Crisis on Infinite Earths – Episodes 4 & 5
Crisis on Infinite Earths delivers a double feature for its conclusion starting with the Paragons trying to figure out a way to restore all that has been lost.
Annoyingly, The CW opted to air the finale of this landmark crossover event on the same night which causes significant headaches for this reviewer. I’ve decided to combine my analyses for both episodes into a giant size review of the conclusion since the majority of viewers will consume the two episodes as a combined entity. I urge you to settle in because this is going to be a long one.
The ending of the third part of this landmark crossover event left the remaining characters at their lowest point with the Anti-Monitor succeeding in destroying the entire multiverse making Kara, Barry, Kate, J’Onn, Sara, Ryan Choi and Lex Luthor the only beings in existence. Naturally this is a significant issue and makes for the worst failure any of them have ever endured. The fourth part doesn’t immediately pick up with the plight of the surviving heroes, instead opting to flash back to where this all truly began with a pre-Monitor Mar Novu about to conduct a time travel experiment in order to travel back to the dawn of time. He is aided by his wife Xneen (Melanie Merkosky) and immediately displays a lot of warmth as a contrast to his typical grandiose portrayal. Some attempt was made to inject a little bit of humanity -despite being an alien- into The Monitor in the previous episode so seeing him before he became the Godlike being he is now is in theory a really good idea.
In practice, it’s nothing more than surface level as there isn’t enough time to get a sense of who Mar Novu was before he became The Monitor and what that change cost him. With more care and attention this could have mirrored Oliver’s journey as he was also plucked from a relatively normal existence to become a cosmic entity. Sadly all we get is a short scene confirming that The Monitor was once a normal guy whose ambition led him into a fate he had no control over. The Anti-Monitor simply appears as a consequence of him travelling to the dawn of time with no real explanation beyond him being the opposite of Mar Novu. One of the biggest problems this crossover has is a consistent failure to characterise The Anti-Monitor beyond an obstacle that can eventually be punched.
Fortunately, the event has so much going for it that this failure doesn’t derail the entire thing as the focus is on the Heroes and their relationships to one another. This makes the early scenes where they are stuck together in The Vanishing point really compelling as the dynamic changes when they are at their lowest point. Ryan Choi acts as the point of view character early on with a narration that catches the viewer up to what has been going on. They’ve collectively been stuck in The Vanishing Point for months with no hope of finding a resolution to the destruction of everything that ever existed. Amusingly only Ryan has gone through any sort of physical change with him sporting a beard during this narration. Apparently everyone else made sure to maintain their grooming regimen and give themselves haircuts periodically.
Each of the Paragons are busying themselves in their own way until Barry returns following an attempt to get into the Speed Force. For everyone else he was gone for months but for him it was only seconds. His return brings more bad news as he can’t get into the Speed Force because of the lack of a Multiverse. This despair is short lived when Oliver Queen makes himself known in his new role as The Spectre and offers the group a chance to fix everything. He imbues Barry with enough power to enter the Speed Force and bring everyone in with them so that one team can confront The Anti-Monitor at the dawn of time and the other can try to prevent Mar Novu from creating the Anti-Monitor by stopping him from travelling through time in the first place. There is immediately a complication when the Anti-Monitor attacks and Team Speed Force is scattered across while the other team make it to the desired planet but have no idea where to look for Mar Novu.
Kara, Ryan and Lex on The Monitor’s homeworld is primarily focused on Kara regaining her lost hope through her interactions with Ryan. The Paragon concept is very inconsistently handled but it’s best used as encouragement for the characters to lean into what makes them the ideal candidate for their title. Some of the concepts are vague such as Honour or Truth where there’s no real sense of how these traits are used to benefit others in this context but others such as Humanity and Hope are perfectly tied to the characters that represent those concepts. Kara has lost hope following the destruction of the Multiverse and Lex replacing the Brandon Routh Superman therefore costing them one of the necessary Paragons. This is an understandable mindset and establishes a clear journey for Kara to go on. Melissa Benoist does an excellent job playing Kara consumed with despair and lacking in the motivation to carry on. Instead of being the one rallying those around her to never give up she has given up and has to be reminded of what she has chosen to stand for.
