Crisis on Infinite Earths – Episode 3

Dec 11, 2019 | Posted by in TV
Crisis

Crisis on Infinite Earths wraps up for 2019 with some difficult choices and a race against time to save what’s left of the multiverse.

As someone who writes reviews of most of the shows that make up this ever growing shared multiverse I should be used to tall orders in terms of what my viewing experience brings me to analyse but this might just be the tallest order of them all. The three parts of Crisis on Infinite Earths have been the most densely packed, convoluted and downright insane storytelling I’ve ever seen on television. The writers are pulling no punches with the content being displayed and aren’t slowing down for a second to let the viewer catch their breath to take stock of everything that has happened. I don’t mean this as a criticism; I’m loving every crazy second of it but I’m also wondering if reality will catch up with ambition therefore causing the whole thing to fall apart before it ends.

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Well this is a nice surprise

This episode begins much as the first one did; with the destruction of another universe home to a previous live action DC property. This time it’s Ashley Scott’s Helena Kyle aka The Huntress who is disintegrated by the anti-matter wave. I’ve never seen this show but I’m sure for those that enjoyed it the cameo was welcome. From a narrative point of view it’s a quick reminder of the stakes and the destruction that’s raging on every second. It might be an easy thing to forget as the destruction seems to be largely happening in the background. In order to have any of this make sense it’s necessary to focus on the core group of heroes rather than the sheer scale of what they’re dealing with so using previous DC live action properties is a good way to add scope to the event.

Another less effective way to keep us updated is dialogue. It’s periodically mentioned how few universes are left which does remind us that the anti-matter wave is closing in but it begins to turn it into a numbers game and it feels a bit clinical when doing it that way. When people are seen disintegrating as their universe is torn apart it’s an effective microcosm of everything that is lost when a universe is destroyed. There are some moments that attach emotion to the destruction such as Lois remarking that there will be nobody left to read the story of what happened. Her scene begins with her writing things down which seems to be her coping mechanism that keeps her sane through all of this. If she busies herself with the only work she knows then she still has a purpose and can still function. Interestingly The Monitor chooses that moment to open up to Lois about the losses he has endured; he doesn’t go into detail but talks about his world being lost along with his family. LaMonica Garrett injects some real humanity into The Monitor in that scene with his nostalgic smile when he thinks about his family. Mark Guggenheim said on Kevin Smith’s “Crisis Aftermath” show that one of the January episodes will feature a flashback to the origin of The Monitor and The Anti-Monitor so this acts as a tease of a backstory that will be covered in greater detail soon enough. The Monitor’s admission starts to send him down the path of a tragic figure who became caught up in a cycle of events far beyond his control. In many ways he’s no different from everyone else and he’s just doing what he can to save the universe. Sadly this is the only scene that digs into who The Monitor is -or was- but hopefully there is more to come before the end.

Three episodes into the crossover I still find The Monitor to be a confusing character. His motivations are starting to become clearer but the problem of him rattling off information at the exact point it becomes convenient still exists. I don’t mind reveals happening naturally through the progression of the story but there’s no reason for The Monitor to keep things hidden until he decides not to. An example is when he gives Cisco back his Vibe powers because he knows they’ll be needed. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that The Monitor doesn’t know why Vibe is required but the background of this season of Arrow has been a fetch quest to procure things that might help survive the Crisis so surely an upfront list of everything The Monitor knows is needed would have made more sense. Come to think of it there has been no mention of the device that was built in the latest episode of Arrow or what its purpose is. If things are playing out differently to his expectations then I fail to see how he can be sure of anything that he thought he knew.

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Never give up, never surrender!

