitor choosing this moment to bring in Lex Luthor who promptly steals the recovered Book of Destiny and takes it upon himself to tour the multiverse killing every Superman he can find. The Monitor justifies Lex’ involvement with a vague proclamation that everyone has a part to play. In all honesty I would have been disappointed had Lex not done something duplicitous as it has been established to be in his nature to be self serving. It has also been well established that his hatred for Superman trumps any other priority in his life. The Monitor’s actions cause some friction towards him from Kara because she could never trust someone who thinks Lex is an ally.
Kara’s reaction to The Monitor’s actions makes sense but they are also consistent with what he has been doing up until this point. It’s important to remember that he’s more of a cosmic force than a man so doesn’t see things quite the same that people like Kara do. As far as he’s concerned things need to be done in order to save the multiverse and one of those things includes enlisting Lex Luthor because he’s important in the grand scheme of things. Any casualties that may be caused as a result of anything Lex does would be seen as a necessity and are therefore justified under the mission statement of saving the multiverse. It sounds cold and bereft of compassion but beings like The Monitor wouldn’t typically value individual lives or even individual universes because they are pieces that need to fall into place in order to succeed.
On the other hand, there have been signs that he does value individual lives. The tests that he sets out for people in order to overcome flaws within themselves, allowing Oliver time to get to know his adult children and his reaction to Oliver’s death in the previous episode could be seen as benevolent. Then again they could be seen as necessary steps for success as the likelihood of saving the multiverse increases if everyone he needs is at the top of their game. It’ll be interesting to see if The Monitor develops over the course of this crossover and grows to value the lives of individuals or at least understand why the people around him value those lives.
The Paragon hunt is where this episode really shines because of how much fun everyone was having playing around in the multiverse sandbox. Lois, Clark and Iris first find themselves on an Earth where Lex has killed the native Superman complete with the iconic “Death of Superman” image of the tattered cape fluttering in the background. It’s a brief yet effective nod to comic history that also highlights how dangerous a rogue Lex Luthor can be. Their next stop is to the Smallville universe containing Tom Welling’s Clark Kent and Erica Durance’s Lois Lane. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of interaction between the travellers and Tom Welling’s Clark though there is some amusement to be had at Lois’ reaction to him and Clark doing a bit of a double take to see someone with his name look so different. Tom Welling spends the bulk of his screen time interacting with Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor who doesn’t even see the point in killing him because he gave up his powers to live the life of a normal man. Lex can’t fathom why anyone would give up that kind of power and seems insulted at the prospect. So much so that he lets Clark be and goes off to find his next victim. This does come after Clark punches Lex in the face which was immensely satisfying to watch.
One thing that could have been covered in more detail is how Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark reacts to what he witnesses here. He’s sent away before he can see Welling’s Clark with Erica Durance’s Lois to get an idea of how blissfully happy his life is but he did see enough to note that this Clark Kent has no powers. In the previous episode he was riddled with guilt because he felt that he was being punished for thinking he could give up being Superman and live a normal life. More screen time with this version of Clark Kent could have helped him see that such a thing was possible and help him decide whether that life was for him or not. It really was a missed opportunity to make the Tom Welling Cameo even more relevant and meaningful.
I have to take some time to discuss the Smallville Clark as he appears in this episode. When Smallville ended he was just beginning his career as Superman -after building up to it for a decade- and now he has given up his powers to live a normal life on the farm with Lois as well as his daughters. Arguably this is unexpected because Clark Kent should be a selfless hero always committed to protecting people no matter the cost. For most versions of Clark Kent that’s certainly true but the Smallville version is very different. Throughout the series he was portrayed as being a reluctant hero. As time went on he became more comfortable in himself and accepted his responsibilities but more often than not he had to be pushed into progressing. Seeing him at this point in his life powerless and bereft of those responsibilities makes sense to me because I can easily accept that this Clark Kent would get to a point where he feels that the world no longer needs Superman and is content to give it all up in order to live a normal life. We have no context for Clark’s life beyond the final Smallville episode so it’s unclear what the reasoning behind that decision was. As a fan of Smallville it was a delight to see him one last time and see him interact with Erica Durance’s Lois before they happily walk back to the farmhouse hand in hand. It’s a good ending for them. It’s very possible that Tom Welling stipulated in his agreement to return that the writers figure out some way to make sure that he can never come back. It should be called “the Harrison Ford clause” in contracts from now on.
There is a slight issue with what Lex takes away from this scene. He knows that Clark Kent is -or was- Superman in the Smallville universe but has no idea that the same is true in his own. It’s amusing to think that his own arrogance prevents him from seeing the obvious truth but it becomes harder to accept when he’s imprisoned on the Waverider minutes later and sees Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark Kent in the Clark Kent disguise. Surely he should be able to figure it out based on that context especially with the Brandon Routh Clark Kent in the same room after Lex was in his office at the Daily Planet.
