written by Kate Danvers
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
Nazis. I hate those guys.
This is going to be a very difficult recap/review to write because this crossover caused a myriad of emotions, not all good. I may stray away from my usual format here and there because I don’t know how to cover this episode. There are parts I can discuss because of personal experience and my own thoughts and feelings as a fan, but other parts aren’t that easy. So I’m going to say that you should look up other opinions on this crossover. Listen especially to Jewish people, persons of color, LGBTQ people, those with disabilities, and anyone else who faces persecution or marginalization. Whether they agree with you or disagree, just listen to what they’re saying and what they’re feeling.
For instance, listen to what people think about the opening shot of Crisis On Earth-X Part 4, where a beloved Jewish character lays in a pool of his own blood after being shot by Nazis.
Stein gets up and is shot again, but manages to open a breach which not only gives them a way back to Earth-1 but also vaporizes the Nazis who are shooting at them. The Ray (not to be confused with Ray Palmer) and Barry stop Red Tornado from destroying the facility…and by “stop” I mean “they blow him up.” Hopefully that one isn’t sentient. Stein is in no shape to move, so he fuses with Jax and everyone – including the Ray and Leo – goes through the breach to Earth-1.
Thawne tries to operate on Kara, but Ray Palmer (who I’m just going to call Atom to avoid confusion with Ray Terrill) saves her. Atom also embiggens his hand to smash a Nazi, which makes me recall one of the weirdest comics ever. The other Legends arrive and start freeing the prisoners in the pipeline. Dark Arrow disables Atom’s suit with a zappy arrow and has a standoff where Felicity stands between him and the still-weakened Kara.
FELICITY: “My grandparents didn’t survive the Holocaust so the world could be ruled by Nazis, so if you want Kara, you got to go through me. And even if you do, you’re not gonna win because we will not back down. We will keep fighting. So get the hell off our Earth while you still can.”
There’s a reason I like Felicity, and it’s stuff like this. She’s staring down an arrow drawn by a Nazi wearing her boyfriend’s face. She’s scared. She’s got no powers, no ninja training, no special suit, but she’s still defiant. Oliver appears in the doorway holding the powerless Overgirl at knifepoint to save Felicity and Kara. Thawne ends the standoff by speeding the Nazis away. Firestorm, the Ray, Dinah, Caitlin, Cisco, Zari, Amaya, and Mick all team up and completely waste Metallo.
The heroes go to the Waverider where reunions are had and Stein is treated in the med bay. Jax begins to suffer internal injuries because of his connection to Stein. Leo sits down with Mick to comfort him since Mick is drinking away his worries about Stein and Jax. Leo tells him about the Earth-X Mick who died rescuing cops from a burning police station, but that doesn’t sit right with Mick. (Sidebar, Chaotic Neutral Mick Rory interacting with a Lawful Good version of Leonard Snart is hilarious throughout this episode.) Curtis reads the analysis from Overgirl’s solar radiation problem and realizes that she’s not just dying – she’s going to go supernova when she dies and potentially take out the whole Midwest.
Gideon can’t do anything for Stein, and the only thing keeping him alive is his connection to Jax. When Stein dies, Jax will die too. Stein asks Jax to give him the cure Cisco, Caitlin and Harry made so that Jax can live. Jax refuses until Stein pleads with him, once again affirming that Jax is like a son to him. After a tearful goodbye, Stein dies with Jax at his side.
Even watching this the second time for this review, this scene wrecked me. Franz Drameh and Victor Garber are fantastic actors who deliver their all, and this scene is no exception. Over the course of Legends Of Tomorrow, Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson have grown from an unlikely superhero team to family, and you really feel that in this scene. I hate that they killed off Stein (more on that later), but this is a beautiful and heartbreaking moment.
Word spreads around the Waverider while Jax goes to Stein’s house to break the news to Clarissa and Lily. Oliver tries to comfort Sara, but she’s focused on the job at hand (and probably also revenge). After taking a moment to mourn, the heroes plan their next move. Just then, Dark Arrow calls in – he’ll leave Earth-1 in exchange for Kara. Yeah, of course they don’t take that deal. They plan to fight back against the Nazis “for the Professor”. The Nazis launch an attack on the city with Dark Arrow leading the way on foot and with the Windrider in the sky. The good guys walk out in a line for their Big Damn Heroes pose.
What follows is a really long action sequence that I won’t detail, but it’s pretty awesome. Each hero gets at least one great showcase moment. There are some fun highlights like Kara calling out Overgirl by saying “General, would you care to step outside?” Curtis throws a T-sphere with the Atom on top blasting Nazis in all directions. Barry battles Thawne at super-speed. Caitlin makes an ice slide to carry her, Amaya, and Zari up to the Windrider, with Zari’s powers propelling them along. They disable the ship’s shields, letting the Waverider fire on it as Cisco breaches the three out in the nick of time. Barry has an opportunity to kill Thawne, but shows mercy and lets him go. Overgirl starts to melt down and Kara asks what to do.
HARRY: “You need to fly her up…up…and away!”