Now to get back to my original thought; there is another scene that attaches emotion to the countless losses that come with every destroyed universe. Brandon Routh’s Superman returns to the Waverider angry that he failed to save the inhabitants of yet another Earth. Lois suggests that he take a break but he refuses because of what the crest he wears on his chest represents. He gives a quick speech about hope and the power it has before returning to his mission. It can’t be overstated just how good Brandon Routh is in this role. He reminds me of Chris Evans in the role of Captain America with his ability to deliver a speech that would be unbearably cheesy in lesser hands and have it come across as earnest and inspiring. It really is a pity that he likely won’t be seen in this role again because he is doing so much with it. His performance is helped but excellent writing as well which makes it even more baffling that those in charge over at Warner Brothers apparently don’t know how to make Superman relevant for a modern audience. The Arrowverse writers have delivered three distinct takes on Clark Kent/Superman over these three episodes alone proving that there are plenty of options.

This episode continues to lean into the strength of the Kate/Kara dynamic by having them spend the bulk of their scenes together. The thread of Kara wanting to use the Book of Destiny to bring her universe back is continued with Kate opposing that idea because of how dangerous it is. Kara is determined to find a way to use the book and Kate is willing to support her up to a point but when Lex tells them that what he was using the book for was easy by comparison Kate’s trepidation returns and her focus shifts to discouraging Kara who stubbornly refuses to budge from her desire to use it. She considers the possibility of this being her destined role in this situation though that is most likely an excuse to justify this reckless action that she wants to take.

It gets to the point where Kara is about to open the book and use it before Kate steps in to actively stop her. It appears that her purpose in this Crisis is to discourage Kara from doing what she is driven to do which takes a lot of courage since she has no powers and has to be prepared to take on a Kryptonian if Kara refuses to back down. Kate regards the Kryptonite shard a couple of times before confronting Kara as if she’s terrified of the prospect of having to use it. With Kate there’s no deception so her friendship with Kara is entirely genuine but she won’t sit idly by when Kara does something that she doesn’t agree with. Her strength of character ends up winning the day and Kara backs down when confronted. She also shows Kara the Kryptonite shard so that there are no secrets between them and Kara returns that gesture of trust with one of her own when she lets Kate keep it because she believes that Kate will never use it against her. This friendship just keeps getting better; more needs to be done with it when this is all over.

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Batwoman V. Supergirl: Book of Destiny

The quest for Oliver’s soul continues with a visit to Earth-666 containing none other than Tom Ellis’ Lucifer from the TV show of the same name that I so gleefully reviewed when it was a weekly release. He and John Constantine go way back because of course they do and his appearance only serves the purpose of furnishing John with a card that lets them into purgatory to look for Oliver’s soul. I never thought I’d see Tom Ellis’ Lucifer interact with any of the Arrowverse characters but if this crossover proves one thing it’s that there is apparently no limit to what is possible. Lucifer’s appearance is very brief and arguably unnecessary but very much welcomed as a fun aside. He behaves about the same as he does in his own show but talk of the multiverse and magic cards isn’t really in keeping with the style of it though there’s no reason things like that couldn’t be added considering how easily the world has been expanded over time.

Diggle forms the emotional core of this plot. First he yells at Sara for the part she played in this situation before immediately beating himself up because he wasn’t there for Oliver. He most likely feels that his death could have been prevented had be been there to back him up. It still amuses me to see John Diggle, the man who is about as down to Earth as it gets fully accepting purgatory as a place that exists and somewhere he needs to go. In his mind his duty to his friend and brother is all that matters so he would literally go to Hell -or in this case purgatory- and back to make sure Oliver is safe. It’s a great showing for so little screen time.

The trip to purgatory results in little more than a brief brawl before Oliver remembers who he is and his connection to everyone that has come for him. Ultimately the limitations of cramming so much into the running time of a single episode means that there’s very little room for moments like this to breathe. Oliver’s reunion with Diggle and Mia is well executed but it’s far too brief and could have easily taken up the bulk of an entire episode of Arrow. It can’t be easy for the production team to pick the moments that receive the most attention but my instinct would be to furnish Oliver with as much content as possible because his swan song is so close at hand.

