Last fall, the CW threw a surprise at fans of the Arrowverse. At the end of the franchise’s now annual crossover event, the network made the surprise announcement that the following year’s crossover event would by Crisis On Infinite Earths. As we noted at the time, the original comic miniseries Crisis On Infinite Earths is the granddaddy of all comic book events and one that has been seldom equaled and probably never surpassed. For the CW to say that they are going to do their version of the story is a pretty massive flex. And while the actual event is still seven months away, all four shows in the Arrowverse – Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow – have already started to move some story pieces into play. Here’s the breakdown of what we saw as each show wrapped up its current season and what that means for
The progenitor of the Arrowverse, the font from which all spinoffs have sprung. Last week’s season finale also marked the end of the final full season of the show. Next year, Arrow is returning for just a shortened, ten-episode run. But this week’s episode, appropriately titled “You Have Saved This City,” served not only as a capstone for the show in its entirety, but its final moments also served up some big Crisis teases, especially if you are familiar with the original comic book storyline.
As the episode comes to a close, Oliver and Felicity have saved Star City once again and have left in the care of the other heroes while they head out to a secluded location where Felicity can have their baby and they can raise it together in peace. A montage shows us their happy life together until the arrival of The Monitor, the power behind last year’s Elseworlds crossover event who was testing heroes for an upcoming crisis. During Elseworlds, we saw Oliver make some sort of bargain with the Monitor to save the lives of the Flash and Supergirl. It is revealed that Oliver promised to do “whatever the multiverse requires to survive the Crisis that is looming, when it is time.” And that time is now. The Monitor also tells Oliver that he has seen his death in the future. Oliver says a tearful farewell to Felicity and baby Mia before disappearing through a portal with the Monitor.
But don’t give up hope just yet.
Arrow has always used bifurcated timelines, with an episode’s main storyline unfolding in the present while a secondary storyline would unwind in the past. This past season, the show flipped the script somewhat, employing flash-forwards instead of flashbacks, specifically to a rather dystopian Star City in 2040 where Ollie and Felicity’s daughter Mia, teams up with Ollie’s grown up son William; Connor Hawke, the adopted son of John Diggle; Zoe, the daughter of Rene/Wild Dog and an older Roy Harper to stop a threat to the city. Part of the storyline was Felicity’s long-time disappearance and the fact that Ollie/Green Arrow had died at some point in the past. By the end of the season, though, Felicity had come out from her hiding to help the next generation of heroes defeat their big bad. At the close of the final episode, Felicity entrusts the future safety of Star City to the young heroes. She then heads out to meet the Monitor. He informs her “Where I’m taking you, there is no return,” before the two step through a portal and disappear.
For those who have read the initial Crisis On Infinite Earth miniseries, this moment recalls the ending of the series where the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2 were taken to a heaven-like realm where they could live forever after now that their adventures were done. It does suggest that Ollie will only appear to die in the upcoming Crisis, and instead will be taken to a place where he can wait for the love of his life Felicity to join him.
The first comes during the final confrontation between Team Flash and the season’s revealed big bad Eobard Thawne, aka, the Reverse Flash. Thawne’s parting words to Barry are “I’ll see you at the next crisis,” before speeding off. Barry and company could take that as a mere taunt from the villain. But given Thawne’s extensive familiarity with time travel – his machinations thise entire season hinged on it – it seems likely the he at least knows about the coming Crisis, if not having an active hand in bringing it about.
The second Crisis-related thing that happened in the episode’s coda. In the hidden Time Vault at STAR Labs, we see the holographic newspaper headline from 2024 that stated the Flash had disappeared during some sort of global crisis. But as the camera moves in on the hologram, we see the date begin to roll back until it stops on the year 2019.
One of the cruxes of the time travel stories in the Flash is that changes to history often have unintended consequences. This was reinforced throughout this season thanks to Barry and Iris’s future daughter Nora traveling to 2018-2019 ostensibly to get to know her father. That bit of time travel caused a ripple effect that Team Flash contended with all season and it looks like the advancement of the Crisis from 2024 to 2019 is one of the last consequences. (It also explains why Nora faded out of existence earlier in the episode. She was born after 2019, but if future history has now changed so that the Crisis happens before she is conceived, she will never exist.)
Unfortunately, the season finale also saw Cisco take the metahuman cure, divesting himself of his Vibe powers in order to have a more normal life and relationship with his new love Kamilla (Victoria Park). Cisco actor Carlos Valdes has indicated that this just wrapped season of Flash would be his last, so the act does bring some closure to his character, if indeed he is departing STAR Labs and Team Flash. However, with the Crisis event no doubt spanning multiple Earths – it’s in the name, after all – Cisco’s ability to open portals between the parallel Earths is probably going to be sorely missed.
