This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 6 Episode 9
Well. Here we are. “Crisis on Infinite Earths Part Three” is the big one. It’s THE episode we’ve been waiting for since the very first episode of The Flash. The one we knew that Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and friends always wanted to do so badly that they baked it into the very concept of the series from the pilot. The one that they spent five seasons and change reminding us would happen eventually at every possible opportunity.
I’m not sure I ever truly believed we would ever get here. Given that the original date on that infamous newspaper headline indicated that Crisis on Infinite Earths wasn’t going to take place until 2024, well…so few shows make it to 10 seasons these days that this just seemed like more of a way to make fans know that the showrunners knew where Barry eventually had to end up, rather than a way to get him there. But get him there they sure as hell did, even though things ended up a little differently than we expected to.
The thing about “Crisis on Infinite Earths Part Three” is that this not only had to deliver 100+ episodes worth of emotional and narrative payoff, it was also the climax of the single most ambitious crossover in television history. Sure, there’s two episodes left, but this is a form of TV storytelling never before attempted. The easiest comparison is Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which had the unenviable task of bringing ten years of moviemaking to a close in a satisfying way. And like that latter film, I’m just going to call it right now: Crisis on Infinite Earths succeeds.
In the early years of Arrowverse crossovers, the respective episodes that told the story always explicitly belonged to their shows. An episode of Supergirl would feel very much like an episode of Supergirl for example, regardless of how many other characters from the other shows were hanging around. In recent years, there’s been more cohesion. And Crisis on Infinite Earths is the most consistent and cohesive of them all. The first two chapters (Supergirl did the honors with Part One, with Batwoman taking the lead on Part Two) felt just enough like episodes of their respective shows but not as explicitly as they had in the past. Each did just enough to deliver the goods for the home team while the surrounding elements told this insanely big and cosmic tale.
The Flash had to be a little different. Yes, there were plenty of side missions, notably involving John Constantine, Diggle, and Mia trying to save Oliver Queen’s soul via detours to the world of Lucifer (yes, that one) and actual Purgatory (which, not coincidentally, manifested as Lian Yiu). And we had Superman and Lex Luthor and the official introduction of Black Lightning to the Arrowverse and Harbinger and the Anti-Monitor and the deaths of untold billions upon billions of lives as the final worlds of the DC multiverse were eliminated by the antimatter wave and a partridge in a pear tree.
But we also had tender moments between Barry Allen and Iris West, the return of Vibe, a quietly emotional scene with the original three members of Team Flash (“You two were there the first time I opened my eyes as the Flash” almost broke me), the live action depiction of one of the most legendary and iconic moments in DC Comics history, and the onscreen death of a beloved TV superhero of days gone by. They did it, folks. Even though there’s probably only 15 minutes in here that I would truly consider to be a pure episode of The Flash, every single one of those minutes counted. That’s all the more impressive considering that the episode concludes with the literal destruction of everything that has ever been.
Sure, I could probably complain if I really wanted to find something to complain about. The Monitor’s literal hand-wave to get Vibe back might be considered one. But that is literally the Monitor’s job in this whole mess. I’m sure there are those who think that Caitlin Snow or Killer Frost were shortchanged in the process of all of this. Maybe we can wonder if this was the best way to introduce and showcase Jefferson Pierce for the first time in one of these. The absence of Joe West shouldn’t go unnoted, but on the other hand, nothing was ever going to be better than the moment they shared at the end of “There Will be Blood.” I’m not sure how well the search for Oliver Queen’s soul or the completely out of left field introduction of Jim Corrigan worked in the context of things.
But anyway, who cares about any of that? There was other work to be done. Before we get really into the Flash-centric stuff of this episode (and there’s still plenty), I’d like to talk about the Supergirl and Batwoman threads that were resolved here. The friendship between Kara and Kate Kane, teased during Elseworlds, has really blossomed into something special in just three episodes here. The resolution to why Kate held on to the Kryptonite after her unfortunate encounter with the Batman of Earth-99 was absolutely perfect, and just different enough from the “Clark gives Bruce Kryptonite because he trusts him” beats from the comic to make it feel true to the two of them. It’s a wonderful moment with some terrific music, and believe it or not might be my favorite scene in this entire episode.