This leads us logically onto the Brandon Routh version of Superman who makes his debut -or should I say return?- here. Lois, Clark and Iris beat Lex to this universe and manage to get the native Clark Kent on side fairly quickly after realising that he fits the criteria of what they’re looking for. A display on his wall confirms that he lost everyone close to him in a single attack from the Joker. This matches up with the “Kingdom Come” Superman backstory -you can find this chronicled here– though references include Superman III and Superman Returns which means that Brandon Routh is reprising his role as the Superman featured in Superman Returns who was actually meant as a sequel to the Superman movies featuring Christopher Reeve. If this is at all confusing don’t worry, it is very complicated. Sufficed to say this is a good thing as it honours the Christopher Reeve incarnation while allowing Brandon Routh to continue his role after Superman Returns didn’t perform as expected and was never continued.
Brandon Routh is great in this role. One of the more striking things is that despite all the loss he has endured he hasn’t lost the well mannered optimism that was such an important pillar of the Christopher Reeve -and his- version. It seems that in the face of loss he decided to forge ahead and ensure that nothing like that would happen again. His lack of melancholy despite all that he has lost is refreshing and Brandon Routh does an excellent job bringing the two personas to life. It’s his first chance to truly put his own stamp on that character and accompanying him with the John Williams composed Superman theme is the nicest of nice touches.
The main obstacle to Brandon Routh’s Clark joining the team is Lex who uses the Book of Destiny to force him to attack Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman. It’s a well put together action sequence that shows us what could have been had Routh’s Superman allowed himself to be consumed by loss. It’s an extreme example of what Superman could be and it’s appropriately terrifying while also being resolved easily enough with a passionate pep talk about the importance of love and truth from Lois. It’s also worth noting that the resemblance to Ray Palmer isn’t ignored nor is it actually explained which amounts to some amusing confusion. Poor Ray has to hear everyone talk about how handsome and jacked his lookalike is when there’s actually nothing different about him in terms of his physicality.
Kate and Kara head to an Earth where a bitter and broken Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) lives in isolation after having completely lost hope. Bruce acts as a mirror to Kate’s current mindset and forces her to confront the darkness she has within her. On her own show she recently made the decision to give up on the notion of Alice being redeemed after everything she’s done but she obviously remains conflicted about that decision and sees Bruce as the potential conclusion of the path she has just started down. Bruce is broken, jaded and consumed with loss. He talks about giving up his code and killing so many people that he’s lost track of how many people he has killed and quotes the Ben Affleck Batman’s line from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice “life only makes sense if you force it to”. Bruce has completely renounced the system that he once fought to protect and has become so bitter that he’s practically a villain. Kara discovers that he killed this universe’s version of Superman. Ultimately it’s proven that he is not one to be trusted and his bitterness ends up indirectly leading to his demise. Another thing that’s proven is that Kevin Conroy is more than up to the challenge of playing a live action Bruce Wayne. Hearing the voice come from a flesh and blood Bruce Wayne is something I never thought I would see.
Thankfully Bruce isn’t needed as it turns out that Kate was the Paragon of Courage all along but she had to deal with Bruce in order to fully realise that potential. It’s another of The Monitor’s vague clues that end up pointing people in directions that lead to them resolving character flaws. In this case Kate doesn’t resolve a character flaw but she does begin to discover one. Up until this point she was trying to be hopeful but wavered from that path when she decided to give up on finding her sister within Alice. Kara tells her that it may not be impossible to save her sister from herself and assures her that she won’t end up like Bruce Wayne. It’s clear that Kate isn’t entirely convinced as evidenced by her keeping a hold of the shard of Kryptonite that Bruce had in his costume. She may be concerned that Kara will go too far and she will have to do something about it or it could be that she’s not quite ready to fully trust Kara despite their easy chemistry.
Kara is a lot less hopeful than she was in the previous episode following the destruction of her universe. She’s the Paragon of Hope that has lot her hope and doesn’t know how to get it back. At this point she’s basically done and doesn’t know how she’s going to move forward. Her time with Kate really helps because she sees in Bruce how empty a hopeless existence can be so makes a decision not to let that happen to her. There is also hope for the return of her universe through the use of the Book of Destiny even though The Monitor warned that it would drive whoever attempts it to madness. Kara’s strategy is to essentially hope that everything will be ok which clearly puts Kate ill at ease. I suspect there will be a turning point for both of them by the time the crossover ends.
The Kara/Kate dynamic is a lot of fun to watch. They are both completely at ease in the other’s company and it’s amusing that Kara keeps flirting with Kate without realising it. Their personalities are different yet complimentary and there’s clearly a bond of trust forming. When this is over I hope the writers find more excuses to bring the characters together and let them interact in a much less crowded setting as the friendship developing between them is excellent.
