When we last left the Paragons—Batwoman, Flash, Supergirl, Sara, J’onn, Ryan, and the vile Lex Luthor—the multiverse had been destroyed and they were stranded in the only place immune to the Anti-Monitor’s assault; the Vanishing Point. Fast forward several months and the Paragons are still there with no way to escape. Barry’s attempt to use the Speed Force and Lex and Ryan’s teleportation attempt both fail, leaving the protagonists out of options. It’s not until Oliver, fully embracing his role as Spectre, arrives with news that the Speed Force is their only means of egress from the Vanishing Point as well as what awaits them as they must take the fight to the architect behind this Crisis.
It’s no surprise that, with “Crisis – Part 4” being under the Arrow aegis, that Oliver would be prominently featured, though it still remains very much an ensemble piece. As with any type of escape and daunting challenge, the protagonists are separated with Kara, Lex, and Ryan sliding ten thousand years back in time to convince Mar Novu not to continue with the experiment that ultimately grants the Anti-Monitor access to ‘our’ multi-verse, while the others become lost in the Speed Force and Barry must perform a Paragon scavenger hunt, using the connections forged by memory to find his lost comrades.
Revisiting these old memories and events, though not wholly original, can still be a powerful story driver; look no further than Avengers: Endgame for proof of that. With this being Oliver’s swan song (for real this time), “Crisis – Part 4” would have been better off playing to these nostalgic moments, reminding us of our soon-to-be martyr’s trials and tribulations and how those connected him to the others. Instead, everything comes across as rushed, doing a disservice to what could have been special. Had they eliminated the unnecessary and ineffective tension of the entire Kara/Lex/Ryan plot line, these rememories, if you will, could have been given the proper time to organically develop. Unfortunately, this entire subplot is a waste of time because, despite Ryan proving his worth by convincing Mar Novu not to go Bill Nigh Science Guy, it’s ultimately futile as some other version of Novu still goes through with the experiment to end existence.
But as much as the narrative decisions hamper the penultimate installment of Crisis, so too does the action. Being mindful of the limited time and budget, it’s understandable that CW shows aren’t going to have the eye-popping CG of a movie or a big budget show like Game of Thrones or the Mandalorian. Fighting an army of shadow demons (something they, unfortunately, triple down on in the finale) only makes the shortcomings stand out even more. With that said, the best visual effect is during the final confrontation between Spectre and the Anti-Monitor, where the former sets to “light the spark” towards the Rebirth of the multiverse. It’s a spectacular display that overshadows the underwhelming visuals and action taking place around him. Yet in this Rebirth lies perhaps the greatest miss of the entire Crisis.
“The dead are at peace. The real heroes are the ones who have to keep going.”
Fans of Arrow have known Oliver’s fate for some time, knowledge that has prepared us for his ultimate end. But his death and resurrection earlier in Crisis takes away the impact of Barry and Sara by Oliver’s side as he dies. It’s a shame because a hero of this caliber deserves a proper sendoff full of waterworks and ugly cries but instead his death scene is but a surface level version of what should have been deep and lasting.
Where “Part Four” was the end, “Crisis – Part 5” is the beginning or, a Rebirth. Curiously enough, it starts with Kara and her shock at Lex Luthor is (seemingly) a white hat now. Melissa Benoist’s energy here — and throughout the crossover as a whole — is infectious and almost makes me want to revisit Supergirl. Almost… more pressing though is the news that the Earths of our CW heroes — Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Supergirl, and Legends — have all merged into the new Earth-Prime. We find out later that there are still other Earth designations out there (the best of which is the awesome Green Lantern Corp snippet from Earth-12) but keeping our primary heroes on the same world expands the writers’ ability to create a more cohesive world and offer up smaller crossovers between characters.
As a Legends-heavy episode, Sara gets some deserved lead time in the Crisis finale. Caity Lotz has come a long way over the years and her performance in “Part 5” says as much. Unfortunately, the strength of her arc (and Barry’s) can’t save the overall erratic nature of the finale where, despite Oliver’s sacrifice, they still must face the Anti-Monitor and his shadow demon army. Though the narrative makes sense from a logical perspective, from a storytelling standpoint, it lacks flow, jumbling what could have been an epic end to what had by far been the most entertaining crossover the CW has ever had. The decision to go big — literally — with the final fight is another poor choice as it shines an uncomfortable light on the lacking effects and takes away from the chance to focus on our characters and not their cause for gathering. It’s not bad, per se, and some of the more cheesy plot elements (for example, the giant Beebo) are right at home in the Legends world but this would have been a much more effective showing had the Anti-Monitor been dealt with earlier in the process and the finale could have been used to have the protagonists acquaint themselves with the changes to their new normal.
Despite its faults, Crisis on Infinite Earths is one of the most entertaining succession of episodes I’ve had the pleasure of watching. From the wonderful Easter Eggs (how about that Ezra Miller ‘Barry Allen’ cameo!?) to some admirably strong themes on friendship, sacrifice, and family, Crisis showed me that the CW universe has its shortcomings but even in those, the overall world continues to get better. There’s always going to be a level of incredulity to these shows that have nothing to do with their nature and while the finale didn’t stick the landing, it was still strong enough to firmly establish Crisis on Infinite Earths as the best of the CW’s crossovers. More importantly, even in the wake of Arrow coming to an end (at least the Stephen Amell version) Crisis has drafted a blueprint for the CW shows that, while not a full-on restart, gives hope for a most promising future. A Rebirth, if you will.
‘Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part 4 and 5’ rating: 7.0 out of 10
‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ overall rating: 8 out of 10