Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Character Torment Keeps "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" From Progressing Organically.

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character, Special effects, Bits of plot progression
The Bad: Nothing - character or plot - is actually resolved, Erratic pacing, Lack of focus in the direction for the battle sequences
The Basics: Arrow continues the 2017 crossover event with "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2," which kills the plot progression to pair off characters to talk about their feelings before the villains' agenda is made clear.

When it comes to crossover episodes, one of the clear purposes of a massive crossover story is to cross-promote other shows that fans might be interested in. From where I sit, the big crossover events right around Fall Sweeps is The CW's annual attempt to force me to watch Arrow. And this year, my annual episode of Arrow is "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2."

"Part 2," obviously, picks up where "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the Arrow component of the crossover event without some references as to where the prior installment went. After all, the Supergirl portion of "Crisis On Earth-X" established the conceit that would bring together the heroes of the four CW DC Television Universe shows: the wedding of Barry Allen to Iris West. The wedding was broken up by the arrival of Nazis from another Earth and while they were repelled, most escaped. One, an archer, was captured and brought to S.T.A.R. Labs.

Opening in Central City, the captured archer from Earth-X is revealed to be Tommy Merlyn, which shakes Oliver Queen. The S.T.A.R. Labs team and its visiting heroes regroup and Harry Wells reveals that there is a 53rd Earth in the multiverse: Earth-X, an Earth where the Nazis developed (and used) the atomic bomb before the U.S. Queen tries to appeal to Tommy Merlyn, but Merlyn kills himself before he can be of use to Oliver. The three remaining villains - Earth-X Kara Danvers, Eobard Thawne (still with Harrison Wells' face), and Oliver Queen - regroup.

The various character pairs - Oliver and Felicity, Dr. Stein and Jackson, Alex and Sara - take time ot talk about their feelings . . . until the Earth-X nazis attack Dayton Optical for a prism. Kara, Queen, and Allen face off against their doppelgangers (and Thawne in Allen's place). When a battle ensues, the Earth-X Supergirl attacks a nearby building. That allows the villains to escape with the Prism, which they can use to develop into a neutron bomb. When most of the team goes to a factory where the villains have the prism, Mick Rory and Dr. Snow stay with Smoak and West at S.T.A.R. Labs to protect against the Earth-X Oliver Queen. When the Earth-X Metallo appears at the factory, the tide turns in favor of the Earth-X invaders.

The choice of villains for "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" are good. Without the Earth-X Supergirl, Supergirl alone would be able to repel the invasion and the inclusion of a Speedster enemy distracts Barry from simply taking out alternate Kara. Easily the smartest moment of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" comes when Queen came to the meeting with the doppelgangers with a Kryptonite arrow. Sensibly, Cisco Ramon remains out of action for "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2," which makes sense because Ramon would easily be able to track any of the invaders from an alternate Earth.

Felicity and Oliver take time to mull over their relationship, in the wake of Smoak telling Queen in the prior episode she did not want to marry him. Smoak's reasoning is fairly solid; the last time she got engaged, she was shot. Smoak is good at explaining just what is important to her and why, while Queen seems blindly determined to marry her.

The relationship between Stein and Jackson is well-explored (albeit briefly) in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2." Jackson finally is able to tell Stein how important his other half is to him in the face of Stein's impending retirement. It's nice to see Jackson finally open up and it is unfortunate that Stein, who latched so completely onto his temporally-anomalous daughter, would be so thick in regard to how Jackson feels.

The relationship portion of the episode slows the momentum of the story that was left at the climax of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2." While it is enjoyable to see something other than a bland action-adventure crossover, the "everybody gets a chance to try to resolve their emotional turmoil" scenes quickly start to feel like the same type of trope. The characters on the four CW DC Television Universe shows are all dealing with big emotional conflicts . . . it is this moment when ALL of them manage to start having an honest dialogue about what is going on between them?! This is equally frustrating because most of the conversations remain unresolved, so the conversations feel more melodramatic than real.

The dramatic suit-up scene is painful to watch for its sense of melodrama after all of the relationship discussions. There is something entirely ridiculous about the dramatic shirt opening to reveal Supergirl when she is in a lab surrounded by people who know who she is. In other words, there is no reason for her to assume a Kara Danvers persona at S.T.A.R. Labs where everybody knows she is Supergirl.

The big battle sequences all seem to underplay the power of Firestorm, especially in contrast to people like Oliver Queen. In fact, as Firestorm pointlessly zips around taking out footsoldiers, it's hard not to ask "why doesn't Firestorm transmute Earth-X Kara's outfit into Kryptonite?" Certainly, that would both incapacitate her and contain her. Firestorm simply zipping around like a half-assed flaming Superman reduces his power and Professor Stein's intelligence.

The actors in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" all do fine with the parts they are given, but outside Melissa Benoist and Stephen Amell, none are charged with doing anything that truly challenges them. Benoist, especially, has to play an alternate, dark version of her character and the best that can be said about the Earth-X Supergirl is that Benoist manages to not play her with even a hint of how she played Bizarro.

Ultimately, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" manages to finally get around to explaining what the point (in-universe) of the crossover is. The idea of why the Earth-X invaders have come is an interesting one, though it seems like a somewhat troublesome conceit. If the Earth-X Supergirl needs Kara's heart, it seems like she and her team might have had a much easier time of getting it if they had attacked Kara on her native Earth. "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" leaves the viewer desperate to understand how someone as smart as Eobard Thawne could make such an obvious mistake.

The net result of the various contradictions and plot holes is that "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" develops into a very average hour of television.

For other DC Television Universe Crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Pilot, Part I" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Medusa" - Supergirl


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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