This Crisis on Infinite Earths review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 8, Episode 8
The conclusion of Crisis On Infinite Earths hit us with two very different, but equally compelling, hours. The first largely continued the end-times vibe of the Crisis thus far, as the Paragons tried to thwart history and eventually faced the Anti-Monitor at the dawn of time, while the second brought us back to a unified earth with some major edits, and the playful tone that makes Legends of Tomorrow such a continual delight. The fights themselves were a bit weak, but the cameos and easter eggs were strong, and this thing had its heart in all the right places.
Stephen Amell and Melissa Benoist’s performances in particular stand out as some of their best work, which is saying something given the seasons they’ve both been having. Amell has a tough row to hoe here as he mostly has a flat affect, a more obscure hood than usual, and a voice effect, as Spectre. He also has to play his death after having died a couple of times now and having said goodbye several more and somehow make us believe it. I’m not sure I fully believe it even this time, but I do think it will be his final scenes with Barry and Sara. In any case, I still cried, and that’s good enough.
Benoist has the rather thankless job of having to act opposite Jon Cryer, who is clearly having a blast and we all love, even when we hate him. Plenty of people have gone south playing Kryptonians as overly upright, but in this two-episode arc, Benoist leans into Kara’s sense of despair and the way that her faith in an average person returns her hope, and in turn that fuels her ability to make him (and everyone else) hopeful again. On her, it feels earnest and earned.
The use of Ryan, the Paragon of Humanity, was a lovely addition to a group that can easily feel overstuffed. From his voiceover letter to his son to catch us up as an expository device during the intro to his growing relationship with Kara, which felt like a better explanation of the point of the Paragons than all of them standing in a line and focusing very, very hard, he grounded the crossover in a much-needed way. With so many main characters dying and reviving, it can be hard to take the stakes seriously, but in the second hour when Barry and Sara realized the demon wraiths were after Ryan, the image of him hiding with his son in a nursery felt real and urgent. Hopefully the Arrowverse will find a way to check in on him from time to time.
Jon Cryer took every possible opportunity to remind us why his Lex Luthor is such a devious delight, making a meal out of every gesture and line delivery. Importantly, the heroics of hour two did not involve undoing his powers or his status as a hero. Does he still have the Book of Destiny? How does it change Lena’s character if Lex never toyed with her or went over to the dark side? Who is she if she never had to grapple with the public’s expectations of her? Here’s hoping Supergirl will take the time to answer those questions and more.
In a rare flashback to his prior life, Mar Novu had a personality, a sense of humor and—dare I say it—a bit of swagger. It’s too bad LaMonica Garrett didn’t get more of a chance to flex that elsewhere in the Crisis or this past season of Arrow. Will we ever find out what happened to him? Do we care? Unclear.
Oliver becoming Spectre felt like a half-measure. He had Oliver’s personality, memories, appearance, and demeanor, but we were meant to see him as something “more.” He was basically powered-up Ollie with a wardrobe change, voice affects, and zero chance of making jokes. The result came across a bit muddled, since at first it seemed like we were supposed to see him as different entity. However, since we have limited time with Oliver Queen, I’ll take what I can get.
On that note, this death was much more in line with what his character deserved. He had a nice speech at the end to his protege and one of his best friends. His and Sara’s relationship was given respect. His final act was one of teamwork and hope. Still, I’m betting we’ll see additional scenes from Stephen Amell in the remaining episodes, even if the script bends over backwards (or rather, bends time) to justify their existence. He and Diggle need that final goodbye. Emily Bett Rickards isn’t coming back for nothing.
For all the wonderful gifts the Crisis gave us in these episodes, the Arrowverse still can’t quite help itself sometimes. Exhibit A: Oliver/Spectre saying, “You have failed this universe,” completely without irony. As Diggle pointed out, he wasn’t there for either of Oliver’s deaths—hell, they didn’t even invite him to either of the funerals, which feels more cruel. That funeral guest list is… highly suspect. J’onn J’onzz and Black Lightning were there, but not Diggle, Rene, Dinah, etc.? Even if you draw the line at powers-only, why no Vibe, Frost, or the rest of the powered Pierces? Leads-only plus J’onn? Berlanti, what is you doin’?
