The annual crossover event is fun for what it is and also for what it isn’t—namely another chapter in the overlong arc of the season. Aside from a brief mention of Cicada, we get a respite from the ongoing storyline in favor of an enjoyable brand of comic-book gimmickry that can only be sustained for a brief burst of episodes. The body-swap twist is always ripe with possibilities, and if “Elseworlds, Part I” doesn’t quite make the most of them, it does give the creative team an opportunity to poke some good-natured fun at the tropes that have sustained both Arrow and The Flash for so many seasons. As is all too appropriate for this show, it’s very meta.
After a brief reprise of the Earth-90 teaser from last week, we meet the twitchy Dr. John Deegan, who could only be played by the twitchy Jeremy Davies. He’s a psychiatrist spurned by his peers for his research into eugenics, which is evidently reason enough for the Monitor to appear and give him a giant book to help him reshape reality. Although the Monitor tells him to think big, there’s not much evidence that he actually does so, at least in this opening chapter. So far the only major change is that Oliver Queen wakes up with the life of Barry Allen and vice-versa.
Both superheroes figure out pretty quickly what has happened, which is sort of a shame. It might have been fun to see Stephen Amell try to channel Grant Gustin by playing an Oliver Queen who believes he is Barry Allen for a while, if you follow me, and the reverse is true as well. Instead, it’s the supporting cast that’s in the dark, which in this case means only Team Flash, with a brief cameo from David Ramsey as Diggle. There’s also not much time spent on the characters trying to adjust to each other’s powers (or, in the case of Green Arrow, skills); aside from a few hiccups, they’ve pretty much got them down from the start.
Instead, the focus is more on the differing personalities of Oliver and Barry, and by extension, the tones of their respective shows. Oliver is dark and brooding, while Barry is sunny and optimistic, or at least that’s the conceit here. In truth, we’ve seen an awful lot of mopey Barry in recent years, so the division between them isn’t quite as clear-cut as it would have been earlier in the series’ runs. Still, the writers get off some pretty good shots at both shows, from everyone mocking Oliver’s Green Arrow voice to my favorite zinger about Team Flash: “I don’t think you can go nine hours without some sappy motivational speech.”
With the caveat that this is only the first of three parts, “Elseworlds” is quite a bit more low-key than some of the previous crossovers. Barry and Oliver escape their cell to retrieve Kara from Earth-38, hoping she’ll recognize them for who they really are. When they arrive in Smallville, they find Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, who bears more than a little resemblance to Margot Kidder), who have recently returned from Argo City. (As someone who gave up on Arrow years ago and is seasons behind on Supergirl, the parts of this episode that referenced those shows were largely lost on me. Tune in tomorrow and Tuesday as Allison Shoemaker and Caroline Siede provide all the necessary insight into those series.)
Both Supergirl and her cousin Superman travel back to Earth-1 with alt-Flash and alt-Green Arrow to battle AMAZO, a robot that can absorb and utilize super-powers. The big battle scene leaves a little to be desired, as each hero’s swipe at the robot happens almost too quickly to perceive by the naked eye, and the whole ice-tower sequence ends up being a video game visual. Having Barry deliver Oliver’s “You have failed this city” catchphrase was, uh, a little much. The point had already been made that Barry was treading too close to Oliver’s darkness in becoming the Green Arrow, and it’s made again when Iris confronts him about it. I did get a kick out of Oliver’s goofy thumbs-up, though.
It’s an amusing enough first chapter, but here’s hoping the “Elseworlds” concept gets more of a workout in the next two. Having Superman show up for two minutes to punch a robot does not a crossover event make. The mention of Gotham City at the end and the tantalizing glimpse of Batwoman left me wanting more, though, so I’ll definitely be tuning in to Arrow for the first time since...well, since last year’s big crossover.
- At last it can be revealed! The cells in the STAR Labs pipeline do have toilets after all. They’re hidden in the walls and pop out when needed. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to finally learn this.
- Another highlight: Barry gleefully snapping a photo after hitting Oliver with two remote control-fired arrows.
- I believe this is the last episode of 2018, so...see you next year.