Review: Arrow 8×08 – “Crisis On Infinite Earths, Part 4”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Glen Winter
Writers: Marc Guggenheim and Marv Wolfman
Starring: Stephen Amell, Caity Lotz, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Ruby Rose, Jon Cryer, LaMonica Garrett, Osric Chau, Brandon Routh Melanie Merkosky, Ezra Miller
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
The Paragons face off against the Anti-Monitor for the sake of all creation as Oliver reveals he has become something else.
Much like so many elements before, Crisis was a hodgepodge of eye-popping moments and elements, so please bear with me as I will strive to point them out as condensed as I can. That being said, I will leave the biggest till last.
Wolfman and Guggenhiem as a creative team worked in that they focused on character development in the scope of a one-hour episode. The paragons stranded for months at the Vanishing Point served the same purpose as Avengers: Endgame taking place five years later. The viewers have had nearly a month’s wait from the clffhanger of part three, and the progression of time only advanced the dire situation the team is in. They have scattered remains of Time Master technology, life support may be scarce, and literally nowhere to go. Ryan Choi’s narration via a letter to his wife correctly establishes everyone’s role and current emotional state. Surrounded by desolation, there is no reason to believe in salvation.
As Ryan, Osric is the viewer’s entry into this world as a pair of fresh eyes. He is given his moment of self-discovery as the Paragon of Humanity, but more on him later. Further scattering them across Oliver’s timeline addressed their doubts. Framing them around key moments in previous seasons of Arrow provides them the opportunity to not only enlighten past figures, but themselves as well. Characters like J’onn and Ruby address their respective situations while simultaneously finding resolve. Both were outsiders and stayed true to themselves while simultaneously cutting themselves off at the cost of depending on others. J’onn lecturing Invasion Ollie and Kara brilliantly paralleled Kate’s advising season three Oliver and Ray on issues of trust. In a way, the journey to the end of time was that last push that the Paragons needed to prepare for the battle. You feel Guggenheim’s hand in the nostalgia as much as you feel Wolfman’s hand in character-driven plot.
Barry Allen shined in this penultimate chapter. It was a masterstroke to implement the Speed Force as a tool to get the Paragons to where they needed. The mentor-student relationship between he and Oliver, now the omnipotent Spectre, stood out. Paralleled by Sarah, Barry had the most history with Oliver and this felt like a final exam for Barry.
Much as this is Oliver’s penultimate challenge, it’s the test of everything Barry has become over the past six years. Chance had given him a second shot to avoid death, and at the beginning it was he that determined the Speed Force was the way out of the Vanishing Point. Through levity and drama, Grant’s struggle with both The Speed Force and himself carry the episode.
The highlight of the episode, of course, was his encountering the DCEU Barry Allen, portrayed hilariously by Ezra Miller. Although maligned, Ezra’s Barry’s obliviousness to everything, from The Crisis to his codename, played off Grant’s seasoned Flash perfectly. It also gave the viewers hope that the Multiverse – at this point destroyed – will survive, while also raising questions.
Beyond all of that, the final galvanizing lesson from Oliver – “Death is easy… The real heroes are the ones that keep going.” – is what ultimately fulfills Oliver’s expectations of Barry from that exchange between them on The Flash pilot.
The venomous Lex Luthor, portrayed by Jon Cryer, is at his best in this episode. Wolfman is brilliant in giving Lex those upgrades, as it hints at the comic book counterpart Alexander Luthor, who had Monitor-level abilities. We don’t reach that point, but it’s hinted at via his exchange with pre-Monitor Mar Novu. The break away from the original comic works in that the writing depicts the pre-Monitor as one whose hubris 10,000 years ago birthed the present-day threat that has wiped out all of reality.
The writing parallels Novu and Luthor on levels of ambition; Mar’s ambitions accidentally damned reality, while Lex deliberately has conquest on his mind. The fabric of reality hanging in the balance, and all he can think about is acquiring the Monitor’s abilities to dominate both the universe and his Kryptonian archnemeses. Even during the climactic battle, he states “If anyone’s going to control the universe, it’s going to be me.” The essence of his villainy is not lost; forced into a heroic position does not make him altruistic whatsoever. The brilliant mental dance between Jon Cryer and LaMonica Garrett – “the brave and the bald” – is as engaging as the more emotional, physical battle between Lex and Supergirl, played by the talented Melissa Benoist. The venom between them is well established, but the dialogue regarding Lena shows what’s at the heart of their conflict. Just as every comic book is written as the reader’s first, this exchange may have birthed future viewers of Supergirl if there’s the desire to see a continuation of this battle.
