Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Arrow Season 8, Episode 8: Crisis On Infinite Earths, Part Four

It's Part Four of the big Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover!

This week's episode was written by Marc Guggenheim and Marv Wolfman. Guggenheim is a prolific comic book writer, screenwriter and producer. He's also quite a prominent figure in the Arrowverse, as he created both Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow. More on him in a bit.

Wolfman is a comic book writer who's worked for both Marvel and DC over the years. His presence here is significant because he wrote the Crisis On Infinite Earth comic miniseries back in 1985. He and artist George Perez, who pencilled Crisis, also co-created the characters who debuted in the miniseries— including The Monitor, The Anti-Monitor, Harginger and Pariah. So it's pretty cool that they brought Wolfman in for this.

Overall it's an OK episode, and a decent ending to the crossover. Yep, that's right, I said ending! Despite the fact that this is only the fourth of five parts, the big cosmic battle wraps up in this episode, as the Multiverse is rebooted!

I have to admit I wasn't expecting such an early finale. I have to assume Part Five will focus on the fallout from the restored and merged Earths.

I was also surprised by just how much of the episode involved pointless flashbacks, as we see Speed Force visions of how the various characters met and became allies. OK, so I didn't expect a literal adaptation from the comic, but what the hell were these scenes doing in the crossover? 

I couldn't help but resent these flashbacks, as they told us nothing we didn't already know about the characters, and worst of all, took up valuable screentime that should have been devoted to resolving the actual plot. I have to assume they were inserted as a money-saving measure, since it's cheaper to point a camera at two people talking than it is to film a cosmic battle.

I also didn't expect so many parallels and similarities to Avengers: Endgame. Granted, Crisis and Infinity War/Endgame are fairly similar stories to begin with. But there were numerous scenes here that were virtually copied and pasted directly from Endgame! I guess if you're gonna steal, might as well do it from the most successful movie of all time!

Despite these hiccups, the episode still had its moments and I enjoyed it for the most part. The final battle with The Anti-Monitor was decent, if short and scaled way, way down from the comic. I've always been a sucker for "Villain Teaming Up With The Heroes" stories, so I liked Lex Luthor's inclusion here. It was also nice to see Mar Novu before he became The Monitor, and get a look at his origin story. I was also pleased by the VERY unexpected cameo from a certain speedster, which I'll mention in more detail below.

Lastly, we come to this.

You know, the famous newspaper headline that first appeared in Season 1 of The Flash. The newspaper headline from the future that screams, "FLASH MISSING! VANISHES IN CRISIS!" THAT newspaper headline.

If you've made it this far through the crossover, you've probably figured out by now that the Flash does NOT vanish in the Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover.

So what the hell happened?

First of all, let's take a closer look at the actual newspaper article. The text reads:

"After an extreme street battle with the Reverse-Flash, our city's very own Scarlet Speedster disappeared in an explosion of light. The cause of the fight is currently unknown. According to witnesses, The Flash, with help from Starling City's Green Arrow, The Atom, and Hawkgirl, began fighting the Reverse-Flash around midnight last night. The sky took on a deep crimson color as the ensuing battle created the most destruction this city has seen since The Flash first arrived in Central City."

There're several more paragraphs, but the gist of the article is that the Flash fought the Reverse-Flash, the skies turned red and then both vanished in a flash of light. Obviously nothing even remotely like that happened in the crossover.

I could overlook the article's inclusion of Hawkgirl, as she hasn't been a thing in the Arrowverse for a good four or five years now. It's a bit harder to excuse the absence of the Reverse-Flash though. Or the whole, you know, not vanishing thing.

Especially when, in the Season 5 finale, Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse-Flash, looks Barry square in the eye and says, "See you in our next crisis." The Flash writers were clearly setting up the events from the headline here, expecting to see it play out in the Crisis crossover.

Unfortunately none of it came to pass.

The Flash has been building up to this moment for the past six years, as this headline has popped up numerous times in every season. Fans have been worrying about Barry's fate for years, wondering what would actually happen to him when the moment finally arrived.

Hell, the entirety of Season 5 was based on this headline! Barry vanishes in the Crisis, leaving his newborn daughter Nora to grow up without him. Once she becomes an adult, she travels from the 2040s to the present day to finally get to know the father she never met.

Then much of Season 6 concerned the headline as well, as The Monitor straight up told Barry than "The Flash must die in the Crisis." Barry then spent the past several episodes grimly awaiting his fate.

So as you can see, this headline was a HUGE deal. Then the Crisis finally arrived and the writers ignored Barry's destiny and handwaved it all away. They get around it by overlooking the headline altogether and saying The Monitor's prophecy referred to the Flash from Earth-90, and was never about Barry in the first place.

That was such a boneheaded and insulting resolution to the matter that I was sure it wouldn't stand. In fact in Part 3 I said there was no way the writers would possibly the situation like that, as it was far too easy and anticlimactic. I said there were still two episodes to go, and predicted Barry would indeed vanish, but end up resurrected when the universe was rebooted.

Welp, obviously I was wrong about that. The headline was resolved in the stupidest way possible, leaving fans feeling betrayed and angry. I can't say I blame them. It was a cheap tactic on the part of the writers, and almost feels like they're laughing at us for becoming invested in the goddamned show in the first place.

OK, obviously Barry was never going to disappear forever from his own show. But I thought we might get a few episodes in which he was missing, and then a storyline where Team Flash goes looking for him. Instead we got nothing.

