The Arrow-verse has given us successful crossovers before, but never so confidently. The best parts of the first half of “Crisis on Earth X” lie not in the epic fight scenes — though those are full of kickass moments, choreography, and team-ups — but in just how tightly the worlds of these four disparate shows having been woven, in the character-driven moments. Come for the superheroes; stay for their very human alter egos.
While the first hour of “Crisis on Earth-X” is technically a Supergirl episode, the casts and plots of these shows are so integrated, that it could be any of the four series. While we do get some Supergirl-specific moments, namely Mon-El worrying about Kara and Kara and Alex lamenting over their terrible love lives, most of it is devoted to set-up. And what delicious set-up it is! It’s Barry and Iris’ wedding and apparently everyone has waited until the last minute to RSVP. This may be the most egregious offense committed in this two-hour kick-off.
While the respective crews of Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow may be busy fighting anachronisms, punching Dominators, and dodging the FBI, everyone loves Barry and Iris (or, in Mick’s case, an open bar), so the wedding is well attended.
We get the normal pre-wedding festivities: suit fittings, manicures, etc. Joe gives an emotional speech. Kara sings “Running Home to You,” the song Barry wrote/sang to propose to Iris while Iris walks down the aisle. It’s pretty much openly accepted that Barry and Iris are that couple you would hate for how much in love they are if they weren’t so goddamn adorable and nice.
Then the Nazis show up.
The villains from Earth-X are the worst part of the crossover so far. While you can see where the writers were coming from, repeating the simple, easy-to-remember mantra that Nazis are bad for a real world that apparently needs to hear such declarative statements, it’s hard to take these Star Wars-style Nazis seriously when we have real-life Nazis in America and the world right now who look nothing like this representation of evil from a bygone pop culture era when it was bold to cast cartoonish Nazis as your villain.
That being said, the Earth-Xers give our superheroes something definitive to fight back against, and there is something cathartic in that. But the true joy comes not in who these characters are punching, but in the assistance they draw from one another. Alex and Sara tearing slits in their dresses and facing off against the bad guys together. Cisco creating a Vibe portal for Oliver to jump through. Barry and Iris saying they love each other before fighting the bad guys in the ways they know how.
Inevitably, as it should, the fight comes down to which Kara has the edge. The first time around, it’s our Kara, who uses a super-clap to take out Earth-X Kara, sending Earth-X Oliver to throw his wife over his shoulder and to call for a retreat.
This gives us time for the character-driven parts of the episode, which there are many. In the past, these crossovers have been relatively cautious about moving ahead plotlines for the respective shows during the crossover. This makes the crossover more easily-accessible for viewers who don’t watch all four shows, but results in a relatively self-contained, arguably less interesting crossover. This year, the crossover is all in.
The major character-driven drama came in the Oliver/Felicity relationship. When Oliver asks Felicity to marry him during the rehearsal dinner, Felicity has to literally yell to get Oliver to take “no” for an answer. Felicity loves Oliver and is committed to him, she just doesn’t want anything to change. The last time they tried to move forward with their relationship and get married, Felicity ended up shot, which spelled the beginning of the end for that era of their relationship, as Felicity tells Iris.
Oliver, because he is a bit of a simple-minded dolt, thinks that Felicity’s hesitance in marrying him means he loves her more than she loves him.
Meanwhile, Team Flash has created a “cure” for Firestorm that would allow Stein to retire. Jax is distraught at the thought. At first, Stein thinks this is because Jax will miss having powers, but Jax eventually admits it is because he will miss Stein. Stein is the only father he’s ever known, and now he is leaving Jax to spend time with his “real” family. Jax would never begrudge Stein that, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t torn apart at the prospect of losing a big part of his family.
Our distraught twosomes don’t have time to work through their issues properly, as Earth-X Kara and Eobard Thawne (that’s right, he’s back and teamed up with the Nazis, of course) have lured Team Superhero away from S.T.A.R. Labs with the threat of a neutron bomb. While they are away, Earth-X Oliver takes out Rory, Killer Frost, Curtis, Rene, and Dinah to capture S.T.A.R. Labs for Team Earth-X.
While Team Superhero may have taken the first round, Team Earth-X bests them here, tying up the good guys and informing them of their true plan. It turns out Earth-X Kara is dying from radiation poisoning; she needs a new heart. Kara just became the reluctant donor. Presumably, if she doesn’t cooperate, all her loved ones will die. It’s not a terrible plan.
The episode ends with Oliver, Sara, Alex, Barry, Stein, and Jax in an Earth-X prison camp, their powers suppressed by collars worn around the neck. How are they going to get out of this one? Something tells me Felicity and Iris might have something to do with it. As of right now, they are the only members of Team Superhero who aren’t captured and accounted for, as thy are currently rogue in the Nazi-occupied S.T.A.R. Labs. Never underestimate #TeamBride.
All in all, I was wildly impressived with the storytelling ambitious “Crisis on Earth-X” has shown so far. There were some narrative missteps, but this is like nothing we have ever seen on-screen before: a true comic book-style crossover event that ties hours of superhero serials together in one epic story. Eat your heart out, Avengers.
Rating:★★★★ Very good