The Arrowverse had its annual crossover the previous two nights, and as promised, it featured the heroes against a universe full of Nazis.
So, how was it?
It was fun, with the caveat that if you are not at least something of a fan of the four shows that currently make up the Arrowverse–Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow–it might not work out so well. Last year’s “Heroes vs. Aliens” played out as each show did a special episode that did a bit to advance its own plots while telling the larger story. In context, that meant Supergirl’s show only really connected to the rest of the episodes in the last 30 seconds or so for a quick scene that was repeated the following night on The Flash and Arrow celebrating a 100th episode, supporting casts for the four shows only really appearing on their regular series with maybe a quick stinger here or there.
Crisis On Earth-X didn’t work out that way. Instead, it got its own opening credits and title. The CW’s streaming app lists it as a separate show. The only real indicator that it isn’t is that each chapter lists the cast for that particular show individually with the other actors listed as “guest stars”. The end result is the whole thing plays like a real comic book crossover, one of the better ones, where the story stops to give character moments to different figures, many of whom normally do not interact with each other, there’s a major death, and status quo changes to three of the four shows (Supergirl‘s show is changing in smaller ways that have to do with characters and not their overall status). Considering one of those big changes was the premise for the whole story and another was not exactly a secret considering the actor was generally known to be leaving the Arrowverse anyway, these may not be too much in the way of surprises in the grand scheme of things.
The plot follows an attempt by the forces of Earth-X to come to Earth-1, attacking during the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West, a convenient time as the guest list included many of the world’s heroes in the forms of Oliver Queen, Kara Danvers, and half of the Legends (namely Sarah Lance and the three with direct connections to Barry in the form of the two halves of Firestorm and Heat Wave). The attack was not a coincidence, and the invading forces of Earth-X have a speedster, an archer, and a female Kryptonian of their own.
By the by, the identities of two of those three were hardly surprises. There’s clearly a touch of the old DC Earth-3, where heroes were villains and villains were heroes, at play here. That grants two of the main heroes a chance to play villains, though their Nazi tendencies were limited mostly to criticizing their Earth-1 counterparts for being “weak”. The actual trip to Earth-X had a number of the Arrowverse heroes depowered and held briefly in a concentration camp, where one of their fellow prisoners is led off with them to be executed for the crime of being gay. There’s actually a good deal of same sex kissing going on across the entire mini-series, and not just the usual sort between Sarah Lance and her conquest of the week. An Earth-X version of Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold shows up, a man who is as benevolent as his Earth-1 version was sneaky, and he is among other things openly gay.
So, while the slower moments may be gone, the sort fans of the individual series might appreciate (particularly if you are only a fan of one or two of the whole series), for others it is very much an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach. Last year’s show only gave a quick check-in with the vigilante members of Team Arrow, but this year Black Canary, Wild Dog, and Mr. Terrific are along for a good portion of the ride. The CGI on these shows isn’t the best, but there is a quick moment in the final chapter when a Nazi Metallo takes on a host of heroes that includes Wild Dog, Black Canary, Vixen, the Atom, Heat Wave, Killer Frost, Citizen Steel, and the new totem wearer Zari among others. Given the general depth of the Arrowverse characters, the whole thing works better with the characters than Justice League did with a fraction of the cast. True, not everyone from the shows got as much to do, with the Martian Manhunter and Mon-El reduced to quick cameos in part one, the Elongated Man sits out the whole thing, and the Legends not invited to the wedding don’t show up at all until the last chapter, but not everyone is going to get a lot of screen time on something like this.
As it is, one final note should be made that the series introduced a live action version of The Ray. This worked largely as a nod to the old Freedom Fighters group, and he doesn’t come off badly. As the character will soon be featured in his own animated series set in Earth-X along the same lines both Vixen and John Constantine do/will, the introduction works, and the glimpses we’ve gotten of his dark world, with a team that seems to be composed of himself, his boyfriend Captain Cold, and a Red Tornado robot, that could lead to some fun for anyone with access to the CW Seed app.
Ultimately, there may not have been many surprises to Crisis On Earth-X. It was a big story with a lot of heroes fighting disposable minions, some evil versions of recognizable heroes, and big action set-pieces, though few come close to the fight in the church from part one. The status quo may not have been rocked as much as the producers promised, but it was a bit of fun for fans of this sort of thing. Eight and a half characters back from the dead out of ten.
By the by, it may not make a lot of sense for Barry and Iris to invite wanted criminal Heat Wave to their wedding, but the guy often provides the best comic relief to whatever scene he appears in, so I won’t complain to much about that.