After three nights of Crisis, I have never felt so happy with three hours of television, so upset at how it ended, so angry I have to wait an entire month on a cliffhanger to find out how it ends. The third episode takes us to The Flash, and a ton happens to Team Flash in the process that change things forever.
It wouldn’t be “Crisis on Infinite Earths” if we didn’t set up a cameo in our opener, this one from New Gotham on Earth-203 as we see Huntress (Ashley Scott — Yay, Birds of Prey shout-out!) racing across rooftops and hear Oracle/Barbara Gordon (Dina Meyer) talking about the anti-matter wave ripping through their existence.
As we cut back to Earth-1 and The Waverider, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) gets his “Paragon Detector” working and it identifies three more of our fated eight:
Paragon of Honor: J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood)
Paragon of Love: Barry Allen of Earth-1 (Grant Gustin)
Paragon of Humanity: Dr. Ryan Choi (Osric Chau)
As the rest of Team Flash also show up, Iris (Candice Patton) and Ray head out to recruit Dr. Choi, but we get some other fun business as Ralph Dibney/Elongated Man (Hartley Sawyer) tries to impress the other superheroes, to which Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) replies, “Ignore him, it’s his first crossover.” This show is having so much fun fully winking at the audience about the awesomeness and ridiculousness of their situation. They’re having a great time, we’re having a great time– and it helps cut through the tragedy and seriousness of the situation.
Speaking of tragedy, in our secondary storyline, Constantine (Matt Ryan), Diggle (David Ramsey), and Mia (Katherine McNamara) travel to Los Angeles on Earth-666 to meet Lucifer (Tom Ellis) who official sources and Ellis himself said over and over was NOT involved in this crossover. Those lying liars. . . but I guess this is what we should expect from the Lord of Hell. Lucifer provides a ticket to Purgatory to find Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) soul, and it just so happens his view of purgatory is Lian Yu. I know there’s going back to the well, but didn’t we cover this on last week’s Arrow?
While there, upon finding Oliver’s soul, they encounter a strange person who identifies himself as Jim Corrigan (more Constantine crossover!). Oliver’s soul can’t be restored because he must serve some other, higher purpose, apparently. What does this mean? Is Oliver Queen now The Spectre? Is this all a tease to reveal himself as the eighth and final paragon? We won’t find out until Arrow returns in the new year.
Meanwhile, back on The Waverider, there’s some trouble brewing. Haunted by the millions she couldn’t save from Earth-38, Kara (Melissa Benoist) is tempted to use the Tome of Destiny to try to restore her world. Luckily, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) is there to try to talk her out of it.
This crossover nails one thing above all else, and it is the Kara-Kate relationship. It is the fulcrum on which everything else turns, as it makes the cosmic stakes of all of this so incredibly personal. The choices our characters make, temptations to give in to power, are what make them superheroes.
And these two characters, as the Paragons of Hope and Courage, make their decisions even more powerful. As they argue, you can see what isn’t being said in the dialogue– the glorious subtext that Kate knows she’s just a regular human speaking to a godlike Kryptonian who could do basically whatever she wanted. And, gifted with Earth-99 Batman’s kryptonite that he used to kill that Earth’s Superman, Kate knows she could, if she had to, use it on Kara. Anyone who wants to talk trash about Ruby Rose’s acting abilities can watch these scenes and tell me she isn’t acting the hell out of these interactions. We, the audience, know exactly what she’s thinking, and it’s beautifully written across her face as she goes through the mental justifications.
But, in the end, Kate ends up trusting her friend, offering to turn over the kryptonite, saying she needs to have hope. Kara refuses, saying she needs the courage that they’ll never need to use it. This is what true friends, and real heroes do. And you can’t imagine Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent ever coming to such a beautiful detente, their relationship always undergirded by a mistrust of the other.
And then there’s what’s going on with Team Flash…
First, and probably most importantly, The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) restores Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) powers as Vibe, at least a little against his will. That is going to be an awkward conversation with Kamilla as soon as Crisis is over.
But it turns out to be absolutely necessary as he, Barry, Frost, and Pariah (Tom Cavanaugh) enter The Anti-Monitor’s sanctum below Central City and find the source of the anti-matter wave: Flash ’90/Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) on a treadmill. When Vibe is able to break him free, Pariah brings Black Lightning (Cress Williams) to Earth-1 to help absorb and control the energy created from a failsafe if Flash should ever stop running.
There are also moments of pure tragedy here, as Jefferson Pierce realizes that his family, his beloved city of Freeland, are all dead. But it’s also pure heroism as they figure out someone has to get back on that treadmill. And if they can run in reverse, they may be able to stop the destruction, but will themselves die.
And here’s where Earth-1 Barry believes he has to lay down his life. As the Paragon of Love, Barry is willing to make that ultimate sacrifice. It’s tragic and beautiful, but Flash-90 has the same idea and demands Cisco put him back on the treadmill. As he’s about to blink out of existence, there’s a tragic flashback (pardon the pun) to the 1990 Flash tv series. These folks really did their homework, and beautifully brought together all possible elements of the DC TV multiverse.
There’s also a beautiful scene back on The Waverider where Barry and Jefferson bond over their tragic backstories– losing parents, murdered in front of them– and a beautiful moment where Jefferson Pierce, the educator, quotes “rage against the dying light” which Barry correctly identifies as Dylan Thomas. There’s a beautiful connection between these two nerds, and it’s really gorgeous.
And then in our final moments, we get our sudden, but inevitable betrayal as The Anti-Monitor ends up absorbing Mar Novu, destroying Earth-1, and our paragons blink out to find themselves in the one place they can’t be found, outside of time and space in The Vanishing Point. And in a final act of betrayal, Lex Luthor uses the Tome of Destiny to rewrite himself in as a paragon, destroying/replacing Superman of Earth-96.
Ouch. That’s multiple layers of suck in the last five minutes, leaving us in a very dark place, both literally and figuratively. On one hand, it makes a lot of sense: of course Lex would have a plan for this. It also sets us up to have Lex play some key role in the restoration of all things and our paragons’ eventual triumph.
But I also have to make one complaint: for a tv universe where representation has usually been so next level, there’s really mostly a bunch of white people left over. You bring back Vibe’s powers, you bring in Black @#$%ing Lightning, and then everyone dies except for the white folks (and Dr. Choi, who we have known for all of three minutes) and the Martian.
And then that brings me to J’onn, who has gotten precious little to do in this crossover so far. Yes, technically he saved millions of people from Earth-38 (did he, though, since they just died a few hours later on Earth-1) but he has not had the character development or on screen time as many of our other paragons. Maybe I just had too high of hopes when Diggle and Jefferson Pierce looked at each other and said they’d accomplish their missions “by any means necessary,” (they did this TWICE!) but I feel teased and unfulfilled.
I have faith that this will resolve, because this crossover hasn’t done that much wrong so far, but we’ll have to wait an entire month to find out. “Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 4” premieres on Arrow and Part 5 on Legends of Tomorrow on January 14, 2019. Until then, let the speculation begin.