So how could something like this happen? How could the writers ignore such a fundamental part of The Flash's lore? According to Marc Guggenheim, who oversaw the crossover, he "didn't feel beholden" to include it (!). Said Guggenheim:

"I guess what it really comes down to is not being beholden to a headline from six years ago that was not written by any of the showrunners involved in the crossover. A lot of things drive our stories, and a lot of things determine what choices we make… To me, tracking toward a headline written six years ago is literally the definition of 'the cart driving the horse.' We’ve had Reverse-Flash so prominent in the Arrowverse over the years, including in last year’s crossover and the crossover before that… I love the character and I love Tom [Cavanagh] as a person, and I certainly love Matt Letscher’s version, but you have to make choices."

Jesus Christ! So basically he didn't pay homage to the headline because he didn't write it. Talk about unprofessional!

You can't just ignore something that's had six years of setup just because it doesn't fit into your story. That's why you're the writer! You find a way to make it work! If you can throw out something as major as that, what else doesn't matter on the show?

To illustrate why this is such a huge deal, pretend it happened in the MCU. Imagine how, over the course of ten years, Marvel carefully and deliberately set up the Infinity Stones, the Gauntlet and Thanos. Then imagine that after those ten years of buildup we get to Infinity War and Iron Man says, "Oh, by the way— Thanos slipped in the shower this morning and broke his neck. He's gone."

See how ridiculous that is? It's exactly the same on The Flash. We were promised something epic for six years and were denied at the last second.
This feels a huge misstep to me. Worst of all, they could have still addressed the vanishing incident with just a bit of planning, coordination and forethought. The writers could have wrapped up the dull and plodding Bloodwork storyline a bit early, then given us an episode in which Barry & Thawne fought, the skies turned red and they both vanished. Then we could have seen their struggle instead of the pointless flashbacks in this episode.

So what's going to happen now on The Flash? Will the Crisis cause all the characters to conveniently forget about the headline and never mention it again?


The Plot:

We begin 10,000 years ago on the planet Maltus. Prominent scientist Mar Novu and his wife Xneen are in the middle of an experiment to travel back to the Dawn Of Time and take a look around. Novu dons a protective suit (that looks suspiciously like The Monitor's armor) and enters the temporal chamber. He opens a portal into the past as Xneen monitors (heh) him.

Nova steps through the portal and finds himself in a void filled with swirling green energy. Suddenly an alarm goes off, and Xneen detects high levels of antimatter. She yells for Novu to return. There's a flash of light, and Novu finds himself in the middle of a desolate, green-tinted quarry. Xneen tells him he's somehow opened a rift into the Antimatter Universe.

He looks up and sees The Anti-Monitor standing above him. Novu radios Xneen and tells her that his ambition has doomed them all.

In the present day, the seven Paragons are still in the Vanishing Point. Ryan Choi, the Paragon Of Humanity, writes a letter to his wife (who no longer exists). He explains that after several months of chilling in the void, the Paragons are having trouble accepting the fact that everyone else in the entire Multiverse is dead. Barry Allen, aka the Flash, has even somehow gone missing. The rest are unsure how to escape, or even what to do next.

Ryan and Lex Luthor scavenge some Time Master tech and attempt to make a teleportation device. Supergirl orders Luthor to text it on himself, since he killed Superman-96 to take his place here. Luthor steps into the chamber and Ryan activates it, but nothing happens.

Just then Barry appears and streaks across the plain, crashing into a wall of rubble. The others ask where he's been the past few months. Barry says he went into the Speed Force to look for a way out, but was only inside for a few seconds (from his point of view).

In Purgatory, Oliver Queen— who's now the Spectre— relives his entire life, with emphasis on all his battles. He wakes up and sees Jim Corrigan (the former Spectre) sitting across from him. Corrigan asks what he saw, and Oliver says everything. Corrigan tells him he's ready, and that all his battles have prepared him for one last fight with The Anti-Monitor.

Back in the Vanishing Point, Barry says he has to enter the Speed Force again to look for a way out. The others try to stop him, as he's obviously in no condition to try. Just then Spectre Oliver (Spoliver?) appears, and says the Speed Force is the key to saving everyone. He tells them the Multiverse is gone, and has been replaced with the Antimatter Universe. The Anti-Monitor is at the Dawn Of Time, trying to make the change permanent.

Spectre Oliver orders Barry, Batwoman, White Canary and J'onn J'onzz to go to the Dawn Of Time to battle the Anti-Monitor, while Supergirl, Ryan and Luthor travel to Maltus in the past to prevent Mar Novu from opening his portal in the first place.

Barry says the Speed Force is blocking him for some reason, and he's not fast enough to break through. Spectre Oliver then touches Barry's forehead, "unlocking his potential," whatever that means.

Barry somehow grabs all six Paragons at the same time and whooshes them into the Speed Force. He drops Supergirl, Luthor and Ryan on Maltus in the past. As he takes the others to the Dawn Of Time, The Anti-Monitor appears and attacks. Barry and the others are then scattered throughout the Speed Force.

On Maltus, Supergirl and Ryan see a futuristic city in the distance. As they head for it, Supergirl realizes Luthor's slipped away.

