The Flash crossover recap: Death and evolution in 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'
The Flash is dead, long live the Flash — literally.
All season-long, The Flash has told us the Flash was going to die in the Crisis. But we all knew they weren’t going to kill off the titular hero of the show when there was still half a season left, which meant that the show had to find a clever way to save Grant Gustin from that fate while also wrapping up that thread in a way that was satisfying and didn’t feel like a complete cheat. I think tonight’s episode, Part 3 of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” achieves that thanks to a great assist from some tear-jerking archival footage.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part 3” begins with the destruction of Earth-203, which is home of the short-lived DC TV show Birds of Prey. We see Ashley Scott, who played Huntress, parkouring across a rooftop in New Gotham as she’s talking to Oracle over comms and the anti-matter wave consumes her city. Unfortunately, neither of them survive. This cameo worked more in theory for me, but only because I’ve never watched Birds of Prey and don’t have an emotional attachment to it.
From there, we return to the Waverider, which is hovering around Earth-1. Team Flash arrives and the gang gets down to the business of looking for the remaining paragons. Luckily for them (and the budget), Ray’s paragon detector machine reveals two of them are already on the ship: the Flash is the Paragon of Love (cue “Running Home to You,” which gets mentioned several times in this episode) and Supergirl’s J’onn is the Paragon of Honor. I’m very excited about this because it’s about time my boy Martian Manhunter had a substantial role in these crossovers. In the comics, Martian Manhunter is one of the staples of the Justice League, so it’s nice that he’ll be a prominent part of the final team (more on that in a second).
Ray and Cisco’s detector also reveals the seventh paragon, the Paragon of Humanity, is an Ivy Town professor named Ryan Choi, played by Osric Chau. So, Ray, Iris, and Ralph head out to Ivy Town to convince Ryan Choi to join them. Ryan, the personification of nervous energy, wants nothing to do with this superhero business because he has a family he wants to get back to. But Iris, using her super-power, convinces him to join the fight. Iris is usually sidelined in the crossovers, so it’s nice to see her having an active role in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” even if she does say that the role of non-superheroes is to remind the superheroes what they’re fighting for. If there’s one thing both Iris’ role in tonight’s episode and on The Flash in the past couple seasons has proven, it’s that she contributes more than that.
Meanwhile, Barry, Frost, and Cisco — whom the Monitor forces to become Vibe again — head to the tunnel where Nash disappeared and discover the anti-matter chamber behind the metallic door Nash got sucked into. Inside, they find Earth-90 Flash trapped on a cosmic treadmill powering the anti-matter cannon that destroyed Earth-2 and is the source of the anti-matter wave threatening the entire multiverse. The trio help Earth-90 Flash (henceforth referred to as Shipp-Flash) off the treadmill, which is actually a bad move because it’ll destroy the entire multiverse in one fell swoop if he stops running.
In order to delay that, Pariah breaches Jefferson Pierce from The CW’s Black Lightning to the chamber to contain the energy long enough for them to come up with a plan. This is the definition of delayed gratification. Seeing Cress interact with everyone in this scene was something to behold because we’ve been waiting for it to happen and, more importantly, the script does a good job of synthesizing who this guy is to non-Black Lightning viewers. The few lines he has before he agrees to help succinctly explain what’s important to him: his family. And even though we might not see them get wiped out from by the blast, Williams’ pained performance makes you understand what he’s going through.
Eventually, Barry and Shipp-Flash realize the only way to stop the cannon is for a speedster to hop on and run in the opposite direction, which would lead to one of their deaths. This is the moment Barry has been preparing for all season long and he gets ready to hop on, but then Shipp-Flash surprises him by stealing his speed and taking his place on the treadmill. This solution works because Barry desperately wants to be the one to do it — he’s clearly pained watching someone go through this for him. More importantly, though, the writers make sure we understand what Shipp-Flash is losing, too. Earlier in the scene, he mentions his lightning rod Tina McGee (Amanda Pays) and as he’s running for his life, the episode flashes back to a scene from the 1990s’ Flash show, which helps this emotional gut-punch land because there’s suddenly this heartbreaking sense of history. The 1990s Flash’s journey has finally ended, 30 years later.
While all of this is going on, Mia, Diggle, and Constantine jump over to Earth-666 and meet up with Lucifer’s Tom Ellis, who plays the titular devil. After showing off his ability to make anyone share their desires and teasing Constantine, Lucifer hands them a card that’ll let them travel to Purgatory and retrieve Oliver’s soul. In a surprising twist, though, Oliver isn’t ready to leave because Jim Corrigan, “a specter” (hint hint!), tells him he’s destined to become something else and relight the spark. So Oliver agrees to go with him instead.
From there, Mia, Diggle, and Constantine return to the Waverider. That’s when chaos breaks out because Harbinger, who has been corrupted by the Anti-Monitor, proceeds to attack all of the heroes, kill the Monitor, and reinitiate the anti-matter wave, which wipes out the last remaining Earth. In the final moments, though, Pariah manages to teleport the seven paragons — Barry (Love), Batwoman (Courage), Supergirl (Hope), Ryan Choi (Humanity), Martian Manhunter (Honor), Brandon Routh-Superman (Truth), and Sara (Destiny) — to the Vanishing Point, the only safe refuge from the apocalyptic events because it exists out of space and time (shoutout to this Legends of Tomorrow season 1 callback!).
Their situation, though, escalates from somewhat depressing to downright depressing when Routh-Superman dies and is replaced by Lex Luthor, who used a scrap of paper to make himself the new Paragon of Truth. Even during the apocalypse, Lex Luthor can’t help but be Lex Luthor. Honestly, I respect that — especially because it gives us a Super-death, like in the Crisis comic, without killing off Supergirl.
Overall, I kind of loved this episode. Sure, it definitely moved a bit too quickly and I lost track of the story at times. But it had an immense heart to it. Not only that, but it also improved on what Part 2 did. Like Part 2, Part 3 features several exciting cameos and callouts to DC’s history; however, here it’s not just for nostalgia’s sake. Black Lightning’s integration into the Arrowverse is fun, but the episode acknowledges that the circumstances by which it happens are actually very painful for Jefferson. Then, it also gives us a heart-to-heart between Jefferson and Barry, which makes a case for having Black Lightning here all on its own.
Wall of Weird:
- Batwoman and Superman almost go full Dawn of Justice because Kara is determined to use the Book of Destiny to bring back the destroyed Earths. Luckily, she doesn’t, which means Kate doesn’t have to use the Kryptonite she pocketed from Bruce Wayne. This conflict added layers to their nascent relationship in the same way that “Flash vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold” did for Barry and Oliver way back in 2014.
- I wish the episode had devoted a bit more time to the guilt Diggle felt for not being there when Oliver died.
- “That name makes me want to barf,” says Cisco about the Anti-Monitor.
- “Oh, daddy issues, why didn’t you say so?” Lucifer to Mia, Diggle, and Constantine. Ellis’ cameo in this episode was fantastic — and raised some questions for Lucifer. Specifically, what did Constantine do for Maze??