Crio9-sis on Infinite Roundtables: Why We're Split Like a Multiverse on DC's New Crossover

The Flash (John Wesley Shipp) and Black Lightning (Cress Williams)
Image: The CW

Last year around this time, io9 was dissecting the events of the last Arrowverse crossover, Elseworlds. This year we’re only partway through the giant Crisis on Infinite Earths but there’s still a ton to talk about.

Seeing as how the CW teased us for a loooooong while that an impending Crisis was coming, and confirmed just after the last crossover that it would indeed be adapting DC Comics’ classic Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline from Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, we had a vague idea what to expect. That doesn’t mean the mini-series didn’t throw any curveballs in the first three installments.

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Supergirl, Batwoman, and The Flash’s episodes have aired but we’ll have to wait until January 14 to get both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow to wrap up the audacious story. Black Lightning didn’t get an episode included in the crossover, however, its lead finally made an appearance last night, for better or worse...


Alex Cranz: Hello and welcome! As this is the final episode of Crisis for a whole month and a midpoint in the overall plot, it’s time to reflect not just on this episode but the crossover thus far! And it’s no fun to do that alone, so Jill Pantozzi and James Whitbrook are joining me to share their opinions—however wrong they might be. (JAMES.)

James Whitbrook: Loud, exasperated sighs...

Alex: James, you honestly surprised me earlier with your feelings on the crossover. Because you don’t like it! Care to just hop right in and detail exactly why you’re not a fan thus far?

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Jill Pantozzi: James caught up on all three episodes at once, yes?

Alex: A fair point. Jill and I have been watching one a night.

James: I didn’t travel from Earth-495723572—which was just eradicated alongside umpteen other Earths of screen in a stakeless attempt at grandeur—to be called out like this. But yes! I regret to say—deeply regret—that so far the biggest crisis on Crisis is that I’m not enjoying it anywhere near as much as I thought I would. And yes, I have been traveling and being busy in general so had to catch up with all three episodes in one sitting...but really, I don’t think it would change my opinion too much. I just don’t think Crisis has been particularly fun.

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Alex: Even the Spectre reveal?

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James: You mean the completely out-of-nowhere scene cut from an episode of Arrow and pasted into The Flash last night where a random man walked out of a forest behind Oliver Queen and his friends (also the forest was purgatory, comic booooooks), flashed his eyes green, and then everyone hooked and we cut back to the episode of The Flash? No. No, I didn’t.

Alex: That just made me laugh-cough.

Jill: Wow, ok. I think we need to back up a bit first.

Alex: Also of note, the Jim Corrigan in this episode (Stephen Lobo) was not the same Jim Corrigan in Constantine (Emmett Scanlan), which is ostensibly set in the same universe.

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Jill: I believe that actor was busy playing Lobo for a while…on one DC show that was not yet referenced in this crossover, Krypton. The sheer amount of characters being thrown into three episodes is wild though.

James: It is kind of weird, given how extensive the crossover has been in including/killing off all sorts of DC adjuncts, that Krypton hasn’t been dusted. I mean, come on, they dusted Titans! Although if they’d been bold, they’d have dusted the animated Titans or the Teen Titans Go! team too. That would be wild.

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Alex: That would have been incredible. I will say, I felt as though this episode and episode one were part of the same pretty nonsensical whole, where spectacle trumps characterization. Episode two seemed to stand apart—almost as if made by someone entirely different.

Jill: I am not putting it past them to include some animated universes…

Alex: They can’t now, Jill. Because everyone is dead. EVERYONE. In the whole multiverse, just six yahoos and a Luthor remain.

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Jill: Well it all depends how they plan to resolve this whole thing, doesn’t it? Will we see the multiverse returned or paired down to just one universe? We have to wait until next year to find out.

Alex: Before this episode, I was inclined to think we’d get a major reboot—the crossover performing the same function as the source material—but Black Lightning showing up last night changed that for me.