Not to make this into a referendum on Batwoman, but Ruby Rose feels like she’s working on a completely different level during Crisis than she has during the “regular” episodes of her own show. I don’t know what it is that’s been missing from Batwoman, but there’s a chemistry and energy that Rose is bringing here that I haven’t always felt during those earlier episodes of her series. It’s great, and it’s all the proof people should need that she’s worthy of being “the Bat of the Future.”
We got to meet Osric Chau as Ryan Choi, the future Atom who seems destined to join the Legends of Tomorrow cast next year. That is, of course, unless they decide to make him a member of Team Flash. Considering Choi’s delightful portrayal, I’d be in favor of that.
But in the process of introducing Ryan, we’re brought to Iris West-Allen. There’s been some grumbling (and it’s justified) that Iris hasn’t been given enough to do this season, especially considering that she’s staring down the death of her husband. As it turned out, that was just because Iris was needed for a significant chunk of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with this episode being a particular standout. I don’t think I could have asked for more than the pivotal role she’s been playing in keeping everyone centered and reminding them why they’re heroes. And had that turned out to be Barry and Iris’ final goodbye (“Know that wherever I go, I will be running home to you”) before he went to take out the antimatter cannon, I think it would have been a fitting one.
So I guess we need to talk about “the death of the Flash,” right? I wasn’t really surprised that this would turn out to be the Flash of Earth-90. While we all knew that he was going to show up during the crossover, I wasn’t expecting him to be introduced powering the antimatter cannon that way. It was a terrific reveal.
But as for whether he “should” have been the one to die, I think it’s more fitting that it’s him and not “our” Barry. This is the sendoff that John Wesley Shipp never got to give the character when his Flash TV series was unceremoniously cancelled by CBS back in 1991 after one season. Since he first reappeared during Elseworlds last year, Shipp has played this Barry quite distinctly from the way he played Henry Allen or Jay Garrick, delivering every line with the weight of a seasoned hero. He’s not playing to the rafters or with the kind of deadpan comedy that Adam West brought Batman in the 1960s, but there’s definitely a sense that he’s playing (but not overplaying) a man from a different era. Ultimately, it’s his delivery of “Let me do this. Let me save you all,” that will haunt me, even more than his special effects-laden death scene. Considering all that Shipp has meant to this show and what his various characters symbolize to Barry, nobody deserved this moment in the spotlight more.
And hey, as long as Shipp returns as Jay Garrick at some point in the future on this show, I’ll be happy.
But we ARE talking about one of the most iconic scenes in comic book history here. How does it measure up? Well, in terms of production values I’ll confess, it was a little “smaller” (literally) than I expected. A little claustrophobic. But in the context of everything else, it doesn’t matter. What matters was the drama between Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp as they realized what must be done, and battled over who had to do it. What matters was Barry’s refusal, even until the very last second, to accept that he was going to let someone else die in his place. Cisco’s final word on the subject, about how Barry made him team leader and there are tough decisions to make, was heartbreaking, and just one more thing to add to Carlos Valdes’ seemingly endless highlight reel.
And can you believe that wasn’t even the end of the episode? We got all of that plus the literal end of existence, the stunning and tragic betrayal of Harbinger, a battle with the Monitor, and the shocking apparent death of the Superman of Earth-96 after a last minute betrayal by Lex Luthor. Don’t worry, we wrote about all of that in detail here. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s outside the scope of this review. That’s Crisis on Infinite Earths as a whole (which after three hours is a stunning success). Everything important to The Flash as an hour (or even a season) of TV took place in those moments between Barry and Iris, Barry and Cisco, Barry and Caitlin, and Barry and Earth-90 Barry. Way the heck back in my review of the season one finale, I wrote “on The Flash, everybody’s superpower is selflessness.” That was once again proven true here, both by Team Flash, and ultimately, the hero of a show from nearly three decades past.
“Keep riding the lightning.”
Oh, you want Flash Facts? You’re going to have to check out our Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 3 Easter egg guide for that! There’s just way too much here for one article.