Ryan gives her the encouragement she needs to find what she lost by accidentally making her fall back on her instincts by voicing the doubts he has about himself and his role in this situation. She points out that he left his family after a stranger told him he was needed which makes him exactly the person the situation calls for as far as Kara is concerned. Her tone and demeanour shifts instantly when she tells him this and she becomes the Kara that we all know and love. It may seem like a quick reversal of her despair but it feels perfectly in character as Kara would never be one to lose hope for long. The awareness that there is a chance they might succeed will also contribute to this.
He continues to prove himself worthy as the Paragon of Humanity by appealing to Mar Novu’s better judgement. Ryan urges him not to go through with his experiment by warning him of the consequences and pointing out that what will be lost isn’t worth what he’s looking to achieve. It’s a quick speech that does the trick and it’s all looking more positive though this entire trip turns out to be pointless as there will always be at least one Mar Novu that won’t be dissuaded from carrying out the experiment. Arguably this is something that Oliver should have been aware of though that’s the problem with vaguely defined cosmic abilities; there’s often little to no explanation of how they work or what knowledge those with the abilities actually have access to. Fortunately this pointless quest allowed for some meaningful character moments that solidified Ryan’s humanity and pushed Kara towards being back on the right path so the time was well spent.
Team Speed Force have their own problems as they find themselves scattered with Oliver using his new vaguely defined abilities to keep them in the Speed Force so that Barry can find them. There’s a ticking clock though that’s not all that important as there isn’t a great deal of urgency in these scenes. Oliver has managed to place everyone in various memories that supposedly indicate when the strongest connections began to be forged. He states that memories and connections are among the most powerful things in the universe so it’s important not to underestimate them. Theoretically this provides the perfect opportunity to revisit significant character driven events in the Arrowverse and use them to inform the future. Making them Oliver’s memories is a great opportunity to supply an appropriate send off for the character through celebrating how he helped shape this shared multiverse.
What we actually get is really far below the potential as most of the memories chosen don’t feel significant. Kate lingering in the background of a conversation between Oliver and Ray where Ray pulls no punches about not trusting Oliver apparently allows Kate to learn an important lesson about trusting others and not letting doubts waste time that could have been used more productively. It’s a good lesson but the memory chosen is far from the best example that could have been used to illustrate that. I’m unsure what the best example would have been but somewhere in the history of all of the shows there would be something that illustrates the importance of trusting others in a way Kate could personally relate to. All of these memories should be connected to the trait each character embodies as a Paragon. There is a tenuous reading of Kate’s lesson as having the courage to trust those she doesn’t know well but it’s very poorly handled.
Sara finds herself present shortly after her death with Diggle and Laurel standing over her body mourning her passing. This one is definitely the most pointless of the displayed memories because Oliver doesn’t appear at all and nobody learns anything from it. Sara gets to hear that her sister was upset when she died which she already knew. When Barry revives her there’s no meaningful dialogue so it’s very much a missed opportunity where a scene could have been chosen that allows Sara to see herself through Olivers eyes. I suppose her death could arguably be the beginning of her journey to where she is now but it’s far from a strong connection to the concept of destiny.
J’Onn finds himself present at an argument between Kara and Oliver that takes place during the events of the “Invasion” crossover. This is when Oliver didn’t trust Kara because she represented an unknown quantity that he couldn’t understand or control which meant that he couldn’t find it within himself to trust her. J’Onn’s apparent lesson is that they all need to work together and depend on each other which is something he should already know as it’s a philosophy he often preaches to others. There’s no connection to honour as far as I can see in this.
Barry witnesses the moment Oliver used the magic arrow given to him by The Monitor in exchange for his sacrifice and is able to talk to him about that decision. Oliver tells him that he didn’t want to burden Barry with knowledge of the choice that he made and that he doesn’t regret making that bargain because it meant that the best of them would live. He states that dying is the easy part and the real Heroes are those that live to continue the fight. This is absolutely the best of these memories as it allows for a meaningful conversation between Oliver and Barry that highlights how strong their friendship is. Combining this with Barry first experiencing their first meeting takes us from the beginning of their connection to the end while showing how much it has grown. Oliver sacrificing himself so that Barry and Kara may live could definitely be seen as an act of love on his part that may show Barry how important that emotion is in the grand scheme of what they’re facing. None of these lessons are put to any use at a later point but at least Barry’s experience is a meaningful one.