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Jill: Poor Black Lightning…

James: I couldn’t tell how to feel when Jefferson showed up. Because on the one hand, the casual disregard the episode showed for highlighting the stakes of him losing his family and his reality, and learning that there’s this entire multiversal existence out there at the same time, was completely mishandled. On the other, it felt like it was tossed aside so casually that there’s no way there isn’t going to be at least some level of hitting the reset button after this that makes him losing his entire existence just sort of, well...meaningless?

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Alex: Well, it also cheapens the stakes because it’s so casual it’s clear the deaths and tragedy won’t stick.

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James: I think that gets down to what’s really dragging Crisis down for me so far: It feels like, as a crossover, it’s not working—the stakes of the end of the multiverse don’t feel like they’re landing to warrant bringing all these people together, and when they are together, they’re basically having scenes with characters from their own shows, going over emotional arcs and baggage from those shows, and are isolated from each other. And all these moments are coming so thick and fast, they’re rushed through while someone in the background yells that yet another alt-Earth is dead.

There’s no fun banter, no bonkers stakes, no real comic book silliness beyond those few fleeting cameos. What made me love the past crossovers, especially Earth X (which I guess I just realized we can no longer call that “Crisis” as a shorthand, given this exists now) and Elseworlds, is that you could forgive so many flaws inherent to the bold act of smushing up four or five different TV shows like this because they were a blast to watch. Crisis lacks that spark for me.

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Alex: Even episode two with all the Supermans? That episode felt like it slowed down and had some fun.

Jill: That’s a fair critique I think, on my end I think I have been too distracted by how wonderful it is to see so much come together, it hasn’t bothered me.

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Alex: When parts one and three move at such a breakneck speed, it’s hard for the heavy hits to land. Especially when you compare to the source material, where deaths were treated with an incredible solemnity in a book with such scope.

James: Brandon Routh is, frankly, the one thing keeping me going here. Not so much as Ray—but there’s a chance that could change if they give him more good stuff with Ryan Choi’s arrival—but his Superman has been the one thing I’ve unequivocally loved. It’s so clear he’s having a great time in that spandex again!

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Alex: He really is!

James: And then the latest episode got rid of him so Lex could cackle a bit and Kara could be generally upset. Hoo. Ray.

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Jill: As someone who watches Legends regularly, Ray has been getting a little bit of the short end of the stick. He’s barely in his Atom costume anymore, and since we know the actor is on his way out, I’m not sure what the deal actually is.

Alex: It is such a disappointment, but I still maintain worth it for the LEX LUTHOR scrawled on a piece of paper?! Ray was just a science guy this whole crossover! And it was very weird that they called in Cisco to help him and not Brainy—the smartest character in the multiverse?

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James: I’m genuinely baffled that they gave the scene of convincing Ryan to join his fellow Paragons in saving the multiverse to Iris, and not Ray. But then I remembered this was technically an episode of Flash

Alex: Yes. And it and episode one are both hamstrung by their needs to be episodes of those respective shows. Episode two was just a good ass little crossover using Batwoman’s budget.

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These two are great together.
Image: The CW

James: Which you could argue is unfair to Batwoman, but I will say: Ruby Rose? Also clearly having some fun on this, because she hasn’t been so constrained by having to still deal with lingering fallout of arcs happening on Batwoman.

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Alex: She has comedic timing!

Jill: She’s great with Supergirl.

James: “I was just about to punch this guy who could’ve told me where Alice was! Oh well, guess I’ll punch this knockoff Dementor instead.” That is the sort of silliness I want as part of a CW crossover event, and it’s few and far between here.

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Alex: I maintain...Melissa Benoist is the Patrick Stewart of the Arrowverse and elevates the other actors because opposite her, Rose is downright good.

James: The Batman/Superman relationship of this multiverse being Kara and Kate is great. Of anything when it comes to shuffling the Earths around in the wake of all this, I want them to be in the same reality as each other so they can hang out all the time!