In the Speed Force, Barry finds himself inside a replica or memory or something of Queen Consolidated (confusing!). Oliver appears and explains that he and the others were lost in the Speed Force after The Anti-Monitor attacked. He says Barry needs to hurry and collect Canary, J'onn and Batwoman before they fall out of the force and are destroyed. Hooray! A pointless quest to eat up some screen time! He tells Barry he can find the others by "remembering the moments when their bonds were forged."

Oliver disappears, and Barry finds himself in a vision of STAR Labs for some reason. Suddenly a different Barry Allen appears before him— the version from the Justice League movie. The two chat a bit and admire one another's costumes, and are surprised to find they both have the same name. Justice League Flash then promptly disappears.

On Maltus, Supergirl finds Luthor and asks him what he's up to. He says world domination of course, and fires energy rays from his hands, knocking her for a loop. He tells her he used the Book Of Destiny to "upgrade" himself, and blasts her unconscious. Ryan arrives and Lex blasts him as well.

Back in the Speed Force, the Paragons find themselves in "memories" from past episodes. Batwoman wakes inside Palmer Tech, where Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, is arguing with Oliver. J'onn lands in the Invasion! crossover, as Oliver tells Supergirl he doesn't trust aliens. Canary finds herself at the moment she died, as Laurel Lance and John Diggle stare at her body, which is laid out on a slab.

Ryan wakes and finds Supergirl. He wonders why he was chosen to be a Paragon, since he has no special powers. Supergirl gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, saying the fact that he was brave enough to leave his family and fight against The Anti-Monitor makes him special. As they head for the nearby city, Supergirl fears that Luthor will try to change history to his advantage.

Barry arrives in a memory of the Elseworlds crossover, as Superman fights John Deegan, who's used the Book Of Destiny to turn himself into an Evil Superman. Barry sees Oliver fire a special arrow at Deegan, which neutralizes his power. Barry approaches Oliver and asks what kind of Devil's bargain he made with The Monitor. Oliver says that Barry and Supergirl were destined to die saving the world, so he arranged to take their place. He tells Barry that dying's easy, as the real heroes have to keep going and fighting.

On Maltus, Mar Novu's about to open the portal and perform his experiment. Luthor enters and orders him to stop. He tells Novu his experiment will destroy the Multiverse, and offers to share his knowledge of the future with him. In return, Luthor wants the powers that Novu will soon acquire (?).

Supergirl and Ryan enter Novu's lab, and tell him not to trust Luthor. Ryan ushers Novu out of the chamber, while Supergirl and Luthor battle it out. Ryan begs Novu not to go through with his experiment, as it will cause an infinite number of lives to be lost. Novu agrees, and says Ryan's a remarkable individual.

Barry then zips around the Speed Force, collecting the Paragons from the various memories. He appears on Maltus as well, where he grabs Supergirl, Luthor and Ryan and takes everyone to the Dawn Of Time.

The Paragons are all shocked to see The Anti-Monitor waiting there for them. Ryan says that's impossible, as he convinced Novu not to conduct the experiment that set the whole Crisis in motion. The Anti-Monitor explains that there are an infinite number of Mar Novus in the Multiverse (!!!), and one will always be arrogant enough to go through with the experiment. Cue sound of falling slide whistle!

Spectre Oliver appears and tells them they're strong enough to hold the line while he "rebirths the Universe." He says the Dawn Of Time is the only place it can happen, and he'll "light the spark while they fan the flame." When they ask what the hell he's talking about, he tells them they'll know when it's time.

The Anti-Monitor summons his Shadow Demons, who attack the Paragons. Spectre Oliver stands on a cliff above, watching. The Anti-Monitor appears and says he's eternal, and it's too late for them to win. Spectre Olivers says, "We'll see," and the two engage in an epic battle. The Anti-Monitor fires a mighty blast of fire and energy at Spectre Oliver, who barely manages to hold his ground. He then rallies and pins The Anti-Monitor and grabs him by the lapels. Spectre Oliver growls a variation of his famous catchphrase, saying, "You. Have. Failed. This. Universe!"

Spectre Oliver then tilts his head back, as a beam of blue energy shoots from his eyes and into the sky. The Shadow Demons vanish. The Paragons see what's happening on the cliff, and wonder what they're supposed to do next. Luthor says maybe they can use his page from the Book Of Destiny to do what Oliver said and "fan the flames."

Supergirl suggests they each concentrate on the virtues they represent as Paragons. The seven of them line up, face Spectre Oliver and The Anti-Monitor, and grimace as they think good thoughts toward them.

The Anti-Monitor screams in pain, and there's a massive explosion of energy. As it dissipates, they see Spectre Oliver's the only one left. He falls to the ground, and Barry races Canary to the top of the cliff.

Barry and Canary find a weakened Oliver dying on the ground. He says they did it, and points to the sky above. They look and see a new universe forming. He says his end is also the beginning, and that he's at peace. He tells them to keep going and never stop, as this new world will need heroes like them.

Oliver then dies for a SECOND time in this crossover, as Barry and Canary comfort one another.


• This episode begins with the origin of The Monitor, and the accidental creation of his counterpart The Anti-Monitor. As you might expect, it's all a lot different from how it happened in the Crisis On Infinite Earths comic. Get comfortable, it's complicated!

In the comic, there was originally only one Universe. Among the worlds it contained was the overpopulated planet Maltus, home of the first intelligent lifeforms in the galaxy. Thirteen billion years ago, a scientist named Krona conducted an experiment to peer back to the Dawn Of Time and witness the birth of the universe. Unfortunately the universe doesn't take kindly to being spied on, and reacted violently. Krona's experiment was a disaster, splintering reality and creating the Multiverse and the Antimatter Universe.

