'Crisis on Infinite Earths' finale recap: Your memory will carry on
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Warning: This recap contains spoilers about the final two parts of the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, which aired Tuesday.
“There are few things more powerful in the universe than memory and connection.” That’s what Oliver tells Barry midway through tonight’s Arrow, part 4 of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. In context, Oliver is trying to explain how he’s preventing their friends from falling out of the Speed Force and into the anti-matter universe; however, it also works as a thesis statement for the final two episodes of the crossover. As the epic event barrels towards its big conclusion, “Crisis” never forgets the importance of the heroes’ relationship to each other and devotes the bulk of its runtime to honoring their shared history, especially when it comes to their connection to Oliver.
The importance of connection and memory is clear long before Oliver speaks that line of dialogue. Arrow opens with a flashback to the Monitor’s home planet Malthus 10,000 years ago. While the sequence is supposed to explain how Mar-Novu accidentally created the Anti-Monitor by journeying to the Dawn of Time in the temporal zone, the thing that stands out is the connection between Mar-Novu and his wife Xneen. It’s a brief scene, but their relationship feels surprisingly lived in here. There’s a tenderness to it.
Once we see how the Anti-Monitor was born, the Arrow episode catches us up with the surviving Paragons, who are disheartened and stuck at the Vanishing Point. According to Ryan Choi, all of them mostly keep to themselves and Barry Allen even disappeared. It turns out that Barry ran into the Speed Force months ago and he finally returns here, but from his perspective, he’s only been gone for a few seconds. His attempts to use the Speed Force to free them from the Vanishing Point failed.
But there’s hope: Oliver Queen has transformed into the Spectre and arrives at the Vanishing Point to rally his friends once again — because after eight seasons, the man finally and truly understands that he can’t do this alone. At first, I found the vocal effect on Stephen Amell’s voice kind of distracting, but I eventually got used to it because it heightened his otherworldly presence.
Oliver doesn’t show up empty-handed. He has a plan. While he and most of the Paragons use the Speed Force to travel to the Dawn of Time to confront Mar-Novu, Supergirl, Lex, and Ryan must go back in time to Malthus and stop Mar-Novu from creating the Anti-Monitor as a back-up plan in case they fail. Short story shorter: Whatever the trio does in Malthus ultimately has no effect because there will always be a Mar-Novu in the multiverse who can’t help but meddle with time.
Unfortunately, the journey to the Dawn of Time isn’t smooth either because the Anti-Monitor attacks the party and all of them end up falling out into the Speed Force. Oliver uses his new Spectre powers to keep everyone in the Speed Force, but he tells Barry he needs to hurry and find their friends, who are scattered throughout Oliver’s memory — specifically memories of him forging lifelong bonds with his friends because, as he said before, “There are few things as powerful as memory and connection.”
Cue the trip down memory lane! Barry finds his friends in season 3’s “Suicidal Tendencies” (Kate watches Oliver and Ray’s tense argument at Palmer Tech); season 3’s “Sara” (Sara lies unconscious on a slab as Diggle comforts Laurel over her sister dying); the “Elseworlds” finale (Barry talks to Oliver and learns of the deal he made with Mar-Novu); and “Invasion!” (J’onn witnesses Oliver and Kara’s tense first meeting). On the one hand, this is very cheesy and reminiscent of things Arrow has done in the past. On the other hand, I found it very effective in putting us in the mindset for the final battle and, more importantly, the end of Arrow. Arrow’s final season has done a good job of paying tribute to Oliver’s relationships with the show’s cast, but this episode honors his connection to the other shows and how this one show’s existence has created so much. (It’s worth noting that the aspect ratio changed whenever we were in the Speed Force, which helped make those scenes feel distinct, too).
Anyway, Barry saves everyone from the Speed Force and they all head to the Dawn of Time, which is the setting of Arrow’s most ambitious fight sequence ever. And I say that because we’ve never seen the show use special effects to this extent, and it’s truly awe-inspiring to see full, bombastic comic book action. As the Paragons fight the shadow army, Spectre goes head-to-head with the White Walker-meets-Apocalypse-looking Big Bad and eventually becomes the spark that relights the flame.
Standing down below, the Paragons realize they need to use their Paragon-ness (and the Book-mark of Destiny) to fan the flame and rebirth the universe. If I had one complaint about the amazing direction in this episode, it would be the blocking of this very climactic moment. Instead of having the heroes circle around the Book of Destiny scrap or something visually interesting, director Glen Winter has them just stand and stare at Oliver fighting the Anti-Monitor and feeling really hard. There was definitely a better way to stage that.
