Supergirl: 5.09 Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One
So here it is, after decades of repercussions in the comic book world, hints and innuendos across various DC film and TV properties and straight up seeding in the Arrowverse, CRISIS ON INFINE EARTHS finally comes to the screen.
It’s an odd sort of a start to proceedings. We’re treated to the Monitor giving us a quick rundown of how the multiverse came into being, followed by the emergence of heroes. This is accompanied by some images of space and forming worlds followed by a few choice clips of the various heroes’ earlier adventures. Then we get to the good stuff!
We cut to a dark, gothic looking skyline as the on green caption clicks into place to read Earth 89. The Danny Elfman Batman theme plays (Burton era, obviously) and we see Knox sat on a park bench, reading how Batman has bested the Joker. This is a wonderful moment and a real statement of intent for the scope the crossover is going for whilst being, of course, cheekily affordable for a TV budget (I imagine Robert Wuhl is a little cheaper than Michael Keaton these days). After this an awkwardly inserted piece of what looks like stock footage from the Titans show segways for the other throwback big hitter; Earth 66 and Burt Ward turns to the sky, crying “Holy crimson skies of death!” which is awesome. But tonally a bit weird…
Unfortunately this episode, at least, doesn’t quite manage to match these opening few seconds in its awesomeness but it’s a pretty good start. After a few moments with Kara and her gang seeding the impending situation the action moves to Argo, right in the path of the destructive wave which is making its way to earth. This scene offers us, probably, the emotional highlight of the episode. With Argo about to be destroyed and Kal-El powerless in its atmosphere Alura (Erica Durance in her first Crisis appearance) ushers Kal and Lois to a secret rocket where they place their infant son, Jonathan, in the ship on a heading to Earth. While the scene is definitely rushed (as is much of the episode) I felt a real and unexpected emotional jolt as the scene echoed Superman’s own early moments and, while you never doubt Kal and Lois’ safety for a second, the moment they’re seen saying goodbye to their son and Argo explodes is touching and sad.
These shows have always, if I’m honest, looked a little bit cheap. Compared to Smallville, which had a kind of mature looking, cinematic slickness to it, they often lack gloss and visual scope. So much of the action takes place in the same few standing sets and the same couple of down town streets. It’s a shame as it often holds back the scope and grandeur the story is trying to achieve. This episode feels very confined to Supergirl’s same few locations. When we venture away from these, we basically just move to Arrow’s stock locations. I feel that the nature of this cross over needs to feel bigger than it does, something the Crisis on Earth X crossover managed more effectively. To be fair, though, these shows have really stretched what can be done on an average TV budget, so they do deserve credit for that, it’s just a shame the cost cutting is often so evident.
The big issue you cannot escape is as we get into the Crisis story, this is not the team that deals with Crisis. As much as I love many of these characters I just can’t quite buy this line up. They feel like the B Team. Batwoman especially, feels very shoehorned into proceedings; a very new character to the Arrowverse, most UK viewers haven’t had the opportunity to watch her show, let alone build up an affection for the character. And quite frankly, Ruby Rose is terrible. I mean, she’s just awful. Really, really can’t act. We’re being asked to put a lot of faith in her character and she’s being given the kind of lines you’d give Batman and I just don’t buy it. When Ray admires her suit and offers to upgrade it, she pushes his hand away and threatens to break it. This is a cool line for Batman because, even without being introduced, we know what Batman is like. But this is a new character that we don’t really know and here it just feels like she’s being mean to Ray. DON’T BE MEAN TO RAY! Because in this context so much of her characterisation is based on our understanding of another character; she can’t help but feel like an interloper.
My real grumble is that, by opening up the concept of previous and alternate films and TV shows being part of the multiverse (which is unquestionably awesome), you can’t help but lay yourself open to much greater scrutiny. You can’t help but feel if there was a real Crisis, it would be Christopher Reeve, Michael Keaton and Lynda Carter saving the day.
The episode does a good job of keeping the pace going. There are moments that feel very much Supergirl rather than the bigger event, especially the scenes with Lena and later Kelly and Dreamer. Sitting through another one of Lena’s entitled sulks while the very universe is ending wears a bit thin but I’m glad the episode doesn’t completely sideline the parent show’s ongoing story lines. In a convoluted plot device, Lena is the only person who can help Alex perfect a means of evacuation to get as many people as possible off this Earth before it’s destroyed. I’m really not much of a shipper, but Alex and Lena have a much more interesting and more genuinely earned chemistry than Alex and Kelly and I’d much rather see an unexpected romance blossom between these two.
The episode finale takes place mostly on a rooftop, showing again the small scale these shows often present but the emotional beats are solid and Oliver sacrificing himself is effective enough - if a little disingenuous. I did find it a bit weird that Oliver had apparently designed and made a sexy super hero outfit for his adult daughter?! But never mind, it wasn’t as weird as Alfred making a Batgirl costume for his teenage niece...
I’ve enjoyed this episode a lot. It starts well and finishes with a solid emotional beat but it’s a little saggy in the middle and it feels sometimes like things are happening off screen that it would have been nice to see on screen. Most of the cast are well integrated and get a look in on the action, although we only seem to have a couple of Legends of Tomorrow involved so far?
The show ends with Oliver’s death, which is genuinely dramatic even for a non-Amell/Arrow fan. Going into part two, it leaves our heroes confused without a leader and without a plan. The multiverse is at risk and all creation is on the brink of annihilation. This looks like a job for...