Monday, November 27, 2017

Blase Beginning: "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" Is A Crowded, Divergent, Start To The Next Big Crossover Event!

The Good: Performances are fine, Good direction
The Bad: Continuity (kills the momentum of Supergirl), Final reveal is more dull than revelatory, No real character development, Formulaic plot
The Basics: Supergirl starts the "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" and it has so much to do to tie together the four DC Television Universe shows that it does remarkably little of its own.

One of the more unfortunate aspects of the DC Television Universe is the crossover episode. The trope is a problematic one, especially when Supergirl is forced to incorporate with the rest of the DC Television Universe and protagonist Kara Zor-El has to make a trip between universes just to include her. So, there's usually a contrived threat, then a contrived coming together, then a forced conflict between the characters - who range now from metahumans to vigilantes to time travelers to extraterrestrials - before a massive conflict that results in a solution that only works out because all of the various teams contributed. For the latest crossover, "Crisis On Earth-X," the binding initiating incident is the wedding of Barry Allen.

And that begins the issues with both "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" and the crossover in general. In Supergirl, the story has been going along just fine, building its own thing and the narrative momentum - shaken up just last week with "Wake Up" (reviewed here!) - makes a pretty abrupt stop to divert for the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West. Starting the wedding on Supergirl is a conceit that comes from the days of the week the DC Television Universe shows air on instead of a sensible storytelling order. As a result, the first appearance of Supergirl in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has Kara fighting a Dominator (out of nowhere!) with the only real purpose being to make a joke that alludes to last year's big sweeps crossover event.

Opening on Earth-X, which is a world where the United States is under Nazi rule, an archer takes out an entire scientific team. The archer kills Guardian, who is still James Olsen in that reality. In Central City, The Flash prepares for his wedding day by taking on King Shark and in Star City, Felicity bugs Oliver to get him to commit to going to Iris and Barry's wedding. In 1183 England, the Waverider crew cuts their mission short to go prepare for the wedding and Kara, mourning the return of Mon-El (who is now married) talks with Alex about her feelings . . . and Barry Allen's wedding. While the four groups come together, on Earth-X, the scientists prepare to test their new super weapon, with a one-day deadline.

At the rehearsal dinner, Felicity tells Oliver she does not want to marry him. The next morning, Alex wakes up with Sara and freaks out. The wedding begins fairly normally, until the officiant is killed by the Earth-X version of Supergirl and Earth-X Nazis invade the church. In the ensuing fight, The Flash rescues his civilian guests and the bulk of the invaders are put down by the others. When the battle turns against the invaders, the interlopers retreat. While the heroes from Earth-1 manage to capture an archer from the invaders, Prometheus, the three main invaders manage to escape.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has a number of major events spread throughout the DC Television Universe on Supergirl, which is an awkward and somewhat ridiculous conceit. National City and the universe of Supergirl is entirely divorced from the other three shows. So, Dr. Stein and Jefferson Jackson's quest to separate Firestorm, Oliver and Felicity's on-again, off-again relationship, and even the wedding of Barry Allen is not even peripherally related to Supergirl.

The first half of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has everyone coming to our Earth (Earth-1). Barry and Iris suggest to Oliver and Felicity that they get married, the S.T.A.R. Labs team miraculously develops the cure Stein has been looking for in order to separate from Jackson. The only truly organic aspect of the many people coming together is that Kara brings Alex as her "plus one" and she gets super drunk and ends up in bed with Sara Lance. For a generally fluffy episode, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" continues the realistic portrayal of a heartbroken woman (Alex) turning to alcohol and uncharacteristic decisions.

Unfortunately, most of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" is forced and contrived. Barry Allen invites Kara to sing at the wedding, which is a particularly lazy way to get Melissa Benoist singing on-screen again (Grant Gustin and Benoist were both on Glee prior to being cast as super heroes) and it feels almost as forced as the Waverider crew talking about going to the wedding mid-battle. Ironically, most of the best lines in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" are delivered by Mick Rory. Dominic Purcell might not have a huge role in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1," but he makes the most of it.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" is not actually a Supergirl episode; it is barely a television episode. Most of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1," despite being very stylishly directed, feels like a trailer to an action movie or a commercial. The fast-pace, lack of depth, the obvious plotting (Stein's moral dilemma quickly turns into an incident that proves to him the value of Firestorm), and the lack of genuine surprises or character development make "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" a very disappointing start to the crossover event.

For other DC Television Universe Crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Flash Vs. Arrow" - The Flash
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Invasion!" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Duet" - The Flash


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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