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A noble sacrifice

Then again, Crisis isn’t over yet and there is a strong hint that Oliver has a role to play that will be instrumental in whatever happens next. Shortly after his reunion with Mia and Diggle he is approached by a man named Jim Corrigan (NAME) -not the one John Constantine knows- who tells Oliver that it’s his destiny to become a Spectre. Apparently it’s his responsibility to save everyone which suggests that Oliver will do something that restores the multiverse to its former glory but first he has to willingly accept that responsibility which he does without hesitation as expected. Once again the parting moments are brief but appropriately emotionally charged. Stephen Amell’s delivery of Oliver’s promise that “it’s going to be ok” is perfect and Katherine McNamara is great when portraying Mia falling to pieces. Diggle’s immediate acceptance with a simple nod is nicely played by David Ramsey. His facial expression shows that he’s deeply upset but he also recently accepted that there would come a time where Oliver would go somewhere he couldn’t follow and he knows that this is that time. The actors do so much with very little time here and should be commended for their efforts. My guess is that this isn’t the last interaction they’ll have but this was certainly a good one.

The Paragon collection ends up being almost complete when it’s revealed that Barry is the Paragon of Love and J’Onn is the Paragon of Honour. Only one Paragon remains; the Paragon of Humanity. The identity of this final Paragon is revealed to be Ryan Choi (Osric Chau); a scientist conveniently located in Earth-1’s Ivytown so Iris, Ralph and Ray head there to recruit him to the cause. Ryan represents a brief domestic perspective as someone who sees the red sky and has no idea what it means but tries to reassure his wife that it’s nothing to worry about anyway. It’s quickly established that Ryan is all about his family and doing whatever it takes to protect them. At first he declines going with the strangers that appear to him suddenly because he sees being with his family as his place. It takes Iris to convince him that whatever is required of him is what he needs to do in order to ensure his family’s safety. She appeals to him as a father and asks him how he would feel holding his daughter knowing that he made the world safe for her. It’s enough to convince him to join up and the Paragon collection is complete.

It looks highly likely that Ryan Choi is going to replace Ray Palmer on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow when Brandon Routh unfortunately leaves the cast. I assume this because Ryan Choi is another holder of The Atom identity in the comics so he’s a natural replacement for the current Atom. As with many things in this crossover the time spent with Ryan is brief but he’s engaging enough so far. Osric Chau rambles on in a way reminiscent of Ray yet distinct enough to not feel like a pale imitation. He already has good chemistry with those he interacts with in this episode as well so it’s likely that he’ll fit in well should I be correct in my assumption.

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Oliver, it’s your destiny calling

The main plot -if such a thing exists- of the episode involves Barry, Cisco and Killer Frost tracking down the source of the anti-matter wave which just so happens to be in the tunnel that Nash Wells was playing around in. Behind the door is an anti-matter generator powered by the Earth-90 version of Barry Allen played by John Wesley Shipp running on a treadmill. Once he’s freed a failsafe kicks in that will destroy all universes at once rather than one at a time as has been happening. The obvious question is; if the Anti-Monitor could destroy all universes at once then why would he bother destroying them one at a time so that heroes from across the multiverse have enough warning to formulate a plan against him? I’m sure the vague explanation amounts to everything having a purpose and everyone having their role to play but it’s not exactly valid when he could have achieved his goal so much more quickly.

Luckily Jefferson Pierce aka Black Lightning wanders in after being transported from his universe by Pariah/the man who once went by Nash Wells. His abilities allow him to absorb the energy of the generator therefore delaying the destruction of the handful of universes that remain. While he’s doing that there is some time to formulate a plan. The two Barry’s discuss their options in Flashtime which is hilarious when you consider that our Barry took a few minutes to check the perimeter not too long before that. Their conversation is a good one as it makes use of the older Barry’s considerable experience to help spark an idea in the younger Barry’s mind. The advice he gives is around finding his purpose as a Hero which involves seeing things from a bigger picture point of view. Reverse is the key word that he uses which hilariously gives Barry the idea of running while the direction of the treadmill is reversed. It’s such a simplistic solution that’s up there with the typical “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” solution from classic Doctor Who. The mechanics of what the precise technical solution is don’t matter as much as what that solution requires and what the consequences of it are. Barry concludes that this is the moment he has been preparing the team for and expects not to survive it so says his goodbyes to Cisco, Frost and Caitlin because he thinks that this is when his time runs out.

