Crisis on Earth X Crossover

Back in October, I wrote about the upcoming crossover event on the CW, Crisis on Earth-X, and mentioned that it was based on a comic story I read as a kid in the pages of Justice League of America comics.  A pretty good summary of that story can be found here, and hereThe short version of that story is that the Justice League on Earth 1 and the Justice Society on Earth 2 are working on a device that will allow for easy access between the two universes.  A stowaway forces the device to malfunction, stranding both teams on a third Earth, Earth X.  Earth X is a world in which World War II lasted until 1968, with the Nazi’s winning with the creation of a mind control device.  After running into the Earth X super hero resistance, they agree to split up and go after the mind control devices, yada yada yada, and the Nazis are defeated.

Of course the fun part of this story is the yada yada yada part in which mixed groups consisting of teams from all three Earths get together and go on their own separate missions at the same time.  Structurally, it’s probably the best way to handle a storyline that includes a massive number of cast members (Avengers Infinity War take note); split the massive group into easily digestible teams, follow each of their separate missions (which are taking place simultaneously with the other team’s missions), and then all back together for the big finale.

But of course, this is a CW crossover, so other than the basic idea, there isn’t much more to mine from the original source material.  In the Arrowverse (as the CW/DC multiverse is called) the Justice Society is a World War II era superhero team up, and there is no modern equivalent to the Justice League, just Team Arrow and Team Flash on Earth 1 (plus the time traveling Legends of Tomorrow) and Supergirl is from Earth 38 (which Earth holds the movie DCU is anyone’s guess).

I was still anxious to see how the CW would handle this massive story, in the era of “punching Nazi’s,” broken down into 4 TV show sized bits, and so warning, there be spoilers…

Supergirl

There is actually a pretty good plot reason to bring characters from all the shows together; the long awaited wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West. Last year’s crossover started off on Supergirl too, but dragged on and didn’t actually “cross-over” until near the end of the episode.  This time, they went right to Earth-X and started the gathering of heroes right away as they prepared for the wedding.  Even so, there was quite a bit of time wasted over unnecessary drama about Oliver asking Felicity to marry him at the rehearsal dinner and her turning him down.  First, inappropriate time, and second, get with the Nazi’s already! Although…I admit the Sara and Alex hook up with its morning hung over walk of shame was amusing.  Two different Earths, coming together…

But it was worth waiting for the Nazi attack on the wedding.  As super fights go, it was pretty epic, particularly with Green Arrow and Supergirl going up against their parallel Earth counterparts.  I guess Barry and Iris can forget about getting their deposit back for that venue…

Arrow

It’s a half assed, ill thought out plan for the Nazi’s to invade the world (Earth 1 actually) but there is a certain amount of Mirror Universe-like charm in the Nazi Super Friends, consisting of a Harrison Wells look alike Eobard Thawne speedster, Oliver Queen, or as Felicity amusingly referred to him, “Oliver in the High Castle,” and “Overgirl,” the Nazi version of Supergirl.  The fact that this Supergirl and Oliver are not just a couple, but a married couple very much in love; seems to be an inspired choice. What’s apparently so understated that I missed it originally is Oliver Queen is actually the Führer of Earth X. But interestingly Nazi Supergirl seems to be the most nazi-esque of the group of villains.  She’s a true believer and why shouldn’t she be? She actually is demonstrably superior.

Besides the whole taking over the world thing it seems the Nazi power couple have another agenda; Nazi Kara is dying and needs a Kryptonian heart transplant.  Not a lot of places you can get a spare Kryptonian heart. But not only does Supergirl have one, but it’s a dead on tissue match too. So after capturing the good guys they find themselves in a concentration camp on Earth X.

The Flash

After a quickie escape from the concentration camp (while leaving the other prisoners there to rot I noticed) the gang meet The Ray, another Earth 1 refugee with light powers, and are taken to Freedom Fighters HQ where the resistance plans to blow up the dimensional portal while their Führer is off world on Earth 1.  That being the only way home, that’s a plan that doesn’t really work for the Super Friends, but they do have an advantage; Earth 1 Oliver Queen looks just like the dictator of Earth X.  For once, they have a plan that doesn’t seem ridiculously implausible, merely ridiculous.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

After The Flash and The Ray stop Red Tornado (!) from blowing up the facility, they heroes transit back to Earth 1 where the Legends were held in the Star Labs containment facility.  Frankly I forgot all about them after they were captured after the wedding debacle.