In the end, the Anti-Monitor disappears and Oliver falls to the ground as a singularity forms in the sky. Sara and Barry speed up to the mountain and sit with Oliver as he takes his final breaths. Whereas his death in the Supergirl hour didn’t hit me at all, this one packed way more of an emotional punch because of the three actors’ performances. You felt the weight of this moment and the loss they were feeling. In some ways, it felt like the end of an era because Arrow is ending after all. Meanwhile, the singularity in the sky (a.k.a. the reborn universe) continued to grow until the scene smashed to white.
From there, we moved onto the conclusion of the crossover on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The Legends hour opens with Kara, Barry, J’onn, and Sara waking up and realizing that not only is the universe back but they all reside on the same Earth, which is a big change. Of course, since this is a Legends episode, there’s an inherent sense of playfulness in almost every scene; from Barry and Kara’s confusion to Ray being bummed he might’ve missed a crossover, to, of course, the appearance of Beebo midway through the episode.
I was frankly surprised by how strong the Legends hour was. The last episode of a crossover is usually the weakest because the big battle ends up taking precedence over character moments, but that’s not the case here at all. Once Sara enters the picture, the episode never lets you forget that Oliver died. Sure, there are moments of levity as outlined above, but the focus remains on how Sara is handling Oliver’s death. This yields two of my favorite moments in the episode: First, there’s Sara and Diggle’s tearful embrace as they’re forced to accept that their friend is gone. Second, there’s Sara and Barry’s heart-to-heart in the park, which I found moving because Lotz does a great job of conveying the weight of losing everyone from her pre-Legends life and this is the first time these two characters have ever bonded like this.
Unfortunately, the Anti-Monitor’s shadow demons interrupt their chat, confirming Nash’s claims that the Anti-Monitor is still alive. A few hours later, most of the Arrowverse’s heroes gather on a pier to fight the Anti-Monitor in another great fight sequence. (Of course, my favorite moment was the Black Lightning-Frost-Heat Wave team-up at Star Labs.) They eventually triumph by lobbing a Ryan Choi-Ray Palmer joint (read: a sphere that’ll shrink him for eternity and trap him in the microverse) at the Anti-Monitor.
As the episode wraps-up, the President addresses the nation about Oliver Queen’s brave sacrifice and then Oliver narrates a montage that shows off the reborn multiverse (more on that here). From there, we return to Earth-Prime (the home of all the CW shows) and find White Canary, the Flash, Black Lightning, Superman, Supergirl, and Martian Manhunter at the S.T.A.R. Labs facility from “Invasion!” There, the heroes pay tribute to their fallen ally with a costume case and everlasting fire (“And though you’re dead and gone/Your memory will carry on, we’ll carry on”) Not only that, but they also make plans for the future as Barry unveils a JLA-style conference table with each of their logos emblazoned on the chairs.
“How often does the world come to an end?” says Black Lightning, who is met with silence from everyone else. “Oh, it’s like that?”
Yes, it is Jefferson.
Overall, I think I loved “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” especially these final two episodes. Both Arrow and Legends did a fantastic job of highlighting the importance of these relationships, especially when it comes to the dearly departed Oliver. This is a small thing, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I watched these two installments. Way back when Suicide Squad premiered, Vox’s Emily VanDerWerff pointed out in her review that the movie failed to establish the titular team’s dynamics because of the lack of shots featuring the entire group and prevalence of close-ups, which made the characters feel isolated. Watching these two episodes, that wasn’t a problem here and I loved it. And I’m excited to see what the Arrow-less future holds.
Wall of Weird:
- Baby Sara is back from the dead on Earth-Prime!
- Also in the new continuity, Clark and Lois have two sons, which is an exciting development for their spin-off on The CW.
- Furthermore, Lex Luthor is now a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lena defends Kara to the President, and LuthorCorp owns the DEO, which is a frightening twist!
- “Beebo, is nothing sacred?” Flash, to Sargon the Sorcerer.
- I loved the fact that Kate was watching the President’s address with Kara and Alex.
- Jon Cryer gave an amazing performance in both episodes! Excited that we’ll also see him in the Supergirl episode.
- UDPATE: Forgot to reference Ezra Miller’s funny cameo as DC film’s the Flash. More on that here.
This post has been updated.