Elseworlds Part 1
Elseworlds; the annual DC TV crossover story begins with a -sort of- body switching plot and the promise of a large scale threat.
I’ll freely admit that the crossover stories are something I look forward to every year. Even though I don’t always love the shows that participate in them I’m still fully invested in the characters so enjoy seeing them interact. Last year’s “Crisis on Earth-X” was outstanding as far as I’m concerned so expectations were high for this year’s outing.
It’s surprising to see that this episode eases into whatever the story will turn out to be with a fairly self contained story that starts to introduce what the story will be about but doesn’t go into too much detail. Most of the episode is focused on comedy hijinks involving Barry and Oliver dealing with the fact that they are living each other’s lives. Oliver is shown first waking up in Barry’s apartment as Iris cooks him breakfast and keeps calling him Barry. He is understandably confused as he’s still aware that he’s Oliver Queen. Things get more confusing as he discovers that he has Barry’s powers and has to respond to a robbery at Ivo Labs when he doesn’t actually know how to use Barry’s powers.
Barry encounters similar confusion when he finds himself in the midst of a training session with Diggle before being taken out on an A.R.G.U.S. mission where he doesn’t intuitively know how to be the Green Arrow. This ends with Barry showing up and the pair start trying to figure out what happened to them. To do this they go to Team Flash and explain the situation but are met with disbelief because nobody else can see the problem.
There’s plenty of comedy to be mined from Oliver and Barry being used to comment on their lives from a different perspective and the episode does a fine job of exploring that. Oliver’s reaction to Barry encouraging him to get Iris on side by telling her that she’s his lightning rod was hilarious even if I can’t understand why Barry thinks that would work considering that’s exactly what Iris would expect the man she believes to be Barry would say. Despite this it does work as a joke and showing Oliver trying to talk to Iris with the camera still focused on Barry to visualise how abnormal the situation is was a really nice touch that delivers a familiar moment on The Flash from a skewed perspective.
Iris knocking Oliver and Barry out before locking them in the pipeline was a really bizarre decision as nobody had any reason to believe that the two of them were in any way dangerous. Disbelieving their claims makes sense to a point but considering the routine weirdness encountered by the team there should have been at least a glimmer of accepting the possibility that they are telling the truth even if there was no evidence to back it up as far as they’re concerned.
The pipeline imprisonment doesn’t last long before the pair whisk themselves off to Earth-38 to see if Kara will see them for who they really are. From this point the episode really starts to feel like a crossover as Barry and Oliver hang out on the Kent Farm -complete with a Remy Zero musical introduction taking me right back to my Smallville days- trying to figure out their next move. The first order of business is to attempt to master their newfound skills. Thankfully the identity shift also came with some knowledge on how to use the skills and abilities of the other person so Barry knows how to fire an Arrow while Oliver knows how to run. This scene allows for an amusing riff on the training sequence in “Flash vs. Arrow” where Oliver tricked Barry by hiding two remote control bows so that he would take a hit to prove a point about his lack of awareness. In this case, Barry does the same thing to get his own back and get a cheap laugh at Oliver’s expense. It’s amusing and works well as a callback. Oliver pointing out the propensity for Barry to be on the receiving end of a “sappy emotional speech” is hilarious as well and shows a self awareness on the part of the writers that might be more impactful if there was any indication that they weren’t still leaning heavily on that setup.
Oliver’s reaction to Barry’s immature prank is where the shared introspection really kicks in. He sees Barry’s flippant attitude as a mockery of everything that he has dealt with. Anger and pain are things that he thrives on as the Green Arrow. Embracing the darker side of himself is what has kept him alive all these years so Barry’s lack of respect for that upsets him. Barry counters this by pointing out that Oliver doesn’t understand what motivates him as the Flash. He talks about being at his fastest when he’s happy and how he focuses on all the joy in his life as his motivation. It’s a good scene that makes for a reasonable exploration of what is supposed to separate the two shows but doesn’t entirely ring true considering how morose The Flash was through seasons 3 and 4. Despite that the point is well taken and both decide that in order to be more effective in their temporary roles they will have to embrace what motivates the other.
This is supposed to pay off in the fight against A.M.A.Z.O. when Barry delivers Oliver’s “you have failed this city” catchphrase before delivering the killing blow and Oliver apparently embraces the lighter side of his personality in order to lure A.M.A.Z.O. back to the rest of the group. Barry leaning into his inner darkness is a lot clearer than Oliver embracing the lighter side of his personality but as a shared moment it works well enough. Iris’ concern that Barry might become more like Oliver Queen makes for one of those “sappy emotional speeches” referenced earlier in the episode and also calls back to her low opinion of Oliver when she delivers her interpretation of his unilateral decision to turn himself into the FBI. It’s safe to say that Iris has a fairly low opinion of Oliver Queen at this point so her concern that Barry might become more like him makes a lot of sense.
