After months of teasing and anticipation, this year’s Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds” finally began with tonight’s special airing of The Flash — and boy, was it loads of fun! From the obvious humor of the body swap, to all of the Easter eggs and callbacks that the writers threw in, there was so much to love about this episode. I feel like I say this every year, but this first outing captured the excitement of reading comic book crossovers; however, its ambition goes beyond simply tickling your lizard brain.
Based on the first hour, “Elseworld” is definitely trying to do something different than “Crisis on Earth-X.” Whereas last year’s four-part extravaganza was very much about the spectacle and its timely story about punching Nazis, “Elseworlds” seems more concerned with telling a story that’s focused on the characters — specifically, the relationship between Oliver and Barry.
We begin with Dr. John Deegan (Jeremy Davies), who is busy presenting some crazy ideas to fellow psychiatrists. He suggests the only way to help patients is by turning them super with eugenics. Of course, his peers don’t want any part of that and walk out on his lecture. This opening scene does a good job of setting up how, well, pathetic his life is. But then the Monitor arrives, praises the bad doctor’s “vision” and gives him the Book of Destiny to rewrite reality as he sees fit. Things are about to get wild.
As we’ve revealed already, Deegan tinkers with reality and Oliver and Barry swap lives. In this new reality, Barry Allen looks like Stephen Amell and Oliver Queen looks like Grant Gustin, and they’re the only ones that realize they’re in the wrong lives. The episode wastes no time in digging into how humorous this entire situation is. From the look of sheer confusion on Amell’s face when he wakes up in Barry and Iris’ bed, to his inability to stop while running when he has to squash a break-in at Ivo labs, I couldn’t stop laughing. The same thing goes for when Barry comes to in Oliver Queen’s life and struggles with choosing the right arrow to shoot when he and Diggle try to break up a firefight between the Bratva and the Bertinellis. (This episode name-dropped so many things!)
After foiling the Ivo break-in, Oliver speeds to Star City and collects Barry so they can figure out what’s going. Given how weird the situation is, they turn to the people who are used to dealing with this kind of thing: Team Flash. Unfortunately, Team Flash doesn’t believe that they’ve switched lives and ends up locking them up in the pipeline. (ASIDE: One of the things I loved about this episode’s humor is how self-aware it was. Shortly before the guys are locked up, Oliver teases Barry about his and Iris’ “you’re my lightning rod” thing, and then once they’re in the pipeline, Oliver gives Barry grief for his secret prison, which more than deserved because the S.T.A.R. Labs prison is still pretty problematic. END ASIDE).
While trapped in the pipeline, they realize that they should jump to Earth-38 to see if reality is altered there. So, Oliver walks Barry through dislocating his thumb to get out of the cuffs so that he can disable the power dampener, and Barry teaches Oliver how to phase. Iris tries to stop them taking the extrapolator, but Barry makes an emotional appeal that convinces her to let them go, because love is stronger than reality and she believes in her heart that the man she thinks is Oliver is actually her Barry.
Next: The best music cue ever and Flash and Green Arrow meet Superman
Cue the best use of music ever! As soon as Barry and Oliver jump through the breach, the Smallville theme song crescendos in and we’re treated to the classic shots of Superman’s home town that were clearly taken right from Smallville. As we already revealed, the crossover finds Kara hanging out on the Kent Farm with her cousin and Lois Lane, who makes her Arrowverse debut in this episode. When we first meet her, she’s trying to convince Clark to let her write about their experience on Argo. I love that her bits of dialogue are about a story she wants to write, which conveys that the writers understand that being a reporter is very much part of who she is. The other big thing that stood out from Tulloch’s first scene as Lois is how lived in her chemistry with Tyler Hoechlin feels.
Kara and Clark sit down to talk about Kara’s current identity crisis (see Supergirl’s midseason finale), but then Barry and Oliver show up at the Kent Farm looking for her help. Thankfully, Kara can see them for who they are and doesn’t believe Oliver is Barry and vice-versa. The boys’ first scene with Superman was as funny as you would expect, especially Oliver puffing out his chest. I also loved how Lois Lane introduced herself as “Lois Lane, Daily Planet,” which feels very on-brand.
Barry and Oliver decide to use this time on the farm to train and get to know each other’s powers, which of course leads to Barry getting his revenge on Oliver for the last time they trained by shooting him in the back with two arrows. This callback definitely felt earned, especially since The Flash is coming off of its retrospective 100th episode. Alas, Oliver isn’t so amused by the comeback and throws a fit. However, later on, Oliver reveals he was so annoyed with Barry having fun with his abilities because for him to be the Green Arrow, he has to channel all of his dark memories. Barry shares that he channels how much he loves his friends and family and his happiness in order to be the Flash. Have Barry and Oliver ever had an exchange quite like this? I don’t think so, but it feels earned and is a great beat for their relationship. It’s not only a reminder of what makes them different as heroes, but also how being around each other can help them grow. They come to the conclusions that they’re going to need to try to be the best versions of each other if they’re going to survive this swap.
Cisco shows up on the farm with some bad news: Amazo, an Ivo Labs-created android that can mimic anybody’s powers, is attacking Central City. So, Barry, Oliver, Supergirl, and Superman head back to Earth-1 to save the day. Watching Superman fight alongside the Trinity is as exciting as we all expected, but the sequence’s coup de grâce is when Barry and Oliver put their recent lesson to use and embrace each other’s powers. Oliver uses his speed to subdue Amazo with Superman and Supergirl, which allows Barry to shut Amazo down with a virus-carrying-arrow right to the eye. “Amazo, you have failed this city!”
With the day saved, it’s time to return to the matter at hand: fixing reality. Cisco shows Barry and Oliver the vibe he had of Dr. John Deegan talking to the Monitor, who is aware that he’s being vibed. Although they have no idea who either person is, they know they need to head to Gotham for answers because they saw Wayne Tower in the background.
All in all, I really enjoyed the first part of the crossover. Even though the episode had a lot of story to get through, it never sagged and was quick on its feet. Not only that, but it also took time for important character beats. Sure, I loved seeing Superman team-up with Supergirl, Green Arrow, and the Flash, but the most gratifying moments of the episode were the ones that focused on the relationships, like Iris telling Barry not to become Oliver Queen because he said he was going to send Amazo to hell and making him promise he’ll come back to her; or the conversation that Barry and Oliver shared on the Kent Farm, which felt even more weighty because it was happening on the old Smallville set.
Wall of Weird:
- When Superman returns to Earth-38, Sherloque asks him to deliver an alimony check to his third ex-wife for him, because of course, he does.
- “I forgot, do I need help putting this on?” Barry, when Diggle hands him the Green Arrow costume.
- I love how Lois Lane immediately picks up on the fact that Oliver is a jerk.
- “I don’t think you can go more than nine hours without some sappy emotional speech!” says Oliver, dropping a harsh truth bomb on Barry during training.
- Apparently, Amazo was able to mimic other people’s powers because of a modified version of the Mirakuru serum.
- “You’re the Green Arrow, but please don’t become Oliver Queen,” Iris, to Barry at the end of the episode.
- The Flash recap: A poignant (and twisty!) journey to the past worthy of 100 episodes
- Melissa Benoist, Ruby Rose preview Supergirl and Batwoman’s friendship in ‘Elseworlds’
- Bitsie Tulloch previews Lois Lane’s Arrowverse debut in ‘Elseworlds’