This episode’s final plot involves Barry, Mia, Sara and John Constantine looking to bathe Oliver’s body in a Lazarus Pit to bring him back to life. I speculated that he wouldn’t remain dead and it looks like I was right though there are some complications such as John losing his magical abilities prior to being able to restore Oliver’s soul. Barry is the one to start this quest because he can’t face the fact that Oliver is gone. It isn’t explicitly covered but I wonder if he feels he can’t handle a situation like this without Oliver’s help and doesn’t want the burden of responsibility resting on his shoulders. It would certainly track with how much reverence Barry holds for Oliver.
Mia’s reason for wanting to resurrect Oliver is obvious; she wants her father back and isn’t ready to be THE Green Arrow. Sara tries to warn her about what she’s about to do which results in Mia biting back at her as if she knows everything she needs to know and understands the risk. Sara becomes defensive when Mia mentions knowing everything about her because there’s no way that she could. It’s that kind of warning that only Sara can give where it looks as if failure to heed it could be lethal. She’s clearly only willing to let Mia push her so far and makes her very aware of where that boundary lies.
Ultimately they end up bonding over their similarities rather than being driven apart by them. Once Sara sees that Mia understands the risks involved with resurrecting someone with a Lazarus Pit they become more at ease with one another and they bond over their fighting prowess when an alternate Jonah Hex shows up to stop them. Their scenes together are brief but memorable though more could have been made of their different perceptions of Nyssa and there should have been a bit more from Sara regarding the use of a Lazarus Pit given her previous experience with them.
Now we’re at a point where Oliver’s soul needs to be restored and there doesn’t seem to be anyone able to do it so there will likely be a plot in the next episode focused on finding someone to help with that. As much as I’d love to see Oliver back in the midst of the crossover it runs the risk of cheapening his sacrifice in a big way and so little attention is given to this narrative in general that it feels like busy work for characters that could be better utilised elsewhere.
The episode ends with the introduction of the Anti-Monitor after Lyla periodically hears voices in her head drawing her to him. Apparently her role as Harbinger is part of his plan as well but what that amounts to remains a mystery. One thing’s for sure, The Anti-Monitor looks formidable so time will tell as to how well be blends in with the abundance of content the crossover is bringing.
A strong continuation that delivers plenty of surprises, the best kind of fan service and enhances the scope of the event in compelling ways. The Paragon hunt makes for a decent framing device that enables everyone involved to have fun with the multiverse concept. A brief visit to the Smallville universe is very much enjoyed and makes for a nice ending for that version of Clark Kent. The introduction -or reintroduction- of Brandon Routh’s Superman is about as near perfect as something like this can get. Brandon Routh is excellent in the role and the contribution he makes to the episode is great. His brief fight with Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman is well put together and using Lex Luthor to enable it makes a lot of sense. Lex going on his multiverse Superman hunt is perfectly in character for him and ties into the moral complexity of The Monitor, adding to the idea that he may not favour the lives of individuals because he has a bigger picture to think about. This causes some conflict between him and Kara as she is still reeling from the loss of her universe and refuses to trust anyone who would see Lex Luthor as an ally. Kate and Kara’s visit to an Earth containing an old, bitter, jaded Bruce Wayne consumed with loss holds up a dark mirror to Kate who sees this as a potential end point for her. Ultimately she rejects everything this Bruce has become and accepts her role as the Paragon of Courage but she still has some doubts as shown through her conversation with Kara who assures her she will never end up that way. Kara is lacking in hope after all she has lost but goes some of the way towards restoring that when she learns their might be a way to bring her universe back. This puts Kate ill at ease which suggests there will be a moment of reckoning to come.
The other plot involving Barry, Mia, Sara and John Constantine working to resurrect Oliver. In general this feels like busy work for characters that could be used elsewhere though there is a suggestion that Barry feels that he can’t handle the situation without Oliver. It’s not actually covered in any detail but it would make sense given Barry’s reverence for him. Mia and Sara’s dynamic is a lot of fun with them butting heads early on and coming to an understanding at a later point but more effort should have been made to make use of Sara’s prior experience with a Lazarus Pit and there was a missed opportunity to use their differing perspectives on Nyssa. The introduction of the Anti-Monitor was well done; he certainly looks formidable enough so we shall see how he blends in with the abundance of content.
- lots of well executed fan service
- Brandon Routh’s performance as the alternate Superman
- Kevin Conroy proving he’s more than capable of playing Bruce Wayne in live action
- Kara’s reaction to The Monitor’s lack of compassion
- Kate having a dark mirror held up to her causing the realisation of a character flaw
- the Barry, Mia, Sara and Constantine plot feeling like busy work
- missing an opportunity to use Tom Welling’s Clark as an example for Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark
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