Everyone once in a while, we like to check out other CW shows. Primarily, the superhero shows. Believe if or not, "Supernatural" isn't the only show on the network! Nate and Alice especially watch "Arrow" (okay, maybe just Alice), "The Flash," "Supergirl," (okay, maybe just Nate) and "Legends of Tomorrow." So what happens when we both catch up during the holiday with this year's four part series crossover, "Crisis on Earth X"? Lots of opinions, that's what!
What did you think of Crisis on Earth X?
Well that was... something. A decent 2 parter episode that was stretched out over 4. It was about equal to the Justice League movie...
So for those curious, yes DC comics had an "Earth-X" back in the Pre-Crisis days and it was a world conquered by the nazis. HOWEVER I can't seem to find a story of them invading other worlds. That story seems more adapted from the Crime Syndicate crossovers (especially this one). See, the crime syndicate world is one where all our heroes are villains and our villains are heroes - and evil always wins. Hence it is a semi-popular story for the DC heroes to face their evil counterparts. This is partly why I was really disappointed that the evil Flash this crossover was just Thawne from Earth-1 YET AGAIN. When his face was revealed I thought it would be interesting to imagine that Harrison Wells on Earth-X had been a nazi scientist and the one exposed to the particle accelerator becoming the Flash instead of Barry. Instead we got Tom Cavanagh hamming it up in one of the WORST performances he's ever done (which sucks since he's such a great actor). I have a vague idea why they went with the Thawne story thread instead of Flash!Wells but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. After all, we got to see Tommy Merlyn as an evil Green Arrow so it's not like they were averse to fudging a bit on the counterparts.
Part 1 is probably the worst one as it is just an entire wedding episode and I could not be more bored. Which is a shame because superheroes are exactly the characters who could make a wedding episode interesting with the interplay of their characters and abilities. The closest we got is Heatwave sitting next to cops and shouting (at the end) "BEST WEDDING EVER!" Just imagine what could be done with Firestorm transmuting the decorations needed. Flash bringing everybody to the chapel at superspeed. Supergirl using her x-ray vision to make sure no supervillains try sneaking in. In a comic book world, part of the fun is seeing the mundane turned fantastic by special abilities. Instead, most of this episode was just mundane, save for the bit about the girls getting their nails done. I will say, however, that Ollie and Barry give off more of the friendship that should be between Superman and Batman in the recent DC movies. I believe these two guys are friends and I like seeing them team up.
I am a self-admitted Comic Book Moron. I’ve never read them, I don’t know the lore, and it wasn’t until I read a review about this crossover that I knew Earth X was even in the Comics. Accepting that it was though, I won’t call foul on the choice to use it as the main driver for plot. Did I like it? Yes…and no.
There are two aspects to the story in these CW superhero shows. One is the attention to plot, which is usually flimsy at best. The alternate Earths introduced in “The Flash” mean that writers can do anything they want and make up any story as they go, thus avoiding accusations of not following continuity or established canon. It’s a ploy that has even attracted the “desperate-for-ideas” writers of “Supernatural” these days. I do find it silly though that since this is the fourth annual crossover, one that writers know is coming every year, that the plotting wasn’t tighter and more cohesive. They had plenty of time to plan!
The other aspect of these stories is the character dynamics and that’s usually what sets them apart from the rest. In all four shows, these are characters we have grown to love and care about. I adored the character interactions because we got to see some very interesting pairings! A lot of focus was spent on what was going through the characters’ heads and I strangely enjoyed that. Of course, there were way too many “chick flick” moments for most guys to stomach, but that’s why Heatwave was there, to give them a voice as well.
If you think about it, this was primarily a story to push the relationships of our two main Arrowverse heroes, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen to the next level. We got to see them man up and accept that they are nothing without the loves of their lives. Fine, Barry and Iris already knew that. So did the Dark Arrow and the love of his life, Overgirl. They might have been evil, but they were committed to one another! So if you really think about it, this whole ordeal was just a ploy to finally resolve years of Olicity angst. That does kind of cheapen the whole thing when put that way, huh? Ah well, one thing was accomplished. Campy fun. There was plenty of that!
Fair point. Though now that you mention it, I wonder what it might have been like had the opening sequence been the wedding between Dark Arrow & Overgirl to act as contrasting parallel with Barry & Iris.
