‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ Review: An Emotional, Muddled, and Thrilling Crossover

     January 15, 2020

The ‘Arrowverse’ has always felt a bit overly ambitious for the place it calls home. What started as a typical CW-style drama, but with vigilantes, has now spanned multiple spinoffs that bring superpowers, aliens, and a multiverse to a show that simply had people in dark leather suits punching other people in dark leather suits in a parking lot. Though the obvious comparison to Crisis on Infinite Earths is Avengers: Endgame, it isn’t fair to compare a blockbuster with a $300M+ budget to a set of TV episodes. That being said, the crossover managed to pull off the same thrills, high stakes, and emotions as a blockbuster film, even if the final fight remained in a parking lot.

The first three episodes of the crossover, which aired late last year, managed to put an Arrowverse spin on the bestselling comicbook of the same name. We got the big action scenes that destroyed universe after universe, but the Supergirl, and The Flash episodes still found the time to give us meaningful character interactions and heartfelt goodbyes. This is to say that when Part 4 of Crisis on Infinite Earths aired last night as an episode of Arrow, it kind of felt like a step backwards.

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The Arrow Problem

We are reunited with our Paragons after the Anti-Monitor managed to annihilate the entire multiverse, and our seven Paragons being trapped in limbo at the Vanishing Point outside of space and time. Though we had already mourned Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), having sacrificed his life earlier in the crossover, it is not long before he returns in a new, supernatural form – that of The Spectre. Though consolidating the incredibly large cast of the previous two episodes to a handful of heroes helps refocus, the reveal of Oliver as The Spectre doesn’t quite work. He has Oliver’s personality, memories, appearance, and demeanor, but he doesn’t quite sell his being “something more.” Even if you aren’t familiar with The Spectre (he’s one of the most powerful figures in the DC universe), the name and the way he acts are big enough clues that he’s meant to be a way bigger deal than he ends up being. Instead, Spectre is basically Ollie with some extra powers, a change of wardrobe and a new voice modulator.

This extends to the Arrow episode at large, which is a pity given how strong the final season of the show that started it all has been. We finally get a look at the backstory for The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) as we see the moment he accidentally created the multiverse, and the Anti Monitor. Sadly, the flashback ends up being too little, too late, with the reveal not adding much to the story of our main heroes, and it doesn’t even add any nuance or a hint of personality to what remained a faceless, all-mighty punching bag. Truth be told, the original comic wasn’t much better at this, but given that the Arrowverse put its own take on the story, not adding anything to the main villain seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

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There’s also the “final” fight against the Anti-Monitor. Again, it’s one thing that these shows don’t have the budget to give us a gigantic fight with tons of special effects. But it feels a bit anticlimactic that the ultimate confrontation between good and evil ended up being the Paragons standing in a line and focusing really, really hard. There was no specificity to the Paragons, no real consequence to Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer, being an absolute devious delight) rewriting the Book of Destiny to make himself a Paragon (that this meant we lost Earth-96 Clark Kent ranks amongst the worst things Luthor has ever done).

That being said, there is a lot that works in the episode. Though having to go through yet another sendoff for Oliver, Amell sells his final (maybe?) goodbye, as the episode ties the entire Arrowverse together. Crisis was always the endgame, as hinted at when The Flash premiered way back in 2014. But this episode, and Stephen Amell’s performance sells Crisis as the natural end for everything that has happened since Oliver Queen got stranded on an island in the premiere episode of Arrow. The conversation between Oliver and Barry (Grant Gustin) is a heartfelt reminder not only of how much these two have gone through together, but of the fact that Oliver Queen is the original superhero in this universe. Oliver’s story was always about the sacrifices he makes for the greater good, and the episode finally gave him the ultimate reward for all his sacrifices: rebirthing the multiverse so that other heroes can pick up the fight.

One of the biggest draws of Crisis was the number of cameos by characters from all corners of the DC universe, giving us a look back at the Gotham of 1989’s Batman, the return of Burt Ward and Tom Welling’s Superman and Kevin Conroy finally playing a live-action Batman. But last night’s episodes gave us the biggest cameo yet, as Flash travels through the Speed Force and ends up face to face with Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen. The entire scene is completely bonkers and absolutely delightful, with both versions of Barry being distinct enough, yet similar enough. It’s one of the craziest and best things the Arrowverse has ever pulled off, and a sour reminder that we still haven’t seen more of Miller’s fantastic version of the fastest man alive.

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The Beebo Solution

Is it really that surprising that the best of the 5 parts of Crisis on Infinite Earths ended up being the Legends of Tomorrow episode? One of the most impressive aspects of the crossover is how each episode makes for a coherent piece of a whole, all while still reflecting the identity of its respective series. For better or worse, Part 4 was clearly an Arrow episode, making Part 5 a hilarious, sweet, absolutely bonkers episode of Legends of Tomorrow.

Like a season finale of Game of Thrones, the final part of Crisis felt like an epilogue, skipping to what you would assume was going to be the final minutes of the crossover and showing us the multiple Earths having been fused together to form Prime Earth. Those expecting the crossover to follow the comicbook and its single, unified Earth may be disappointed, but this is the best result we could have hoped for: all the Arrowverse shows are finally in the same world, while showing us that the other DC shows (and only the Green Lantern movie from 2011 for some reason [Editor’s note: This could have been a tease for the new Green Lantern TV series or a future movie, too.]) take place in different universes. We are reunited with our Paragons, as well as the other heroes of the Arrowverse, who get caught up on the events of the crossover, and then meet a giant Beebo.

The episode manages to balance the gravitas worthy of the finale of such an epic crossover, with the whimsical fun of a Legends episode. It felt great finally catching up to Rory (Dominic Purcell) finally signing books as his pen name Rebecca silver, and even Nate (Nick Zano) and Ava (Jes Macallan) appear to joke about being invited to the crossover, as they were mostly absent from the crossover until now. Then we get a healthy and much needed dose of a giant Beebo to counter the drama of seeing the characters yet again mourn the death of Oliver. The best part was seeing how the episode simply brings the rest of the Arrowverse characters down to Legends-town, with each of the Paragons reacting differently (Barry doesn’t want to kill Beebo, Diggle doesn’t believe what’s happening).

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Though the final (for real this time) battle against the Anti-Monitor once again took place in an abandoned parking lot, the effects were mostly up to the task where most of the previous ones weren’t. Fans of the comic still get their kaiju-sized Anti-Monitor, and a big fight against a Superman. More importantly, the drama and emotional stakes were there, and they paid off nicely.

The constant mourning of Oliver also pays off in the final minutes of the crossover, with a montage of all the worlds that were saved because of Oliver (The Doom Patrol is alive and well! And dancing!), and a heartwarming tribute to the hero that started it all, that also sets the tone for the future of the Arrowverse: the seven have finally been united! It’s unclear if the CW will call them the Justice League, but the Hall of Justice is there, the round table and the chairs with logos is there [Editor’s note: Including crossover newcomer Black Lightning], and the big “Prime Earth” sign during the montage all show that this is the main DC universe, the one with the Super Friends, the Justice League.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a superhero story without a final teaser at the end. Crisis of Infinite Earths ends on a small but very significant cameo: the alien monkey Gleek, from the Super Friends TV-show. Does this mean the Wonder Twins are next?

All in all, Crisis on Infinite Earths managed to do something that was unthinkable merely a decade ago, an epic story spanning multiple shows that forever changes their respective stories. It more than lived up to the promise set by the original comic way back in 1985: “Worlds will live, worlds will die and nothing will ever be the same”.

Rating: ★★★★ Very good

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