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Jill: Ok so the reveal of the other Paragons was certainly rushed, but what did we think of the events here overall? Shall we discuss the great cameos first? I have a special place in my heart for the old Birds of Prey series, and hearing Oracle (Dina Meyer) really got me. As we expected, none of the cameos have significant roles (Ashley Scott’s was short but sweet) but that one made me happy.

James: As an out and proud believer that Batman ‘66 is the best Batman, I loved the sheer silliness of Burt Ward’s cameo. Holy crimson skies of death! Because, what else would you have him say!?

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Jill: But this episode also got me with the surprise of Earth-666…it might have been teased that Lucifer was going to show up but I missed it if it was. Not to mention that title card also slyly brought in Watchmen via a L.A. billboard.

Alex: I did not expect Lucifer!

James: All that did was remind me I could be watching some much better superhero TV right now. Harumph. (Sorry, sorry, I will try to be less grumpy. Slightly.)

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Alex: But also, if Lucifer is in the multiverse—does that mean there are like multiple versions of the Christian God who is his father in the show? And AU versions of Jesus?! The cameo took me down a theological rabbit hole.

James: They have to save that for the next crossover, when Stephen Amell comes back with his Lian Yu island wig and beard and plays the Jesus of Earth-1. Crisis on Infinite Theologies, coming fall 2020 on the CW.

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Alex: I can’t wait.

Let’s talk about The Flash. Because this episode also saw the apparent culmination of a storyline launched back in season one.

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Jill: So, from an outside perspective, knowing Arrow is ending, I knew they were not also going to disappear Barry.

Alex: And I feel like, if I was a big Flash fan I might be miffed! True.

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Jill: So I was wondering how they were going to avoid the fate so clearly mapped out for this character….and well, they just used a different Barry Allen!

Alex: With a flashback to his ‘90s show?!

James: It makes sense, given the context that, like Jill said, we know The Flash still has a bunch of episodes to go this season, and that it’s also not ending, while Arrow is wrapping up entirely. But at the same time, it’s rushed through so quickly that any emotional impact that scene could’ve had on either us as an audience or Barry is completely whiffed.

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THEY GAVE A EULOGY TO THE ‘90S FLASH SERIES AND IT DOES. NOT. LAND. I’m furious. It could’ve been handled so much better. It just felt cheap instead.

Alex: Are we sure this is the moment he was supposed to disappear though? Or are there more cosmic treadmills to come?

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James: It would be hilarious if after all this is over, Barry and Iris now just live in fear of a treadmill showing up out of nowhere. Like, an Amazon package comes and there’s just a cosmic treadmill inside it, dun dun dunnnnnn.

Alex: And how can he run back to her, if he runs in place forever?

James: But that’s the thing: it’s hard to definitely say if this is it, in regards to the whole “Flash vanishes in a Crisis” thing, given that we have to wait another few weeks to see the culmination of this event. It’s wild to me that, while we had time to cut to the old ‘90s Flash series, we didn’t get a timey-wimey cut to the newspaper article that literally started this whole crossover idea off all those years ago, and see it change so it was the Flash of Earth-90. That would’ve been cute.

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Alex: Which makes me inclined to think death still looms!

James: But so I don’t completely drag the tone of this conversation down to complaining about wasted potential, I’m interested in what you two think given you’ve liked what we’ve had so far a lot more than I have: what do you want out of the final two episodes of Crisis? What are you hoping to see build off what’s come so far?

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The face of a man who’s Seen Some Shit.
Image: The CW

Jill: Well I have to admit, I did not see the Spectre thing coming, so I’m super interested to see how they use that character, who is now in the body of Oliver, in this larger tale. His role is not typically superhero fighting, but vengeance/justice. But he can also manipulate time/space so he could just save everyone in the end anyway?

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Alex: I don’t hate it! I mean I am hesitant to say I love it because I’ve been hoping it would function as a reboot for Arrowverse and that seems increasingly unlikely, which means it really is just a callous grab for fandom goodwill and dollars—but the second episode was everything I really wanted from the crossover? And like Jill I was surprised by this Spectre thing and am genuinely curious to see how it’s employed.

