Arrow 8×08/Legends of Tomorrow 5×00: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (Parts 4 and 5) review
If you’re watching Crisis on Infinite Earths to see how our heroes defeat the Anti-Monitor and save the universe, there’s very little of this two-hour finale that you need to see.
If you watch the first 14 minutes of Part 4, that will tell you the origins of the Monitor and Anti-Monitor, and tell you how the Paragons escape the Vanishing Point and get to the Dawn of Time. And if you watch the last 9 minutes of Part 4, you’ll see the heroes beat down the Anti-Monitor, and see Oliver sacrifice his life to restart the universe. That’s really all you need. Everything that happens between those two stretches is filler, and everything that follows them is epilogue.
Those 23 minutes are all you get of the sweeping, epic battle for the fate of all reality. And it’s not a particularly good battle for the fate of all reality, either.
The “Dawn of Time” turns out to just be a rock quarry with some funky lighting. The Anti-Monitor remains a barely sketched in villain, with little to him beyond “incredibly (but vaguely) powerful” and “wants to destroy everything”. His shadow demons never have any real menace, and mostly exist just to disappear into smoke when the heroes throw a punch in their general direction. And the big showdown between Spectre!Oliver and the Anti-Monitor? It’s just them shooting CGI beams at each other until there’s an explosion big enough to kill them both. Oh, there are a few cool camera shots and visual effects displays, but it’s far from the best this franchise has given us.
We know the Arrowverse can turn in some amazing fight scenes (Arrow vs. Deathstroke, Supergirl vs. Reign, Giant Beebo fighting Mallus), but those take time, money, and passion to put together. And it’s become clear that, despite all the buildup, these massive battles are not what Crisis on Infinite Earths is most invested in doing. What’s this crossover all about, then, if not this epic struggle?
At its core, Crisis on Infinite Earths is nothing more or less than one big celebration.
The episodes that aired back in December were a celebration of the multiverse, of all the wonderful story possibilities it provided, and of all the DC movies and TV shows that have come before, existing somewhere in that great expanse of universes. Here, the celebration is a little different; aside from a montage near the end, we only get one cameo from a different DC universe. No, this isn’t a celebration of the multiverse. This is a celebration of whole idea of superhero teamups.
Through Speed Force flashbacks, we see how the relationships between our different heroes began, how they’ve grown and changed since those first, often hostile encounters. How they’ve inspired each other, sacrificed for each other, made each other better heroes, better people, and better friends.
Sara reflects on how, with Oliver’s passing, her last tether to her old life is gone, and all she has now is the new family she’s made with the Legends. Through this, the story comments on how Sara Lance began as a character on Arrow, a series soon coming to an end, but through the madcap team of heroes, villains, and misfits on Legends of Tomorrow, she’s been able to live on past the end of Arrow, to grow as a character in ways she never could have back on that show.
And (most importantly) through snappy banter, tussles with villains, and the christening of a team headquarters, these episodes show just how gosh darn FUN superhero teamups can be.
In theory, the last episode of this crossover doesn’t need to exist. Trim out some of the padding in the previous episode, and you could stick on an epilogue that would explain how the Earths are combined now and still have time for everyone to mourn Oliver’s death; no need to devote an entire episode to it. But without this final episode, we wouldn’t get to see Supergirl meeting Weather Witch. We wouldn’t get Mick, Frost, and Jefferson trading gibes as they fight shadow demons. We wouldn’t get Barry ushering in the Superheroes of the Round Table. And we wouldn’t get everyone banding together to fight a giant Beebo and foil Sargon the Sorcerer.
This episode exists because we want to see these characters team up, because we want to explore a world where aliens and magic and metahumans all exist side-by-side. It’s here because we want to see all these little moments, showcasing the delights of a grab-bag superhero universe. Even the return of the Anti-Monitor is merely an excuse to have our heroes team up yet again.
Part 4 already gave us the epic conclusion the Anti-Monitor story: battle at the Dawn of Time, pyrotechnic displays, heroic sacrifice, seven destined Paragons reigniting the universe. By contrast, his defeat in Part 5 is simply the heroes punching him for a while on a city street before trouncing him with a technobabble solution, like they have against a hundred villains before, and will against a hundred villains yet to come. Heck, he’s not even the only big blue giant they take down this episode!
Taking the most devastating villain the Arrowverse has ever known, and having him return for such an offhand and lightweight defeat: that, more than anything, tells you where this crossover’s priorities lie.
How you’ll feel about Crisis on Infinite Earths really depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. If you wanted the biggest, most epic, most amazing battle to save the Earth yet, it’s probably going to disappoint. But if you want one big love letter to superhero crossovers, if you enjoy seeing heroes from a dozen different stories working together, if you feel the same giddy enthusiasm Kara gets when Batwoman joins the fray (“Hey! Hey! Kate’s here, too!”), then there’s nothing else quite as delightful.