Another thing that happens in the Speed Force is Barry’s encounter with the Ezra Miller version of The Flash as featured in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Justice League. It’s a great scene and kudos to whoever managed to keep that a secret. Ezra Miller was one of the highlights of Justice League so it was great to see him make an appearance to provide a much needed moment of levity where they admire each others Flash costumes and our Barry gives him the idea for his superhero name. It’s ultimately inconsequential but a fun aside nonetheless.
The supposed final battle between the Paragons and The Anti-Monitor is disappointing from a technical standpoint as it features the Heroes fighting against Shadow Demons again. Nothing has changed since part 1 in terms of how the Shadow Demons are used as it’s still unknown what they are, what they’re capable of and how much of a threat they are. I’m inclined to think they aren’t all that dangerous since Ryan could punch them and dispatch which makes me think their sheer numbers are all that makes them formidable.
Similarly, Oliver’s battle with the Anti-Monitor isn’t all that exciting as it amounts to them firing beams of energy at one another until Oliver eventually wins. It’s far from an epic showdown though I did enjoy Oliver saying “You have failed this Universe” even if the action sequence was sorely lacking overall.
The end of this episode fits the “mixed bag” description to a tee as the problematic stuff drags down the effective things. Once Oliver lights the spark that eventually gives birth to a new universe Kara comes to the realisation that they as Paragons have to focus really hard on the trait they embody to give Oliver everything he needs. It’s a really random realisation and such an anticlimax to see all 7 of them standing staring really hard at a sky beam. I had hoped the Paragon concept would yield something more meaningful than this because this was just weak.
Oliver as a character is fairly muddled in this episode because of what he has become. It is established that as The Spectre he is still Oliver Queen but he has also become something else that is so much more than that. Many of his lines are delivered without passion to highlight that he is no longer Human and there’s a distracting distortion on his voice to support that. As I’ve already mentioned his new abilities are vaguely defined which doesn’t help with understanding what it is he has become. There are opportunities for Stephen Amell to provide humanity in his performance through the memories which definitely works but there was no need to have him be so detached as The Spectre.
His second death in this crossover isn’t as good as the first but it still works really well. Unfortunately Diggle misses this one too -as he will later reference- but Sara and Barry are present which feels fitting because they have the strongest connection to him of everyone present. His second set of dying words are a request to look after his family as well as Barry and Sara to never stop being the best that they can be while also telling them that he’s at peace so that they know this is what he wanted. It’s a really well acted scene and a strong second death for Oliver. I suspect there are more final moments for him coming our way considering there are two episodes of Arrow left.
Oliver sacrificing himself to give birth to a new multiverse feels fitting because in a meta sense he created the Arrowverse. Everything we see here was made possible because Arrow began as a TV show so Oliver -and by extension Stephen Amell- is leaving it behind while allowing it to begin anew. It’s poetic and perfectly placed both in universe and outside of it.
The final episode functions as something of an epilogue while also being a conclusion. It begins with Kara waking up in her apartment in National City confused as to how she got there. Alex has no memory of the Crisis and Kara quickly learns that Lex Luthor is being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because everyone has been duped into thinking he represents the best that Humanity has to offer. To make matters worse The DEO is a part of Luthorcorp which makes Lex Kara’s boss so everything has been restored but there are significant differences to the reality that Kara knows.
There is further confusion when Weather Witch starts rampaging and Barry shows up to the scene to bring her down. Both think that they are on their own Earth and a fan seeking an autograph (Marv Wolfman; the man who wrote the original “Crisis on Infinite Earths) confirms that them teaming up is a very common occurrence. Oliver’s reboot of the Multiverse has placed every Arrowverse TV show on the same Earth including Black Lightning which makes for a fun nod to the original comic event as it basically existed to trim the Multiverse down to a single Earth. Marv Wolfman being the one to confirm to them that they share an Earth is a nice way to deliver that reveal and it lives up to the promise that the Arrowverse will be forever changed following this event.