Look, I’m not going to complain, they’re allowed to use cheesy lines and references. That’s why I love these shows.
Kara flies her into the upper atmosphere, which I think would take out a good chunk of the stratosphere, but I’m not a scientist and neither are the people who make these shows (I assume) so…meh. Dark Arrow is distraught, but before he can retaliate against our heroes, Oliver shoots an arrow into his heart.
Ollie needs therapy. I don’t care if he says he’s fine, drag his ass there. Barry didn’t kill his evil counterpart, but Oliver only hesitated long enough to get a clean shot. Nate catches Kara…for some reason? Not sure why metal arms are better than smacking into the ground, but okay. The day is saved – wooooo!
In the wrap-up, the Ray goes back to Earth-X. Leo elects to stay on Earth-1 for a while. A funeral is held for Stein with Jax saying a few words and expressing his sorrow over not being able to save his friend. Alex says goodbye to Sara in a “that was fun but probably a one-time thing” way. Kara and Alex return to Earth-38, the Legends return to the Temporal Zone, and Team Arrow probably has to take public transportation in-costume back to Star City because Oliver doesn’t care. Not wanting to go through the hassle of another ceremony, Barry zips to Star City,
kidnapsborrows John Diggle, and has him perform a quick wedding…which Oliver and Felicity co-opt because people think “Olicity” is important for some reason.
As I said at the start of this review, I don’t feel qualified to tackle some of the subjects of this crossover because I don’t have the background for it. I’m not Jewish, so I can’t give a Jewish perspective on the themes and subject matter of the crossover. There are others who have weighed in and I encourage you to seek out more. I can only give my views from my perspective and I’m going to try hard to stay in my lane.
I normally don’t like speculative fiction about what the world would be like if Nazis won World War II or if the South had won the Civil War. As an LGBTQ person, I don’t have to imagine a world where Nazis and bigotry still exist because I’m well aware that they still exist in the real world. Religions preach how horrible and sinful homosexuality is, conservatives still rake in votes by espousing “traditional marriage” and passing “bathroom bills”, and people are still assaulted and killed for being who they are. They’re not rounding us up and putting us in camps for loving the “wrong person” or for looking different, but the bigotry is still there. It’s more subtle, but it’s still government-sponsored hatred.
Personally, I would have liked to see more parallels drawn to real-world issues that remain even without an organized ruling Nazi party. Nazis aren’t the boogeymen from the past, another Earth, or an alternate timeline, and treating them like that to elicit a reaction out of the audience feels kind of exploitative. Fiction treats Nazis as the ultimate bad guys because the atrocities they committed are so horrible that everyone should want to rally against them. That’s why using them is tricky, because in some respects, you’re also using a very real tragedy to get more of a reaction from your audience.
In that respect, “Crisis On Earth-X” didn’t do too badly. I still wish it had picked a different enemy, I wish it didn’t have swastikas all over the place, and I wish the actors didn’t have to do that damn salute or say some of those awful lines. But they avoided some pitfalls: the bad guys weren’t portrayed in a comical or sympathetic fashion, the story goes just far enough to show how evil Nazis are without showing anything too horrific for television, and overall it wasn’t as bad as it could have been considering what they were working with. I really think they could have done a story about invaders from another Earth without making them literal Nazis, but the scenario was handled about as well as they could.
Apart from that, my only other major complaint about the episode is the death of Martin Stein. We’ve known for a while that Victor Garber would be leaving the series this season, and the episodes up to this point have given Stein a pretty good reason to depart the Waverider. That’s just it, though. They already wrote him an exit. Killing him off was completely unnecessary. They gave him the Henry Blake sendoff after seven episodes of setup for a more bittersweet departure, but that was all a con. The birth of Ronnie, Stein’s desire for a normal life, Jax’s growth as his own man who doesn’t need Stein’s guidance anymore, and reinforcing that father-son relationship the past few episodes – all of that just to set up retirony. Feels like a dick move. We got some fantastic scenes out of it – not only with Jax and Stein, but with other characters at the funeral – but I feel like it could have been done better. If you’re going to kill him off, kill him off without adding in imminent retirement and a new grandson for extra tragedy.
Other than those points, I really enjoyed this episode and the rest of the crossover. The actors all played well off of each other, it was great seeing so many of them onscreen at a time, and the effects were phenomenal. I don’t even want to think about what kind of budget this crossover had, but I’d guess it rivaled some feature-length films – which, yeah, that’s pretty much what we got. I’m not sure quite what they’re setting up with Leo, but I’m glad he’s sticking around. He’s a fun alternate take on the Leonard we know, and more interaction between him and our Leonard’s old friends and foes is welcome.
In the end, what can I say? It’s fun and full of awesome moments and tragic moments. The subject matter is problematic by its nature, but I think it’s handled well enough to not detract from what’s otherwise a good time of watching superheroes do superhero things.
Next week: Vikings! Huh. I was expecting something a little more loki.
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Legends Of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays on the CW at 9 ET/8 CT. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.