In the opening hour of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” fans more or less knew what they were getting into. The CW’s Supergirl opened the crossover, and both Argo City and Earth-38 were in jeopardy. The general understanding was that Earth-38 would likely be lost, along with a number of Earths making cameo appearances, heading into the first, fairly consequence-free battle with the Anti-Monitor’s forces before The Monitor really rallied the troops for a bigger offensive with bigger stakes in the second or third episode. That has more or less been the standard not just for CW crossover events but for a lot of superhero movies and storylines over the last decade or so.
That wasn’t how it all went down. The first hour of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was brutal in a few ways, destroying Earth-38 and killing one of the biggest heroes in the Arrowverse.
Spoilers ahead for “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
In the final moments of the episode, with Earth-38 under siege from an army of shadow demons controlled by the Anti-Monitor, The Monitor told Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) that “it’s time.” Oliver asked whether the planet had been evacuated yet, and when The Monitor said not completely, Oliver said, “Then it’s not time,” and continued to battle the shadows, providing cover for more evacuating people and aliens as well as the other heroes in The Monitor’s squad. Eventually running out of arrows, Oliver literally went down swinging, swarmed by a mob of shadow demons as he tried to punch the supernatural wraiths to death.
The next time we saw him, Oliver was clinging to life, and had a few final moments with Barry, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and Mia before passing quietly away. All of this came just hours (in-story time) since the moment when Oliver and Mia finally hugged for the first time, planned to make their way home from Lian Yu…and the skies turned red. It’s a heartbreaking and bittersweet ending for Oliver, who had finally just come to accept first himself and later his fate…but we’ll see tomorrow whether his story really is over. So — why do it that way?
“The dilemma that we presented to our own selves was that we spoiled our own story,” Marc Guggenheim, showrunner on “Crisis” and other Arrowverse crossovers, told reporters last week. “If Oliver dying isn’t the surprise, what is the surprise? The timing of him dying.”
He added, “We kind of figured the audience was expecting Oliver to die in the climax, in the fifth hour. If we went in the exact opposite direction, and killed him off at the end of hour one, we accomplished two things: Hopefully, we do surprise the audience, that’s absolutely the intention, but we also really establish the stakes.”
The “Crisis” event brings together the heroes from multiple Earths to battle against the Anti-Monitor (LaMonica Garrett), a godlike villain who threatens to destroy all reality. In the comics, the story ended with the deaths of The Flash and Supergirl, and the destruction of DC’s multiverse, leading to a single Earth with a complex history packed with hundreds of heroes.
The event is the most ambitious thing DC has ever attempted in live action, bringing together characters from all six of the current DC Comics adaptations on The CW (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, and Black Lightning), along with characters and actors from Titans, the 1990 version of The Flash, the short-lived Birds of Prey, Smallville, Superman Returns, Tim Burton’s Batman, and the iconic 1966 Batman series.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” kicked off this week with last night’s episode of Supergirl, runs through tonight’s episode of Batwoman and tomorrow’s episode of The Flash. That will be the midseason cliffhanger, as the shows go on hiatus for the holidays and return on January 14 to finish out the event with the midseason premiere of Arrow and a “special episode” of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, which launches as a midseason series this year and so will not have an episode on the air before the Crisis. And while Black Lightning‘s midseason finale — which airs tonight after Batwoman — is not technically part of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” there are red skies, and the episode’s title is “Earth Crisis.” So things are not too far removed.
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