Feeling guilty for what Krona had done, half the Maltusian race relocated to the planet Oa, where they eventually founded the Green Lantern Corps. The other, evil half set up house on the planet Qward.

The Monitor was born on a moon of Oa, and was the living embodiment of all the positive matter universes. At the same time, The Anti-Monitor sprang from the soil on Qward. The two cosmic beings began battling across the universes, in a war that lasted a million years. 

Eventually they both blasted one another at the same time, which rendered each unconscious. They both laid dormant for nine billion years. Now that's a nap!

Then on an unnamed world, a scientist named Kell Mossa performed the exact same experiment as Krona, and tried to look back at the Dawn Of Time. Again, there were disastrous consequences, as his experiment woke the two Monitors. The Anti-Monitor got busy and began destroying the Multiverse with a wave of antimatter. Mossa's world was the first to be annihilated, and as a result he was somehow transformed into Pariah, a cosmic being who was doomed to witness the death of each world.

The Monitor then began studying and cataloging the Multiverse, hoping to find beings who could defeat his evil counterpart.

I could write another fifty thousand words about all this, but that'll do for now.

Here in the Arrowverse, it looks like they took the origins of Krona and Pariah, mashed them together and grafted them onto Mar Novu to explain how he became The Monitor.

I can see why they did this. The events in the comic were overly complicated and complex. Krona accidentally creates the Multiverse, the Monitors spring into being for vague reasons, and then Pariah's thrown into the mix as well. 

I approve of this new, streamlined Arrowverse origin of the Monitors. It's simple, to the point and much less confusing than the one in the comic. 

 More differences from the source material: In the Crisis comic, the antimatter wave threatened Earth-1 in ALL time periods, simultaneously. It affected characters living in prehistoric times, in WWII, in 1985 (the year the comic was published) and even in the 30th Century (where the Legion Of Superheroes lived).

I'm OK with them changing this for TV. I never understood how the antimatter wave could be in all time periods in the first place. If it destroyed Earth in WWII, then how would the planet still be around to get destroyed in 1985?

The only reason they did this in the comic is because at the time, DC had books set in various time periods, and they wanted all their characters to join in the Crisis fun.

• Pariah doesn't appear in this episode, but I forgot to mention something about him when I reviewed the previous parts. In the comic, Pariah was immune to antimatter. In fact that was kind of his shtick— he was doomed to "bear witness" to the destruction of other worlds by the antimatter wave. Once a world was annihilated, he was pulled to the next and had to do it all over again.

Here in the crossover, the antimatter wave destroyed Pariah along with everyone and everything else. In fact once Earth-1 is destroyed, Pariah completely disappears from the story! Not sure why they made this particular change, but there you go.

• The name "Maltus" likely derives from economist Thomas Malthus. He posited that Earth's population would increase exponentially, while the resources to support them would grow linearly. This would result in a massive catastrophe, which would wipe out the majority of the population and return it to sustainable levels.

In the comics, the planet Maltus suffered from massive overpopulation.

• When we first see Mar Novu he's got his weird cornrow hairstyle, that I assume was the height of fashion ten thousand years ago on Maltus. Oddly enough, his wife Xneen has a normal, contemporary Earth cut.

Are men the only ones allowed to have flamboyant dos on Maltus? Or did the makeup department not have enough money to give Xneen a similar Maltusian hairstyle?

• In Crisis On Infinite Earths: Part Three, I noted that The Anti-Monitor's antimatter cannon— which he used to destroy the entire Multiverse, mind you— was housed in an hilariously tiny chamber that looked like it was built by a high school drama department. It was a perfect example of how this "Discount Crisis" was woefully under-budgeted.

Welp, it looks like the set department was saving up their money for this episode. Mar Novu's lab is sleek, futuristic and suitably awesome.

The temporal chamber is even more impressive. It actually contains two levels!

And it's also pretty darned big. At least two or three hundred feet long. Now this is what a scifi set should look like! Amazing what you can do when you actually spend some money!

Also, take a good look at the round control console in Novu's temporal chamber...

It reminds me a LOT of the one seen inside the TARDIS on Doctor Who. Not exact, but pretty darned close. There's no way this was a coincidence— I'm convinced it was a deliberate shoutout on the part of the set designer.

• When Novu first enters the temporal chamber, he's wearing a protective suit that will eventually become his Monitor costume. He looks at the suit with disdain and tells Xneen he looks ridiculous. She says the suit will protect him from coronal radiation. He reples, "Yes, yes, yes, I'm familiar with the jingle."

So... apparently they had advertising jingles ten thousand years ago on Maltus!

 • One last thing about Novu's lab set. It's filled with a dozen or so transparent monitors that display animated graphics. I don't think the readouts are being projected onto the glass, as they're pretty bright. Are these some sort of real, cutting edge clear monitors they're using? Or did they just hang up blank panes of glass and CGI the graphics onto them in post?

• When Novu steps through the portal to the Dawn Of Time, it looks like a vast dimension filled with roiling green energy. In fact it looks identical to the time stream that the Waverider routinely travels through over on Legends Of Tomorrow.

