I’m not going to make out like I’m a CW DC “Arrowverse” newbie. I have watched four seasons of Arrow, two seasons of The Flash, and the first season of Legends of Tomorrow. It has, however, been a while, and to be honest, I suspected that these shows have moved on considerably since I last saw them. And my knowledge of all things DC is surface-level at best. I know Batman and Superman (Duh), and the stuff that I picked up from the TV and films that I have watched, but I can’t say I have a deep understanding of DC. With that out of the way, let’s begin with the review.
When I saw that DC was adapting the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic series into an ambitious crossover TV series, I knew I wanted to watch. I was intrigued by how they were going to pull it off. Crisis on Infinite Earths spans five episodes of the Arrowverse; Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. It’s a remarkable achievement to bring this many plot threads from each season and make it work. Of course, I had a hard time following some of the intricacies of the universe, but I went along for a ride. And what a ride it was!
Now, it’s time to give a synopsis (gulp). The titular characters are recruited by ‘The Monitor’ an all-seeing being, to save the multiverse that is being wiped out by the by his evil reflection called ‘The Anti-Monitor’. Phew, big stakes. Although, actually, it’s quite a simple plot. What made it feel more complex was the intricate weaving of plot, and references to events that are/were happening in the other five seasons, so certain things that were playing out on screen, I had no context for. For instance, the Monitor has a pact with The Green Arrow to take his life to save The Flash and Supergirl, but it wasn’t explained much more than that. I’m told the last crossover centered around this, but having not seen it, I didn’t quite understand the consequences. This is just one example, but I could pick quite a few things that went over my head that spans both plot and character development. Oh, and there was a magic book that allows characters to teleport, that I didn’t see coming.
There are obvious parallels to draw between the Arrowverse and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A casual viewer coming to the Avengers Infinity War or Endgame certainly wouldn’t understand everything that is referenced, but there’s enough Marvel knowledge in the general consciousness that even casually interested audience members in the Marvel film know who Iron Man is and what he stands for. The Arrowverse doesn’t have this luxury, as it’s nowhere near as popular. Putting that aside, it’s also a more manageable ask for someone to catch up with 21 Marvel movies, rather than watch the many episodes of the Arrowverse across all five series. Each season runs 22 episodes! The showrunners decided to not pander to newbies like me, and that was the right decision. It just means that every year I don’t watch the Arrowverse shows, the more I will be in the dark. (This is also true of the MCU, so it’s not a problem unique to this series.)
A problem the Arrowverse has always had is its wonky pacing. Crisis was the same. There are very few moments of rest, especially in the first three episodes. Characters are constantly talking at each other, but nobody is having a conversation. I get it, there’s a lot to cover, but slowing down and having a few moments of reflection can help an episode that feels frantically paced. The music doesn’t help. It’s relied on for most of the emotional heavy lifting and can sometimes be overwhelmingly loud. Oliver’s death, a character that I have liked since watching the first season of Arrow, had little emotional impact and despite Steven Amell’s best efforts, the moment fell flat. The pacing did improve for the final two episodes, especially during the ‘cinematic’ section, revisiting past events throughout all the series. It’s easy to see that these had more time devoted to them and some of that may have been due to the visual style. The Arrowverse shows have to shoot fast due to budget and time constraints, but when you have to make something cinematic, slowing down is a must.
Despite its weaknesses, the series was an enjoyable ride. Some stories I’m not sure went anywhere, Lazarus Pit anyone? But the majority of the show was a rollercoaster. Do you want to see Black Lightning team up with Vibe and Frost Witch? ☑️ What about seeing Brandon Routh back as Superman for the first time since Superman returns? ☑️ Multiverses? ☑️ Lex Luthor having powers che… no, nobody wanted that. It did exactly what it needed to do and more. Concentrating on the existential threat of the multiverse was a good choice, as on his own, the anti-monitor wasn’t all that formidable, and would have fallen flat. ‘Superhero’ moments were scattered the series enough to never be in short supply and looked good in some places. The Arrowvere’s real gem is it’s actors. No matter how campy they’re asked to be or how serious they are, they act their hearts out. And that’s not just the main characters, even supporting characters are fully rounded. Despite some wonky dialogue, every actor brought their A-game, and they should be commended for that.
And to top off the series, this is the first time that the DC films and TV shows have crossed over, something that has actively been avoided up until now. Ezra Miller and Grant Gustin’s Flash’s meet each other. It’s a great moment and something that a lot of fans have been waiting for. It could have real consequences for the upcoming Flashpoint movie, and it’s great to see the two very distinct versions of the Flash interacting with each other.
Overall the series was a lot of fun, but not without its problems. It didn’t accommodate for newcomers (I’d argue that isn’t a bad thing), but it did deliver on the spectacle it promised. However, making a crossover of this scale on a TV budget, and having to fill in the audience as it hurtles towards the conclusion was a near-impossible task that they pulled off. I really don’t envy the showrunners. Has this drawn me back into the Arrowverse? No. But I wasn’t expecting it to. It didn’t feel like a waste of my time and I (mostly) had fun.
Side note: Can we all agree that characters referring to the crossover as a crossover is a step too far?