The CW’s annual superhero crossover seems to get bigger every year. So how do you one-up an alien invasion? How about an alt-universe Nazi invasion, complete with evil doppelgängers for some of the world’s greatest heroes?
Spoilers ahead for Supergirl and Arrow’s “Crisis on Infinity Earths Parts 1-2,” which aired Monday, November 27, 2017, on The CW!
“I hate Nazis.” - Pretty much everyone
The “Mirror Universe” concept is a well-worn sci-fi trope, but for good reason. There’s something uniquely satisfying about lining your hero up and forcing them to look at the person they could become with a few different choices. From superhero to supervillain. From savior to ruler. It can all change on one decision, in one moment. No evil goatee required.
That’s the setup for “Crisis on Earth-X” as we see Kara face off with an evil Supergirl, Oliver go toe to toe with Nazi Arrow, and Barry come face to face with his archnemesis Eobard Thawne, who has thrown in with the Nazis of Earth-X in the wake of his apparent death (which is conveniently explained away by a bit of hand-waving and time travel). It makes for some amazing fights, sure, but it’s also one of the best “What If?” stories they’ve pulled off in the Arrowverse. You have Evil Oliver and Evil Kara together; an Evil Tommy Merlyn who assumes the identity of Prometheus; and the long-awaited return of Tom Cavanagh’s deliciously menacing version of Thawne.
It’s easy enough to fight off aliens, or a super-being who drops you into a show-tune-filled dream reality, but fighting yourself? That’s a very different type of challenge. We see most of the Arrowverse’s heroes fight to stalemates with their evil versions, and this looks to be a battle that will require more than a McGuffin to save the day. We even learn the motivation behind this Nazi invasion in the second hour: Evil Kara is dying and needs a new heart, so the plan is to harvest Supergirl’s organs to save her life. We get a peek into the twisted relationship between Nazi Arrow and Overgirl, which doubles as a bit of wish fulfillment for fans who have been “shipping” the two heroes since they first met a season or two ago.
But it wasn’t all dour Nazis and swastikas. These crossovers are built from the ground up to be big, silly fun — and the first two hours of “Crisis on Earth-X” absolutely delivered on all fronts. We got some of the best mash-up fight scenes these shows have ever delivered. From Oliver jumping through a breach mid-shot to White Canary and Alex Danvers fighting side by side as Firestorm blazed above them, they pulled out pretty much all the stops for this one. It’s absolutely mind-boggling how many characters they’ve managed to cram into these crossovers year after year, and the 2017 edition is almost certainly the biggest yet.
With STAR Labs occupied by a Nazi force, and the main heroes captured and locked up on Earth-X, the story still has a long way to go on Tuesday night.
*As far as the format is concerned, The CW nailed it this time around. Instead of trying to maintain some semblance of episodic splits based on the mothership show of the hour, this is basically a four-hour miniseries all its own. It just so happens to be running inside episodes of Supergirl, Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. They even give it a fresh intro that blends the included shows to make it clear this is not a standalone, at least not this week. After seeing the awkward transition into this format the past few years, the creative team looks to have finally found a formula that works. It gives the story room to breathe, and the characters are free to shift around the entire four-hour runtime. This is basically a big ol’ Arrowverse movie, in all the best ways.
*Fans have been wanting to see what would happen if Sara Lance were to ever meet Alex Danvers, and it turns out the meeting was worth the wait. After a bit of flirting, the two make out and eventually wake up alongside one another the next morning. Is it a bit of fan service? Well, yeah, probably. But it doesn’t make it any less fun.
*The easter eggs are flying fast in this one. The Earth X version of James Olsen, aka Guardian, is killed in the opening scene. Then we pick up with Barry slugging it out with King Shark in the streets of Central City. Then we find Kara beating up a Dominator alien in the streets of National City, dropping the line “You guys are so last year,” in reference to the alien invasion crossover last season. Arguably the best one: This version of Green Arrow is often compared to Batman, and Oliver pulls a page right out of the Dark Knight’s playbook. When Overgirl shows up, Oliver stuns her with a Kryptonite arrow, which he explains he had handy in case an evil version of Supergirl ever showed up. Bruce Wayne has taken the same contingency numerous times over the years, and would certainly be proud.
*Olicity fans also got a lot to love and hate this time around, with Oliver actually proposing to Felicity at Barry’s rehearsal dinner — only to have Felicity tell him no. Her reasoning seems a bit convoluted, but is likely tied to the fact that she was shot the last time they got engaged, and their relationship eventually fell apart and the wedding called off. But c’mon, this feels a bit more like manufactured drama than anything else.
*Nazis are always a political plot point to use, but even more so considering the realities of today. For the most part “Crisis on Earth-X” looks to sidestep most of that nuance, taking the approach that Nazis are bad and need to be punched. A sentiment Captain America would almost certainly agree with.
*We also get some movement on a long-simmering Legends of Tomorrow story this week, as Jax finally tells Stein the real reason he’s upset that he’s leaving: He sees the elder member of Firestorm as a father figure, and he’s simply sad that he’ll be leaving. It’s a touching moment, and shows just how far these two have come the past three seasons.
*This two-hour block was positively loaded with montages and slow walks, but they were so darn fun it’s hard to complain about them. It’s big and superhero-y, so why not revel in the cliches?
*The line: “It was Oliver in the High Castle,” - Felicity
Up next: The crisis continues on Tuesday night, with new episodes of Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.