• In the early days of Doctor Who (another Who reference!), critics and fans alike often ridiculed the show for filming in the same local quarry and trying to pass it off as various alien planets.

In this episode, Mar Novu is accidentally transported to the Antimatter Universe. As the camera dramatically pulls back, we see this terrifying, otherworldly realm looks for all the world like... a quarry! In Vancouver, yet!

• When Oliver was recruited as the new Spectre in Part 3, I said it was unlikely that he'd look like the comic book version. I said there was no way his skin would turn bone white, or that he'd don a pair of green Speedos and a green cloak. I said he also probably wouldn't grow to five hundred feet tall and punch the equally giant Anti-Monitor in the nose.

Of course I was right about most of that. They did give him a cloak of sorts though. It's a bit different from that of the comic book Spectre, but I'll allow it.

It also looks like they made his face a bit paler too. Fortunately they passed on the green Speedos.

Neither Spectre Oliver or The Anti-Monitor grew to giant size (in this episode, at least), but they did battle one another kind of like they did in the comic.

• Interesting that the Paragons were stuck in the Vanishing Point for months before Spectre Oliver returned. How'd they survive all that time? I assume they must have found the remains of a Time Masters grocery store? Or at the very least an abandoned vending machine?

• Speaking of this... Barry tries to enter the Speed Force, but is spat back out by it. From his perspective he was only inside it for a few seconds, but months went by for the other Paragons. Yet Barry looks pale, weak and malnourished. In fact he looks like he was inside it for weeks maybe even months!

Why's he look like he's in such bad shape if he was only in it for five seconds? Did he look like that BEFORE he tried to enter the Speed Force? If so, why's he look so ragged, when none of the others do? It's almost like the writers forgot they just said a few seconds passed for him.

• Now's a good a time as any to mention this— there are no Paragons in the Crisis On Infinite Earths comic. The concept of seven exceptional beings who are destined to defeat The Anti-Monitor was created specifically for the crossover. 

The comic did have Harbinger gather seven superheroes (Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Firebrand, Dawstar, King Solivar, Arion and Psycho Pirate) to protect the Quantum Towers from an initial wave of Shadow Demons. They were never called Paragons though, and were obviously not the same thing.

• I honestly expected the Paragons would be a lot more upset with Luthor. After all, he erased Superman-96 from existence (which is another way of saying killed) and seriously lessened the strength of the team in order to save his own skin. That seems like it'd be worth at least a couple severe beatings.

Instead, they all just act slightly annoyed by him. Like you would with someone who invited themselves to your party and started eating all the food.

To be fair though, we join them several months after they've been stuck in the Vanishing Point, so maybe they got most of their hatred and resentment out of their systems while we weren't looking.

• Spectre Oliver shows up in the Vanishing Point, and tells them the only way out is through the Speed Force. Barry says he tried to enter it, but just wasn't fast enough. Spectre Oliver touches Barry's forehead, and "unlocks his potential."

So what the hell does that mean? Can Barry now move at lightspeed, as he did in the comic? And will his potential remain unlocked once the Universe is rebooted?

• Once his potential's unlocked, Spectre Oliver says, "Run, Barry... Run!"

A year or so ago I started a "Run, Barry, Run" counter, to see how many times someone in the Arrowverse says it. I think I may have missed one or two instances last year, but as near as I can tell this is at LEAST the ninth time it's been uttered.

• Barry then somehow grabs the other six Paragonsall at the same time, mind you— and whooshes them into the Speed Force.

How in the name of Superman's Red Trunks did he do that? His power is running really fast! That's it! He doesn't have super strength! There's no way in hell he could pick up six adults, pile them all on his back and run off with them!

• For some reason, any time a character is inside the Speed Force in this episode the aspect ratio changes, becoming more movie-like. Hmm... I've no problem with this— it's actually a nice little visual cue to let us know where we are. It's just that Barry's visited the Speed Force many, many times over on The Flash, and I don't ever remember that happening before. 

By the way, is Spectre Oliver doing his impression of Rod Serling here? He looks— and even sounds— very much like him!

• And then we get the most shocking and surprising moment of the entire five part crossover! After entering the Speed Force, Barry finds himself inside a vision of STAR Labs. He hears a nasally voice behind him, and when he whips around he sees... Barry Allen from the DCEU Justice League movie! Holy Sh*tballs!

For the record, I hated Warner's awful and incoherent Justice League movie, and I thought actor Ezra Miller made a pretty poor Flash. All that said... this scene was awesome! I actually uttered an audible "Wow!" when I saw it.

Of all the cameos I expected to see in this crossover, this one was definitely at the bottom of the list. Heck, who am I kidding it wasn't on the list at all! I'm amazed that Miller agreed to appear here, as he generally doesn't do a lot of TV. Good for him for agreeing to it though, in an effort to promote the DCEU and unite the fans.

I'm also absolutely gobsmacked that the producers managed to keep this a secret— especially in the age of social media. Kudos!

• When Barry meets DCEU Barry, they have the following conversation:

Barry: "I'm also the Flash."
DCEU Barry: "You're also the what?"
Barry: "The Flash."
DCEU Barry: "The Flash? The Flash..."

DCEU Barry doesn't recognize the name, because as amazing as it seems, I don't think anyone ever actually called him "The Flash" in the Justice League movie. I'd have to watch it again to be 100% certain though, and that ain't happening.

