I've been a fan of the DCCW Universe since the second season of Arrow. My girlfriend got into the show on the ground floor and recommended it to me knowing how much of a DC fan I am.
It became clear in that second season when Arrow used a mid-season two-part episode to introduce Barry Allen/The Flash that there was something big on the horizon. Greg Berlanti and the powers that be at The CW wanted to build a living, breathing live action comic book world on their network and they took a huge step when The Flash premiered in 2014.
A year later they used recurring characters from both shows to build the cast of Legends of Tomorrow, their third show in the DCCW, while at the same time premiering Supergirl on CBS and establishing a link between it and the DCCW with "World's Finest," a multiverse crossover episode that saw The Flash accidentally travel from his Earth One to Supergirl's Earth 38. At season's end the show was moved from CBS to The CW to cement WB/DC's stranglehold on the network's lineup. The stage was set for a huge crossover opportunity between all four shows, which was field tested with last year's "Invasion" four-night crossover event. At the time it was unprecedented and enjoyable, but we all knew that the DCCW could do so much more with a crossover event of this scale.
As it turns out, that so much more that we were waiting for was "Crisis on Earth X," this year's DCCW crossover event that dominated The CW's primetime schedule for two nights in a row, which featured Supergirl at its normal time of 8pm on Monday, followed by a special episode of Arrow the same night at 9pm, a departure from its new Thursday night 9pm time slot this season, and then The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow on at their regular times of 8 and 9pm respectively on Tuesday.
In two nights, the DCCW has raised the bar for TV crossover events. High. Really high. High enough that maybe only the DCCW itself could top it and right now even that seems like a tall order. Wow.
The plot of the crossover is pretty simple and direct. Barry and Iris West are finally getting married and their invitations to the wedding reach across time, space and the multiverse itself. Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak are coming from Arrow, Sara Lance, Jax and Martin Stein AKA Firestorm and Mick Rory are coming from Legends and Kara Danvers(Supergirl) and her sister Alex are coming from Supergirl. Each of these groupings brings with them emotional subplots and conflicts from their respective shows this season but they're putting them aside for the sake of Barry and Iris' wedding......which is subsequently invaded by Nazis from a 53rd Earth called Earth X, a place where the Nazis won World War II and took over the planet. The rest of the crossover is action-filled chaos as the heroes band together to defeat a multiverse Nazi army led by evil versions of Oliver Queen and Supergirl, along with the Reverse Flash himself, Eobard Thawne.
Crisis on Earth X is a case where almost everything that fans wanted to be better about "Invasion" actually happened in full force. For starters, it's a truly full crossover from Supergirl all the way through to Legends. Whereas "Invasion" had the Supergirl episode pretty much separated from The Flash, Arrow and Legends, "Crisis" brings everyone together as soon as possible in the first episode and when the Nazis attack the wedding, it's an entire act of wall to wall super-powered chaos that charges you up for the rest of the event. You see some of those big moments in the trailers and TV spots, but it's just the warm up. Throughout the rest of the crossover event it is clear that The CW decided to go for broke with what they were going to do VFX wise. No super-powered ability is held back from any character. At all. Everyone with an ability gets their moment to show it off and the times where the whole gang is showing their abilities off at once is pure geeky bliss......and there's at least three or four of those huge battles in this event.
One of the biggest things that makes "Crisis" as good as it is comes from the fact that the cast of these four shows are at a point where they are all experienced in this universe. Arrow is in its sixth season while The Flash is in its fourth and both Legends and Supergirl are in their third seasons, so there's no one here that doesn't know what they are doing with their characters and it shows. Any fan that has followed the DCCW across all four shows knows what these characters have been through over the years and what they are currently dealing with, so when the going gets tough in "Crisis" it's not a question of whether or not the good guys win. It's about how badass are they going to look while doing it.
Because of the experience of this cast in the DCCW, the moments of decompression between action sequences work really well because everyone brings the dynamic we've grown accustomed to from each of their shows. Grant Gustin and Candice Patton show their strength well as Barry and Iris, dealing with yet another crisis that has become pretty normal in their super-powered lives. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards re-ignite "Olicity," much to the dismay of those who don't like the Oliver-Felicity dynamic, but to the joy of fans that have been rooting for it from the beginning and yes, they do exist.
Melissa Benoist is at her best with a stoic Kara that pushes aside her issues from this season of Supergirl to be the "Girl of Steel" in every way, shape and form, but one of the fun new dynamics of this crossover is the meeting between Chyler Leigh's Alex Danvers and Caity Lotz's Sara Lance. Alex of course is dealing with her own recent heavy issues from Supergirl Season 3 as well and while in a particularly vulnerable state before everything goes to chaos, her connection with Sara serves to be something that gives her renewed strength and confidence going forward, which is a testament to both characters and how well they play their roles here and on their respective shows.
Franz Drameh's Jax and Victor Garber's Martin Stein almost totally steal the show here, especially when it comes to emotional moments during the crossover. You simply don't have a heart beating in your chest if what happens to them in this crossover doesn't water your eyes even a bit. "Allergies," as Mick would call them. That's all I'll say about that in case you haven't watched it yet.
Bonus credit goes to Amell, Benoist and Cavanagh for having to pull double duty as both good and evil versions of themselves. At times they are aided with the fact that their characters all wear masks at points during the crossover when in battle, but when they have to be in the same room with themselves it's a treat to see.
While those characters carry the day for the crossover, everyone from each respective recurring cast gets involved. Everyone. Seriously. No joke. All of Team Flash, all of Team Arrow and all of the Legends including Gideon and The Waverider. There is even a handful of smaller character appearances that pop up, including some new ones and a major blast from the past that I didn't even see coming but was beyond excited to see. I'm not kidding when I say that Crisis on Earth X raises the bar as high it could possibly go for a crossover event. You don't come away from these four episodes feeling like any of the shows or casts are separated at all in any form. They are truly all inhabiting a fully formed live action comic book universe where every action and every appearance is completely organic and it is an absolute joy to watch.
I lost count how many easter eggs and pop culture references were in this event. I may have to watch it again with a pen and paper to count them all. I mean, they hit so many different references from Superman II to Top Gun all the way to The Terminator franchise. It's easter egg heaven for someone like me that thrives on them and they were brilliantly crafted to fit into the script neatly instead of feeling shoehorned in just for a joke or a one liner.
Crisis on Earth X is simply a triumph for the DCCW Universe and is without question the greatest single event they have produced to this point. In many ways it could have only been possible now, after each of the four shows had reached this point of experience and establishment on The CW and it's one of those great TV events that you might just end up watching a few times over because of how outstanding it truly is.
SUPERGIRL, THE FLASH, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW and ARROW - "Crisis on Earth X" - 5 out of 5 - Aired on The CW on November 27 and 28 and is available to watch on The CW app.