Before getting into the rest of my analysis of this episode I’ll address the question of whether changing the Multiverse so that all of the shows are set on the same Earth is actually necessary. I’d argue that it isn’t because the characters can literally press a button and be instantly transported to whatever Earth they need to be on. This allows the shows to connect while also being different. Black Lightning exists in a racially charged world where equality isn’t guaranteed and the people of Freeland constantly struggle, Supergirl exists in a world where Alien immigration is a significant issue and the rest of the shows share an Earth where the cities have their own differences but the overall world remains the same. It’s possible that confining everything to a single Earth will make the shows that were set in different universes feel less distinct though it is very early days so it remains to be seen how this will work out.
This significant change to the status quo won’t be noticed by the average bystander but is known to all of the main characters in all of the shows thanks to J’Onn using his psychic abilities to restore their memories of Crisis. Characters like Cisco, Iris and Earth-2 Laurel bizarrely don’t appear but presumably their memories are restored off screen. This is a good decision as it allows the events of Crisis to have impact on the characters that we follow while also providing an opportunity to explore what is different about this new universe. It’s handled much more neatly than the misstep that was “Flashpoint” and in some ways seems designed to make up for that. The return of the previously lost Sara Diggle would seem to be a clear reference to that.
So, is this episode meaningful or is it all table setting? The answer to that is complicated but there are a lot of meaningful moments in here mostly around the loss of Oliver. Sara goes to Star City to find Oliver but learns through Diggle and Dinah that he’s nowhere to be found which likely means that his sacrifice is one thing that couldn’t be undone. Sara starts off in denial and wonders if he’s just harder to find because he’s now The Spectre but she quickly has to face up to the truth and accept that Oliver is gone. Caity Lotz delivers a powerhouse performance as Sara quickly moves through the complex emotions associated with loss before breaking down and embracing Diggle. It makes sense that Sara would migrate to acceptance quickly as she’s no stranger to loss and isn’t someone to deny the truth to herself after everything she has experienced.
Her conversation with Barry following this realisation is especially poignant because it delivers such meaningful insight into how Sara sees her life. She talks about seeing Oliver as the only connection she has to the person she was before becoming the Captain of a Timeship. He represented the last tether she has to her normal life and she never imagined that she would be mourning the loss of Oliver. Now she basically has no choice but to truly move on and settle into her new normal which may mean laying down roots with Ava or finding some other way to define what her life is. Change is a big part of life which Sara will know better than anyone but knowing that there’s now nothing from that old life to go back to must be a really jarring thing to contemplate. She doesn’t feel alone because she recognises the Legends as her family but Oliver’s death marks the end of an important chapter in her life and that’s something she really needs to process.
Barry is the best person to talk to her about this significant shift in her life because he knows better than most how much life can change. Losing his parents at different points in his own life meant that he experienced significant change both early in his life and more recently. Both losses lead to him finding people who mean everything to him so he doesn’t necessarily see change as a bad thing though he recognises that it’s a lot to take in. This conversation more than any other ties into the theme of transition that this episode explores and shows a very relatable personal transition as a counter to the large scale universe altering one.
Diggle’s reaction to the loss of Oliver is as heartbreaking as you might expect. Naturally he blames himself for not being there during either death and struggles to deal with the loss of his brother. It’s exactly what you would expect from him but in the best way because it shows how well defined their relationship was. His death will never leave him and he will never forgive himself for not being there.
Oliver’s death leaves a void in terms of who takes a leadership role during crossover events. The attack of the giant Beebo is something that will never fails to be hilarious but also provides an opportunity to show who has the natural ability to take charge and come up with effective tactics. Sara and Barry naturally slip into that role being the leaders of their individual teams but Sara has clear authority and knowledge while also commanding the respect of everyone around her. She naturally takes charge when dealing with the Beebo though it is something that she tends to deal with so Barry is happy to defer to her expertise. It’s not an especially tense sequence but it isn’t really supposed to be as it’s just a fun aside to show the characters along with the audience that this combined Earth is different and showcases how the group dynamic will shift now that Oliver isn’t around any more. Making the final part a Legends episode to justify the lunacy on display was the perfect decision.