It turns out that destiny is nothing when faced against the power of technicality though. The older Barry subdues his younger counterpart and takes his place on the treadmill which fulfils the requirement for a Flash to die during Crisis while allowing the younger Barry to continue on. His farewell was well done and his sacrifice was very noble especially with the flashback to the old The Flash TV show as a reminder of everything he fights for. This older Barry Allen is an interesting case as it was pointed out that he failed during the “Elseworlds” crossover last year and he has already dealt with the loss of his world so as far as he’s concerned her has nothing left along with mistakes to atone for. If sacrificing himself allows a younger generation of more worthy -in his eyes- heroes to carry on and save the day then it’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make. The 90s Flash dies a truly selfless hero and this moment definitely reflects that.

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Common ground

On the other hand, over on The Flash Barry Allen’s death during Crisis has been the main ongoing thread that has been moving things forward. Everything has been about preparing the team for his absence post Crisis to the point that it has essentially been the story of a man with a terminal illness approaching the end of the time he has left. To push this aside with a last second substitution feels more than a little cheap though I do think Barry has made the wrong assumption about the moment of reckoning for him. It’s highly likely that he will be faced with a life or death choice in one of the January episodes and it will be more of a shock because he thought he had bypassed it.

Cisco has a brief yet compelling moment in all of this. He makes the decision to use his powers to put the older Barry back on the treadmill so that he can sacrifice himself. The younger Barry loudly protests but Cisco points out that team leaders have to made difficult choices and this certainly qualifies. Cisco understands that someone needs to go on the treadmill and the only option at that point is the older Barry thanks to his sucker punch that renders the younger one temporarily powerless. Enabling that sacrifice isn’t an easy thing to do but it’s recognised as necessary and it shows how much Cisco has grown in his leadership role.

Pariah is mixed up in this situation and I find the character to be very mixed. In my review of the first episode I talked about the tendency for him and Lyla to just pop in to say vague things before leaving. The second episode was largely free of that but this one has it in abundance. In Pariah’s case he’s basically around to do whatever the plot needs him to do. His memories from when he was Nash need to be accessed so he’s available for Cisco to Vibe him, a character with electric powers is needed to buy them some time so he brings in Black Lightning, the Paragons need to be transported away before the universe is obliterated so he does it and so on. His presence just before Earth-1 was destroyed does allow for some more displays of intelligence on Barry’s part when he figures out Pariah’s purpose and uses that to realise that Lyla has been compromised but beyond that he adds little more than the vaguest of exposition.

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There’s almost nothing left!

Black Lightning is used really well despite limited screen time and a transparent purpose attached to his arrival. Like everyone else he is dealing with large scale loss. He mourns the loss of his world, wife and daughters leading him to wonder what’s next for him. Jefferson shares a really meaningful scene with Barry where they reminisce about their fathers and make a pledge to honour them by continuing the fight. It’s a great scene and Cress Williams conveys the weight of his loss combined with the disbelief attached to a situation that he will never be able to fully understand.

The episode ends with the destruction of Earth-1, the narrow escape of all of the Paragons before the Waverider containing all of the non Paragons is destroyed. Before that happens The Monitor is killed and the situation couldn’t be any more bleak because the Anti-Monitor has succeeded in his plan to wipe out the entire multiverse in order to replace it with an anti-matter universe. The only hope left is that the Paragons are all transported to the Vanishing Point which gives them a chance to figure out some sort of solution though even that hope is short lived as Lex made an edit to the Book of Destiny that allows him to replace Superman so basically the episode ends with one Paragon down, no universe and the remaining heroes stuck with Lex Luthor. It’ll be interesting to see how they get out of this one.

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Maybe their wands share a core?


