written by Brandon Moore
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
It sure is exhausting dealing with a world where Nazis are on the rise again and people you thought you could trust turn out to be pretty awful. Let’s watch some escapist superher–oh.
I’m back once again to review Arrow‘s leg of this year’s big crossover event in what I affectionately call the DCECWTVU. Because acronyms are fun.
Picking up the narrative without missing a beat, Oliver has a chat with Earth-X’s Tommy Merlyn, which is emotional since he’s been dead on Earth-1 for four
seasonsyears. Some quick exposition lets us know that Earth-X is run by Nazis and now they’re coming here. Tommy’s turn from sympathetic to super evil plays well here, but it’s over so quickly that it feels inconsequential. No matter, though, because if we’re going to see evil versions of heroes, Tommy Merlyn isn’t high on the list of people I’m eager to see.
One title card later and we check in on Earth-X’s Oliver and Kara, as well as Eobard Thawne from…um…look, I’m gonna be honest; I’ve lost track of Thawne and I accept that he shows up whenever. I’m just gleeful that we get to hear Tom Cavanagh use his whisper of evil again. I’ve always kind of missed sinister Thawne/Wells from the first season of The Flash.
Also, I realize that the red-and-black color scheme represents abhorrent villainy, but Oliver and Kara look kind of fabulous in it? Anyway, Ollie-X and Kara-X are shacking up and, as usual, nobody can stand Eobard. Let’s move on.
Oliver tells Felicity that he still wants to marry her. Felicity says she’s not into that. Oliver mopes. I’m not into this emotional bit, no matter how much soft piano they put behind it. Luckily, the conflict between Stein and Jax is more compelling. Their short scene dealing with Stein’s decision to leave the Legends feels genuine, and I’ve always liked the interplay between these two. Then the show has to go break my heart with Alex Danvers’ relationship woes. It’s just a quick check-in, but Chyler Leigh can always make me feel for Alex. There are a lot of characters talking about feelings in this segment, many of them non-Arrow characters. I’ll come back to them in a bit.
It’s time to meet our villains! Our main trio of Barry, Oliver, and Kara meet face-to-face with Thawne, Oliver-X, and Kara-X. Thawne is condescending, Kara-X twists her usual hopeful righteousness into haughty superiority, and Oliver-X…doesn’t sound all that different, actually. They’ve stolen a MacGuffin, so Oliver uses a Kryptonite arrow because he wants to be Batman, and the bad guys cover their escape by trying to drop a construction site on some civilians. Watching our heroes work together in a CGI-fest to save the building is great fun, even if it feels like the writers are struggling a little to make Oliver feel useful.
After more awkward Felicity and Ollie feelings, the science nerds of the shows have tracked the Earth-Xers and we’re treated to a “suiting up and rolling out” montage that is super corny but in that absolute best way. It feels indulgent and fanservice-y to see extreme close-ups of masks being grabbed and shirts being opened and slo-mo walking, but I’m totally okay with it because it made me smile. This leads us to my highlight of the episode: our three best melee combat fighters plowing through Nazi lackeys. The supers are zooming around the place while Oliver bashes heads in, Sara ninjas her way through all comers, and Alex performs some sick gun-kata moves. Once again, Arrow provides pretty decent action.
It all comes to a halt pretty quickly. Metallo stomps out as the Earth-Xers’ trump card, it’s revealed that the bad guys want to take Kara’s heart to save a dying Kara-X, S.T.A.R. Labs is overrun, and our heroes end up stranded in a concentration camp on Earth-X. Tune in tomorrow!
This was a fun episode overall. I’m a sucker for alternate reality takes on established characters. But it’s hard to review as a single episode because it felt incomplete on its own. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, just different. Last year’s crossover event “Invasion!” made sure that each segment felt like an episode of its respective series. This year it seems as if rather than treating the crossover as a story that spills out into four distinct shows, it’s being presented as a single cohesive miniseries. That’s why what is ostensibly an episode of Arrow has time devoted to Barry and Iris, Alex and Kara, and plotlines that would simply be unknown to you if you didn’t watch their shows. Most telling of all, nowhere in the title sequence was this labeled Arrow, but simply “Crisis on Earth-X.” Presenting the story in this way means to you have to do a little more work to get the most out of it, but it is ultimately more rewarding for those who do.
It was a decent episode that mostly just set the stage for what I hope will be the best stuff yet. Now bring on the Nazi-punching!
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Arrow airs Wednesdays on the CW at 9 ET/8 CT. Brandon can be reached on Twitter @BluThundur.