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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 1 and 2.

Crisis on Earth-X
Parts 1 and 2
(Supergirl and Arrow).

In an odd way, Crisis on Earth-X, being a little more coherently put together than the Dominators crossover, and a little less focused on the individual storylines of whatever show is nominally fielding each episode, feels almost like a very long, very split-up superhero crossover film, ala The Avengers and Justice League. Which is nice, I'm all for the blurring of boundaries between films and television shows.

It's also the final capping off point of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow until they return for their second acts next year, though, so there's a certain drive to tie up plotlines: For Supergirl, those plotlines seem to be Kara and Alex's romantic woes; for The Flash, it seems to be Barry and Iris' engagement; for Arrow, it seems to be Ollie and Felicity's romantic development and the will-they-won't-they query of whether they'll get married; and for Legends of Tomorrow, it seems to largely be Jax and Stein's conflict over Stein retiring. The focus on interpersonal relationships can almost feel jarring at times, especially when coupled with the Nazi invasion plotline.

As Team Flash, Team Arrow, the Legends, Kara, and Alex converge on Central City for Barry and Iris' wedding, they find themselves in trouble, when the wedding is interrupted by Nazi shocktroopers, led by Prometheus, a dark Supergirl, and a dark Arrow. Capturing Prometheus and learning that he's Tommy Merlyn, the teams realise that the Nazis crossed over from Earth-X, a reality where Germany won World War II and conquered the world. With Eobard Thawne's help, the Earth-Xers intend to take over Earth-1, and transplant Kara's heart into her Earth-X doppelganger, who is dying from overexposure to solar radiation.

Everyone has such nice dresses.

Weirdly, a lot of characters are almost completely absent from the crossover: J'onn's absence (apart from a cameo near the beginning) is noticeable, as is the absence of Amaya, Diggle, Ray, Nate, Zari, Jimmy, and Ralph. Wally and Joe are swiftly written out of the proceedings too, leaving only Barry, Ollie, Kara, Sara, Alex, Jax, Stein, Felicity, Iris, Cisco, Caitlin, and Harry aaaand now I realise why so many characters are completely absent, okay. What I don't realise is why, of the ten oddly absent characters, seven of them are non-white.

I won't say that this crossover isn't a lot of fun, with a lot of ridiculous mass fight scenes that show off the character's unique skills, and with Melissa Benoist and Stephen Amell clearly having a whale of a time playing evil versions of Kara and Ollie. We get Tom Cavanaugh back as Eobard, too, but his performance is weirdly over-the-top, more in the vein of Letscher's hammy, psychotic Eobard than the calm, charismatic one Cavanaugh played back in the first series of The Flash.

(I also hold that Eobard as initially presented to us would never even consider working with Nazis, but never mind.)

Eobard, you stand out like a sore thumb.

That said, it is messily written. The backstory of Earth-X ('Oh, the Nazis built the atomic bomb first!') feels both lazy and like a slightly crass way of framing America's war crimes as some decisive war-ending act. We get very little justification for why Kara, who after all would presumably still have the morals and ethics of Krypton ingrained in her, would suddenly become a Nazi in Earth-X. The plot is often only broadly sketched out, an excuse to push in downtime moments for character development and uptime moments for big fight scenes, and it occasionally hinges on the cast being phenomenally stupid -- like not realising that the woman with Kryptonian powers; Kara's height, build, hair colour and hair style; and a very Supergirl-y costume is actually Kara.

(Speaking of, is Ollie the Fuhrer? It's very unclear, and it wouldn't make a lot of sense if he was.)

D'aw, Wally.

With only three supervillains on their side (later four, when Metallo joins the list), one of whom Barry should be way faster than now, it feels odd to even think of the Earth-Xers as a threat, since the two Karas can match each other blow for blow, Barry should be leaving Thawne in the dust, and Ollie and Wally seem fairly equally matched -- and that's not even taking into account that, even with Metallo, Team Good outnumbers them two to one, with heavy hitters like Caitlin and Jax-Stein on their side. More, if you count the brief appearances of Curtis, Rene, and Dinah.

The two episodes end with the team now in Earth-X, presumably setting us up for encountering the Ray. The remaining episodes will be airing tonight in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow's usual spot, so let's see if they manage to tie off this plotline in a satisfactory fashion. It is fun, though.

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