TV REVIEW: The Flash S4E8 ‘Crisis on Earth-X’ (Contains Spoilers)

Since “Crisis on Earth-X” was its own crossover event that purported to intertwine all four shows as if they were one four-hour movie, this review will cover all the shows involved: SupergirlArrowThe Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Visitors from all corners of time and the multiverse gathered for Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’ (Candice Patton) wedding, so of course their special was interrupted by literal Nazis from another Earth. Why do bad things happen to good people? And why didn’t those good people immediately march over and liberate an entire Earth suffering genocide and torture? Tune in to find out!

Part one of “Crisis on Earth-X” set the tone by opening with an extended scene of the alternate Third Reich, complete with Nazi Oliver (Stephen Amell, though his performance wasn’t much distinguished from regular Oliver) murdering Resistance fighter James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks). The total darkness of the first few minutes contrasted wildly with cute scenes of various characters preparing to attend Iris and Barry’s wedding, which was somewhat jarring but ultimately worked. Thankfully the majority of the episode stayed on the lighter side, and at least one character or couple from each superhero show had a plot point they were dealing with. Alex’s (Chyler Leigh) experience with her first one night stand and how it related back to her heartbreak over Maggie was a through line that remained constant over both nights, but the first hour was main the flirtatious lead up and humorous aftermath. Kara (Melissa Benoist) had the shakier story of the two Supergirl ladies, mostly relegated to mourning Mon-El being married, but Benoist gets more screentime as her Nazi doppelganger Overgirl.

Speaking of Nazi doppelgangers, they interrupt a beautiful ceremony in which Gustin did some of him best work by simply tearing up as Iris walked towards him. The moment was underscored by Kara singing “Runnin’ Home To You,” with impeccable direction from Larry Teng – who then transitioned into the most flawlessly executed fight sequence of the week with aplomb. Every warrior character got at least one moment to show off their skills, even Cisco (Carlos Valdes) got to breach Oliver across the room before getting knocked out for the entirety of Arrow‘s portion of “Crisis on Earth-X” and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) super sped away from arrows impressively before getting sent away for the rest of the crossover.

Things ironically slowed down during the second part, as Arrow felt the need to make the Nazis’ identities a dramatic reveal when it couldn’t be more obvious they were Oliver and Kara respectively. It was far more shocking that they were married, but their ‘romance’ added nothing to the story other than the unfortunate implication of humanizing genocidal racists. The best scene of the hour belonged to guest star Colin O’Donnell, who returned as the evil version of Tommy Merlyn and turned the idea of remorseful villains on its head with impeccable crocodile tears. Aside from that, the biggest character-driven drama was Oliver learning that Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) was officially ruling out marriage after being traumatized by their engagement two years ago. Somehow this consumed his thoughts more than the knowledge that he became a Nazi Führer on another Earth, and the two of them not only had several scenes discussing it but also interrupted Barry and Iris a few times to redirect conversations about their ruined wedding – and the return Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh in his best The Flash role) – back to their own romance. Little did we know that was foreshadowing.

While part two of “Crisis on Earth-X” suffered from slow pacing and dark fight sequences that were somewhat hard to follow, The Flash‘s installment ramped up the pace and delivered some strong character beats to boot. More importantly, it actually dealt somewhat with the realities of a world ruled by bigotry and white supremacy, and allowed characters to treat the situation as seriously as it deserved. At least when it came to sexual identity, anyway. Sara (Caity Lotz) had a powerful and painful moment coming face to face with her father Quentin’s (Paul Blackthorne) doppelganger and standing her ground as a bisexual woman – and audiences were introduced for the first time to Ray Terrill (Russell Tovey), the gay superhero who is heading up his own animated series. He and Earth-X’s version of Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) were one of the best parts of the night, and alongside General Schott (Jeremy Jordan) they proved that real heroes do exist even in the worst dystopia.

Unfortunately “Crisis on Earth-X” killed off the only person of color on the whole planet in the very first scene, so there was no story to be found when it came to racial equality (aside from Overgirl referring to herself as Aryan perfection, barf). But back on our Earth, Iris and Felicity did get some kick ass moments while trying to rescue Team Flash and Team Arrow from their pipeline prison as well as save Kara from being operated on by Thawne. They also call in the Legends who weren’t originally invited to the West-Allen wedding, so that everyone can join in on the crossover fun. As tight and tense as this hour was, it was a shame that The Flash cast was sidelined in their own episode. Of course, the crossover was meant to play like a four-hour movie, but only this show practically banished half its cast during its allotted hour. And even Barry was in the background in comparison to Oliver and Kara, partially because he had no Nazi doppelganger to contend with – thank goodness for that. His rivalry with Thawne seemed to signal a future plot line, but didn’t amount to much in the crossover itself. Meanwhile, Oliver was nearly forced to kill Felicity’s doppelganger in a horrifying and tasteless look at antisemitism without context and Kara faced near-certain death in the name of saving her Nazi-self’s life.

One moment with hopefully more immediate implications for Barry, though, was his meeting with an over-eager caterer (played by Jessica Parker Kennedy) right before his wedding. She couldn’t contain her joy at watching Barry and Iris wed and firmly reminded him to say “I do,” which had fans and critics alike buzzing with just who she might be. It certainly didn’t hurt that she looked like a mix of the two actors and copied some of their mannerisms too.

The most emotional and intense scenes of “Crisis on Earth-X” came from its conclusion in the Legends of Tomorrow episode, which wrapped up the Jax (Franz Drameh) and Stein (Victor Garber) Firestorm drama that’s been brewing all season. Garber did some of his best work on the series, and Stein’s heroism led to some pretty important changes for Jax that are sure to have an effect in future episodes. Not only that, but the episode staged the largest-scale battle in DCTV’s history and managed to make it look epic as opposed to cheesy. Characters like Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) were afforded the opportunity to use powers that they usually hide, while Kara and Oliver were taken to some dark places that may or may not linger in their psyches next week.

That being said, there were a few things to complain about in this final hour: namely that the heroes made no real effort to defend or rescue the marginalized people they witnessed being tortured and executed in literal concentration camps. It’s hard to fathom that Barry, Kara, Oliver and Sara would be willing to let an entire Earth fend for themselves in that situation – even if The Ray is already there with his Freedom Fighters. Given the merely cursory attempts to explore the complicated history and present-time incarnation of Nazism, at times it felt like “Crisis on Earth-X” would have been better served using fictional and generic fascists as its villains. Regardless, the closing moments of the crossover were both heartbreaking and heartwarming, signaling a new beginning for many of the universe’s characters. Whatever problems the four-part event presented, it at least provided some stellar fight sequences and a more cohesive team-up that certain other DC properties can boast.

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