“Yes, the Nazis won the war.”
Supergirl 3.08 & Arrow 6.08
We’re only halfway through this year’s Arrowverse crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, and it is already better than all the previous attempts combined. Bringing together The CW’s four superhero teams to fight Nazi versions of themselves, we see our heroes pushed to their limits both physically and emotionally.
Fair warning, traveller, for here there be spoilers!
Immediately, we are taken to Earth-X, where the hopes of rebels are dashed, as the technology they hoped would save their world, might ultimately doom another, when a dark archer storms the building, killing all in sight. Setting up the sheer ruthlessness of Earth-X, we know straight away that these foes are like nothing the heroes have seen before.
You would think that fighting ninjas, gigantic sharks and aliens would be the most pressing matters at hand for our heroes – but this isn’t so, as it’s the eve of Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’ (Candice Patton) wedding celebrations, and apparently everyone has left it until the last minute to RSVP. Because superhero stuff. However, they find their way to Central City as fast as they can – not that any one in the city seems to notice the big spaceship that shows up, or the women flying through the sky.
And so the wedding preparations begin, and it’s a strange collection of scenes – Iris and the girls at the beauty parlour, Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Barry suit shopping, it’s not things that we normally associate with these series, but it does excellent work at showing the light and dark of these heroes’ lives. This is something that becomes a theme of the crossover, as all the heroes are forced to consider the balance in their lives, between their heroic identity and their regular lives in the longest obvious build up to an Olicity marriage you’ll ever see. Even going so far as to have Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) refuse a proposal for her boyfriend to throw us off the scent, this thread is so prominent through the story that it couldn’t not happen by the end of this 4-parter.
Relationships of all kinds are at the core of Crisis on Earth-X, not just romantic ones, and as we get ever-closer to Victor Garber departure from Legends, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Wells (Tom Cavanagh) reveal that they have brewed a concoction that will sever the psychic connection between Dr. Stein (Garber) and Jefferson (Franz Drameh), allowing Stein to bask in retirement, and effectively ending Firestorm completely – and while Stein believes he has a solution to the problem this throws up for Jefferson, he soon finds that the problem he is trying to solve is in fact the wrong one.
When the wedding day finally arrives, it all goes as well as the promos have suggested, when the villains of Earth-X burst in and vaporise the vicar, and all hell breaks loose. A bunch of SS soldiers, a dark archer, a Super-evil-girl, and a masked villain resembling Arrow’s Prometheus storm through the church, waging war on the heroes. But, when Supergirl-X is knocked to the ground, their forces pull back, leaving only a captured Prometheus behind. And that’s where things get really interesting.
It’s a big spoiler, but the Arrow cast have already put it out there on social media, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s fair game.
Under the hood of Prometheus-X is Oliver’s oldest friend, and brother to his sister. Yes, Earth-X’s masked villain is Tommy Merlyn. Returning to the role (for less than a day of filming, apparently) is Colin Donnell, and it’s safe to say that the scene between Earth-X Tommy and our Oliver Queen is one of the best acted scenes so far in this crossover. Each is facing a very different version of their best friend, and that much is evident, but as Tommy explains what growing up on Earth-X is like, Third Reich and all, your heart actually breaks a little bit for him – and for Oliver, who sees his best friend alive once more, but as a villain, not the man who was once a brother to him.
This begins the reveal of the villains’ true identities to the heroes, and they have never been so unprepared, as the strengths they bring to a fight are the same ones which may leave them defeated. You can’t use the brute force of Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) if your opponent also has a Supergirl – this isn’t Invasion!, guys, we’re playing in the big leagues now. However, it isn’t just our heroes that have weaknesses in this crossover – oh no – in a bizarre turn of events, Earth-X’s Arrow and Supergirl are married (something which our Supergirl is less than please to hear) and it seems that no matter how dark and brooding Oliver gets, he would still rather save his girl than stick to the plan – however it seems that the two are overlapping in this story, as part of the villains’ plan has our Supergirl at its centre.
Let’s take a moment here, to praise the writing for this crossover, because it seamlessly brings together the four DC shows as though they were never separate, introducing vivid villains and high stakes which genuinely have you questioning whether our heroes will prevail. In particular, the story’s writing brings some much-needed levity to Arrow, in order to help it blend with the other three series – and if they could bring more of that to the show on its own, Arrow would have achieved the balance it so sorely needs.
Praise must also go to those behind the fight choreography, as with so many people to factor in, fights could have felt a little lacklustre, however this is not the case, as every character gets their chance to shine. Even having only made it halfway through the story, pretty much every hero has been able to get stuck into the fight – though it’s safe to say, where ground combat is concerned, Amell is doing a lot of the leg work.
By the end of the Arrow instalment, our heroes find themselves in an unknown world, with no hope of escape – and as the villains appear to have the upper hand, it’s going to take a lot for our heroes to turn the odds back in their favour.
Needless to say, this year’s crossover is the very best that the Arrowverse has offered us, and if it continues in this way for the Flash and Legends episodes, then it seems that DC’s small screen branch is definitely offering up a superhero team-up of far better quality than their big screen attempt.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10.