This article contains Elseworlds spoilers.
Well, you certainly can’t say that Elseworlds was boring. Or safe. And you certainly can’t say that they didn’t give us one hell of a surprise in that ending. The Arrowverse is becoming the most intricate, risky live action superhero universe in history. Yes, it’s at least as big and crazy (perhaps even moreso in some ways) than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we had best enjoy this while we have it, because it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this much crazy DC Comics love on screen in one place at one time ever again.
So while it would seem that the Elseworlds ending was a happy and neat one (everything is back to normal! Superman and Lois Lane are gonna have a kid! Oliver is less of a dick than he was at the start of the crossover!), there’s a whole lot of stuff hiding between the lines that will pay off in a big way down the road. And by “pay off” I mean “probably piss a whole lot of people off, but it will still be really cool when it happens.”
What follows is both an explainer for folks who might not have wasted as much of their lives on the minutiae of DC Comics continuity as I have, with a heaping helping of educated (but perhaps wild) speculation thrown in for good measure.
What did Oliver Sacrifice?
Oliver made some kind of bargain with the Monitor in order to keep Barry and Kara from dying in their attempt to save the world from the effects of the Book of Destiny. When Superman looked into the Book of Destiny, he saw Kara and Barry’s deaths. It’s implied that they would have died in their efforts here, but there are implications that come from the comics as well.
Both Barry and Kara famously died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book story. It’s possible that what Clark saw in the Book of Destiny wasn’t just their possible deaths here, but perhaps their more likely deaths in the future Crisis. But considering they were on the verge of disintegrating (which is pretty much exactly how Barry died in the Crisis comics), it’s safe to say that Superman saw what he saw, and Oliver’s bargain with the Monitor was to prevent that from coming to pass, whether now or in the future.
Oliver goes and confronts the Monitor to point out that if it takes the death of inspirational heroes like Barry Allen and Kara Danvers, then Monitor’s entire plan is flawed. Monitor asks Oliver what he would sacrifice to bring balance to destiny if they were to live. While it isn’t revealed on screen, based on Ollie’s now traditional crossover ending conversation over a beer with Barry, where he insists that people like Barry and Kara are better heroes than he is, and inspire him to do more, I’m willing to bet that Oliver offered his own life to the Monitor in exchange for Barry and Kara. Right now, based on the infamous future newspaper that has been hanging around The Flash since episode one, we know that Barry Allen is destined to die (or at least disappear) in a Crisis of some kind, most likely the Crisis on Infinite Earths. And since these shows love being faithful to iconic moments from the comics, that means there’s a danger that Kara is probably going to croak, too.
At least that’s what’s supposed to happen if we’re following the comics. But here on our world, Arrow is now in its seventh season, and while it has rebounded considerably over this year and season six, it’s still a long time for a superhero show to be on the air. The CW’s superhero TV schedule is looking increasingly crowded these days, with Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Black Lightning, and Arrow, not to mention the Batwoman series that will arrive in 2019. If Warner Bros. TV and the CW are looking for a graceful, heroic way to show Oliver Queen the door, without the awkwardness of canceling the show that started it all, having him sacrifice his life so that two other heroes can carry on would be the way to do it.
So that means Kara is safe, right? Well…
What’s Up With Superman?
Since Tyler Hoechlin’s introduction as the Man of Steel in the opening episodes of Supergirl season 2, fans have been clamoring for a CW Superman TV series. Executives have more or less dismissed it, but the introduction of Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane (a brilliant Lois, by the way), the impending introduction of Lex Luthor over on Supergirl, and the fact that Hoechlin continues to prove that he has that certain indefinable quality that makes for a great Superman performance, you would think that this is something that the powers that be would be more willing to explore. But the revelation that Lois is pregnant and that Superman is looking to “hang up his cape” and go offworld for a while and leave the world in Kara’s care would seem to put an end to that, right?
Well…not so fast. Throughout Elseworlds, these characters have been talking to fans pretty directly. Oliver’s “this is why nobody talks about Gotham” in “Elseworlds Part 2” was more than just a piece of Batman-explaining worldbuilding to set up the Batwoman TV show, it was a direct answer to fan theories and questions, as was his indignant “I’m the first vigilante” comment. Clark telling Kara that “the world doesn’t need a Superman as long as Supergirl is around” is basically, “chill, one Kryptonian on TV is enough,” right? Right. So it’s settled.
If we’re going by comic book lore, then Supergirl is supposed to die in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The “Book of Destiny” can be seen as a metaphor for fan expectations based on what we know from the comics, and that brings us back to Oliver’s bargain with the Monitor. Does one Oliver Queen really equal two other superheroes to bring balance to Destiny? That math doesn’t line up. It still means one hero has to die.
If it’s Kara, that opens the door for that Superman TV series. Now, before you all try and kill me, as badly as I want this Tyler Hoechlin/Elizabeth Tulloch show to happen, I don’t think it should come at the expense of Kara’s life. Anyway, this is the part of my theory that I am far less confident about. However, if I were a betting man, I’d feel pretty good about Oliver being the one to croak during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Maybe this quote from Clark wasn’t meant to open the door to a Superman TV series. Maybe it really does close it. If anyone else would be willing to sacrifice themselves so other heroes can live, it’s Superman (not that Kara would allow it if she could help it). Don’t be surprised if Clark steps in to sacrifice himself so Kara can go on, or if he and Oliver already planned the two heroes for two heroes swap in a scene we didn’t see.
WHO WAS JOHN DEEGAN TALKING TO?
But then there’s the actual ending, with a rather annoyed Batwoman calling up Oliver to let him know about what’s going on at Arkham Asylum. Dr. Destiny has made friends with his neighbor, Roger Hayden, Psycho-Pirate. That gold mask he’s so fond of his called a Medusa Mask, and it allows him to manipulate the emotions of others. Psycho-Pirate is a minor DC villain who nevertheless played a major role in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. His dialogue here, “worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same” was the actual tagline that DC Comics used to advertise Crisis on Infinite Earths in the lead up to its launch in 1985.
What’s interesting is that after the DC Multiverse was merged into one Earth at the end of Crisis, Hayden was the only character who remembered the existence of the Multiverse as it was pre-Crisis. Here, Hayden appeared to be displaying a knowledge of what was coming. Does he know what’s coming? Or has he already lived it before? Is he a refugee from another Earth already and that’s what drove him mad? I hope we get to spend a little time exploring this before they go all in on the Crisis next year, because it could be fascinating.
WHAT IS CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?
Crisis on Infinite Earths is basically the much larger threat that The Monitor kept referring to throughout Elseworlds. Essentially, if you think the Monitor is a dick, wait until you meet his counterpart from the anti-matter universe, the Anti-Monitor, a being capable of committing genocide on a universal scale. The regular Monitor will gather heroes from across the different realities to try and save the Multiverse…or as much of it as they can. But the implications of this are way too big to get into in this article. I went into much more detail about what Crisis on Infinite Earths means for the future of the Arrowverse (and beyond) right here.