The CW’s highly anticipated four-night TV crossover between its uber-popular DC superhero TV shows — Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow — had a challenging promise to deliver on: Stretch a single ongoing narrative across each show, while continuing plotlines already established in each season, doing so on multiple earths and locations, and providing ample screen time for both key and supporting characters. It was like fitting a bowling ball in a coin purse, yet the CW managed to squeeze it all in.
The “Arrow-verse” has attempted two crossover events thus far, with the super-teams (sans Supergirl and Legends) facing off against baddie Vandal Savage in concurrent episodes of The Flash and Arrow last season. The crossover was fun and entertaining, but compared to this week’s four-parter, it looked like a webisode. The DC crew took on an alien race, ironically named the Dominators — whose goal was to exterminate metahumans from existence, believing, somewhat legitimately, that their unknown powers could lead to the extinction of Earth and other planets (notably their own).
With all the spectacle and superheroing jam-packed into four hours in four nights, surprisingly, mostly everything worked. However, there were some missteps. Here are five highlights and lowlights from the event.
Arrow delivers series best episode with its greatest hits
One of the most shocking developments in The CW DC television universe is Arrow finding itself again with one of its strongest seasons to date after two lackluster, uninspiring messes in season three and four.
Arrow continued its hot streak with essentially a greatest hits episode. Taking place almost entirely in a Dominator induced dream-sequence, Oliver was given the opportunity to live a life in which he didn’t crash on Lian Yu and take the mantle of Green Arrow. It created a perfect illusion for him, filled without despair and death he’s experienced in his real life. Both his parents were still alive and he was getting married to the also living Laurel Lance. Oliver suddenly begins seeing flashes of his real life and pieces together that the timeline is a ruse. He soon connects with other mind-controlled captives: Thea (struggling with wanting to leave a perfect life that could have been), Ray, Diggle (who’s assumed the Green Arrow mantle in the timeline), and Sarah.
Once they realize the trick that the Dominators are pulling, an arsenal of baddies from season past tries to prevent them from leaving. Deathstroke, Malcolm Merlyn, and Damien Darhk line up to stop them from returning to reality, leading to an incredible fight.
Diggle you just had to ask… #Deathstroke #Arrow100 #DCWeek pic.twitter.com/pemG7YJrSQ
— Arrow (@CW_Arrow) December 1, 2016
Facing his past and forging towards accepting his future, Oliver, and the group return to the present timeline and continue the quest to stop the Dominators. It was a wild, unexpected episode which could have backfired entirely. But, by pulling the right emotional beats and reminding fans what made Arrow great to begin with, the entry proved to be the crossover, and possibly the entire series’, strongest.
Billing Supergirl as part of the crossover
Unfortunately, the crossover started with an intentional whimper on Supergirl.
Arrow-verse mastermind Andrew Kreisberg stressed before the four-parter aired, that Supergirl wasn’t a huge part of the event — even though advertisements made it seem like the opposite. “Medusa” delivered some touching character moments, tackling the theme of identity. Kara struggled with the concept of her biological parents creating a virus weapon (used by Cyborg Superman in present day) to wipe out aliens. Lena Luthor struggled with her lineage, questioning whether she was like her mom and brother or an ally to Supergirl. Meanwhile, Alex struggled coming out to her mother.
Supergirl and her team sparred with CADMUS, who wanted to unleash the mega virus across the world, killing all aliens on earth. Thankfully, Supergirl (with the help of Lena) was able to nullify the threat and save the day. So, how did it connect to the other CW shows? Well, it really didn’t. Aside from brief dimensional portals flashing up for a couple seconds a few times, and in the final seconds, Cisco and Barry appearing from one to ask for Supergirl’s help, there wasn’t much. The event could easily have been a three-night crossover featuring Supergirl, but instead, the network understandably chose to stretch it over all four shows, even if it wasn’t entirely necessary.
Barry Allen — Ya dun’ goofed.
For those not watching The Flash for the last season and a bit, you’ve missed Barry Allen making poor decision after poor decision. In an effort to save his dead mom from death at the hands of the Reverse-Flash, Barry goes back in time and saves her — creating a parallel universe called Flashpoint. Once he fixes his mistake and resets the timeline to how it once was, he’s caused irreparable damage to The CW timeline. Cisco’s brother is dead, Diggle’s daughter is now a son, Caitlin Snow gained powers, villains Alchemy and Savitar showed up. Basically, Barry’s selfishness messed up a ton of people’s lives. His timeline manipulation was the prime cause of concern for the Dominators to visit Earth and start their metahuman hatred.
While we’ve seen some examples of this on The Flash, the crossover event did a pretty great job at finally putting some onus on Barry. Yes, people getting mad at Barry for causing changes to a timeline that they didn’t even know happened is inherently stupid, but the plot worked with it. Barry was constantly told by the group his decision was indefensible. They even sit him out of the inaugural mission against the Dominators. Oliver did tell him that mistakes happen — but that’s a pretty damn big one.
With almost the entire group pissed at Barry, Cisco causes his own time no-no when he, Felicity and select Legends go back to the 50s to gain intel on the Dominators, only to propel their mission forward. Barry offers himself up as a sacrifice to the aliens, who say they’ll leave Earth forever if they’re allowed to take The Flash. However, the team talks him out of that decision because they need his help to take on the Dominators.
Subplots that slowed what could have been a perfect crossover
Since the crossover event wasn’t a TV movie and was stretched over four shows with individual plots, some of the non-Dominator plots weren’t all that interesting and in some case, slowed down the frenetic pace.
The Flash’s episode spent far too much time with a newly-minted speedy Wally complaining he didn’t get to be part of the super team-up. By the episode’s end, he agrees to train with H.R. which doesn’t make sense as he’s not a speedster, not from their earth and is genuinely a doofus.
Legends of Tomorrow, to a lesser extent, fell into the same sluggish trap. An ongoing subplot materalized with Stein’s visions coming to light, as his messing with the timeline created a previously non-existent daughter. While the performances were fine, flashing back-and-forth between the “Invasion” story and Stein grappling with righting his wrong and fixing the timeline, didn’t juxtapose as well as it should have. In both scenarios, putting the storylines on the backburner probably would have served the invasion crossover better.
Barry and Kara
The last couple seasons of The Flash have been downers for the most part. Old, bright and go’ lucky Barry has been replaced, by a constantly upset and angry Barry. But, bringing Kara into the mix allowed for his infectious personality to shine once again — acting as a perfect counterbalance to Barry’s blues and the over-serious Oliver.
Kara reunites with Barry Allen on a new episode of #Supergirl, starting NOW on The CW! #DCWeek pic.twitter.com/soGkHuQiQa
— Supergirl (@TheCWSupergirl) November 29, 2016
Seeing the two face off against a Cyberwoman, using his speed and her strength to knock her out cold, was exhilarating.
Thankfully, Cisco built a device which will allow Kara (who’s from a different earth — thanks, CBS!) to come back to the Arrow-verse whenever she pleases. Melissa Benoist was the MVP of the event, bringing a playful, strong-willed energy to Supergirl. If they ever want to do a Barry and Kara spinoff, I think plenty of people would be OK with it.