Super Saturday: DC Crossover Week

Super Saturday:
DC Crossover Week

With the CW boasting an impressive four linked DC comics shows running simultaneously, they finally got round to the long teased and anticipated ‘team-up’, bringing all the shows together for a 4-part crossover this week, giving them a threat that’ll take their combined efforts and abilities to defeat.

Before I get into detail about this, be warned, a) there may be some minor spoilers as it’ll be hard to talk about four linked shows running one after another without referring to how they get linked, and b) this is a mammoth undertaking for the writers and producers so I’m entering this review with a lot of goodwill towards their efforts, so I may not be as critical as others. I do enjoy these shows, yes all of them (in varying levels), and saved up the whole weeks’ episodes to watch concurrently with coffee and snacks.

First thing that must be said, they may be crossing over, however there’s a level of individuality maintained for each show, to varying degrees. Before watching them I really thought that part of this team-up was to bring ‘Supergirl’ fully into the CW fold, however I quickly realised there are other reasons, which I will come to as I look at each episode in turn.

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Supergirl
The newly ‘brought home’ member of the family got to kick the week off. After the episode in which Barry ends up in Kara’s universe (they are on separate Earths) was a really enjoyable, if almost non-canon, treat last year, this had good potential to be a fun start to the week before things got serious.

However, I was watching the episode constantly wondering how the ‘Medusa’ virus being tackled would link into the rest. Minor spoiler here… It doesn’t. This episode of ‘Supergirl’ is 99% a ‘Supergirl’ episode. There are a couple of hints about what’s to come, yet the linking her in, to be fair as she is in another multiverse, is kept right to the end. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this episode is not really a fully-fledged part of the crossover, you could completely miss it out as the scene that does have bearing on the story arc is repeated in the next part of the special week…

Flash
This show fast became and still remains my favourite part of the CW lineup. Generally the tone is well-balanced and the cast are fantastic together, getting the balance that I like of lighthearted fun and excitement, with just enough angst and heft when needed.

The episode starts with a flash forward that I don’t see was really needed, then goes back to how it all developed, essentially an alien invasion based on a story from the comics. The episode rapidly links in ‘Arrow’ (though team Arrow seem really surprised to hear that aliens have landed) and then the ‘Legends’, becoming a full team-up as they also grab Kara and bring her into their universe.

Making the threat an alien invasion is a risky choice, partly as it’s not something the ‘Arrowverse’ has tackled before, but more so as ‘Supergirl’ does feature aliens and oftentimes the CGI ones are distractingly weak visually. Personally I find the CGI Martian Manhunter really bad, which is why they seem to minimise those transformations. Here also thankfully the CGI aliens are minimised.

The episode makes use of a mind-control aspect to have a little fun with the ‘who would win in a fight between?…’ sort of ideas, which is fun for a spell. They then really raise the stakes considerably by the end and link strongly into…

Arrow
This was the point at which I realised the real reason for the team-up occurring now. From the way this episode started, really oddly with some unexpected special appearances, I twigged, it’s the 100th episode of ‘Arrow’.

A milestone in any TV series, this point is often accompanied by a) large and long-awaited events coming together, and/or b) lots of flashback and reflection on what’s come before. This goes more for the latter, using a ‘shared hallucination’ plot device to do some serious unpacking of emotional baggage, complete with rapid flashback sequences and character cameos. If I’d known in advance that it was the 100th episode I would have expected this, however sandwiched in the middle of a crossover story arc it made the first half of the episode feel distinctly lacklustre as there’s hardly any action at all.

It does return to the main arc by the end and again rapidly raises the stakes, but I had expected the ‘Arrow’ part of the week to do much more of the heavy lifting with the story and not just with all the baggage it crams into 30 minutes for a set of key characters. Ninety percent of this episode works more as what it truly is, an ‘Arrow’ series special, more than a shared event.

Legends of Tomorrow
This is often the weakest part of CW’s lineup though there have been a few really good episodes and a few more great moments sprinkled throughout the series so far. Ending the week with this was going to be interesting. ‘Arrow’ linked into this even more strongly than ‘Flash’ did into it, which serves to force the more numerous and loyal ‘Flash and ‘Arrow’ viewers to watch ‘Legends’ even if they don’t usually just to see the resolution, thereby bolstering the weakest show of the line-up.

This episode has all the resolution of the ‘Invasion’ storyline, and so I’ll not delve deeply into specifics to avoid spoilers. Of note however is the way Kara gets sidelined for a lot of it, continuing the feeling that ‘Supergirl’ isn’t fully integrated into the ‘Arrowverse’ yet (though there is a little setting up of facilitating crossovers with her in the future that may spell better things to come). More acutely interesting is the way that the weight of resolving matters is at one point put on the shoulders of Barry, arguably the most loved of the characters in all the shows, even ending the episode with scenes between Oliver and Barry rather than any of the ‘Legends’ in whose series it is, showing that they are clear favourites.

Also, just a fun point, the writers have a little fun with DC references when Brandon Routh’s character Ray comments that Supergirl looks like his cousin, a joke I loved, as I sit writing this review under my signed ‘Superman Returns’ poster.

Overall, it’s important that these episodes all stand alone from their respective series’ ongoing storylines, partly for one big practical reason that must be understood; that when people return to watching these in years to come on box-set or on-demand, they will be watching whichever specific series, not as they were originally aired in a specific interlinked sequence. Also it would be a far bigger challenge to have neatly coordinated all four shows to lead up to something that both tied in with each other and the separate heroes ongoing stories. What this crossover week served to do was not drastically influence all the shows, really it was more to show that they now fully co-exist and possibly tempt viewers of one or two to get behind the whole roster.

My brother-in-law recently said that, and I quote, ”Arrow’ is rubbish. ‘Supergirl’ is le poop. ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ makes me die inside… ‘Flash’ is my new ‘Smallville”. He has a point in that a fan of one is not automatically a fan of all, they do have different tones and vary in quality. However, this week, with all four shows sharing in each other’s strengths also helped to minimise certain weaknesses, and overall it was a successful team-up, written to satisfy the geeky yearnings of people like me, even if there is limited lasting impact.

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