Verdict

A strong middle chapter that is jam packed with fascinating content that it doesn’t have time to fully explore but still manages to maintain the momentum and deliver excellent character moments. Using the destruction of another prior DC live action property as a quick reminder of the stakes is really effective though following that up with dialogue also designed to remind the audience what’s at stake is less so. Even at that there are meaningful character beats within that dialogue such as Lois focusing on writing about what is going on to maintain her sanity and The Monitor opening up about what he lost is an unexpected bonus that adds much needed humanity to the character however short lived. Brandon Routh’s Superman giving a speech about hope and the power it has in dark moments is wonderfully delivered by Routh who nails the earnestness. The Kate/Kara dynamic continues to be a strong focus with Kara fixated on using the Book of Destiny to restore the lost universes and Kate committed to stopping her because she doesn’t believe it to be a viable plan. Kate proves how courageous she is when she stands up to Kara despite her obvious disadvantage which causes Kara to back down. She then comes clean about the Kryptonite she’s been hiding and Kara reacts by trusting her to keep it. Their friendship is excellent and deserves to receive more focus when this is over. The quest for Oliver’s soul is both emotionally rich and rushed at the same time. Diggle is the emotional core shown through his feelings of guilt because he wasn’t there to back Oliver up but what it really amounts to is a fetch quest featuring a great cameo, a brief brawl before Oliver accepts a mysterious destiny that will prove important before the crossover is over. There’s nothing technically wrong with it and the actors do a great job with it but as with most things in this event there’s little time for moments to truly breathe.

The Paragon hunt leads members of the team to Ryan Choi; a scientist who feels an unswerving duty to his family. His introduction is all about convincing him to play his part in the Crisis and save his family as well as the rest of the multiverse by doing whatever it is he’s destined to do. It takes Iris appealing to his sense of responsibility to convince him and he comes along for the ride. It’s a solid introduction to a character that will most likely serve as Ray’s replacement once Brandon Routh leaves DC’s Legends of Tomorrow though as with most things there’s not a lot of time to settle on anything definitive. The discovery of the source of the anti-matter wave and the return of the older Barry Allen played by John Wesley Shipp is great because it allows for a definitive ending for that character who gives up his life to atone for his failure and give the young heroes a chance to save the multiverse. It may be a bit of a cheat to sidestep that responsibility for the younger Barry though I think there’s a moment of reckoning coming for him that he hasn’t anticipated. Pariah makes for a convenient plot moving character and very little else as all he seems to bring is exactly what might be needed or vague exposition to the proceedings. Black Lightning is used really well; he has a really engaging dynamic with Barry when they bond over their relationships with their fathers. The episode ends on a really bleak note with the entire multiverse destroyed except from the Paragons with Brandon Routh’s Superman replaced by Lex Luthor.

Overall
  • 8/10
    Crisis on Infinite Earths - Episode 3 - 8/10
8/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • using fan service as an effective reminder of what’s at stake
  • adding humanity to The Monitor however briefly
  • the earnestness of Brandon Routh’s performance as Superman
  • Diggle forming the emotional core of the hunt for Oliver’s soul
  • an excellent Lucifer cameo
  • Ryan Choi’s introduction
  • the selfless heroic sacrifice of John Wesley Shipp’s Flash
  • Barry and Jefferson bonding over their relationship with their fathers

 

Rise Against…

  • Pariah serving such an obvious and uninteresting purpose
  • so much packed into the episode that there’s little time for moments to breathe

 

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User Review
9.17/10 (3 votes)

What’s Next?

My expectation is that there will be some sort of reset that brings the multiverse back more or less the way it was. I mentioned in my review of the first episode that I found it unlikely that the destruction of Earth-38 would stick because there are unresolved plots there, the same applies to Black Lightning’s universe and that certainly applies to Earth-1. The comic book “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was about shaving down a confusing multiverse into something more manageable but the various TV shows are handling the multiverse concept without too many issues so it’s not necessary to trim it down into one manageable Earth. A reset button is surely inevitable and looks to involve Oliver Queen though it depends what the consequences of that reset are. The core characters should be fundamentally changed by whatever happens next and their world should also change as a result of that otherwise the whole event will amount to an impressive light show that proves to be a waste of time in the grander scheme of things. Time will tell.

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Now what?

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