The successes of "Elseworlds" outweigh some of its head-scratching decisions. (Image via Arrowverse Wiki)
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The successes of "Elseworlds" outweigh some of its head-scratching decisions. (Image via Arrowverse Wiki)

Three shows will always be better than one.

Since it was announced last summer, the crossover event of The CW’s “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Supergirl,” known as “Elseworlds,” has been promoted with posts on Instagram by the lead actors, trailers and posters capturing what may be the most intensely anticipated crossover of the three shows yet.

Fans, including myself, were pulled in to the story arc with a poster of Barry Allen, (Grant Gustin) of “The Flash,” and Oliver Queen, (Stephen Amell) of “Arrow,” dressed in each other’s superhero suits respectively. In addition to this intriguing exchange, the official synopsis released before the crossover aired also revealed that Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Batwoman (Ruby Rose) would make an appearance for the first time within The CW’s DC multiverse, along with visits to Smallville and Gotham.

Together all of the heroes will battle rogue Arkham Asylum doctor John Deegan (Jeremy Davies). Many other DC characters were featured as well, including Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) Nora Fries (Cassandra Jean Amell) and The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett).

But did “Elseworlds” live up to its expectations? As an avid fan of “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Supergirl” and the entire DC multiverse, I eagerly watched when it aired Dec. 9, 10 and 11. Even though I did thoroughly enjoy the crossover, some elements were done exceptionally well, while others left something to be desired. Without further ado, here is my review of The CW’s “Elseworlds” three-night crossover (sans major spoilers of course).

“Elseworlds Part 1: The Flash”

The first episode of the “Elseworlds” crossover begins with what seems to be Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp), the semi-retired speedster from Earth Two stylized as the Crimson Comet, sprawled out on the ravaged ground of Earth-90. He rages, defeated at the feet of a tall figure dressed in regal black armor. The mysterious man, who is soon revealed to be The Monitor, holds what appears to be an ancient book. He opens it and releases a blue shining power while professing destruction. Garrick speeds away presumably searching for safety.

The episode then cuts to eccentric psychiatrist Deegan giving a lecture on the necessity of utilizing eugenic insights so that every person can transform to be and feel “super” like the metahumans and heroes. He is subsequently ridiculed by his peers but runs into The Monitor in the parking lot after leaving the auditorium. The Monitor offers Deegan the ancient book in the hope that the psychiatrist can carry out his “transformations.”

Next viewers see Queen confusedly wake up in Allen’s bed. As comedic music plays in the background, Queen enters the kitchen to a kiss from Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) and the name Barry. Queen, still quite confused, tests out his newfound grasp of the Speedforce and laughingly runs into a coffee table. As he examines himself in the mirror wearing Barry’s Flash suit, Queens asks himself “Oh Barry, what have you done this time?”

After Queen clumsily attempts to act as the Flash, the show cuts to Barry Allen sweaty and slightly scared on the floor of a wrestling mat. He’s fighting John Diggle (David Ramsey), Queen’s friend and right-hand man. After Allen somehow knocks the athletic Diggle to the ground, despite his own lanky physique, he realizes he has somehow become Queen. At first Allen is a bit giddy, exclaiming, “I’m Oliver Queen! I’m the Green Arrow!” But as reality settles in, Allen’s face morphs from almost childlike excitement to concern, remarking “holy crap” as the show cuts to commercial.

Already within the first few minutes of the episode multiple questions have been introduced. Just who is The Monitor? What will Deegan do with this mysterious book and the power to apparently transform the entire universe? Why in the multiverse is Queen living Allen’s life?

In general, this episode does a sound job of drawing the audience into the crossover’s story arc itself, keeping viewers on their toes as to what will happen next. Although I won’t give anything important away, I can say that even though it does delve deeper into just how strange reality has become in “Elseworlds,” it serves more as an introduction to the crossover rather than an action-packed plot-advancer. By the end of the episode I had more questions than answers, making the episode feel a little slow in my opinion. However, I believe that was necessary to really provide sufficient time to establish a strong foundation for what is a quite complicated crossover.

