To say that DC’s theatrical attempts have had a rather bumpy run of things would be a vast understatement, yet on the small screen their collection of heroes have met with a fair amount of success — I myself enjoyed the first few seasons of Arrow, and season one and two of The Flash and Supergirl were quite entertaining — but as these shows drag on, the abilities of the showrunners to juggle such a diverse group of heroes has been sorely put to the test. Case in point, Elseworlds, a crossover which may have looked good on paper, failed miserably in the execution.
Originally, in the pages of DC comics, the Elseworlds stories contained “imaginary” adventures of some of our favourite DC heroes — Batman hunting Jack the Ripper or infant Superman landing in Russia instead of Kansas — but now the DC Multiverse has incorporated some of these stories into proper continuity, which brings us to the Arrowverse. In what has become an annual event, this Elseworlds three-parter brings The Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl together to fight a threat to reality itself (Legends of Tomorrow gave this crossover a pass) as an all-powerful being called The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) strides across the multiverse, leaving destruction in his wake.
We are first introduced to The Monitor as he destroys Earth-90 — where Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) is the last of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stand up to this mysterious book-wielding figure. We then jump to Earth-1 where The Monitor hands over the book to John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) — who comic fans may recall is Doctor Destiny — and asks him to, “Reshape the world as you see fit.” Giving a supremely powerful artifact to a “mad doctor” is, of course, going to mess things up pretty badly, and thus, the following day, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) wake up to find themselves living in each other’s lives; Oliver is the speedster known as The Flash and Barry is the masked vigilante Green Arrow. Oliver and Barry spend a little time exploring their new identities — Oliver having a hard time controlling the speed force while Barry has to get used to shooting arrows and kicking ass without super speed — and when they try and explain to their friends at S.T.A.R. Labs what has happened to them, they are disbelieved, knocked unconscious, and locked up in one of S.T.A.R. Lab’s containment cells. There is a lot wrong with this, and we’re not even twenty minutes into the first episode of this crossover.
The first question that came to my mind was, “Why are Oliver and Barry the only ones aware of the changes in their reality?” Did Deegan have some arcane reason for leaving these two with the memory of the original reality intact? Was this an element that The Monitor snuck in as part of his “Big Test” — he’s apparently rewriting reality to test out worlds to see if they are capable enough to stop an upcoming crisis, yet he never explains why this requires a mortal stooge like Deegan for this to work — but if that is the case, this is never explained. This is called lazy writing, and falls into the category of plot crutches such as “A wizard did it.” This also raises a big question as to how Barry can function at all as Green Arrow; if he has retained his memory of being The Flash, how is he able to fight and shoot like the real Oliver Queen? In this new reality where Oliver Queen has the power of speed, stopping criminals at super speeds can still work — he may not be as good at it as Barry but super speed is damn effective even if used by a novice — but Green Arrow has no superpowers, so unless muscle memory is more effective than I’ve been led to believe, Barry should have gotten his ass kicked while trying to be Green Arrow.
Then we have the added stupidity of Team Flash not believing in the whole “Freaky Friday” body switch thing, which is insane because this is the kind of crazy shit they deal with on almost a weekly basis, so them immediately locking them up is ridiculous. Luckily, Barry is able to convince Iris (Candice Patton) to open a portal so that they can travel to Earth-38, where they hope to get help from Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), their theory being that the changes to their reality may not have affected other worlds. This turns out to be the case, but not only does Supergirl recognize them for who they really are she is also able to recruit her cousin Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) to help them on their mission to correct reality on Earth-1. Good thing they did, because once they return to Earth-1 they soon find themselves battling the robot know as A.M.A.Z.O — the super adaptoid who can copy the powers of any meta-human it encounters — but really all that was needed to defeat the robot was Team Flash building an off switch for Barry to shoot into its eye. And how exactly did they pull this off? Well, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) reverse-engineered A.M.A.Z.O’s operation system and whipped up a virus to wipe out its CPU, and all of this is done in a matter of seconds. Star Trek: The Next Generation was known for pulling such technobabble nonsense out of their collective asses, but even by Geordie standards, this was absurd — they didn’t know of the robot’s existence until now, and yet somehow these yahoos could still reverse-engineer the thing in a hot minute.
Superman returns to Earth-38 to keep Lois safe — from what, we don’t know, but as Lois is constantly getting into trouble he’s probably right to be concerned — and so Barry, Oliver and Kara head to Gotham City to hunt down Deegan (Cisco had used his “Vibe” powers to show them that The Monitor and Deegan were in Gotham), and while visiting the home of the Dark Knight, they are arrested, but then quickly bailed out of jail by Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), Bruce Wayne’s cousin who has been running Wayne Enterprises since Bruce vanished three years ago. She informs them that Deegan is at Arkham Asylum, and thus the group rushes off to retrieve the “Book of Destiny” from this madman.
A few Stray Observations:
• We see John Diggle (David Ramsey) and his A.R.G.U.S. Team fighting the son of Deathstroke, none of whom think to shoot the dude in his unprotected head.
• Oliver doesn’t want the team to tell Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) about him and Barry switching identities, but being the fact that she was brought in to help solve the problem, how is that even supposed to work? This is simply for the sake of bad comedy and the continued ruination of Felicity’s character.
• Oliver hacks the GCPD database to find the location of Deegan, but since being fired five years ago, there is no known address for him. Yet Kane, minutes later, informs Kara that Deegan works at Arkham Asylum. I guess this is why Oliver needs Felicity, because his computer skills suck.
• Oliver is not yet comfortable with his speed powers, so the idea of him doing a “Super Speed Reconnaissance” of Arkham is kaboshed, but why doesn’t Kara use her Super Speed?