This episode also introduces the Arrowverse version of Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). She immediately makes an impression as the fiercely independent and relentlessly driven reporter type that made the character famous. Her performance is excellent and she has great chemistry with Tyler Hoechlin. Lois also serves as the unfiltered voice in the background such as when she calls Oliver a jerk. It’s clear that she says what she thinks and is always herself around anyone she meets. It may be a brief appearance but it’s a memorable one and I hope this isn’t her last appearance in the crossover.
Clark Kent’s appearance picks up on the Supergirl plot thread that had him off planet visiting the remains of his people in Argo city. It’s clear this made a profound impression on both him and Lois. She is excited to have been in the midst of an alien culture thought to be destroyed and Clark is clearly just happy to have had the opportunity to be among his people.
Kara’s role in this episode is a lot less significant. She mainly exists as a sounding board for other characters be that Clarks feelings about spending time with their people or Oliver and Barry’s identity crisis. She’s great as always and it’s always fun to have her interact with the other characters but there must have been a better way to integrate her into the episode in a way that makes her feel like an essential part of it.
The threat justifying the crossover is only really teased through a repeat of the closing scenes from the previous episodes of Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash, a brief scene between the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) and psychiatrist Dr. John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) bolstered by Cisco’s enigmatic vibe that spells impending doom for them all. There’s also the mention of red skies as an omen for something terrible so there is a little bit of groundwork but on the whole the episode appears to have other priorities.
A.M.A.Z.O. is the threat faced for the purposes of this episode and it takes the form of a fairly standard villain of the week except without any attempt at characterisation whatsoever. A escaped lifeless android makes for a decent antagonist in some ways as the entirety of the episode can be devoted to developing the main -and guest- characters without worrying about defining the motivations of an antagonist. All A.M.A.Z.O. amounts to is an escaped android following its programming and resisting whenever anyone gets in its way. The gimmick of absorbing the abilities of those it fights is fun though the script acts as if Green Arrow’s skills are a form of super powers which they definitely aren’t. Considering what A.M.A.Z.O. can do I’d expect it to come across as more of a threat but it’s defeated relatively easy despite causing the combined might of Barry, Oliver, Kara and Clark problems early on. The action sequence featuring all of them is a great example of teamwork though I wish more had been made of it especially since this is the first time Superman has been involved in crossover action. What we got was fine but could have been so much better.
Considering what is supposed to be at stake as teased in this episode, A.M.A.Z.O. should have been more connected to the broader events rather than being a random element that only exists within the confines of this episode. The purpose of this threat is to prove that Barry and Oliver can handle their current situation until such times as it can be resolved. It’s fairly week and time that could have been better spent building the threat that the Monitor represents.
I also feel that the Quantum Leap inspired body shift could have been reversed in this episode. Of course I have no idea what might be planned for the remaining chapters in the crossover but I would definitely prefer to see Barry and Oliver in their more traditional roles especially when interacting with Clark and the upcoming Batwoman. Perhaps it will be resolved in the second part and the final episode will return them to normal or maybe they will be used in really interesting ways in their current situation. It’s hard to tell based on this but it feels like something that has been mined for all the potential it has at this point. Next up is a trip to Gotham City an the introduction of Batwoman.
A fun start to the “Elseworlds” crossover story that makes good use of Barry and Oliver switching identities. It is used to poke fun at the two shows while highlighting the tonal and stylistic differences between them. Oliver’s speech about how he draws on his darkness and pain to motivate him to carry on makes for an interesting contrast to Barry’s account of positive thinking being what inspires him. The episode also has plenty of fun with the idea such as Barry getting his own back for Oliver shooting him in the very first crossover or taking a jab at the abundance of “sappy emotional speeches” in The Flash as a show. It suggests a self awareness on the part of the writers that probably won’t be fixed after being addressed. This episode introduces the Arrowverse version of Lois Lane who immediately makes a great impression thanks to Elizabeth Tulloch’s engaging performance and effortless chemistry with Tyler Hoechlin. Sadly she doesn’t appear for long but I really liked that she acts as the unfiltered voice in the background.
Kara’s appearance in the episode mainly exists as a sounding board for the other characters which works well enough though I would have liked her to have a more prominent role. It’s great as always to see her interacting with the other characters but it feels less than relevant for her. Using A.M.A.Z.O. as a villain feels like a wasted opportunity to have the first episode of the crossover set up the story properly. Using an android doing what it is programmed to do removes the need to characterise the villain of the week which allows all the time to be spent on the main characters but it also feels disconnected from what the story will become as it’s literally a disposable villain. A.M.A.Z.O. had a lot of potential considering the power mimicking ability and this is used to an extent but it could have been better particularly with Superman joining the others in battle for the first time. Next up we have the introduction of Batwoman.
- fun interactions that come with crossing over the characters
- making good use of the comedic potential afforded by the body swap
- using the change in roles to comment on the tonal and stylistic differences between the two shows
- Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois Lane
- Superman joining in a crossover action sequence for the first time
- that Smallville reference
- using a disposable villain plot instead of setting up the main story
- Kara taking on a support role
- the main action sequence being resolved far too quickly
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