For all the grand buildup, for all the massive stakes and speeches about destiny, the spirit of this crossover is really quite simple. It’s the same spirit in which the Arrowverse and the comic book universe that inspired it were created. In the worlds of Our Very Special Guest, Mr. Marv Wolfman:
“I just love it when you guys team up.”
- Obviously, in addition to everything else I talked about, this crossover also exists to be Oliver’s big exit. If I seemed to be glossing over that . . . well, I’m not quite ready to treat this as goodbye. His final words, and seeing all the other characters in mourning afterwards, was beautiful. But, c’mon: Oliver died three times during this Crisis, and there are two episodes of Arrow still left to air. I’m pretty confident this isn’t his end Not quite yet.
- Imagine you’re someone who’s only watched Season 1 of Arrow, back when it was this ultra-gritty show that wouldn’t even give Oliver a proper mask. Now imagine you decide to dip back in because you heard Oliver Queen dies this episode. Right off the bat, you’re hit with “Planet Maltus – 10,000 Years Ago”, and the episode just gets more outlandish from there, ending with “You have failed this universe!”. What a head trip that would be.
- I mentioned it briefly, but Sara reminiscing about her old life, and how there’s no one left who knew her back then, really was heartbreaking. And it’s kind of amazing the scene played as well as it did, since Sara and Barry have never had any meaningful interactions before, but they both nailed it here.
- Though, from what Sara says, should we infer that her mom passed away off-screen at some point? I don’t think we’ve seen her since Season 4, and that would explain why she didn’t show up when “Laurel” very publicly came “back from the dead”.
- From what I can tell, no one saw Ezra Miller’s Flash cameo coming. Props to them for keeping such a great surprise such a secret.
- During the montage of different Earths at the end, I laughed out loud when footage from the swiftly-cancelled Swamp Thing series was played with the words “Civilizations rose and fell.”
- I know I say this every episode he appears, but Lex continues to be the best. “The brave and the bald.” “If anyone’s gonna take over the universe, it’s gonna be me!”
- Sara Diggle lives! And apparently, John and Lyla are back to being a happy couple, no mention of how she’s coping with her stint as Harbinger/the Anti-Monitor’s meatsuit.
- Do you suppose Batwoman will still have to deal with anti-vigilante sentiment when she gets back to Gotham? It’s apparently public knowledge that she was one of the heroes who stopped the Anti-Monitor from destroying the world; that’s gotta earn you some good will.
- In these episodes, we find out the Anti-Monitor was created and the Crisis set in motion because of a botched use of time travel. Dammit, Mar Novu!
- While I loved Barry finally setting up a Hall of Justice at the end, how did he decide which heroes to invite and make custom chairs for? Like, why’s J’onn get an invite but not Ray?
MVP of the Week: THE WHOLE DANG UNIVERSE!!!
I could not pick just one MVP here. Given events, Oliver seems like the obvious contender, but Sara got such great emotional moments to work with, while Melissa Benoist brought so much comedy to her performance as Supergirl. Then there’s Sargon the Sorcerer bringing Giant Beebo back to our screens . . . there can be no individual MVP here. For an event designed to celebrate an entire multiverse of costumed heroes, everyone involved deserves a gold star.
Question of the Week: What would you most like to see come out of this new universe?
**SPECIAL NOTICE**: As some of you may remember, when Black Lightning premiered, I reviewed its first season here on This Week In The Arrowverse along with the other Arrowverse shows. But after that first season, I stopped covering it. Partly that was because the showrunners seemed to be sticking to their decision to keep it separate from the other CW superhero shows. Partly it’s because reviewing five shows each week was feeling like a little much for me.
When I heard Black Lightning was going to be part of Crisis on Infinite Earths, that didn’t make me reconsider my position. This event was crossing over with every DC property it could manage; adding Black Lightning to the mix didn’t make it an Arrowverse show any more than Smallville or Lucifer.
Except now we’ve got that ending, which suggests that Black Lightning is now set on Earth Prime along with all the other Arrowverse shows. And with that round table Barry set up, it will be awkward if future crossovers don’t bring Jefferson back again, or at least reference him. That would seem to make Black Lightning indisputably part of the Arrowverse.
Which is kind of a problem for me, because I fell off watching Black Lightning in the middle of Season 2, and there’s no way I’m getting caught up on it in time to review the new episodes that start coming out next week. That means, for the remainder of this season, This Week In The Arrowverse will not be able to cover the full complement of Arrowverse shows.
The best I can promise to do is, after the season is over, to catch up on Black Lightning over the summer (and maybe post some reviews of Seasons 2 and 3 to the Avocado, time permitting). What will I do next season, when not only will there be Black Lightning, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman to cover, but also that new Superman and Lois series, and possibly Green Arrow and the Canaries? That I do not know.
In the meantime, though, if anyone else wants to contribute reviews of Black Lightning’s latest episodes to the Avocado, I would be honored and grateful to see someone picking up the slack I have so shamefully dropped.