REVIEW: DCTV’s Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 1 & 2

Supergirl and Arrow premiered the first two parts of this year’s crossover event, “Crisis on Earth-X,” which has been promoted as the largest scale movie-style storyline DCTV has ever done. While ostensibly centered around Iris (Candice Patton) and Barry’s (Grant Gustin) wedding, the crossover contained its fair share of story for characters from the other shows – and much more than its fair share of Nazis ruining everything – including some enjoyment of the episodes.

Just two badass ladies having a good time.

But first, the good. Alex (Chyler Leigh) dealing with the fallout of her broken engagement was a surprisingly strong through line for her in “Crisis on Earth-X,” and Kara (Melissa Benoist) was there to support her through it all without judgment. What seemed like a fun (if somewhat tasteless) one night stand between Alex and Sara (Caity Lotz) actually wound up being an emotional revelation for the former woman, who came to terms with how much she was spinning out and wondered if she had made the wrong choice choosing her needs over her relationship. Thankfully Kara was there to talk sense into her, but unfortunately she wasn’t great at taking her own advice when wallowing over Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) marital status. It’s one totally understandable thing to be upset that your boyfriend has a wife, but another to then make the leap that you shouldn’t have a romance because you’re an alien superhero. She has Barry and Iris making it work as an example, but more importantly her cousin Clark has been showing her how it’s done for years. Losing Mon-El shouldn’t have completely changed her perspective on that. Regardless, their scenes helped firmly ground the first part as a Supergirl story.

Sara didn’t benefit much from the story with Alex, and “Crisis on Earth-X” continued Legends of Tomorrow‘s odd choice of not giving her much interior life this year. She had some standout fight sequences during the interrupted wedding and a hilarious one-liner about Alex’s bruised butt, but other than that not much was going on with her. Jax (Franz Drameh) and Stein (Martin Stein), however, delved further into their Firestorm problems in a way that was both seamless and easy to understand. They managed to catch up new viewers without feeling unsubtle, and both parties had strong emotional undercurrents to their respective points of view. Seeing Stein reunited with his wife Clarissa for the first time in nearly two seasons was more than enough to understand why he so desperately wanted to retire and go home. Jax’s revelation that he had come to see Stein as a father figure easily explained his deep discomfort with the older man’s departure, as well as subtly reminding the audience of his father’s tragic death while on duty in Somalia. He honestly got more of a point of view in these two episodes than he usually gets on his own show.

Oliver takes “first comes love, then comes marriage” VERY seriously.

Oliver (Stephen Amell) seemed to get the bulk of screen time during the first night of “Crisis on Earth-X,” though his problem seemed the most manufactured. One conversation about vows with Barry and a beautiful rehearsal dinner at Jitters were apparently enough to get him spontaneously proposing to Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), but his girlfriend surprised him by rejecting his proposal out of hand and saying she doesn’t want to be married at all. While I appreciated Felicity getting to detail her stance, and I could see why a life of constant danger might warn her away from marriage, it seemed totally random for them to bring the issue up for the first time this season. Since they began dating again on Arrow, there’s been no indication that Felicity was wary of marriage or even that Oliver was that desperate to marry her. It felt like it was set up either for Felicity to take a big plunge and marry him the next night, or else for Oliver to make the sacrifice of never marrying her, but it wasn’t earned.

What about The Flash and its characters, whose wedding brought everyone together? Well, Barry certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to tell anyone who would listen about how much he loves Iris, and it was adorable. He was having trouble shortening his vows down from 38 single-spaced pages, bless his heart, and he even met a mysterious caterer who was way too excited to see him wed Iris (Jessica Parker Kennedy, in what I can only pray is a Dawn Allen cameo). And of course Gustin sold his part of the walk down the aisle with tears shining in his eyes while Patton smiled shyly and looked incredible. But otherwise Iris didn’t fare as well in the first part of “Crisis on Earth-X,” barely getting to speak a word after some cute wedding planning banter during a King Shark battle and a nail salon date with the girls.

She actually got a little more to do in the second part, but it mostly involved comforting Barry about running into his old nemesis Reverse Flash (who for some reason decided to visit Earth-X and become a temporary Nazi) and helping Felicity with her pre-marital problems. Barry and Iris may both be angels who wouldn’t complain too much about their wedding getting crashed by Nazis, but it at least would have been nice to see them get more family moments at the rehearsal dinner. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) gave a beautiful speech about how inspired he was by their love, but he didn’t get a solo scene with any of his children – including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) – aside from when he walked Iris down the aisle.

When no one RSVPs to your wedding but they steal your thunder with their drama.

The supporting casts from each show had some memorable moments during “Crisis on Earth-X” as well. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Harry (Tom Cavanagh) helped perfect the formula that would separate Firestorm while bickering like an old married couple. Mick (Dominic Purcell) almost single-handedly saved the Arrow half by trying to coax Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) into her Killer Frost persona, and the entirety of Team Arrow (minus Diggle) showed up at the end to help fight Nazis. It’s too bad that the majority of the fight scenes were too dark and rushed to be coherent, and the only thing I got out of them was that the Nazis were better at fighting than the heroes. And on that note, it’s time to talk about the Nazis.

“Crisis on Earth-X” already got off on the wrong foot by opening on a scene of Earth-X Guardian (Mehcad Brooks) fighting a Nazi version of Oliver before abruptly getting killed. To have his only appearance in the entire crossover be death by Nazi seemed like an attempt at one-upping Batman vs. Superman‘s “Easter egg” of shooting Jimmy Olsen in the head as soon as we met him. Not much context was given about this horrible Earth aside from a bombardment of swastikas – and the next thing the audience knew, they were crashing the West-Allen wedding. Admittedly, this battle sequence looked great, and was by far the best one of the night (perhaps because it was the only one that took place during the day). Sara and Alex got to kick ass in stilettos, Barry and Wally wowed everyone by super speeding in tuxedos, and Oliver and Kara held their own against their secret doppelgangers. But things fell apart on the Third Reich front after that, with the reasoning for their arrival being both flimsy and poorly explained. Tommy Merlyn (guest star Colin O’Donnell) as Earth-X’s Prometheus was actually one of the saving graces, especially when he took a sickening “let’s humanize Nazis” speech and turned it on its head by revealing just how heartless he was. But in general things went from bad to worse when Dark Arrow and Overgirl were revealed to be married.

A humanizing Nazi love story is the last thing anyone needed in “Crisis on Earth-X,” especially when the episode failed to acknowledge that 30% of the United States’ population might not even see Nazis as wholly evil to start with. Apparently Overgirl was dying from radiation poisoning, so they needed Earth-38 Kara’s heart to save her. I understand that a specific motivation was required to make the villains cross paths with the heroes to begin with, but so much time was spent on this that it really overshadowed the fact that there is an entire Earth full of victims in concentration camps that Barry, Kara, Oliver, and Sara should be desperate to rescue. That is, until they are kidnapped and wind up in a concentration camp themselves. We have yet to see if The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow will deal with such a horrific situation appropriately, but the first half of this extravaganza was way more focused on punching Nazis who specifically look like you than it was on exploring the struggles of marginalized groups who are suffering under a reign of terror. The fact that Harry had known about this Earth all along and never thought to inform Barry (who earlier in the show’s run refused to let another Earth fall prey to Zoom) just makes matters more confusing.

At the end of the day, “Crisis on Earth-X” contains several great character beats but is marred by an ineffective backstory for its villains. Perhaps the shows would have been better off with generic evil doppelgangers a la Crime Syndicate, allowing the crossover to be just as epic in scale without having to interrupt the proceedings to show old Hitler speeches.