Breakdown and Nitpicks
Then the nazis show up. Ugh. The nazis have 2 evil Green Arrows, evil Supergirl, reverse Flash and it looks like about a dozen guys. So Supergirl and Flash are tangled up with their dopplegangers, that still leaves Firestorm and Killer Frost to deal with a dozen guys, yet SOMEHOW they can’t. Even if Firestorm's transmutation powers aren't fully operational and he can't turn all their guns to flowers (literally done once in a comic), he's still a flying man THAT CAN SHOOT FIRE. At a dozen guys! IN A CONFINED SPACE! This fight should have been over in seconds, but no, everybody else has to get involved in long fight sequences which, while pretty entertaining, seems pointless when we see Firestorm go flying back and forth in the background (what is he doing??? how is there anybody left for him to toast??). Heck, Wally West is still there too, and while he kicks some ass, it's still hard to wonder how he hasn't taken care of the REGULAR PEOPLE that just have guns. The next three strongest heroes in this universe and a dozen ordinary people are their equal? Heck, why isn't Vibe just opening portals to the ocean under the nazis' feet? It's hard to feel that there's any threat from the villains when the good guys are giving them a sporting chance.
That is the single biggest issue throughout this crossover - you very quickly realize that there is no logic to anything, it's entirely up to the writer how effective anybody is at the moment. At one point in part 2, Killer Frost (still looking beautiful as ever) gets the drop on evil!Arrow which means he should be dead by all rights, but he punches her cold back... somehow. If we had any hint that he had tech to fight cold people or was prepared to face her, I missed it. By all indication, KF was a completely unknown factor for the villains so how could he be prepared? Of course several times during fights we see the soldiers getting punched or smashed into walls, where their helmet is and then fall down unconscious. I'm beginning to think that if kids nowadays don't wear helmets, it's because they're convinced by modern media that helmets do nothing (looking at you, stormtroopers).
Yes I'm way behind on a lot of these shows so sometimes I wasn't sure of some characters’ details but a good story - especially a good superhero story - should clue the audience in on what the rules for everyone are.
While part 2 was more serviceable, part 3 was the nadir of stupid. In order to slow down an incoming Red Tornado (a flying robot), they send the Ray and Flash. A guy who runs. Instead of say... Firestorm (who can also fly) and let Flash help out in besieging the base. So then, instead of remaining the indestructible flying flamethrower, Firestorm has to split into Martin & Jax to go do 2 things at once, WHICH THEY DON'T EVEN ACCOMPLISH! Meaning not only could Flash have done both in a fraction of the time without getting shot, but Firestorm could have stayed fused and done one task, followed by the other at his convenience and everybody lives! While they’re failing, Flash has difficulties fighting a flying robot that can create tornadoes. This is why, while I wanted to be sad at Martin Stein's death (and I've sniffled a little when it happened in the comic), I couldn't because half of me was screaming at the TV that it was his own damn fault. Then the show overplayed the delivery of the news and the funeral scene so whatever emotion might be had was overloaded.
The only hope for the heroes is that the Nazis seem to be even worse at planning and dividing labor. So the whole goal - the entire motive for this event - is that evil!Supergirl needs a heart transplant. Do they go to SG's earth, release all the alien prisoners to cause a distraction, and then kidnap SG? No, they wait for her to be on an earth with even more heroes before attacking. Once they have SG, do they retreat back to their base? Nope! They send some of the heroes back to Earth-X but then proceed to try and do heart surgery in the heart of enemy territory. At no point did the villains ever feel threatening. At no point did I wonder - even for a moment - if the heroes would fail. At no point did it feel like a tragedy because the heroes did everything they could yet still had a loss. This all felt like a half-baked idea that nobody bothered to double check if it actually worked.
Also, why did Supergirl have to be caught while falling when she had just been at the center of an explosion that destroyed another Supergirl?
My nitpicks are a little more minor. Why was The Flash fighting King Shark again? Why wasn’t Ray Palmer invited to the wedding? John Diggle? Why didn’t Wally West or Joe West partake in adventures after the wedding crash? Them being there would have made this already busy crossover too busy? Nope, not buying it.
How can the modern day Green Arrow be defeated so easily all the time but the evil version of him be so invincible? I mean, the Green Arrow would have never been able to defeat Heatwave, Killer Frost, and all of Team Arrow minus Diggle. He would have folded like a cheap suit. Is this meant to say evil is more powerful (even though he was blinded by love) or is it just a weak plot device meant to stretch this altercation from two hours to four? Why did Alex think that the resistance leader in Earth X would give a damn about her sister? Because they’re friends in Earth 2? Yo lady, do you know understand the principle of alternate worlds? Way too much time was wasted with that.
