Supergirl Season 5 Episode 9 “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One”
Director: Jesse Warn
Starring: Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, Katie McGrath, Jesse Rath, Nicole Maines, Azie Tesfai, Andrea Brooks, Julie Gonzalo, Staz Nair, LaMonica Garrett, David Harewood, Stephen Amell, Tyler Hoechlin, Ruby Rose, Grant Gustin, Brandon Routh
Runtime: 42 minutes
Well, it’s finally here. After several years of narrative build-up and even more of the many properties involved simply coming to be, the biggest superhero TV event ever has arrived in the form of The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. As with any event story this widely anticipated, the big question is does it live up to the hype? The answer, based on the first hour, is a resounding yes. The Arrowverse adaptation of the iconic comic book crossover is one of the most ambitious gatherings of superheroes ever produced in a live-action medium, but the first installment also gives the reassuring sense that at the heart of all the massive spectacle is a powerful, emotionally-charged story. “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One” succeeds as both a loving tribute to the long history of live-action DC adaptations in television and film and the first step in a monumental journey for the Arrowverse heroes at its core.
The fan service starts right from the get-go, as along with some narrated exposition about the nature of the multiverse from the Monitor/Mar Novu (LaMonica Garrett), the episode opens with a montage of various Earths being destroyed by the anti-matter wave causing the Crisis. As these worlds die, fans are treated to brief cameos from their inhabitants, stars of past and current DC films and series including Burt Ward (the Robin to Adam West’s Batman on the 60s TV series), Robert Wuhl as reporter Alexander Knox from the 1989 Batman movie, Russell Tovey reprising his role as Ray Terrill/The Ray from previous Arrowverse event Crisis on Earth-X and subsequent animated webseries Freedom Fighters: The Ray, and Curran Walters’ Jason Todd/Robin and Alan Ritchson’s Hank Hall/Hawk from DC Universe series Titans.
After this brief, destructive spin through the multiverse, the plot really gets going in the universe that houses Earth-38 and Supergirl. Clark Kent/Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) are living on the colony of surviving Kryptonians, Argo, while they begin raising their infant son Jon. Unfortunately, Argo itself becomes the anti-matter wave’s next victim and as the world around them is destroyed, Lois and Clark must jettison their son to Earth, just as Clark’s parents once did him. While it is later revealed that the Monitor managed to teleport Lois and Clark to safety as well, the rest of the Kryptonians, including Clark’s aunt and Kara/Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) mother, Alura (Erica Durance), all die. This initial tragedy does a solid job of establishing real emotional stakes and a sense of consequence that should hopefully continue to separate Crisis from past crossovers, which, excellent as most of them are, have been generally more lighthearted and breezy, as Kara and Clark have to reckon with the death of their people for the second time.
Despite starting from Kara’s perspective (this is technically an episode of Supergirl, after all) “Crisis: Part One” is, as expected, very much an ensemble piece and a large group of heroes is quickly assembled by Arrow’s Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), now the Monitor’s agent Harbinger. For this first installment Crisis keeps things in the family so to speak, in that it focuses only on established Arrowverse characters, holding off on introducing any of the big-name guest stars that have been announced as being part of the event. Lyla gathers together Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), his daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara), Lois, Clark, Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin), Kate Kane/Batwoman (Ruby Rose), and Legends of Tomorrow representatives Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and Ray Palmer/The Atom (Brandon Routh). While Kara’s allies, such as her sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) and J’zonn J’zonzz/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) work to evacuate Earth-38, the heroes fight to defend a quantum tower the Monitor erected to slow the anti-matter wave’s advance from the as-yet-unseen Anti-Monitor’s army of shadow demons.
It’s not really possible to thoroughly critique this episode without addressing its major twist so from this point on I’ll be discussing heavy spoilers. You’ve been warned.
While the shadow demons aren’t individually that formidable (indeed one of the few concerns I have for the rest of the crossover is that the action sequences will continue to be less exhilarating than they should be because the CGI creatures lack a sense of weight and tactile presence) their numbers do eventually begin to overwhelm the heroes and when the destruction of the planet becomes a foregone conclusion the Monitor teleports all the heroes to Earth-1. All except Oliver, who refuses to leave until the planet has been fully evacuated and stuns the Monitor with an anti-matter arrow to continue fighting single-handedly, charging against the demons with only his fists. Eventually, Monitor recovers and gets Ollie back to his home Earth and bunker in Star City, but he has already sustained severe injuries. He shares some last words with Mia, Sara, Barry, and Kara and then Oliver Queen dies.
