In The Rear View Mirror | CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
It’s confirmed! This season, The CW’s DC TV primetime line-up will not be crossing over and keeping socially distant making this the perfect opportunity to dive back into the 5-part “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event… and nothing would ever be the same again!
Like we need another reason to dislike the state of quarantine! Though most of our favorite DC TV universe series has returned to primetime, or announced their upcoming new seasons, because of very strict COVD-19 protocols in effect to keep casts and crew healthy and safe, The CW has had to make drastic cuts to their schedules. The latest casualty, the DC TV crossover event, the annual spectacle that afforded devoted fans the opportunity to see their favorite heroes team-up in a multi-episode blockbuster in primetime!
As productions continue to adhere to the onset limitations set from shooting during the global pandemic, It appears that in the 2021 season it would have been a difficult feat indeed, to allow for a storyline that would (in the least) encompass the casts and crews of five primetime series. The CW had remained optimistic that might be able to pull the annual crossover event might have been in the offing, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The crossover events are oftentimes strategically timed to coincide with the series as they prepare to go into winter hiatus.
Rumors immediately circulated that one-time Arrow castmate David Ramsey would be reprising his role as John Diggle in a series of episodes across the titular shows that, he would also be directing. Supposedly the plan is still in effect, at least for Ramsey to direct episodes across the premiere series including The Flash, Supergirl, Superman & Lois with Diggle making a very important and special (re)appearance in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Whether this will constitute a “crossover” remains to be seen.
With Diggle having played a significant role in last season’s event and wrapped the eighth and final season of Arrow with a particularly ominous moment that may (or might not have) suggested that he’d come into a particularly powerful alien weapon that glows bright emerald, that climax is just one of the many reasons to revisit last year’s CW, DC TV primetime series and a good time dive into the 2019 crossover spectacle: “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. Based on the epic 12-issue maxi-series, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was a blockbuster feat in primetime.
With 5 hours of television to fill and a pretty robust cast that included every major player in the primetime line-up and their supporting casts (not to mention over 40 years of superheroes in television), the writers and producers had their work cut out for them when it came to realizing one of the most impactful stories in DC Comics history. Having teased “Crisis” at the conclusion of the previous season’s “Elseworlds” crossover which dove deep into the multiverse and established a wider playing field with the introduction of Gotham City, expectations loomed.
In the first hour of the event which aired as part of Supergirl the menace of the anti-matter cloud that had begun to plague the multiverse (first experienced in an Arrow episode as it decimated Earth-2) is experienced as the team of heroes united by the Monitor’s herald, Harbinger (Audrey Marie Anderson) and battle to save Earth-38. The tuning fork from the comics, a device that the Monitor has created and planted on crucial Earths in order to protect them from the coming wave, provides the first line of defense as an army of shadows descends on our heroes.
In the end, Supergirl’s earth is destroyed, but many of its residences including her cousin Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). The survivors all convene on Earth-1 where they confront the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) and learn that among them exist “paragons” - heroes that will rise above the others and will be able to stop his enemy, the Anti-Monitor at all costs. The idea of the paragons among them is suggested from a DC Comics “Silver Age” story set in the multiverse and is repurposed for the primetime narrative.
As the group gathers aboard an alternate-earth Waverider the starship HQ and home of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow it isn’t long before they discover the accumulation of anti-matter energy reading from underneath Central City. It leads “Team Flash” to uncovering the perpetrator of the Anti-Monitor’s weapon of mass destruction: an anti-matter cannon fueled by non-other than the Flash of Earth-90, played by John Wesley Shipp. The actor has been a recurring part of the series and returns to reprise his role as The Flash nearly thirty after his series debuted on CBS.
Riding the Lightning!
After spending most of the storyline in Season 6 teetering on the fate of The Flash and In one of the series’ most calculated and most original moves, having Shipp return for the climactic final act of the third part of the “Crisis” crossover was one of the epic’s greatest stunts. Not only does the maneuver connect it all to the source material (where Barry Allen sacrifices himself to destroys the Anti-Monitor’s weapon) narratively it was a genius plot point that establishes the significance of the television multiverse (DC superhero series from the past).
With Shipp’s own 1990 CBS series has entered into its 30th anniversary, to have the actor reprise his “OG” role and ultimately sacrifice himself (and take the place of Grant Gustin’s own Barry Allen) to fulfill the harrowing prediction that has been plaguing the hero all season, was a winning opportunity. When it premiered on CBS in 1990, The Flash was critically acclaimed and spirited a new generation of genre aficionado. Developed by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, it reimagined the superhero and with Shipp at the helm infused the character with a depth of humanity that resonated with audiences.
The series was on the air for only one season, and made a lasting impression that has continued with the fandom well into The Flash reboot inline with the “Arrowverse”. When Shipp was first inducted into the new show, fans anticipated that he would be integrated into the mythology in the role of the “Golden Age” speedster Jay Garrick. Instead, Shipp was cast as Henry Allen, Barry’s father who is framed for the murder of his wife, Nora. Henry is eventually exonerated but meets a tragic end at the hands of villainous Zoom, and in a twist of fate is revealed to be a doppelgänger on Earth-3 — a speedster named, Jay Garrick.
Legacy is a component baked into the mythology of The Flash character and its history is dependent on the hero’s ability to transcend from generation to generation. Jay Garrick was the Golden Age torch bearer of speedsters and inspired Barry Allen to take up the mantle into the Silver Age. Bound by the Speed Force, the Flash Family is among the most tightly connected band, second only to the Batman’s extended family. With Shipp, Gustin, and now Ezra Miller (who also makes a cameo in the fourth hour of “Crisis”) realizing that connective tissue into the extended DC universe, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” the primetime blockbuster was indeed validated.
Legacy of It All
The greatest innovation of the 5-part primetime event was its ability to not only soaringly adapt on a television budget the scope of the 12-issue DC Comics maxi-series but bring into the enormity of a grand legacy of television series that have perfectly captured the spirit of DC over the decades. Not only as The Flash (1990) well injected into the narrative, but references to Smallville (2001), Birds of Prey (2002), the classic Batman (1966), and The Animated Series (1992) were all lovingly interwoven to expand on the legacy of DC through all media.
Kevin Conroy portrayed a “future” Bruce Wayne inspired by the “Elseworlds” graphic novel “Kingdom Come” for his appearance in Batwoman the second installment of the “Crisis” crossover. The actor has played the voice of the Dark Knight throughout the hero’s contemporary appearances in The Animated Series, into Justice League, and in Batman Beyond and was the ideal candidate to bring the tormented soul of a Bruce Wayne from Earth-99 who has given up, while Brandon Routh returned to the role of Superman on Earth-96, recruited to join the battle.
In these moments, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” works in spades! It gives a proper wink-and-a-nod to what’s come before and pays homage to the contemporary show’s influences while navigating the pitfalls of staying true to the essence of the story. It’s in the second half that it starts to fall show and feels like it misses its mark as it attempts to nicely tie-up some loose ends from Arrow (as that series prepares to conclude) and when it enters the final act participant it teeters a bit on the absurd style that is most viable on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
The CW’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS | 5-Part Event | is available to watch on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.