It’s the end of the road for the Crisis on Infinite Earths … almost. Oliver has gone and the Flash has disappeared. The remaining heroes – and Lex Luthor – are stranded our heroes beyond time and space, with nowhere to go and no way to fight. Some plan, some train for a battle that might never happen, some mope… and some grow ugly beards.
Wow, that cliffhanger sure did put them in an awkward spot.
The latest episode managed to resolve that and a whole lot more, with some standout moments and one of the biggest group fights in a DC show yet. With the death of Oliver Queen in Arrow looming over the whole story of this episode, fans had a chance to remember the good times and enjoy a laugh at the closest thing anybody’s going to get to the Snyder Cut of Justice League anytime soon. But what deserved applause, and what went wrong?
Up: Lenny the Idiot Nephew is The Ultimate Luthor?
Ever since Jon Cryer took the role of Lex Luthor, there’s been a question mark hanging over him with fans. Yes, it was a cool casting choice because Jon Cryer is a hugely underrated actor and a cult favourite. Not only was he Duckie to a legion of ‘80s fans, more importantly it was a great acknowledgment of his role in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in which he was Lenny Luthor, Lex’s idiot nephew.
The stench of Superman IV’s reputation has been a tough one to shake, but up until now Cryer’s done a solid job of rising above it playing Supergirl’s Lex. He’s redeemed himself from his earlier Luthor performance, especially in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In part four of this crossover though, we got to see him take it to the next level. Having already disposed of fan-favourite Kingdom Come Superman and written himself in to the Book of Destiny, he’s saved his own skin at the expense of the last son of Krypton. Thankfully, it didn’t end there. After biding his time and working with the heroes for long enough, he finally reveals that trademark Luthor spark of cunning as he plots to rewrite history and save the universe… while still putting himself on the top of the heap. Oh, and he battles Supergirl to a standstill, outwitting her mentally and holding his own physically. Take note, people. He’s a real apex Lex.
Down: That disappointing Spectre
When it comes to impressive superhero reveals, consider the Oliver/Spectre one as a dud.
Fans may love Oliver, and it’s right that he plays a significant role in resolving the Crisis since he’s been the cornerstone of DC’s TV universe. It’s also right that he should meet his fate in the Arrow episode of this crossover, after so much build-up to this inevitable moment. However, when it comes to Oliver becoming God’s “terrible swift sword” and one of the heaviest hitters in the DCU, it all felt a bit out of place. Naturally as Green Arrow he would be underpowered in the Crisis, but to bump him up to cosmic levels of power – and seemingly out of nowhere, and with almost no explanation – was a poor choice.
It also didn’t help that, as the Spectre, his look was essentially no different from usual. At least if they’d made a design choice to have him take on the more traditional appearance of the comic book Spectre, shown his vast abilities and explained his new status properly, it might have worked. In fact, seeing Oliver gradually lose his humanity as the embodiment the Spectre took over throughout the episode would have added some tension and a deeper sense of loss and sacrifice. Instead, it’s just the same old Oliver, only with yet another digitally altered voice and a few tears.
So… how do you turn a show in to a greatest hits clip-job without actually boring the audience? Easy. You have Oliver’s memories become like Horcruxes that are split up and exist in the Speed Force, and then have several of the heroic Paragons interact with them after a few moments to turn them in to something a little different. It wasn’t a huge change, but it was fun and kept things interesting while still playing to a sense of nostalgia about good old Oliver.
In Batwoman’s flashback-gatecrash, she delivered one of the highlights of the show as she lectured Oliver and Ray Palmer while also conceding that she had similar issues they did; for J’onn it was a brief return to the alien Invasion, while Barry got to chat with Ollie about cutting a deal with the Monitor during the Elseworlds crossover; as for White Canary, she was a part of one of the funniest mourning scenes ever. They weren’t the best flashbacks, but they were fascinating to watch because you never quite knew where they were going.
Plus, of course, there’s that incredible flashback-that-wasn’t-a-flashback in the Speed Force. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Down: Flashbacks, too!
But… it’s still a clip-job, right?
The problem with all those flashbacks is that they also served as padding, and offered very little for fans to get truly nostalgic about. Given that these were meant to be Oliver’s greatest hits, you’d imagine some happy group shots of his brighter days interacting with Team Arrow, Team Flash and (in particular) Felicity. Even if they had to involve the other heroes, there were better moments even on the island. Alas, the restraints of budget, casting limitations and more had to be taken in to account and so we were denied some truly classic scenes.