Now his death itself isn’t unexpected. The entire final season of Arrow has treated it as inevitable and since the show is ending it’s seemed genuinely possible that Oliver could meet his end during the Crisis, but of course no one expected it to happen this early. Which, I’m sure is precisely why it did. Still, the early timing casts doubt on the permanence of Oliver’s demise. It seems very unlikely that Stephen Amell would only be involved in one episode of his last crossover and I doubt the creators would limit themselves to only using alternate versions of their main hero for the remaining four episodes. There’s a very good chance the Earth-1 Oliver will be seen alive again, whether through time travel or some other means. This raises the question of whether this decision will backfire if he does eventually meet a permanent end, either at the end of the event or in one of the final two episodes of Arrow in January, if that later death isn’t executed as well as this one. Because, as much as I want to see as much of Amell playing Oliver as I can, this was a pretty fitting end to the character. Going down fighting always seemed like one of the most natural ways to close his story and the fact that he saved a billion people by doing so (as the Monitor details) is a powerful testament to his heroism.
It’s always important for this kind of massive crossover to commit to a core group of protagonists early on and it seems like Crisis‘ will be the heroes we see gathered here, likely minus the wider Supergirl ensemble and with maybe one or two later additions. Oliver and Kara share main character status for this first installment and Amell and Benoist are on the top of their games, selling both some great hero moments and pushing their long-time alter-egos to their emotional limits. Hoechlin and Lotz get the next most significant parts and are also predictably excellent. Hoechlin’s past appearances have featured Clark in supporting roles, first just to Kara and then to her, Barry, and Oliver but he’s treated like his own independent headliner here (likely to whet viewer’s appetites for the potential Superman and Lois spin-off The CW is developing starring Hoechlin and Tulloch). Sara accompanies Lois to the futuristic Earth-16 to find baby Jon, whose rocket was knocked off course by the multiversal chaos Crisis is causing. Sara believes Earth-16’s Star City to be one she visited on a Legends mission but is surprised when, after encountering Oliver-16 (who took the rocket to the safety of his Arrow Cave) he is shocked to see her alive. As it turns out, this Earth’s Sara did not survive the initial sinking of the Queen’s Gambit all those years ago. This allows for a beautiful scene, one of the episode’s best, in which Sara assures Oliver that she doesn’t blame him for the pain in the past, that she’s in fact happy with the way her life has turned out, and no matter the world he’s from, he’s a good man. Lotz proves once again that she’s one of the Arrowverse’s most versatile performers by pivoting from Sara’s usual mischevious charm to a more tender, open-hearted energy and Amell does an excellent job bringing a more fundamentally broken Oliver to life. Some of Amell’s other best scenes come when regular Oliver is passing the Green Arrow mantle to Mia, during which he, as usual, also brings out some of McNamara’s best, most emotionally affecting work.
It’s always impressive when these crossovers are still able to check in on the ongoing plotlines of the individual shows but the fact that “Crisis: Part One” still manages to feature some material for the majority of the Supergirl cast in the midst of everything else going on is especially so. Alex and Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) are even given a nice shared arc throughout as they must reckon with the distrust and animosity that has built up between them in the wake of Lena discovering that Kara, Alex, and the rest of their friends have been concealing Kara’s double life from Lena and the latter’s subsequent, vaguely villainous actions, in order to work together to evacuate Earth-38. Leigh and McGrath each bring tense, cold anger to their scenes and the writing for Alex and Lena’s feud feels natural and emotionally logical, more so than some of the Lena material has throughout Supergirl‘s fall season. Alex has every right to be generally suspicious of Lena in light of what she’s been up to lately but Lena also has a point that she hasn’t done anything to indicate she would let innocent people die just to spite her former friends and Alex believing she might is another disrespectful indication of how Alex’s friendship isn’t especially genuine or strong.
“Crisis: Part One” is very difficult to critique independently as most of its major story beats, such as Oliver’s death, can’t accurately be judged until we’ve seen how later episodes resolve them. Still, exceptional acting, ambitious spectacle and plot, moving character moments, and well-executed fan service make the first chapter of Crisis a memorable, impressive start to what looks to be an epic event.
Best Cameo: I’m tempted to say Walters as Jason Todd just because that casting has proved to be so perfect but it’s got to be Burt Ward returning complete with a modified version of the Batman ’66 theme and blurting out “Holy crimson skies of death!”
MVH (Most Valuable Hero): Benoist is exceptional here and is a close runner up but it’s got to be Amell.
- Perhaps more than anything else the image of Clark Kent watching his son rocket away conveys the deep love the creators have for DC Comics.
- LaMonica Garrett has only really had to be imposing and mysterious in his previous appearances but he gets to show more range here as Novu clearly admires Oliver’s heroics and is shaken by his death.
- This installment was surprisingly light on Barry/Grant Gustin.
Supergirl Season 5 Episode 9
Crisis on Infinite Earths starts strong with an ambitious and emotional hour that celebrates DC's live-action history.