Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

TV crossovers are strange beasts. At their best, they recapture the childlike joy of throwing all your toys into the sandbox and telling stories about Sailor Moon rescuing Batman. At their worst, they confuse half of a show’s audience and make binge-watching an absolute nightmare. “Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1” is a kind of “best of times, worst of times” scenario for a crossover episode. The childlike wonder is definitely there, but is it there for everyone?

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To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how to review “Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1” as an episode of Supergirl. Because it isn’t an episode of Supergirl, not even in the sense of being a crossover filtered through Supergirl’s perspective. It features extended scenes between characters from other shows without a single Supergirl point-of-view character involved—like Barry Allen encouraging Oliver Queen to commit to Felicity Smoak or Caitlin Snow and Martin Stein discussing their family lives. I’m pretty sure we spend more time with non-Supergirl characters than we do with our own protagonists. The episode even makes time for important plot exposition from other series, like the reveal that Cisco Ramon and co. have created a cure for Martin and Jax Jackson’s Firestorm condition. Here’s hoping Supergirl’s audience knows what Firestorm is.

Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

For viewers who only watch Supergirl (which I have to imagine isn’t that rare given that it started as a female-fronted superhero series on CBS), the only one of these characters we’ve actually met in Supergirl’s universe is Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, who came to visit Kara back in the show’s first season. (Technically Cisco had a 30-second cameo setting up last year’s crossover, too, but that hardly counts as a proper introduction.) And that means there’s a lot of new stuff to take in. The CW avoided this problem with last year’s crossover event by having Kara join the other heroes in their respective series but keeping the Supergirl episode only tangentially related.

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In retrospect, that was a smart decision. Supergirl is always going to be at a disadvantage with these kinds of crossover events given that the show exists on an entirely different Earth. The characters of Arrow, The Flash, and Legends Of Tomorrow have much stronger connections to one another, especially because so many of them were introduced on one series and then went on to star in another. And while those other shows each lend a handful of characters to this crossover, Kara and Alex are the only ones repping #TeamSupergirl as they decide to lift themselves out of their post-breakup funks by jumping through a portal to attend the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West.

It’s nice to see this episode bring together its various heroes for a wedding rather than a world-ending crisis (at least at first). And we get a whole bunch of fun character scenes to ease us into the crossover. To be completely honest, I’m about two seasons behind on The Flash, and I’ve only ever watched a handful of Arrow and Legends episodes, so I couldn’t really tell you how well the arcs from those various shows play out in this episode. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them at face value. One of the best things the Arrowverse has going for it is its insanely likable roster of characters, and that’s on display whether or not you’re intimately familiar with their various series. Moments like Barry saying, “damn,” when Oliver emerges in his tux or Joe West’s sweet speech about how happy he is that his children are marrying one another (The Flash is a weird show) are fun to watch regardless of how much you know about those series.

Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

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Which isn’t to say this episode entirely ignores its Supergirl contingent. With Kara still mourning the news that Mon-El is married, Barry—who is on a mission to convince every superhero he knows to get married—tells her that she shouldn’t close herself off to the possibility of love. That allows Kara to voice one of her major themes of Supergirl’s third season: Kara’s not just a superhero; she’s an alien from another world. Perhaps she doesn’t deserve a normal life. It’s not exactly a character arc, but at least it’s something.

But if there’s a true star of this episode (at least from Supergirl’s perspective), it’s Alex. The weirdness of that flashback Midvale episode is totally worth it, if it gave Chyler Leigh time to film this crossover. I had no idea Leigh was this good at comedy, but she absolutely needs to get more of it on Supergirl from now on. Alex’s attempts to drown her Maggie-related sorrows in scotch quickly turn into a one-night stand with everyone’s favorite assassin Sara Lance. And that sends Alex into a hilarious tailspin that’s made all that much better by how surprised and delighted Kara is by it. Even as someone who’s not all that familiar with Legends, seeing Alex and Sara hook up still offered that palpable sense of crossover fun. It was topped only by the moment they simultaneously rip their dresses to take on the Nazis that crash Barry and Iris’ wedding.

Photo: Supergirl (The CW)

Because The Flash obviously isn’t going to have Barry and Iris get married on someone else’s superhero series, their nuptials are interrupted by an invading Nazi army. (Cue Oliver and Kara: “I hate Nazis.”) These particular Nazis come from Earth-X and are lead by evil versions of Kara, Oliver, and some version of Harrison Wells. It’s a reveal that doesn’t officially come until the end of the episode, though it’s not too hard to guess from the costuming. The other episodes of this crossover will presumably answer the why and how of it all, but for now, the alt-universe Nazis allow this episode to end with an exhilarating final battle and some pointed political commentary about how absurd it is to be a Nazi in the 21st century.

As with the character-centric scenes, you don’t need to watch all of the other Arrowverse series to appreciate how cool the wedding fight scene is. The Supergirl CGI is noticeably weaker than usual, but the episode’s “quantity over quality” gambit definitely works. The fight shows off everyone’s abilities while giving each hero a challenge to match his or her skill level. The whole thing is a total blast. Barry knocks away bullets, Wally West saves civilians, Cisco opens a breach to transport Oliver across the church to take on Nazi-Oliver, Killer Frost comes out to play, which inspires Micky Rory to break out his heat gun. Elsewhere, Alex and Sara work together to battle a sword-wielding Nazi agent while Kara faces off in the sky against Nazi Kara (and shows off a new supersonic clap power in the process). It’s pure unadulterated superhero fun, which is arguably the most important thing for a superhero crossover to deliver.

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“Crisis on Earth-X, Part 1” isn’t a particularly great episode of Supergirl, but then again it isn’t really trying to be. And as the first hour of an ambitious four-part Arrowverse movie, it’s hard to ask for anything more.

Stray observations

  • Be sure to check out Allison Shoemaker’s review of tonight’s all-new Arrow, which airs immediately following this episode. Then come back tomorrow to read Scott Von Doviak on The Flash and Oliver Sava on Legends Of Tomorrow.
  • Seriously though, Netflix has got to figure out a model for handling crossover episodes. I still get stressed thinking about Supergirl fans who missed the Flash musical crossover episode last season and have no idea why Kara and Mon-El were randomly back together immediately after their breakup.
  • Speaking of that musical episode, Iris walks down the aisle to Kara’s rendition of Barry’s proposal song, which is super sweet. I’m in support of the Arrowverse characters singing as much as possible
  • I’m gonna assume that the weirdly excited waitress at the wedding is Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future and also that Iris is going to be revealed to be pregnant by the end of this crossover event. I have no idea if any of that has been hinted at before on The Flash.
  • It was fun to see Earth-X James as a patriotic version of The Guardian. Unfortunately, he doesn’t survive to stick around for the rest of the crossover.
  • I’m bummed that we barely got to spend any time with Nazi Kara in this episode, but I can’t wait to see what Melissa Benoist does with the villainous role in the next three episodes.
  • The choice to have the crossover’s first big fight feature all the heroes in their wedding attire is truly inspired. In addition to that aforementioned dress-ripping moment, Kara taking on Nazi Kara while wearing a pretty lace dress was a real highlight.

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