A unique facet of this episode is it demonstrated both The Flash and Arrow’s ability to laugh at their own notably corny aspects. From finally explaining how prisoners at Star Labs use the toilet to Allen shooting Queen in the back with arrows as payback for a similar scene in one of the first crossovers, there is a humorous tone to the episode. The amusing aspects are made to feel genuine by Amell and Gustin’s natural camaraderie, which is exemplified by their Instagrams.

Allen pokes fun at Queen’s overly stern, solitary demeanor, gruff voice and violent nature. In turn, Queen jokes about Allen’s constant motivational speeches and positive nature. One of my favorite scenes from the episode is when Allen hilariously dislocates his thumb to slip out of handcuffs while Queen phases through a door. The duo tries to teach other how to perform each task respectively, but they’re laughing the whole way and it seems as if they are genuinely having a good time.

While the episode focuses on Allen and Queen’s hero, these jokes are really the essence of what both shows are about; “Arrow” deals with the topics of vengeance, darkness and violence while “The Flash” focuses more on light, love and doing the right thing. Sometimes these concepts feel over-simplified almost to the point of being cliché, as is a critique of both shows, but the humor in this episode illustrates that the creators understand this.

A drawback, however, is that same corniness the show laughs at itself for. Allen must be “angry” like Queen to be the Green Arrow and Queen must be “happy” like Allen to be the Flash. Scenes between Kara Zor El (Supergirl), Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane feel exceedingly trite and forced to the point of being a bit fake. Kent and Zor-El talk of love in the oversimplified terms of “love conquers all.” Kent and Lane felt miscast as well, with little chemistry between the two actors and a failure to embody their characters in a way I would have expected. Instead it is as if they are overcompensating with forced interactions in an effort to fit into the “multiverse” fans know and love. Ultimately, I felt Hoechlin and Tulloch were inauthentic as Superman and Lois Lane because their parts were unnatural and unduly anodyne.

“Elseworlds Part 2: Arrow”

The second episode of the “Elseworlds” crossover takes the audience to Gotham City. After stopping in Star City for some help from the Arrow team in figuring out just what is going on, Queen, Allen and Zor-El head to Gotham City. They are in search of the identity of The Monitor, who they still know is just as a man with ridges on his head.

Viewers find out that Allen believes in the existence of Batman while Queen thinks he himself is the “original vigilante,” leading the two to bicker about it, bringing in some of that humor I loved from Part 1 of “Elseworlds.” When they all arrive in Gotham, they go up to the rooftop of a building to scope out the city. On that rooftop is a beacon with a bat signal. Allen asks Queen if he still thinks Batman’s a myth to which he replies in a high-pitched, cracked voice “Yeah!” while Allen whispers “Batman’s real” to himself in awe.

In Gotham, the three find themselves out of their element as the city is much “rougher” than they are used to. Allen wonders where the “nice part of town” is, to which Zor-El retorts it’s funny he thinks that actually exists. Queen even says that no one talks about Gotham because it’s a city that’s basically dead.

After arriving, the group is confronted by a gang of vicious criminals who demand their phones and wallets. An altercation ensues as Queen tries to talk them out of the situation in a very Allen-like way, and Allen escalates everything too fast in a Queen-like way. Soon the police show up and the superheroes land in jail for the night. That is, until an unknown person bails them out. When exiting the police station the trio is encouraged, albeit by the presence of a gun, to be escorted to meet whomever it is that bailed them out.

Turns out that person is Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), who they later find out to be Gotham’s Batwoman and Bruce Wayne’s cousin. Wayne disappeared from Gotham three years prior, and Wayne Industries is in ruin. Kane meets Queen, Allen and Zor-El in the rundown, seemingly abandoned Wayne Industries skyscraper. Kane is no-nonsense, focused on aiding the three superheroes in an effort to get them out of Gotham because the longer they are there, the more problems they create.

Tatted, short haired and dressed in dark clothes, Kane exudes power and confidence. She even flirts with Zor-El, referencing the many tattoos she “cannot see” in response to Zor-El’s comments on her appearance.  Kane exhibits a kind of ruthlessness that even Queen does not match, but it is clear that it is all in order to help her city and those she cares about. Kane has the heart and soul of a hero, even if she looks a little different than The Flash, Green Arrow and Supergirl.