• Caitlin/Killer Frost gets into a fight with Nora Fries, and she loses. *sigh*
• Canisters of the Scarecrow’s fear toxins are broken open, causing Oliver to hallucinate Reverse Flash and Barry to see Malcolm Merlin, but why is the fear gas causing them to see each other’s main nemesis?
• Batwoman knocks the two out of their hallucinatory state and tells them to leave Gotham, and once again this is not how Scarecrow’s fear gas works, a punch in the head does not end the effects of the toxin.
Supergirl retrieves the “Book of Destiny” from Deegan — though he manages to escape because the plot requires this to happen — and the group returns to A.R.G.U.S. to figure a way to use the book to restore reality, but The Monitor just steals the book back and hands it to Deegan, telling him to, “Do better, think bigger.” Which means this whole trip to Gotham and finding Deegan was not only a complete waste of time but also pointless … well aside from introducing Batwoman (and to be fair that was the only reason I tuned back into the Arrowverse).
So Deegan rewrites a new reality, where Barry and Oliver are criminals known as the Trigger Twins, who have superpowers, and Deegan has made himself this reality’s Superman, and we are still left wondering why our main protagonists are left with their memories of previous realities intact. Meanwhile, Kara is being held prisoner in this new reality’s version of S.T.A.R. Labs — under the grumpy supervision of the Earth-1 version of Kara’s adoptive sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) — and I’m left wondering, “Why is he now blending the reality of multiple Earths?” Did Deegan even know of the existence of Earth-1 till now? Did opening the book a second time widen his scope of knowledge? Once again, the showrunners don’t think such trivial things need to be explained, because they have the whole “A wizard did it” explanation to fall back on, in the form of The Monitor.
Barry and Oliver track down this reality’s version of Cisco, who is apparently a crime lord here, so that he can use his portal-making abilities to get them to Earth-38 to retrieve the real Superman, and the reason why Superman took a break to “protect his Earth” is once again brought into question, considering all of reality is in danger, but of course, the obvious answer is that the bad writers always have a hard time figuring out ways to handle Superman’s incredible power set, without tossing kryptonite into the equation. So, the crossover wraps up with Alex, Barry, and Kara finding the “Book of Destiny” inside Barry’s Time Vault — Deegan calls it his Fortress of Solitude in this reality — and they give it to Superman to operate because cosmic artifacts are something he’s dealt with before, but then Deegan gets the book back and starts to alter reality all over again … and damn, this getting old. Oliver confronts the Monitor, giving the usual heartfelt speech about humanity, inspiring hope, and other such bullshit, and he then returns to shoot the book with an arrow enhanced by the Monitor.
A Couple More Stray Observations:
• Oliver and Barry manage to escape Deegan/Superman by knocking over a crane, forcing him to save innocent lives while they escape, but being it would take Superman less than a minute to catch the crane, I don’t see why he couldn’t have just caught them after catching the crane — he does have supervision and super speed.
• Supergirl is able to talk Alex Danvers into freeing her by pointing out that she knows her adoptive sister is a lesbian. This is certainly an interesting tactic, and maybe in future, we can hope to see Alex hooking up with Kate Kane.
• To impede Deegan’s reality-altering progress, Barry and Kara slow down time by speeding around the Earth in opposite directions … WTF? How exactly is that supposed to work? Barry states that, “If Supergirl and I travel in opposite directions, going just over Mach 7, it should create enough centrifugal force to slow the Earth’s rotation.” Superman did this in his first movie, reversing time to save Lois, but that is as bullshit then as it is now, because this would most likely result in ripping the planet apart, not reversing time. And wouldn’t two super people, who are going in the opposite direction, just negate each other?
Deegan is incarcerated at Arkham, looking now much like the comic book incarnation of Doctor Destiny, and Kara and Clark return to Earth-38 where we get a nice moment where Clark and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) reveal to Kara that Lois is pregnant and that they will be returning to Argo City for an extended period of time — because at least one of the writers had read Larry Nivens essay “Man of Steel Woman of Kleenex” — and that they are leaving Earth’s protection to Supergirl, stating, “The world doesn’t need Superman if it has Supergirl.” That’s a nice sentiment and all, but didn’t he save their asses a couple of times in this one crossover alone?
Comic book fans will, of course, know that this entire event was only to set up next year’s big event, as the crisis that The Monitor was alluding to would be “The Crisis on Infinite Earths,” and though I doubt a television version of such an epic event will come close to what we saw in the comics, I do hope it’s at least not as much of a convoluted mess as their television version of Elseworlds.
The most depressing thought to me is that the writers believed they were telling an actual Elseworlds story, but they weren’t; we don’t see an 18th-century version of Green Arrow teaming up with Allan Quatermain, or the Speed Force being gifted to Sherlock Holmes. What we got instead was a lame identity swapping shtick, which is not at all what the Elseworlds comics are about. Now, I will admit there were some fun moments in this “Elseworlds“ crossover, and I do look forward to seeing more of Ruby Rose as Batwoman, but the writers of these shows are just so monumentally bad at their jobs, it’s just staggering. And I know it can’t be easy to juggle the continuity of a comic book multiverse or balance the power sets of various heroes, but it looks like the showrunners here didn’t even care to try.
Elseworlds: An Arrowverse Crossover (2018)
Show Rank - 5.5/10
I’d abandoned the Arrowverse years ago, the character assassinations of some of my favorite heroes being too much for me to handle, but I had to check in once I heard about them attempting an Elseworlds story, one that would lead to The Crisis on Infinite Earths, but once again the writers for these shows manage to drop the ball at every opportunity.