Crisis on Infinite Earths Crossover
Three episodes in and Crisis on Infinite Earths is in full swing. As Earths across the multiverse are destroyed by the sweeping wave of anti-matter, the heroes begin to gather on Earth 1 to search for ways to halt the Crisis. Oliver makes a stand on Earth 38 to help the rest of the team evacuate the people of Earth 38 to Earth 1 and falls in battle (but more on that later). The Monitor unveils the notion of 7 Paragon heroes who represent the best of the best and its off to the multiverse to gather all seven. Sub-plots and fan service ensue until the final chapter sees Vibe (reactivated by The Monitor), Barry, Pariah, and Caitlin finding the source of the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter wave—a cannon powered by none other than the Flash of Earth 90. With an assist from Jefferson Pierce, this otherworldly Flash manages to sacrifice himself to destroy the cannon, keeping Earth 1 Barry Allen from vanishing in Crisis as has been foretold. This sacrifice stops the wave from destroying Earth 1 but by this point, all the rest of the infinite Earths have been destroyed. Returning to the Waverider to regroup, Harbinger arrives for her fated possession by the Anti-Monitor and murders The Monitor. The wave reappears and Earth 1 is destroyed as Pariah teleports the 7 Paragon heroes to Vanishing Point, a place outside of time and space. Once at Vanishing Point, Earth 38 Lex Luthor’s final gambit kills the Superman Returns Superman (the Paragon of Truth) using the Book of Destiny, effectively replacing Superman as the 7th Paragon. That brings us to the end, where we now wait until January 14th to discover what comes next for the multiverse.
Spoiler Level: High
Let’s get right down to brass tacks, shall we? What we have seen thus far out of Crisis on Infinite Earths is an amalgamation of key moments from the original comics series and a sequence of purely fan service moments. Within the opening moments of the crossover event, we see the Earths that were home to such properties as the Tim Burton Batman films, the DC Universe Titans, and the 1966 Batman television series destroyed. More will come throughout the episodes. Birds of Prey, Superman Returns, The Flash (1990), and various others all fall. Seeing these familiar faces reprise iconic roles is fun. Seeing these homage sequences and, in the case of Smallville’s Tom Welling and Erica Durance, the future fates of some characters lost to the annuls of time will certainly have many fans squealing with joy. But what are the implications here?
Guggenheim, Berlanti and company have gone to great lengths to establish a connective tissue here with all DC television and film properties but in the process of doing so, they have also destroyed their own history. When this occurred in the comics, many complained about the same thing yet plans were put into place to preserve what could be preserved as the infinite Earths were collapsed into New Earth. Here, no such provisions have taken place. In the penultimate sequence of “Chapter 3”, we watch the remaining crew on the Waverider– including Diggle, Iris, Ralph, Frost, Mia, Black Lightning—all wiped from existence. What does this suggest? That rather than planning to save what could be saved, the intent of this Crisis crossover seems to be to recreate… something. In the process, The Arrowverse has essentially established itself, for better or worse, as the paramount version of all DC television and film history. All of the Paragons are previously established CW characters with the exception of Routh’s Superman, who is then killed and replaced by the CW Lex Luthor. There is a sense of under-lying arrogance to that notion that bothers me on a fundamental level. All of the “greatest heroes of all time” come from the Arrowverse.
The rise of Batwoman and her relationship with Kara is one of the bright spots in the crossover thus far, although it feels somewhat forced. The interplay between their two Paragons (Kate as Courage and Kara as Hope) features quite a bit of growth and back and forth. The inclusion of Kevin Conroy as a dark future Bruce Wayne (Conroy has famously voiced Batman in animated form for decades) was a bit of a headscratcher, though. It feels like a conflation of version from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Waid and Ross’ Kingdom Come, only one that has embraced the darkness following the events of those stories and completely lost his way. This development does help to push Batwoman into a more confident space as the successor to Batman (rather than just a substitute) but at the expense of everything Batman stands for.
I have mentioned that there was a lot of fun to be had throughout these three episodes but we all know that a Crisis, historically, is not all fun and games. We’ve anticipated the death of Oliver Queen for nearly a year now, since the “Elseworlds” crossover of 2018. We’ve also anticipated the vanishing of Barry Allen since the first season of The Flash thanks to Thawne’s ever-shifting newspaper. The deaths of The Flash and Supergirl served as the emotional core of the original Crisis narrative and both characters remained dead for quite some time (Supergirl takes 11 years to resurface as a Kryptonian and Barry Allen stays dead for 20 years). There is no such luck when it comes to the major deaths in this crossover. Earth 90 Flash performs a bait and switch (“He never said which Flash”), Oliver is promptly resurrected using a Lazarus Pit, and we’re given precious little time with Routh’s Superman (again) for his death to be impactful enough to carry the story. The Oliver resurrection gestures to an interesting development as he assumes the mantle of The Spectre and will obviously play a role in the recreation of the universe and/or multiverse but ultimately it erases the impact of what was quite a well-executed death scene in the first chapter.
The give and take here—the delicate balance between fan service moments and narrative—feels very out of balance. Rather than producing a unique and coherent narrative, we are left with a series of loosely connected moments. The plot is flimsy and merely serves as a vehicle for these moments and that, in the long run, may come back to bite the network in the ass. For instance, we see Earth 90 Flash powering the anti-matter cannon by running on the treadmill. In order to destroy the multiverse, he must run. But when taken off of the treadmill, he states that there is a failsafe that will cause the cannon to explode and destroy the multiverse all at once. Which is the goal of the Anti-Monitor. So run and destroy the multiverse or stop running and still destroy the multiverse. The Anti-Monitor’s plan is so ill-formed that the audience is forced to accept mediocrity in order to move on to the next fan service moment and in the end, we still have no idea what the payoff will be for our acceptance.
And so we wait. January 14th, 2020 will deliver the final two chapters in Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Will Oliver “provide the spark” that reignites life in the positive matter universe? Will that universe be a single New Earth or a more limited multiverse? Time will tell. I came into this event hoping for a New Earth scenario but the execution of these first three chapters has me taking a step back from that hope. Now I merely hope for something to emerge that still makes sense and doesn’t invalidate too many crucial moments from the Arrowverse’s eight year history.
The CW's 2019-20 crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths delivers dozens of wonderful fan service moments but are these moments enough to carry the narrative? With two chapters to go, questions arise regarding the actual significance of the event as opposed to the perceived significance.
The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths Chapters 1-3: The Dying of the Light
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 5/105/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 9/109/10
- Production - 7/107/10
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