• I'm not gonna spend much time on the Speed Force part of the episode, as I thought the scenes were all pointless and boring as hell. They ate up valuable screentime that could have been used to flesh out the actual story, and the only reason they were included was because they were cheaper to film than epic, Endgame-style battle scenes.

Since these scenes were all flashbacks, I'll list where they came from:

— The scene at Queen Consolidated was the first time Oliver and Barry ever met, and came from the Arrow Season 2 episode The Scientist

— Oliver and Ray arguing at Palmer Tech came from the Arrow Season 3 episode Suicidal Tendencies

— Oliver and Supergirl arguing over aliens came from Season 2 of Legends Of Tomorrow, specifically the Invasion! Part 3 episode.

— Barry watching Oliver shoot the magic arrow at John Deegan/Evil Superman was from Supergirl Season 4 episode Elseworlds, Part 3.

— Diggle and Laurel hovering over White Canary's corpse is from the Arrow Season 3 episode Sara.

• I can see now that Ryan Choi's gonna give Cisco a run for his money when he joins the cast of Legends. He's quite the quipster here, tossing out one liners left and right all through this episode.

— When Spectre Oliver first appears in the Vanishing Point, Ryan says, "Nice outfit. Very... Sith."

— When he, Supergirl and Luthor are dropped off on Maltus, Ryan looks around and says, "Why doesn't this alien forest look more alien?" Way to point out the budget shortfalls, Ryan!

— When Ryan frets that he's not a Paragon because he doesn't have powers, Supergirl says he has more worth than he knows. He says, "I don't know about hope, but you're definitely the Paragon Of Pep Talks." 

That last one's pretty meta, as I'm constantly ragging the writers of The Flash for filling their scripts with countless maudlin Patented The CW Pep Talks®. Is... is it possible they've read my blog, and are aware that the audience is onto them here, and they decided to comment on it?

Anyway, I'm torn about Ryan Choi. He's very likable here, as the producers are doing everything in their power to endear him to us. But they're also forcibly removing Brandon Routh, aka Atom (along with his real life wife Courtney Ford) from Legends in order to replace him with Osric Chau as Ryan. Part of me can't help but resent Ryan because of that.

• In Crisis Part 3 I noted that since Luthor used the Book Of Destiny to replace Superman-96, the Paragons were now gonna be seriously under-powered. Replacing a Kryptonian with a normal, middle-aged human? How the hell were they supposed to beat The Anti-Monitor now?

Apparently the writers realized that as well, so they had Luthor use the Book to "give himself a few upgrades." He can now fire powerful energy beams from his hands. He's nowhere near as strong as Superman of course, but at least now he's a somewhat formidable threat. Kudos to the writers for coming up with this little fix.

I'm assuming that once the Universe is reset, Luthor will no longer have these newfound powers?

• Luthor breaks into Novu's lab, seconds before he begins his temporal experiment. Novu asks what he wants. Luthor says, "You will soon have certain abilities that I will need in order to deal with some, shall we say, super problems popping up in my world."

I guess Luthor's implying that he wants The Monitor's powers in order to kill the Super Cousins on his Earth. So is he going to try and steal The Monitor's powers? Or is he going to take his place and go back to the Dawn Of Time himself? It's not quite clear what his plan is here.

• Let's talk about Batwoman's costume during Crisis, shall we? In Part One, she's fighting crime in her Batsuit when Harbinger appears and teleports her to Earth-38. So far so good.

She spends the entirety of Part Two wearing perfectly fitting street clothes. I kinda doubt she brought 'em with her, so maybe she asked Leonard, the Earth-74 Waverider's AI, to replicate some for her (something that we've seen the Earth-1 ship do on Legends).

She then wears her costume all through Part Three, but without the mask and bright red clown wig. Note that her mask & wig are most definitely absent when Pariah teleports her and the other Paragons to the Vanishing Point.

Then in Part Four, Barry takes her and the others into the Speed Force, and exits into the Antimatter Universe. Suddenly Batwoman's mask and wig are back! WHOOOPS!

So where the hell did these items come from? I suppose I could be generous here and say she might have rolled up her mask and tucked it into a hidden compartment in her suit. Maybe. But there's no way in hell she stuffed that bulky wig in any pocket!

Even more amazing, the second the Pargons arrived in the quarry, er, I mean Antimatter Universe, Batwoman quickly applied the black makeup around her eyes to blend them in with her mask while we weren't looking!

• So Ryan talks Novu out of performing his experiment, meaning the Antimatter Universe is never formed, nor is The Anti-Monitor created. Barry then whisks all the Paragons out of the Speed Force and back to the Dawn Of Time... where the Antimatter Universe exists again! Wait, what? And to make it even more confounding, The Anti-Monitor's there waiting for them when they arrive. What the hell?

The writers make a very lame attempt to justify this incongruity:

Supergirl: "Where are we?"
Barry: "The Antimatter Universe."
Canary: "At the Dawn of Time."
J'onn: "We arrived, and he was already here... The Anti-Monitor."
Ryan: "That's impossible. I got through to him. I know I did."
The Anti-Monitor: "Some fates are inescapable. You spoke to one man across countless universes. But within the tapestry of the Multiverse, there will always be one Mar Novu who cannot turn from his towering ambition, and in that inevitability, there is destiny. Welcome to mine!"

Cue the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme.