Jill: Still holding out hope for a Joel Schumacher Batman reference to be honest. And Lynda Carter.

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James: Crisis will be unequivocally redeemed for me when all the Paragons lie defeated outside of space and time, and then Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman comes out of nowhere and singlehandedly goes toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor to save the day.

Alex: It could happen! It’s upsetting how slanted towards Earth-1 and Earth-38 the Paragons are. Really, in ALL of the multiverses, these two Earths have the bulk of your Paragons? And speaking of Paragons—the big conversation between Kara and Kate where they invoke their Paragon status and Kate gives up the Kryptonite. That was interesting!

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Jill: And Kara doesn’t let her!

James: I mean, the Monitor did say these Earths were home to the age of heroes that provided the chance to defeat the Anti-Monitor. It makes sense that maybe part of the reason for all that is the presence of so many Paragons there. But yes! See, those are the sort of scenes I want more of; everyone but Kara and Kate have felt so sequestered into their own shows. Cheesy as it was to repeatedly have them both invoke Courage and Hope so often in the dialogue, that is the kind of schmaltz I want out of bringing all these shows together. Otherwise, what’d be the point?

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A not-so-super Super moment.
Image: The CW

Alex: Agreed! And why is Kara the only one still really crossing over from her show when J’onn is a Paragon too?

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Jill: And I think it bears repeating, that even though they had a lot more time to figure out how to work him in this time around, Black Lighting was given one job to do and then discarded from the larger narrative.

Alex: Yes, that did not feel like a great move!

Jill: Black Lighting has been doing some really interesting things on their end, and they were able to start pulling in some of the multiverse nonsense in the last episode so really there’s no excuse for Crisis to have treated the character that way.

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Alex: Beyond not understanding or caring enough.

Jill: At least Cress Williams got a little heart to heart with Grant Gustin.

Alex: I did love them comparing their tragic backstories, a time-honored crossover tradition.

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Jill: Yes, very comic book of them

Alex: Also that Black Lightning immediately went to fight mode—another time-honored crossover tradition that previous crossovers have skipped.

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James: I’m only hopeful because the scene after the fact with him and Barry was a rare highlight for me. But yes, “hello hi my Earth is dead and now I’m a convenient Duracell for you people” is, uh, a look. Once again, slow things down! Give me more interactions that span over these shows!

Alex: Also when he was surprised Superman was real....I thought Superman exists on his Earth?! Like that was established back in season one!

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James: Oh, I took that more as a cute surprise, because he’s just like... there. And there was two of them!

Alex: Oh. That works then!

James: We had to cut to someone yelling that Earth-34164145713537805 had just been dusted to remind us that Maybe There’s Some Stakes Happening before we could get something approaching some fun banter, though.

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Alex: So, at the end of the episode the Paragons (and Lex Luthor) are all that remains of the multiverse, and they have to finally fight the Anti-Monitor with one heavy hitter down. Do you guys think it will play out as it did in the comics? With Batwoman taking on Batgirl’s role? Or are we going to get something else?

Jill: I feel like they might go their own way.

Alex: Does Supergirl die in the big fight? Does anyone? Is the Book of Destiny used to restore all the Earths? Or some dumb MATTER wave? Will we get one Earth—or a multitude? Does James care?!

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James: I really hope I do!

Jill: Maybe somewhere in the middle…52 Earths.

James: Ah well, at least Doctor Who and Picard will be on to distract me if I am let down by Crisis. Thanks, Era of Too Much Peak TV!

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Alex: Goodbye Lucifer. And Brandon Routh Superman. And Smallville Superman.

Jill: I assume we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled super-dramas in no time.

Alex: Who knows how The Flash will pad half a season with the major stakes gone. But presumably, we’ll know when all the shows, along with Crisis, return in January.

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About the author

James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

Jill Pantozzi

Deputy Editor, io9. Loves cats.

Alex Cranz

Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.