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Within comic book fan circles, superhero crossovers often get a bad rap. Annual DC Comics events like Doomsday Clock have become de rigueur, thereby robbing the crossover of its specialness. Thankfully, this hasn’t (yet) been a problem for the mini DC Universe set within a quartet of CW shows: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. Of course, Supergirl has always been a bit of an outsider given that it takes place in a universe outside the other three. It would also seem an odd choice to inaugurate the four-part “Crisis On Earth X” event, were it not for the fact that its Monday time slot makes it the first show to air. Curiously, the schedulers upset that formula by making this week’s Arrow, which normally airs on Wednesdays, Part 2 of the crossover.
In truth, “Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” is barely a Supergirl episode at all. Aside from brief cameos by J’onn, Winn, and Mon-El, Kara and Alex are the only series regulars featured in it. One of the main qualms I have with the episode is that it assumes you’re a regular viewer of the other three series. In my particular case, I was familiar with the characters and storylines from The Flash contingent—primarily because I also review the series for this site—but occasionally drew a blank when it came to Legends (a show I’m behind on) and Arrow (a show I don’t watch). Still, “Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” does a good enough job of giving viewers the basics on each character and their respective deals so you’re able to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The heroes are assembled in Central City in order to celebrate the nuptials of Barry (Flash) Allen and Iris West. There’s an amusing montage early in the episode of characters from the four CW shows separately discussing RSVP’ing for the wedding while fighting baddies. For their part, Kara and Alex decide to attend Barry and Iris’s wedding as a respite from their respective love woes. Later at the reception, Alex drowns her woes in whiskey and women—to be more specific, she gets drunk with, and later hooks up with, Sara (White Canary) Lance. As someone without intimate knowledge of her character, I wasn’t sure if Sara has always been a lesbian (or bisexual) or if this was a one-off. But it hardly matters as the mini storyline allows Alex to cut loose as a character and for the actress who portrays her, Chyler Leigh, to show off her acting chops. Witnessing Alex’s mortification after seeing a nonchalant Sara the next morning gives “Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” is a particularly nifty piece of comedy. But don’t worry: you get to see Alex and Sara kick ass together too.
To its credit, “Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” manages to sneak in character development moments. The wedding between Barry and Iris inspires Oliver (Arrow) Queen and Felicity Smoak to evaluate the state of their relationship; when Ollie finally gets the nerve to pop the question to Felicity, she surprisingly rejects him (a development that’s sure to unfold over the course of the crossover). The eggheads at Team Flash have figured out a way to do something that even noted egghead Martin Stein was unable to do: separate him and Jefferson Jackson from the Firestorm matrix. But at what cost to their relationship? We even see Joe West deliver a touching speech at the reception that’s only slightly undercut by the disturbing reminder that the bride and groom had a sibling-like relationship growing up. Still, all told the episode does a nice job of providing a human touch that leavens out the superhero action.
Speaking of action, that component to “Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” is supplied in the form of villains everyone loves to hate: Nazis. The Nazis in question don’t hail from our world—although, regrettably, we have our fair share here—but rather from Earth X, a world in which the Nazis have taken over the world. Both the Earth X concept and the “Crisis” title originates from DC Comics, which often had the Justice League combine forces with superhero teams from other worlds to fight a shared foe. In this case, the Nazis from Earth X are evil doppelgangers of the heroes we know and love, which is how we get a Nazi Arrow and a Nazi Supergirl. It’s worth noting that the Nazi Flash isn’t Barry Allen but rather the Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne version; surely there’s a reason for this that will become clear as the crossover goes on. We’re also sure to know more about the Nazi’s motivations for attacking the wedding and forestalling Barry and Iris’s union. The fight scene at the wedding between the assembled heroes and the Nazis allows the episode to finally cut loose with a massive fight scene that seems earned after the character work done to set up the heroes as people we want to root for.
“Crisis On Earth X, Part 1” may disappoint those who watch Supergirl for Kara and her friends, but as a piece of a larger story it entices the viewer into wanting more. It mainly manages to do that by making the crossover feel special—a quality that comics publishers would do well to emulate.