Legends of Tomorrow: 3.08 Crisis on Earth-X, Part 4
Legends of Tomorrow hosts the final part of Crisis on Earth X and OH MY GOD I actually am in crisis now!
From the start this has been far superior to any of the previous cross-overs, perhaps finally delivering on the initial promise of those first few events. A key factor in this story is that it's been clear that the events will effect the parent shows. Previously, there was a feeling you could skip over the Big Events and The Dominators storyline, for example, felt very isolated. This story has presented us with character moments that will last across the rest of their continuing series' and beyond.
Arrow, part 2, served as our "what's going on?" exposition episode and The Flash, part 3 gave us our heroes getting heavily involved - traveling to Earth X - in trying to stop the Baddies. The main plot here is that Nazi Oliver is in love with Nazi Kara and they want to steal Kara-Prime's heart, with the help of Thawne-disguised-as-Wells. It's a simple, poetic motivation born out of a twisted, evil love. At the end of part 3 the team, all on Earth X, were trying to close the Nazi breach and stop them invading Earth 1... and Stein got shot saving the world.
This final chapter to the story keeps the momentum flowing and the whole for episodes have had an amazing energy to them but, thanks to being told across four hours (okay, three hours after ad breaks), it has never felt rushed. Where single episodes of these shows can often rush the finale this is pretty much a whole episode dedicated to finale and wrap up.
After a genuinely cool rescue mission where Ray (Palmer, two Rays now, very confusing) shows up and saves Kara utilising his Atom suit, a plan has been hatched by which the Good Waverider, piloted by Wells and Cisco will take on the Bad Waverider while pretty much everyone else meets up for a one on one battle. This big sequence is mostly great but is actually let down a little by the ground level stuff. When ships are flying through the sky shooting at each the and heroes as whizzing about on ice-streams and breaching in and out of the various, established sets it all feels very epic and exciting – especially seeing characters from different shows interacting with the environments from sister shows.
Unfortunately, the fighting on the ground stuff – while well shot and choreographed – never hits the epic levels it needs to. It only looks like a couple of dozen Nazis fighting against our various heroes beneath and underpass and you can’t help feeling they’d deal with them pretty sharpish but this is a fairly small gripe in an otherwise great closer to this story and it's never really distracting.
These shows have never been afraid to present their heroes as HEROES and embracing what may seem a little cheesy or goofy is what actually makes them very cool. Of course the day is saved, Kara manages to fight off Nazi-Supergirl, flying her up into space where she explodes from going nuclear – I know she was a Nazi Übermensch SS Overlord but sheesh, what a way to go! Supergirl gets a classic fall to earth in Jesus pose moment after this, which is spoiled slightly by Nate catching her and dropping the worst one liner since Bond said “I thought Christmas only came once a year”.
The Ray goes back to Earth X but his boyfriend, Good-Snart, decides to stay on Earth 1 for a while. When The Ray popped up on Earth X I was really excited – I’m aware of the animated Arrowverse shows and think they’re a really great idea but haven’t watched them, so I hadn’t realised that The Ray and Earth X had been primed. When Russell Tovey turned up in the Nazi Camp I was hugely excited to see him (everyone loves Russell Tovey!) and even more so when I realised who he was. It was great to see some other heroes out in the multiverse, not just mirrors of our known characters.
By the end of the story, Barry and Iris finally get married, as do Oliver and Felicity, Good-Snart joins the Legends and Kara and Alex head home. So things kind of go back to normal, except for one, huge lasting impact; Stein.
Knowing Victor Garber was leaving the show, I’ve been waiting for him to go at any moment but Legends has done a great job of really integrating the fact he’s leaving into the story and making it a driving force of his and Jax’s characters. The show did lead us to think he would get a happy ever after but when he got shot on Earth X my heart sank. Sometimes characters die in TV shows and its not much more than a natural progressing of the narrative and you move on but this one hurt. Death and resurrection can be so casual in genre shows like this that you can take it with a pinch of salt but this feels (even if its not) final.
The performances of Garber and Drameh were both outstanding and Stein’s actual death scene was emotional, harsh and sudden. To watch one man pleading with the other to let him die to save him was gut-wrenching and never felt corny, or overly sentimental. Again, the energy and urgency of the scene helped to sell the tragedy. The episode gave us a double tap of emotion with the funeral scene. Too often TV shows give you a couple of shots of people stood by a graveside, looking sad in slow motion rain. But here, we have a scene of Jax trying to give a eulogy, braking down half way through and begging Stein’s family for forgiveness. This character death felt like a Joss Whedon level of dead.
His death, of course, gave our heroes the final push they needed to defeat the Earth X Nazis, though there was an awkward moment it felt like someone might mention avenging him...
Overall I have really enjoyed this cross-over event, the character work and story were excellent with the right level of fun, drama and cheese that I expect from these shows. My only real complaints would be with some of the visuals but in a TV show being this ambitious, I can let those slide. It was more violent than usual episodes (Stein getting shot a second time was brutal) but again, thats not an issue - though no kill rules seem to go out the window for fighting Nazis?
It was great to see characters like Red Tornado done well (lets not talk about Supergirl's season one atrocity) and Paul Blackthorne in his Nazi persona was a revelation, having been one of my least favourite actors in Arrow I now have a fresh admiration for him. I don’t know how Legends of Tomorrow will fare without Stein but the show has proved itself to be pretty resilient to change. If this is the standard of future cross-overs I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Oh and Legends of Tomorrow, if you decide to do some weird, cheesy, Search for Spock rip off to bring Stein back at the end of the series I’m okay with that. Just this once. Please?