It’s October, in most of the world that means the weather is starting to shift towards cooler temperatures and winter precipitation. In Nassau, it means your nights might begin to get cooler, give or take cold fronts and BPL. What it also means is the start of another fall TV season and the return of the Arrowverse.
This October is different for our favorite superhero shows, however, as this year a crisis looms over Supergirl, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow and most critically Arrow and The Flash.
This past summer was filled with all sorts of exciting news. Burt Ward, Robin from the Adam West Batman, is going to be involved. Kevin Conroy, the definitive voice of animated Batman, was finally playing Bruce Wayne in live action. There would be THREE actors playing Superman, including Brandon Routh, better known in the Arrowverse as Ray “The Atom” Palmer reprising his Superman role from Superman Returns. Tom Welling, Erica Durance, and a host of actors who were previously involved in DC properties were constantly being added to the list of guests taking part in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In all that excitement, it seems that viewers forgot that a crisis is coming. Not just any crisis, The Crisis. Crisis on Infinite Earths was a game changer in comic books long before Greg Berlanti and his crew ever thought to bring it to the small screen. In the comic book event, many of our heroes died trying to save the multiverse with two of the biggest names being Kara Danvers, aka Supergirl and Barry Allen, aka The Flash. From a real world perspective, this event was used to reset the DC comics universe by collapsing the multiverse into one. For comic readers, this event resonates to this day. So much so that The Flash in its first season let us know right away that at some point they were going to that Crisis.
Now, as The Flash enters its sixth season and Arrow its eighth and final season, the chickens have come home to roost. The best part about it is, the team behind these shows gave us absolutely no breathing room in kicking off the crisis from episode of both landmark Arrowverse shows.
Season 6, Episode 1 started as most Flash seasons do, dealing with some lingering ramifications from the past seasons finale while transitioning to the new threat of the year. Barry and Iris are still reeling from the lost of their future daughter Nora. Caitlyn Snow makes the decision to step back and let Killer Frost take over for a while. A new threat is introduced in Ramsey Rosso, soon to be known as Bloodwork, a newly, self-turned metahuman with some freaky blood control abilities – think if blood was one of the elements from The Last Airbender, Bloodowork is a Bloodbender.
Things were all going according to the typical season premiere playbook until The Monitor showed up. The audience needs no reminder as to who he is and why his presence is meaningful and doesn’t bode well for our heroes. He basically gives Barry the same rundown as Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, in last season’s finale. Much like Green Arrow, The Flash will die in the upcoming crisis, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. In short, in order to save the universe, Flash must die.
Almost immediately, everything the audience thought they knew and understood about this upcoming season was pushed to the side. It became clear that the crisis isn’t just coming, it’s already here.
This was confirmed in episode 2 as Barry decided to time travel to the day after his forecasted disappearance but was unable to due to antimatter blocking time travel. Undeterred, Barry travels to Earth 3 to visit Jay Garrick to find away around the antimatter. After some super technical talk Barry is able to “see” not just one future but, like Infinity War Dr. Strange, millions of potential futures where he watches his friends and family die over and over again. As a side note Jay Garrick mentioned he had been tracking antimatter throughout the multiverse. At this point we see a graphic with some serious activity around Earth 2.
Barry decides by episode’s end that he would tell his friends about the coming crisis in order for them to prepare as best they can. In all honesty, this might be the most telling indication of how bad this crisis will be. A long running trope on all of these CW DC shows has been to not tell people really crucial secrets – whether it be to protect them or you or whatever other asinine reason they’ve come up with. But to have Barry decide, I’m going to tell my friends about this because this legit seems like end of the world as we know it level stakes, shows you that these guys aren’t playing around.
Then we jump to Arrow where we all knew coming in the format of the show would be upended because Oliver has been pulled from his current Earth-1 situation to help the Monitor get ready for the pending crisis. The level to which they go to turn the show on its head though is profound. We get the opening scene of Season 1 Episode 1 with some key differences. First, we have a voiceover by the Monitor talking about Paragons etc. Most interestingly, even if it is just an easter egg, is that the Deathstroke mask from the original story has been replaced by a Batman mask.
As Oliver reappears in Starling City, Tommy and Malcolm Merlyn are alive. Moira Queen is alive. Thea died at 18 from a Vertigo overdose. Adrian Chase is the Hood, Tommy Merlyn is the Dark Archer and Malcolm and Moira are married. Oliver was definitely not in Kansas anymore. Eventually it becomes clear that this is Earth-2. Oliver runs into Laurel Lance whom he knows from her previous appearances on Earth-1. Oliver is in the correct time as it’s stated that he has returned after being missing for 12 years.
The episode quickly cycles through some Season 1 plot points and reveals Tommy Merlyn is using dwarf star alloy to enact The Undertaking. Oliver, eventually accompanied by a stubbornly resolute Diggle from Earth-1, proceeds to both put a stop to The Undertaking and secure the dwarf star alloy.
It is at the episode’s end when we realize again how much these run of Flash and Arrow episodes are going to be different. Laurel says that the city is under attack and we see read skies start flashing around the building and one by one all of Ollie’s family and friends get the Thanos snap treatment. Moira and Tommy and Malcolm all get spirited away as Oliver, Laurel and Diggle narrowly escape using Cisco’s tech.
It feels like the Arrowverse is preparing fans for a cataclysmic event by showing us fan favorites dying over and over again all season until we get to the meat of the Crisis in December. As much as the audience may have complained in years past about slow starts to season and slow building plots, to turn that construct so firmly on its head with Arrow and Flash is a startlingly scary concept. The audience has no room for rest. We must be on our toes at every turn, ready to accept the inevitability of what’s to come.
The thought process for fans of the Arrowverse is now shifting from the thinking heading into this season, which was a crisis is coming, to the realization that, The Crisis is here. To borrow from The Hunger Games, may the odds ever be in our heroes favor.