I just end up going back to the pairings, both romantic and just plain badass fun, which made the whole thing more enjoyable. Watching Sara and Alex hookup was fun (if not totally predictable) but it came with some emotional depth as well which was surprising. Felicity and Iris both getting to sneak around and take on the bad guys was great not only because they have no powers but because they’re awesome. Heatwave’s interest in Caitlin was interesting (she makes a great Captain Cold replacement, doesn’t she?), and I even liked watching Sara and her encounter with the evil Earth X Captain Lance. I know nothing about Citizen Cold and The Ray in the comics but whoever put them together in a romantic pairing saw the possibilities. They were adorable.
Might I say though how much I adored seeing Tommy Merlyn again? Yeah, he was evil, death pact suicidal Nazi Tommy, but man did it remind me how much I miss him. Can’t they bring back an Earth-whatever version of him like they did the Black Siren? Turn him into a superhero fighting team member to help Team Arrow over come their overall incompetence? Does Colin Donnell have a gig right now? Yeah, I know, when I did my Arrow reviews back in season one I was all over how useless Tommy was. But I’ve changed my mind! Bring back Malcolm too, but give him a plot. Oh, how about…Ghost Merlyns!
Only one of the pairings though actually brought a tear to my eye and that was the touching end to Firestorm, aka Martin and Jax. I had already heard that Victor Garber was leaving to take a role in Hello Dolly on Broadway, so his character’s death was very expected, but I really didn’t think there would be such an emotional payoff to this. I mean, deaths are so cliche in genre television anymore they usually end up evoking nothing more than a “meh”. But here, Professor Stein’s demise really hit everyone hard and they took some actual time in the story to mourn his loss adequately. Each person was shown taking a private and silent moment to remember their fallen friend. It was poignant, not overplayed like in so many other shows (I’m looking at you “Supernatural.”) The scene of the funeral, where Jax was embraced by the Steins as one of their own, had a huge emotional payoff. I honestly didn’t see that coming.
Citizen Cold and the Ray are both so minor it’s no big deal for them to hook up. And yeah, I do enjoy the trope of “normies save the heroes” as seen by Iris and Felicity - just wish it had a better set up. Spoiler for 30 year old comics…
All his nuclear work ends up giving Martin Stein brain cancer which we find out fusing as Firestorm is kind of exacerbating. At one point, some things go bad so Ronnie & Martin fuse once more and fight as hard as they can… until Stein finally dies, forcing them to unfuse.
Of course that’s not the end of the story but still, it’s hard for me to not compare the deaths and I wish the writers on Legends of Tomorrow had run with the same idea: Martin & Jax have to avoid fusing else Martin might die but trapped on Earth-X, the two have one last hurrah that saves the day before Martin dies as a hero (and not from some random bullet).
Kara and Barry arriving at the crime scene first and then a long pause before the Green Arrow shows up on a motorcycle. Oliver: “A quick reminder, super speed, I don’t have it.”
Heatwave: "Best Wedding Ever". Second place, Heatwave wearing Stein’s daughter’s robe and telling him he’s out of milk.
Oliver shooting Overgirl with his Kryptonite arrow - Kara: "Why do you have a Kryptonite arrow"? Oliver: "In case an evil you ever showed up"!
Which Crossover was Better, Last year or This Year?
I have to say that last year’s crossover was largely better save that the first part was largely worthless (didn't see it, just heard the last 5 minutes was SG going to Earth-1). At least in that, the roles were better divided with the heroes each playing to their strengths to save the day. Plus it had more interesting ideas with things like the mindscape the "muggle" heroes were put into and aliens complaining about our time travel. It makes one wonder what might have been had the Dominators connected with Earth-X and worked with them against the heroes.
If I was being less charitable, I'd say for this year's crossover the writers rushed things in a misguided effort to be "topical" and tripped over their own pens.
Honestly, I liked this year's better. Yeah, there was some stretching in the plotting, but last year, the introduction of Supergirl into the crossover fold felt slow in parts because everyone was getting to know her except Barry. Not to mention that only the last five minutes of the “Supergirl” episode portion had anything to do with the crossover. Plus I didn’t care for the Dominator storyline even though it is a part of the “Supergirl” lore. I didn’t think it fit in the Arrowverse too well. Not to say that alternate universe Nazis wasn’t stretching things, but it worked better. I do join my cohort in disappointment over seeing Eobard Thawne take the place of the Dark Flash but hey, it did at least fit with the history of The Flash and his arch nemesis in the series.
I’m hoping maybe next year will be Flash/Arrow/LoT going to Supergirl’s Earth for some adventures to really mix things up.
I would love that!
Overall ratings for Crisis at Earth X
Anyone else out there watch? Remember enough details to offer an opinion? Please, do share!