‘Supergirl’/’Flash’ teamup offers welcome fun alternative to ‘Batman v Superman’

Senior Television Writer
03.29.16 58 Comments

A few thoughts on tonight's Supergirl/Flash crossover coming up just as soon as we both have Mariah Carey…

DC and Marvel have taken very different approaches to the way their film and TV properties interact, or don't, each with their own pluses and minuses. The Marvel TV shows can take clever advantage of sharing continuity with the films, like how Kingpin's scheme in Daredevil season 1 was inspired by the alien invasion from Avengers, or the shows can become largely beholden to the agendas of the films, like Agents of SHIELD. Fans of DC's TV shows, meanwhile, may be annoyed that the movies are considered a wholly separate thing, and that it's Ezra Miller playing the Flash on the big screen instead of Grant Gustin, but the flip side of that coin is that the TV shows don't have to be beholden to the cynical, joyless, self-loathing grimdark aesthetic of Zack Snyder's films.

There's clearly an audience for that, based on the first week box office for Batman v Superman(*), but because the TV shows exist independently of the films, comics fans who prefer more fun from their superhero adventures have a place to turn, and “World's Finest” provided a nice tonal alternative to what's currently available at your local multiplex. Barry and Kara didn't fight at all – even in the classic trope where two heroes meet for the first time and briefly mistake one another for villains – enjoyed each other's company, bantered, and even smiled a time or twelve on the way to taking down the bad guys. Imagine that.

(*) I have no interest in seeing the new film, given how completely I felt Snyder missed the mark with Superman in Man of Steel (this article is one of many that capture my problems with that film), and given that everything I've heard about the sequel suggests it doubles down on that stuff. 

As a one-way, cross-network crossover, “World's Finest” seemed designed mainly to get Flash viewers to give Supergirl a chance. Even a few years ago, the idea that a CBS show would need to draw in some more CW viewers would have been laughable, but that's where we are. There were brief references to Flash supporting characters and rogues, but Gustin was the only Flash castmember to visit, and details from his show were only relevant in helping Barry and Kara figure out how to take down Livewire and Silver Banshee. Still, Gustin got to display all the easygoing charisma that's made him such a great lead on his own show, and the setting – on another Earth with no Zoom, and operating entirely in the daytime (like Green Arrow, Flash mostly tends to fight at night on the CW) – gave him a chance to play lighter than he has on his own show of late. He and Melissa Benoist didn't get to exercise their Glee chops and sing, but they had instant sibling chemistry, and Barry's presence worked wonders for pulling Kara out of her recent funk (her delighted response to Barry's ice cream stunt was perfect) in the same way that all the Arrow characters tend to be happier and more entertaining whenever he turns up in Star City.

Pretty much everything featuring the two heroes interacting was a blast. The rest of the episode was a mixed bag, as Supergirl has been for most of its first season. Cat Grant got several opportunities to be awesome, whether referring to Kara, Barry, James, and Winn as “the attractive yet non-threatening racially-diverse cast of a CW show,” acting completely unafraid of the two supervillains invading her office, or instantly figuring out that Barry was the Flash. And it was fun to see Winn geek out over Barry's presence, and to take pleasure in seeing James for once be the one feeling inferior to another man in Kara's life. But James and Winn on the whole remain bland, and no point on the love rhombus involving the two of them, Kara, and Lucy Lane has been particularly compelling. (The episode would have arguably been too busy to squeeze in the fugitive adventures of Alex and J'onn J'onnz, but it's a shame any newcomers didn't get to see Martian Manhunter in action even for a minute or two.) And, like most of Supergirl's non-Kryptonian supervillains, Livewire and Silver Banshee weren't compelling or nuanced enough (Livewire especially in the latter category) to carry their end of things. The crowd of civilians standing up to fight for Supergirl was one of the cornier examples of that particular device, but this show proudly has corny in its DNA, and that's a trope that's effective almost any way you use it.

I don't know if more of these crossovers will be in the cards next year (assuming CBS renews Supergirl, which seems likely but isn't guaranteed), but based on tonight, I'd gladly watch hour after hour of these two heroes teaming up and smiling.

What did everybody else think? If you're a Flash fan tuning into Supergirl for the first time, was there enough here to keep you watching even without Barry? If you watch this show but not The Flash, how do you feel the Scarlet Speedster fit in? And if you watch both, how did you feel this worked out?

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