While Marvel Studios has ruled the superhero film market with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Comics has been the king of the small screen with what’s now known as the Arrowverse — comprising its namesake, “Arrow”; “Arrow” spinoffs “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow”; and the show it adopted from NBC, “Supergirl.” These programs have been crossing over in various capacities for years now. Last year, they decided to crossover all four shows for the event special “Invasion!,” which ran across one episode of each program (with the exception of “Supergirl”). This was a huge success and they decided to do it again — only this time, bigger and grander. I think they succeeded with very little mistake.
“Crisis on Earth-X” opens with nearly every hero in the Arrowverse preparing for the wedding of Barry Allen (a.k.a. the Flash) and Iris West. As they are about to say their “I do’s”, their wedding is crashed by a Nazi squadron as well as fascist versions of our main characters. They are revealed to be from Earth-X, another of the parallel universes established by “The Flash,” with the key difference of their universe being that the Nazis won World War II. With the villains’ sights set on conquering our universe for their own, its up to our heroes to make a stand and push back the invaders.
One might ask just how they are able to combine four shows and countless characters and do justice to each show. To that question I would reply: “with ease.”
The greatest strength of this crossover is that it feels more like a TV movie or a very long episode of a unified show. The characters, each true and consistent to their previous appearances, are woven into the situation quickly in a way that befits the position of the characters in their individual shows. They then proceed to progress key character arcs and plot threads from each show, giving all of them equal attention and importance. Importantly, most of them are resolved with a satisfying new status quo. Some notable examples include Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, Kara and Alex’s breakup recovery and Stein and Jax’s separating Firestorm. Furthermore, every character gets a chance to shine and contribute to the plot, escaping superfluity.
The Arrowverse has been known for creating two sorts of moments: hilarious and truly heartbreaking. This crossover consists of interactions that have you laughing hysterically as well as some choice moments that will open the floodgates of your eyes. Some anecdotal proof: as someone who does not cry during movies and TV very often, if at all, this crossover had me in tears.
This event contains some of the best acting featured in any of the shows, with every performer doing justice to the characters that they have helped create. Standouts include Stephen Amell and Melissa Benoist. Not only do they portray their usual characters justice, but they are also enjoyably evil as their Earth-X doppelgangers Dark Arrow and Overgirl. We also get a decent performance from Russell Tovey as the Arrowverse’s newest hero, The Ray, with this serving as the character’s debut. The most praise, however, goes to Wentworth Miller, who injects boundless charisma into Earth-X’s Leo Snart, known there as the hero Citizen Cold. Tom Cavanaugh as the Reverse Flash could have been improved by playing the character slightly more goofy than usual.
Even with this taking place on television, “Crisis” has more than enough spectacle to satisfy even the most demanding of viewers. Every hero gets to showcase their abilities, super or not. The fight scenes are exhilarating, with the Chapel Battle in Part 1 and the City Battle in Part 4 easily standing out. The music is a beautiful combination of the themes from all four shows. Lastly, there are many Easter eggs that true DC Comics fans will recognize.
“Crisis on Earth-X” exceeded all expectations that I had as a fan and a critic. I could not have asked for a better crossover and while I am doubtful that they can surpass their efforts here, I hope that they try. This is a perfect example of what a television universe can be and the one advantage the Arrowverse currently has over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC Films could do well to take a few tips from their small screen counterpart.