So apparently, despite the fact that we were never given the most microscopic hint that this was the case, there are an infinite number of Mar Novus in the Multiverse. And each one is capable of building a portal and traveling to the Dawn Of Time, where he accidentally allows the antimatter universe to pour in, transforming him into The Monitor and creating The Anti-Monitor.

This is an extremely objectionable and unsatisfactory plot development. It basically negates EVERYTHING the heroes have done up to this point. No matter what they do, no matter how hard they fight, it doesn't matter because there will always be an Anti-Monitor in the end. They all might as well have stayed home and relaxed as each of their respective Earths were wiped out by the antimatter wave. 

The only hero who escapes unscathed here is Oliver. His sacrifice is the only one that actually made any difference, since it allowed him to become the Spectre and kill The Anti-Monitor.

• Back in Part One I complained that we never got a good look at the Shadow Demons' faces, as they were always filmed from several hundred feet away. In this episode we finally get a closeup view of one of them. 

Meh... their faces just look like generic ghouls or zombies with glowing red eyes. Maybe that's why they were trying to keep 'em as far from the camera as possible!

• My favorite moment from the episode: "YOU. HAVE. FAILED. THIS. UNIVERSE!!!"

• It's good to see the Blue Laser That Fires Up Into The Sky getting work again! Good for you! I've really missed you, man.

• I brought this up in my reviews of the previous Crisis episodes, but I still feel it's worth a repeat: What good are The Anti-Monitor's Shadow Demons? 

They're presented as a legitimate threat, but in reality they're little more than a slight nuisance. They can literally be destroyed by a light tap! Hell, even Ryan Choi, the normal guy with no powers, is shown destroying dozens of them with nothing but his bare fists!

Look, I get it— the Shadow Demons' fragility is a storytelling conceit, designed to give the good guys a fighting chance. There are thousands of the things, and if it took a huge amount of power, effort and time to kill even one, the heroes would all be doomed. So I understand why the writers gave them a weakness.

It's just that it makes it hard to take the Demons seriously when they can be defeated so easily.

• Once they see Spectre Oliver shooting the blue laser out of his eyes, the Paragons realize this is the moment for which they were chosen. They all line up, as each concentrates on his or her defining quality. 

Note that Lex Luthor is in the lineup. You know, the guy who murdered Superman-96 in order to take his place and not be destroyed by the antimatter wave. He's there. As the Paragon Of Truth. HAW!

Honestly I'm not sure I'd want Lex there thinking good thoughts at Spectre Oliver. How do any of the others know he won't try and somehow alter this new universe to his own advantage?

Also, this was one of the most important moments of the entire crossover. As such it needed to be suitably epic. Instead, the Paragons just line up and stare calmly into the distance. 

This scene definitely needed some sort of special effects. Like some sort of beams emerging from everyone's chests, to indicate they were sending positive energy toward the new universe. Or a glowing aura around each of the Paragons. They could have at least made their eyes all glow, for corn's sake. Something, anything besides just standing there like lumps.

• I forgot to bring this up in the previous episode, so now's as good a time as any to mention it. We know that in Part 3, Luthor used a single page from the Book Of Destiny to overwrite Superman-96 and take his place as the Paragon Of Truth. If you're like me, you're probably wondering how he got ahold of the page in the first place. The answer was right under our noses the whole time!

In Part 2, The Monitor resurrects Luthor, saying he has a role to play in the Crisis. A bit later we see him in the Waverider's library, leafing through the Book Of Destiny. Later on he steals the book and uses it to try and kill the Superman of every Earth in the Multiverse. Eventually he's defeated and taken back to the Waverider, where he's tossed into the Med Bay, behind a forcefield.

Inside the forcefield, we see he's now casually reading The Count Of Monte Cristo. Tucked into the middle of the book is a suspiciously ancient looking piece of paper he's using as a bookmark. Hmm...

At the end of the episode Luthor replaces Superman. When the others ask how he did it, he pulls the bookmark from his book. He then unfolds it and reveals it's a page from the Book Of Destiny— that he no doubt ripped out when he was using it to kill Supermen.

See? It's right there in the open, but so subtle most people probably didn't even notice it. I know I didn't until I watched the episode a second time. Well done!

By the way, Luthor's choice of reading material is fairly apt. The Count Of Monte Cristo concerns a man who's wrongly accused of a crime by several others, and locked up in an island prison. He eventually escapes, assumes the identity of a wealthy Count, and exacts revenge on the men who ruined his life.

No doubt Luthor sees himself in the story, believing himself wrongly accused and seeking vengeance on the capes who locked him up.

• Kudos to Caity Lotz, Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell for their fantastic performances during Oliver's (second) death scene. If Ollie's (second) death didn't at least bring a tear to your eye, you're already dead.

It was also nice to see Barry and Canary together so much in this episode. We don't get to see nearly enough of these two interacting, and they're great together!

Kind of wondering why Supergirl wasn't there with them. After all, Oliver gave his life to save her too, so it seems like she should have at least been standing behind the other two...

• I'm having trouble understanding why it was necessary to kill Oliver TWICE in this crossover event. He died at the end of Part One, the heroes resurrected him, and now he does it again at the end of this episode. 

But why? Why do the same death scene a second time? Did they not want a major character like Oliver dying on someone else's show (he died the first time on Supergirl), so they killed him again so he could go out with a bang (literally!) on his own series?

Who knows? All I know is that offing him twice felt cheap and manipulative.