More on Mar Novu. Up until now we have seen an assured, omnipotent figure with an answer for everything. However, when compared to his younger self, that arrogance now seems like humility and understanding. Garrett doesn’t portray the younger Novu that different, although there is a touch more humanity and vulnerability that compliments the writing. He tampered with things beyond his comprehension, and his world and his wife, were lost. His journey is not unlike that of Nash Wells aka Pariah, a destiny that is history in repetition. Novu birthed the Anti-Monitor, and Wells unleashed him. What’s worse was his nemesis, the Anti-Monitor, wore his face.
The contradiction between he and the very human Ryan Choi has the same depth as his parallel with Luthor. Ryan, up until that point, does not believe he belongs with the Paragons. He’s a scientist, husband, and father. Not super in the least. And yet, it’s ultimately his own humanity, his vulnerability, that gets through to this unlearned Mar. Although it was in vain, Garrett is able to convey volumes in the look he gives Ryan as he tells him he is an extraordinary being.
Now…on to Oliver Queen.
Guggenheim and Wolfman make him the virtual heart of the journey of the Paragons. The episode is written as a tribute to the eight-year history of Arrow. They are clever in making him not only the weapon that the heroes must carry to the final fight, but secretly their salvation as well. Stephen’s performance this week mirrors that of Garrett’s as the Monitor. While just as knowledgable, this version of Oliver Queen is stoic and unemotional, save for the final battle.
The design of his costume is a perfect blend of Green Arrow and Spectre, and is reminiscent of Hal Jordan’s bonding to God’s Spirit of Vengeance. Thankfully they opted for no white makeup, for that would have taken away the visual accessibility to Stephen, who already had his voice digitally distorted.
As previously noted, the Paragons were scattered across his history, so this was Amell revisiting iconic moments of this character he has sculpted over the course of the series. It’s interesting in the Elseworlds exchange between he and Barry, how he breaks away from that past moment and resumes his Spectre-like enlightened delivery. (That particular conversation gives fans the closure they need on the angst Barry feels over the deal Oliver made last year.) The only time he is emotional is when he physically engages the Anti-Monitor in battle, and in that final exchange between he, Barry, and Sarah.
Swapping Sarah in for Kara made more sense because these are the two amongst the Paragons that were the closest to family to him. His final words focusing on an ending and a beginning are very poignant in that his series – the show that birthed the Arrowverse and made this crossover possible – is coming to an end, and a new era for the heroes begins soon after. Removing the Arrow icon from the final moment and placing in a fadeout works in that this was no ordinary installment of Arrow. Further, it leaves the result of their victory unknown until part five.
The sequences in the Speed Force are good, but they are not perfect. The same goes for the aesthetics of the episode in general. While the Ezra Miller cameo was unexpected and funny, it was unexplained as to why the DCEU reality survived. Further, while it’s understandable that they had to use reshot footage and Stephen had to keep the beard and long hair, the least they could’ve done was change Melissa’s hairstyle back to the part during the Invasion! sequence. Having her hair remain the same as present-day Supergirl took away the illusion of it being a past event.
Also, why was Ryan Choi the only one who grew facial hair? While Barry’s clean shaven demeanour was explained via Speed Force travel, Kate should’ve had longer hair and Lex’s suit not so polished. The appearance and disappearance of masks on Flash and Batwoman should’ve been addressed. It had been months since they were exiled on the Vanishing Point, so there had to be some wear and tear on the rest of them.
Finally, the CGI used in Supergirl’s flight sequences was a little off; there was no need to show the fabric of her cape, and the movement of the figure looked too digital.
I give this penultimate chapter a 4.5 out of 5. All players were at their best in spite of incongruities and aesthetic flaws. Stephen and Grant were at their best, and Osric shows promise in the Arrowverse. The final bow of Oliver Queen was well-crafted, and the Guggenheim-Wolfman effort paid off in spades. I look forward to seeing the final part shortly on the season premiere of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.