A review of the CW’s annual crossover between Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow coming up just as soon as my secret identity is my first name with a “the” in front of it…
When all the Berlanti-verse shows teamed up last year, it was both a fun event and one that left plenty of room for improvement.
“Crisis On Earth-X,” on the other hand, was everything a fan could have hoped for, whether they watch all four shows, only one or two, or are just more general DC/superhero fans tuning in out of curiosity(*). It corrected nearly every flaw of “Invasion!” and was packed with memorable moments, big and small.
(*) Peak TV, plus the increasing familiarity of these shows and their styles, has pushed all of them down to intermittent viewing at best for me these days. (Surprisingly, Legends is the one I catch most often, because it’s the most light-hearted and because it’s much less serialized than the others, and thus easier to dip into and out of.) As a comics reader, I mostly hate company-wide crossovers these days because they interfere with ongoing stories in individual series I enjoy, but with the TV versions, it’s the opposite: an easy excuse for me to come back and sample them all at the same time. (For that matter, last year’s crossover is the only reason I gave Legends another chance. So what I’m saying is, crossovers work!)
Why was it better? Let’s go with four reasons to represent the four shows involved:
1. It went full crossover.
“Invasion!” took an awkward hybrid approach to the crossover. The Supergirl episode had nothing to do with it until the last few minutes, Arrow tried celebrating its 100th episode in mid-crossover, and only Legends did an episode that was full-throatedly about the Dominator invasion.
This one, on the other hand, was so committed to the concept that each episode didn’t even feature the opening title sequence of the respective series, but a brand-new “Crisis On Earth-X” banner created for the event. And the hours that followed that credits sequence proved that wasn’t window dressing. There were personal subplots from each series — Professor Stein’s desire to quit the Legends and return to his family, Alex trying to get over her break-up with Maggie, Barry and Iris’s wedding, and Felicity’s reluctance to get engaged to Oliver again — but they were spread out across the whole event, rather than compartmentalized within the chapter from their respective shows, and they were also balanced throughout with the threat from Earth-X.
And speaking of which…
2. It had much better villains.
With all due respect to the many Legion of Super-Heroes comics I’ve read featuring them over the years (plus the original Invasion! miniseries), the Dominators are pretty lame live-action villains, lacking enough personality or individuality to matter as anything more than a vague but relentless threat to humanity.