Down: So, how does this fight work exactly?
Here it is, the final fight. Sort of. Which, despite some apparent rewriting of the timeline, all the paradoxes this entails and the impossibility of the battleground, all goes ahead without a hitch. Basically, it involved everyone using their Kamehameha moves against waves of shadow demons, before Oliver went Super Saiyan and became a conduit for a Laser Floyd light show. Seriously. But that’s okay, because other superhero shows and movies have offered up worse.
To help Oliver, the united Paragons needed to, um, fan his flame. And no, that’s not really a euphemism. Lex Luthor works out (thanks to his Crayola scribblings on his magical scrap of paper) that it means that they’re meant to… stare at Oliver. Really hard.
If there had been more to this moment then it might have meant something. Showing willpower/mental/spiritual energy being a true force on screen is difficult even at the best of times; Jean Grey looked like she was constipated whenever she did it in the X-men films, those guys in Dark City looked like they were having a brain fart, and Ryan Reynolds could barely muster a squeak in Green Lantern. So for our Paragons to do more than gaze in to the distance with slight determination is kind of understandable. But still, as fights go this one started out strong (even if it made no sense) but ended weakly.
Up: The Flash of Two Worlds… again!
Credit to everyone working on this for keeping this incredible cameo a secret. Not a single spoiler came out, and the end result was laugh-out-loud brilliance. Nobody saw this one coming. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the true Snyder Cut of Justice League.
Seeing Ezra Miller appear as the Justice League’s Flash and interact with Grant Gustin’s TV version has to be one of the most impressive highlights of this entire crossover. That it came out of nowhere was one was impressive enough. As the pair fawned over each other’s costumes, with the movie version’s Barry being as dopey and overwhelmed as usual, it still won over the hearts of even the most cynical of the film’s critics. He may not be our favourite Flash, but he’s also impossible to hate; even any flaws in the logic of this meeting were brushed away with a light touch that was hard to argue with. Given that the Flash’s actions in this episode emphasised how offbeat his adventures could be in general, it’s hard to argue with it.
Yes, reminding fans that there’s a sub-standard Justice League film out there and that the Flash movie seems to be stuck on a development hell treadmill perhaps isn’t great. Yes, this wasn’t exactly the most groundbreaking reveal they could have done either. And yes, it was an absolute throwaway moment. But damn, it was fun. Who cares about an actual Snyder Cut when there’s real potential to have these two Flashes interact again?
Down: Don’t fear the beard!
We like Ryan Choi.
In our hearts, nobody will ever replace Ray Palmer; but Ryan Choi is absolutely worthy of the mantle of the Atom, and is a fantastic character in the comics. On TV, we like Osric Chau in the role and we hope that he sticks around because he’s bringing a lot to the character. While the addition of Ryan Choi as a Paragon in Crisis is a bit forced, he’s managed to prove his worth by simply saying and doing the right things at the right times. It’s been a surprisingly smooth introduction to his character.
But in this episode, that beard… it’s just wrong. Clearly chosen to emphasise the amount of time our heroic paragons have been trapped in the Vanishing Point, Choi’s beard was simply annoying. Looking curiously out of place, it resembled a rejected Wookiee merkin stuck on with tape. It’s a small thing, almost pointless in the grand scheme of things, but it was a bad, bad choice.
Up: Some kind of wonderful!
This episode delivered some wonderful moments all across the board, from some great performances to snazzy effects and small touches with lighting and directing. It wasn’t a complete success, wasting time on unnecessary sub-plots while rushing important moments, and some of the dialogue felt clunky and unnatural. But it was still entertaining and felt like a good resolution to the previous block’s cliffhanger, wrapping everything up… which would allow the next, final instalment to be an epilogue.
One of the most wonderful things here though came just moments in to the episode, during the credits list. One name appeared which was the greatest cameo of all… and it sure wasn’t Ezra Miller. That name was Marv Wolfman, the original writer of comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths, who here served as co-writer.
We’re not sure how much of the script for this episode that Marv had a hand in writing, but just seeing his name there was a true highlight. The man has been a legend in the comic book industry since the ‘60s, writing and creating characters and stories that have become iconic. Knowing that he not only wrote the series which inspired this story to exist but was actually recruited to help out makes this episode particularly special. Now, if only he’d actually appeared in it…