The return of The Anti-Monitor feels more than a little tacked on because he doesn’t feel like a significant threat in any way. As I mentioned earlier the failure to characterise him properly means that he amounts to little more than something to be punched. The most effective thing around his role in the story is the Shadow Demon attack on Ryan Choi who retreats to his nursery holding his baby in his arms. It’s a really quick way to reinforce his Humanity and that these stakes affect ordinary people in significant ways.
As with the previous episode the fight is really boring because of the Shadow Demons and The Anti-Monitor growing to giant size is more laughable than anything else because he seems easier to take down after he does that. “For Oliver!” being the battle cry of the Heroes was a really nice touch but that was about as good as it got. The Anti-Monitor’s defeat felt very simplistic as well with the construction of a plot device that would keep him shrinking infinitely therefore removing him as a problem.
Once The Anti-Monitor has been dealt with, Oliver is recognised as the Hero that saved them all in an broadcast speech from the President of the United States (Eileen Pedde). She talks about him being the first of their Heroes -which is a meta reference to Arrow being the start of this shared Multiverse- and honours him as the one who saved their world. All of the characters pay silent tribute to him before Oliver repeats the words said by The Monitor at the beginning of the first part to close this chapter to begin the next.
The memorial for Oliver scene is equal parts powerful and confusing. In attendance is Kara, Barry, J’Onn, Kate, Sara, Jefferson and Clark. Barry and Sara knew him the best, Kara knew him well enough, J’Onn and Clark knew him but not extensively, Kate barely knew him and Jefferson never met him so it feels like an odd group to be present for the lighting of his eternal flame. The absence of Diggle, Felicity, the rest of Team Arrow, Cisco, Ray Palmer and so many others is confusing as they certainly had a greater connection to Oliver than some of those in attendance. The words said by Kara, Barry and Sara in tribute to him are appropriate. Kara thanking him for giving them hope, Barry thanking him for always believing in him and bringing out the best in them and Sara acknowledging that her life is better because of him makes for a brief yet accurate summation of the individual relationships.
I was most excited by the final moments where Barry unveils a table surrounded by chairs displaying their individual logos as he christens the facility used in “Invasion” as a place for them to meet to deal with problems that need their collective attention. In Oliver’s honour they basically form their version of the Justice League and leave an empty seat for the inheritor of the Green Arrow mantle. The team may not be named but we all know what this is leading to and the prospect of more crossovers involving these characters is definitely exciting. The tease of Gleek was an amusing note to end on as well.
Throughout this review I’ve talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the last two episodes but it’s worth discussing briefly whether I think the crossover actually works. In short, it largely does but there are definitely some issues. One of the major problems I had was the cop out solution to Barry’s inevitable death during the Crisis. Every episode of this season of The Flash was building up to the moment where Barry would have to sacrifice himself and he was absolved of it because another Barry Allen made the sacrifice instead. The moment doesn’t even match up to the flash forward that was seen early in that season nor is there any real consequences for Barry. It feels disingenuous to spend so much time building up to something that was completely dismissed on a technicality. Oliver’s sacrifice was meaningful and significant but I don’t feel that the crossover delivered on everything that it promised. It definitely lived up to the scale that was promised and the cameos from previous DC live action properties were excellently handled so it was a really fun viewing experience that mostly paid off but needed more work to live up to everything it could have been.
A mostly satisfying conclusion to a landmark crossover event that isn’t without its problems but does a lot of things really well. The first of the two episodes is focused on solving the end of the Multiverse depicted in the previous episode and tenuously links that to the idea of the Paragons though doesn’t manage to make use of it in any meaningful way. The trip down Oliver’s memory lane fails to present lessons that fit what the Paragons are supposed to be and the scenes selected are far from the best examples in most cases. Barry and Oliver have a meaningful conversation at the moment he decided to make the sacrifice that led him to this point which is great but the rest are sorely lacking. The attempt to inject Humanity into The Monitor by showing how he gained his abilities is definitely welcomed but the scene itself is very superficial and the sudden appearance of the Anti-Monitor does the character no favours. He is poorly characterised and fails to amount to any sort of meaningful threat. It doesn’t help that the action sequences are so underwhelming with most of the characters fighting Shadow Demons who remain as vaguely defined as before and the Oliver/Anti-Monitor fight amounting to little more than colourful beams being fired between them. Kara’s arc is brief yet effective and giving Ryan the opportunity to prove his worthiness as the Paragon of Humanity by helping her regain her hope works really well as does his attempt to discourage Mar Novu from carrying out his experiment. Oliver’s second death isn’t as good as his first one in the opening episode of the crossover but it was still really well done with great performances from all concerned. Having Oliver be the one to reboot the universe is perfectly appropriate as well.