Supergirl ended its season-long allegory about immigration and racism by having the Maid of Steel defeat Lex Luthor and expose his plan to take over the country through a faked alien invasion. While the world thinks Luthor died in an explosion of his powered Lexosuit, he was actually gunned down by his sister Lena in a secret hideaway he teleported to moments before the explosion. As most everybody gets back to normal in National City, a portal opens up and out stumbles a hooded, cloaked figure. The Monitor steps forth from the shadows to tell the figure that they are on Earth. He informs the figure that “You’ve been trapped for too long, a phantom to your people. Now it is time to avenge yourself against the brother who wronged you.” The figure pulls back its hood to reveal a green martian who vows, “I’m coming for you, J’onn J’onzz.”
Later the Monitor arrives at Lex’s hidden bunker. Staring down at Luthor’s dead body, his hand starts to radiate some blue glowing energy and then the scene cuts to the show’s closing credits.
The green martian is J’onn J’onzz’s brother, Ma’alefa’ak. In the comics, Ma’alefa’ak was one of those rare martians who were born without telepathic powers and who would eventually wipe out most of his race with a deadly bioengineered plague. However, Supergirl has already established that it was the white martians who were responsible for the genocide of J’onn’s people, so if this is indeed Ma’alefa’ak, some portion of his backstory will be rewritten.
It is a little hard to figure out what the Monitor’s plan here is. When we first met the character in last year’s Elseworlds event, he was testing the various Earth’s to find champions for an upcoming “crisis.” While bringing someone with a vendetta will probably test J’onn J’onzz and some of the other heroes of Supergirl’s Earth-38, if the Crisis is really looming close enough that the Monitor needs the help of Oliver Queen, than maybe the time to be testing heroes has passed? And what is up with the Monitor and Lex Luthor’s corpse? Could he be bring Luthor back to life? Granted, he is one of the greatest villains in comics and actor Jon Cryer’s portrayal was pretty strong and spot on, so it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to see him return.
Legends Of Tomorrow
While there was a Monitor sighting in the season finale of Legends Of Tomorrow, it was pretty much inconsequential, if not down right goofy. Which is to be expected from the show. During the Legends’ big confrontation with the demon Neron during a superhero stage show being performed by the Legends in a theme park designed to make people more welcoming of magic al creatures – Again, this is Legends Of Tomorrow. Just go with it. – we get a glimpse of The Monitor in the stands, chowing down on some popcorn, watching. Maybe this is how he is judging if the Legends are capable of helping out in coming Crisis?
Next fall, the Crisis On Infinite Earths event will roll out over five hours of television, encompassing all five of the shows in the Arrowverse – the four pre-existing shows and the new Batwoman, with its titular hero who was introduced in last year’s Elseworlds event. The first three installments will air presumably in December right around the time most network shows take a holiday break, with the last two parts airing in early 2020 after that break ends. At first glance it can seem as if breaking an event like this in half with a month between installments is an odd choice. That is until you realize that there are a couple of places in the original Crisis comics story that provide dramatic enough cliffhangers to be adapted to serve as the break between parts three and four.
One of the big things that the original Crisis On Infinite Earths did was to integrated the number of parallel Earths that populated DC Comics of the 1970s and early 80s into just one. The thought by DC’s editorial at the time was that the multitude of different Earths may have been confusing for new readers and streamlining their continuity would be more welcoming. When Supergirl was dropped by CBS after its first season and then subsequently picked up the CW, many fans wondered of that meant that at some point the show’s Earth-38 setting would be somehow integrated into Arrow and The Flash’s Earth-1. And Crisis certainly seems like the right time to make such a merging happen, if the producers are interested in doing so. However, I would argue that with shows like Fringe and movies like the Back To The Future trilogy and the rebooted Star Trek leading the way, non-genre fan moviegoers and television audiences are more familiar than ever with the idea of parallel worlds and alternate timelines, which might mitigate the need to make sure everything is all happening on the same Earth. Besides, multiple Earths is an element of The Flash and to remove that from the show could potentially diminish it in terms of available storytelling elements.
And while this will probably be the biggest thing in terms of storytelling scope that the Arrowverse shows have attempted, it still probably won’t fully replicate the epic nature of the original Crisis On Infinite Earths story. Some things, like the involvement of some heroes, and multiple versions of others, will probably not happen in the interests of streamlining the narrative and keeping the entire thing within a television budget. Still, with the Legends involvement we could very well get some of the original story’s time travel elements into the crossover, which could open things up for reappearances from some of the historical DC Comics characters who have already appeared on Legends Of Tomorrow such as Jonah Hex.
But the biggest moments in the original Crisis comic story was the deaths of the Flash and Supergirl. Considering that with Arrow coming to an end this fall, these two heroes’ series are the flagships of the franchise now, so they are most likely going to be spared that fate. But I dare say that the fate of everyone else may be up for grabs. The producers aren’t afraid to kill off heroes, and notably Martin Stein, one half of the superhero Firestorm, met a tragic fate during the first really big Arrowverse crossover, 2016’s Invasion.
We still have about seven months before we will be able to see how everything plays out. In that time, of course, we’ll have news reports and rumors and set pics that will help keep speculation going. And before you know it, it will be time to find out which worlds will live, which worlds will die and how nothing will ever be the same again.