On a whole, Part 2 was quite well-done and advanced the plot in such a way that I watched the Part 3 live — a very rare occurrence. It contained much more action than the past episode with numerous complicated fight scenes and effects. There were multiple twists that even an avid fan such as myself did not see coming. However, it fell to Part 3 of the crossover to both explain the bizarre occurrences that have been happening and resolve the conflict between The Monitor and the superheroes. The audience also learns the meaning behind the crossover title of “Elseworlds” in Part 2: it is what the alternate realities, such as the one where Allen and Queen are switched, are called.

The humor continued throughout this episode as well, although not as strongly. I still enjoyed the comradeship between Queen and Allen, especially their banter over the existence of Batman. The humor is light and silly, a welcome addition to the air of doom and destruction the plot naturally carries.

While still somewhat corny, this episode’s discussion on abstract topics are much more nuanced than in Part 1. Zor-El talks to Kane about the personal repercussions of keeping her private life separate from her identity as Supergirl, wondering if that is was what broke Wayne. Allen and Queen gain a better understand with one other, with Allen realizing the true severity of the burdens Queen carries and Queen understanding that Allen’s life isn’t all “sunshine and rainbows,” but he has some “real steel” to him.

Queen’s conversation with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) about love and relationships delves into how even though people evolve, their love can still endure. That particular scene brought a tear to my eye as I’ve witnessed the two’s relationship develop over the series; the entire interaction felt more sincere than when Kent talked to Zor-El about love in the last episode.

There were only a few things I did not care for in this part of the “Elseworlds” crossover. Rose has an American accent as Kane instead of her natural Australian one. I would have personally preferred she retain her Australian accent as it would have made her character feel a bit more natural and added a novel take on Batwoman.

Smoak’s conversation with Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) about love also did not sit well with me, even though I did appreciate Queen’s later exchange with Smoak. Smoak asked Snow, “What is love without trust and respect” and Snow replied, “I don’t know but as long as there is love you can’t give up on it. That’s the one thing I do know.”

Although it is a television show and I’m sure they did not mean it in this sense, I believe that fundamentally this is a dangerous concept. People who love you can still treat you in an abusive or toxic matter. Someone may feel love for you, but that does not negate their actions and is most definitely not enough if they do not interact with you in a healthy manner.

“Elseworlds Part 3: Supergirl”

While I can’t say much about the content of this episode without giving away some major plot points, I can say it’s even more complex than both its predecessors. There are more identity metamorphoses, combat scenes and celestial components. Dressed in matching leather jackets and black bandanas, Allen and Queen are now The Trigger Twins, a crime duo feared by all and desperately wanted by law enforcement. Somehow, they need to get their friends back on their side and figure out how to return to the world they all know and love. To do so they must face not only the reality modifications Deegan throws their way, but the cryptic wiles of The Monitor himself.

I truly enjoyed Part 3 and thought it a fitting conclusion to the “Elseworlds” crossover. It continued to explore heavy topics, once more tackling topics such as identity, purpose, family, loss, sacrifice, power and responsibility, while balancing it with humor and heartfelt camaraderie. The emotion and character growth elevated the entire crossover to something beyond a slightly humorous, slightly exciting DC television show.

Even so, there were still some elements of the episode that could have been done better in my opinion. The CGI was mediocre, with blatantly obvious green-screen scenes and editing. My critiques of Kent and Lane from the previous parts still stand; they both felt insincere and scripted. Whether that is a result of the actors or the show itself, both parts were definitely miscast. Even though Part 3 did cover intense philosophical ideas in a more refined manner than 1 and 2, there were some corny scenes that I think oversimplified the concepts of light and darkness as they relate to human identities.

In the end, “Elseworlds” is my favorite crossover of the Arrowverse thus far. It provided a story arc unlike any I’ve seen before while staying to true to the aspects of “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Supergirl” fans know and love.

I applaud the work of both the actors and The CW. Let’s hope next year’s crossover can push the Arrowverse even farther.


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