The second episode is about offering a conclusion while acting as an epilogue. Combining all of the characters into a single Earth definitely has the potential to remove the uniqueness from the shows that exist in other universes and there was no actual need to throw everyone together onto a single Earth considering there are no difficulties crossing over to other universes. There are a lot of meaningful moments such as Sara coming to accept Oliver’s death and making peace with the fact that she has to move on with her life because nothing is tethering her to what her life used to be. Barry is the perfect person to understand what she’s going through as so much of his life has been defined by loss and change. Diggle’s reaction to Oliver’s death is believably heartbreaking and acts as the perfect summation of their close brotherly bond. The void Oliver’s death leaves in terms of crossover leadership is handled well with Barry and Sara naturally sinking into that role while Barry concedes that Sara has greater experience than he has. The Beebo sequence is a fun way to illustrate that and is a great injection of Legends level lunacy. Once again the Anti-Monitor provided some boring action that ultimately felt meaningless and his defeat felt far too easy considering the prior stakes. Oliver Queen receiving a posthumous Presidential thank you while everyone pays silent tribute was a really nice touch that highlights his importance to the Multiverse that started with him. The memorial sequence was odd considering who was missing but seeing Barry form the Justice League was an excellent piece of fan service.
- the brief injection of humanity for The Monitor
- Ryan Choi acting as the point of view character to re-establish the situation
- Ryan demonstrating his worthiness as the Paragon of Humanity by being himself
- Kara regaining her hope through her interactions with Ryan
- the meaningful Barry/Oliver interaction
- Oliver rebooting the universe being fitting both in and out of universe
- another poignant set of last words for Oliver
- the fun Ezra Miller cameo
- Sara’s perfectly in character reaction to the loss of Oliver
- Barry and Sara relating to one another through their experience of loss and how that changes life
- Diggle’s heartbreaking reaction to Oliver’s death
- the Beebo sequence and how that explores the leadership void left by Oliver
- Oliver’s posthumous presidential recognition
- the birth of the Justice League
- underwhelming action in both parts
- Oliver’s vaguely defined new powers
- the chosen memories having tenuous links to the Paragons at best and being completely unconnected at worst
- a weak payoff to the Paragon concept
- the complete absence of important characters like Cisco and Iris
- Oliver’s memorial missing some key characters
- the weak origin story of The Monitor and Anti-Monitor
- The Anti-Monitor failing to have any character or be in any way threatening
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User Review( votes)
The establishment of Earth Prime and putting all of the Arrowverse shows on one Earth has plenty of potential that can be mined for interesting content. One thing that could easily happen is that Aliens become a regular fixture on The Flash or Batwoman because of how abundant they are on Supergirl. The Arrowverse can become open to the fact that there is a diverse universe out there. I very much doubt that the Justice League -or whatever the team will end up being called- will be used until the next crossover event but maybe there will be smaller crossovers where the characters work together in various smaller configurations. Marv Wolfman did say that team-ups were common so it’s possible that we will see a lot more of it.
Other than the death of Oliver there doesn’t appear to be many widespread implications for most of the shows but Supergirl is the most immediately impacted. Lex Luthor turning himself into the Paragon of Truth clearly has consequences as he has managed to redefine at least some of the truth of Earth Prime so that the public sees him as something of a saint. What he plans to do in this position of power is unknown but it’s clear that it won’t be good. There is also mention of Lena being one of Kara’s biggest supporters which suggests that the rift between them has been healed by the rebooted universe. If that’s the case then it will be a weak resolution to an ongoing story. There is the potential for the ongoing stories to be impacted by this shift in the status quo which may not be a good thing considering the work that has gone into developing them so far. This mainly applies to Supergirl and Batwoman as The Flash wrapped up the opening arc of the season. Whatever happens it’s good that the event has consequences that will continue to impact the Arrowverse from this point on.
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