Here's a quick fix for the writers. At the end of Part One, Oliver's defending Earth-38. At the last second, Jim Corrigan appears and says, "Oliver Queen! I'm hear to help you fulfill your destiny!" He'd then grab Oliver and the two would disappear. Then we'd get occasional "training scenes" in Parts Two and Three, and he'd finally return as the Spectre in this episode.

That way we wouldn't have had to sit through the dull Lazarus Pit and Purgatory scenes, and everything would still play out the same in this episode. Of course no Purgatory would mean we'd have lost the Lucifer cameo, but... eh, you can't have everything.

• In my reviews of Part One and Part Three I pointed out how much this Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover resembles Marvel's Infinity War and Endgame. Welp, you ain't seen nothing' yet— they go all out and reeeeally double down on the Endgame parallels here in Part Four!

— In Endgame, Ant-Man escapes from the Quantum Realm. He was only inside the otherworldly void for five hours, but five years passed in the outside world.

In Crisis Part Four, the Paragons are stuck in the Vanishing Point. Barry enters the Speed Force to try and escape. He's only inside it a few seconds before it ejects him, but several months pass for the others.

— In Endgame, the heroes use the Quantum Realm to travel back in time, where they can defeat Thanos before he collects all the Infinity Stones.

In Part Four, the heroes use the Speed Force to go back in time to Maltus, and stop Mar Novu before he conducts his experiment that creates the Antimatter Universe and The Anti-Monitor.

— In Endgame, the heroes go back in time to several specific periods.

In Part Four, the heroes enter the Speed Force, which recreates several specific periods in the past.

— In Endgame, the heroes kill Thanos in the present day. Unfortunately things don't end there, as a version of Thanos from the past comes to the present and battles the heroes.

In Part Four, the heroes successfully prevent The Anti-Monitor from being created. Unfortunately when they return to the Dawn Of Time, they find an alternate universe version of him waiting for them.

— And once again, Endgame features the death of the major character who kicked off the entire MCU.

Part Four features the death of the major character who kicked off the entire Arrowverse.

There're so many parallels and outright swipes that it wouldn't surprise me if Marvel's lawyers come a knockin' on The CW's door!

It's actually kind of murky as to who's aping who here. As I said in Part One, the Crisis On Infinite Earths comic came out in 1985, predating Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet (basis of Infinity War) by six years. But Infinity War beat Crisis to the screen. So even though Crisis came first, it feels like it's copying Infinity War. And based on this episode, there's no "feel" about it. They literally are copying huge swathes of Endgame here!

This Week's Best Lines:
I didn't do this for any of the previous Crisis episodes, because frankly there just weren't any that stood out. Part Four finally had a few though— most of them from Luthor.

(In the Vanishing Point, Ryan and Lex cobble together a teleporation device.)
Canary: "So we send somebody to test it."
J'onn: "I'll go."
Supergirl: "No. We've lost too many good people already. Thanks for volunteering, Lex."

(Supergirl, Ryan and Lex are transported to the planet Maltus, ten thousand years in the past.)

Supergirl: "What do you think you're doing?"
Luthor: "What you should have done the moment fleet feet dropped us off here— checked out the lay of the land, looked for hidden dangers. We are on an alien world. Any number of chest busters or predators could be lying in wait. Don't you capes ever watch a movie?"

Supergirl: "I'm guessing you haven't flown on an alien planet either."
Ryan: "I've never flown."
Supergirl: "No, but it's okay, Dr. Choi. You don't have to be nervous. It's just up, up, and away."

Oliver: "You and Kara, Barry, you were fated to die trying to save the world."
Barry: "Right before you died, you said you'd given up everything for me and Kara. You made some kind of Devil's Bargain with The Monitor to save us, didn't you?"
Oliver: "No. It wasn't a Devil's Bargain, Barry, and I'd make it again in a second."
Barry: "It cost you your family, Oliver. It cost you your life."
Oliver: "Dying's the easy part. The dead are at peace, but the real heroes are the ones who have to keep going."

(Luthor surprises Mar Novu in his lab.)
Luthor: "Hi. Lex Luthor. I'm here to make you an offer I won't let you refuse."

(Luthor makes Mar Novu an offer he won't let him refuse and makes a comic book reference while he's at it.)
Luthor: "So what do you say? Team up? The Brave and the Bald?"

Supergirl: "Mar Novu, do not trust this man with anything! Give him a knife for his food, and no matter how much he thanks you for the dinner, he'll stab you right in the back with it!"
Luthor: "Or the front. I'm not choosy."

Spectre Oliver: "I'll light the spark, you fan the flame."
Luthor: "And how do we do that?"
Spectre Oliver: "You'll know when it's time."
Luthor: "Why do you cosmic types always have to be so obtuse?"
Spectre Oliver: "If I knew, I'd tell you."

(Spectre Oliver attacks The Anti-Monitor.)
Spectre Oliver: "You. Have. Failed. This. Universe!"

(Oliver sacrifices his life for a second time, as Barry and Canary rush to his side.)
Oliver: "There was an end. And there's a beginning. You remember what I told you?"
Barry: "Dying is the easy part."
Oliver: "I'm at peace. The real heroes..."
Barry: "They're the ones that have to keep going."
Oliver: "So. Keep. Going. And don't ever stop. This world, this new world. It needs both of you."
Canary: (looking up at the new universe forming) "Barry..."
Barry: "An end."
Canary: "And a beginning."

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