On to happier things: Legends brought us a unified Earth and, more importantly, a Beebo-sized ball of levity to balance out all the Oliver-is-dying-(again) and end-of-the-world angst. One of the best choices surrounding this (which was pound-for-pound one of the most delightful gifts the Arrowverse has ever bestowed upon us) was to simply have everyone react naturally. Barry didn’t want to hurt Beebo, Diggle doesn’t want to believe it, Rene is in a very “WTF” kind of place. The governing principal of this episode was the banana pants aesthetic of Legends, and that’s exactly what it needed.
After everything these characters (and the audience) have been through, it’s nice to hear Ray ask if they’re invited to the crossover, or see Supergirl excited to see Batwoman. Some of the smaller shoutouts, like Rene mentioning Arrow’s Rory, Mick’s romance writing career as “Rebecca,” and the Legends crew generally helping out with comic relief were much appreciated.
Watching Sara Lance step into the role as leader of the combined group was a wonderful thing that felt completely natural. The show leaned into Sara and Barry picking up the mantle with their heart to heart, but it would have been easy to simply give power to the next available man. Barry’s a good leader, but even on The Flash there have been some wonderful lessons for him to learn from Iris’s leadership, and the different kinds of leadership teams need. It’s the same way that Kara brings a lot of heart and hope to the crossover crew but isn’t quite the right fit to take on the top spot. Yet when Sara started working through problems, assigning tasks, and talking smack to the bad guy, it just feels right. I hope she keeps thinking about what it means to lose contact with her former life, and that the show maintains and acknowledges her relationships with Diggle, Felicity, and Earth-2 Laurel, even if it’s not quite the same.
Speaking of Earth-2 Laurel, she played a very big role in the beginning of this whole business and then disappeared. Is she okay? As a non-Paragon, she would have no memory of everything that happened, including what seems to be the destruction of her Earth, which seems like a very traumatic way to lose one’s entire universe. This points to a larger issue with tackling such a mammoth endeavor: inevitably, there are storylines that can’t be tied up in such a way that also feels satisfying narratively. Black Lightning largely had their own sidecar Crisis story. The next episodes for the rest of the shows will probably have an awful lot to do with simply getting to everything these two episodes couldn’t cover, before they can even set about handling the brave new world they’ve been set in.
That said, this is yet another good old fashioned comic book-style reset. Once again, there’s some baby tomfoolery (welcome back, Sara Diggle!). But for those of us who were touting Arrow as the best superhero property on any screen, big or small, back in Season 1, this is truly the television equivalent to Endgame-level storytelling. Some of the old heroes are gone. New heroes rise in their place. The fandom mourns, but we also get to celebrate all the new stories there are to tell. On to Green Arrow and the Canaries, to Stargirl, to Superfriends, to Superman & Lois, to whatever it means for Kate to hang out on the Danvers sisters’ couch, and for Sarah Lance to lead us all into the next chapter.
Where did the original Monitor, Mar Novu’s wife, go?
I don’t know why we got the black-and-white montage of Ollie’s greatest hits of fighting, but I’m here for it.
Even as Spectre, Oliver Queen is incredibly concerned with Barry Allen’s well being.
Barry crashing Dig and Laurel mourning Sara’s death with incredibly jaunty music and reviving Sara from the dead was…a way to go, I guess. And for some reason Laurel’s death didn’t make the cut? I now love Laurel 2 but I’m still salty.
Why doesn’t this alien forest look more…alien? Instead of like, say, Vancouver? Ryan asking the important questions.
How did Ray manage to go this long without knowing there’s a multiverse?
J’onn was NOT gentle with those brain dumps.
It was great to see Ezra Miller and the entire energy of that interaction was bonkers in the best possible way. Was Barry saying “this should be impossible now” a meta joke about the divide between DC’s movies vs DCTV? If so, bravo!
“There’s always a Mar Novu who cannot turn from his towering ambition, and in that inevitability, there is destiny” I know the Anti-Monitor is a bad guy, but damn if that isn’t the best working definition for destiny that I’ve ever heard.
“My team and I usually mess things up for the better.” Love the Legends!
You cannot convince me that Jefferson Pierce, educator, would say, “I never met Oliver but he must’ve been a good dude,” at the memorial service of a stranger. That said, I love the eternal flame and am already prepared to cry when Diggle, Thea, Felicity, William, and Mia visit it.
The symbol on Barry’s table looks startlingly close to the old US Army symbol.