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Crisis On Infinite Earths leaves us hanging for the holidays

Grant Gustin, Tom Cavanagh, Hartley Sawyer, Brandon Routh
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)
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Narratively speaking, “Crisis On Infinite Earths” has been a faithful adaptation of its source material only in its broadest strokes. In terms of capturing the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink spirit of the enterprise, however, “Crisis” has been a resounding success so far. It’s a hot mess, there’s no question about it. To call it overstuffed would be an understatement; this thing is a piñata bursting at the seams, and the creative team is gleefully taking Barry Bonds-like swings at it. There are five-minute subplots here that could have been entire episodes of the various series making up the Arrow-verse, and the whole thing feels like it could fly apart like the Flash on the cosmic treadmill at any moment. But that’s what makes it so much fun.

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I worried that this installment would be a letdown following the Superman-go-round and Bruce Wayne beyond his darkest night from “Part Two,” but if anything, this is the Flash episode that most accurately captures the anything-goes quality of the DC Comics era that culminated with the original Crisis. By any sane measure, there are way too many characters in way too many places doing way too many preposterous things to try to save humanity. I’m reminded of the comics of my youth in which every other panel contained an aside urging me to refer back to a previous issue of some comic I’d never read before in order to completely grasp the significance of what was happening.

On a basic plot level, it’s pretty simple: heroes trying to find a way to stop the anti-matter wave from destroying the multiverse. Having previously learned the identities of four of the seven paragons, Ray uses the Wave Rider’s computer to identify the others: Barry, the Martian Manhunter, and someone named Ryan Choi. Ray, Ralph, and Iris set out in search of Choi, while Constantine, Diggle, and Mia Smoak continue their quest to reunite Oliver Queen’s soul with his reanimated body.

That mission leads them to Earth-666, where they encounter Lucifer from the show of the same name. I gather this came as at least some surprise, as Lucifer actor Tom Ellis earlier squashed the rumor that he would appear. But isn’t that what Lucifer would do? Actually, I don’t really know—Lucifer is not a show I follow, and he’s hardly the only character in “Part Three” unfamiliar to me, not that it matters much. He’s the devil and he sends the trio to Oliver’s purgatory, and that’s really all you need to know. This is one of the subplots that feels rushed, as the emotion of Diggle’s brief reunion with Oliver doesn’t get much of a chance to breath once the Spectre shows up to take the Green Arrow off to play whatever role he has in the finale.

John Wesley Shipp, Cress Williams
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)
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Supergirl’s plan for restoring her own Earth and the rest of the multiverse involves using the Monitor’s Book of Destiny to magic them back into existence. Kate Kane thinks this is a bad idea, and she has the chunk of kryptonite from Bitter Bruce’s Batcave if she needs it. This appears to be leading to another Super vs. Bat showdown, but cooler heads prevail and Kate and Kara exchange new-bestie compliments about each other’s hope and courage.

In the tunnels under STAR Labs, Cisco and Frost encounter Pariah, formerly Nash Wells, whose transformation was weirdly tipped in “Part One” for no particularly good reason. Using Nash’s memories, they are able to access the hidden chamber holding the anti-matter cannon. That cannon is powered by Flash-90 (John Wesley Shipp) running on a cosmic treadmill, and here’s what we all should have realized long ago (and many of you probably did): The Monitor said Barry Allen had to die, but he never specified which Barry Allen. Sort of makes all the angst of the first half of the season feel a little cheap, no?

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Except our Flash does disappear in the Crisis as predicted, along with the other paragons. In fact, they appear to be all that’s left of our universe, as Earth-1 is destroyed and everyone left on the Wave Rider is vaporized. Yeah, sure, it’s kind of a ripoff of Avengers: Infinity War, and almost all of it is going to be reversed when the final installment airs on January 14, but as far as cliffhangers to hold us until after the holidays go, it’ll do.

Stray observations

  • Another cameos of note: Ashley Scott as the Huntress, the character she played in the short-lived Birds Of Prey series from 2002. Seen here in the New Gotham of Earth-203, she appears just long enough to be disintegrated by the anti-matter wave.
  • I’ve also never seen Black Lightning, but Cress Williams did a lot with a little in this episode, given the amount of devastating information his character had to process in a very short time. His chat with Barry about the loss of their respective fathers was one of the few quiet moments this week, and more effective because of that.
  • So Team Flash didn’t know Earth-2 (along with Harry and Jesse) had been destroyed until tonight? Team Arrow never thought to shoot them an email about that?
  • The Flash-back to the 1990 series starring Shipp and Amanda Pays was surprising, and surprisingly effective. It made this immense fictional universe feel even larger.
  • Cisco is Vibe again, much to his dismay, but whether that will stick is anyone’s guess at this point.
  • In the comics, Ryan Choi is a protege of Ray Palmer who becomes the New Atom. This doesn’t bode well for the original, especially since we know Brandon Routh is parting ways with the CW.
  • I have no idea how we’re covering the conclusion of “Crisis” here at TV Club, but we’ve got a month to figure it out.
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About the author

Scott Von Doviak

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.