The death of Professor Martin Stein brought some real consequence to the story line. Although it was known that actor Victor Garber was going to leave Legend this season, I admit I was caught by surprise.  I had gotten so used to the Arrowverse’s hail of gun fire and nobody getting shot, I hadn’t considered that Stein would be critically wounded from Nazi gunfire, but Stein’s death made everyone put on their serious face so they could do battle with Nazi Oliver and Kara and their Nazi unit.

As a battle royale, the final battle in Central City was both spectacular and extremely dumb.  The Nazi Waverider (wait there are two Waveriders?  Huh?) started firing at innocent civilians, but stopped long enough for a wide angle shot of both heroes and villains lined up in a row before resorting to the sort of melee that worked poorly in the season finale of Arrow’s season 4.  This one, however, worked better by concentrating on three main aspects of it, the battle of the two Waveriders, the battle between Overgirl and Supergirl, and Flash versus Reverse Flash.  Flash lets Thawne get away, Overgirl, bereft of her heart transplant, blows up in spectacular fashion and the good Waverider manages to blow up the Nazi one, and Green Arrow puts an arrow in the heart of Dark Arrow.  So surprise!  The good guys win.

All in all, it was a spectacular crossover event, and I mean it really was an event.  The CW has managed to put together the type of world(s) that the movie DCU would love to do and hasn’t yet managed to pull off.  In the Arrowverse, we have multiple super heroes with quite a bit of entangled history with each other.  This is far more the DC Expanded Universe than the movie version.

Just some general observations…

After the battle with the Nazi’s in Central City, President Trump said there were good people on both sides!

Where did the Nazi Waverider come from?  Did Earth X have it’s own version of Legends, and if so, where were they?  What am I missing?

Oliver Queen is Batman.  Well not really, particularly since they name dropped Bruce Wayne a few episodes back in Arrow, but he does have the same sort of several-steps-ahead planning that had him produce a Kryptonite arrow, even though the odds of needing one are not high when there are no Kryptonians on your Earth and the only one you’ve ever met was pretty and nice.  Not nearly as smart as Batman though.  Oliver Queen is strictly a gentleman’s C’s achiever academically.

This crossover was super gay, and I mean even more than the usual CW show. At this point, there are enough gay superheroes to have their own crossover episode.  So stay tuned for next year’s Crisis on Earth-Fabulous!

The special effects for The Ray/Flash/Red Tornado battle were top notch. I realize they are working with a TV budget here, and a CW TV budget at that, but it looks like they went out of their way to make the special effects hold up.  Tip o’ the hat!

This crossover, unlike last year’s Dominator one, was more of a 4 hour movie or mini-series than bits and pieces of different cast members joining other shows for a “very special” episode.  In fact, I thought it was every bit as good as the far more expensive Justice League.  Maybe the CW guys ought to contribute creatively to the movie side of the DC equation.

I get Oliver Queen and Quentin Lance being unshaven on Earth 1, but it’s hard to believe that their Nazi counterparts would be similarly unshaven.  They were in uniform after all.  Don’t the Nazi’s have any uniform regulations?

Eobard Thawne, the speedster villain allied with the Nazi’s makes either a continuity hint or an error.  While prepping Supergirl for her heart donation surgery, Supergirl threatens Thawne with her cousin, Superman.  Thawne replies that he’s fought her cousin before, in the future.  Here is the thing.  Thawne, the main villain of season one of The Flash, is from Earth 1’s future.  Earth 1 doesn’t have either a Superman or Supergirl. Supergirl and her “cousin” Superman are from Earth 38.  So did Thawne fight Earth 38’s Superman?  Some other Earth’s Superman, or has Superman’s pod not yet arrived on Earth 1?  Or…is Clark Kent actually already on Earth 1 and hasn’t taken up the weekend hobby of superheroing yet?

Inquiring minds…

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My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

Winter TV Watching

My whole TV world changed a few weeks ago when my wife came home from work and announced that she was going to drop Cable and go to Direct TV.  I had always been suspicious of Direct TV since I assumed weather would be a factor in viewing far more than was the case with cable.  And I was never sure how much weather would make a difference.  However television service was one of those responsibilities I had delegated to my wife so I had little choice but to go along.

So far, it’s not a disappointment.  In fact, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages by a considerable amount. With an 800 hour capacity DVR, I’m taking advantage of 3 months of free premium channels to pack it with a year’s worth or more of movies.  And the interface and system seem to be far more modern than what I had with cable.  Being able to be in my office and watch something recorded on the DVR is an advantage I didn’t know I needed until I got it.  What a convenience!

And the weather issue?  It is real.  So far on two separate occasion’s bad weather has resulted in a loss of signal, one while watching one show while recording two more.  All things being equal, being able to record 5 shows while watching one at the same time more than makes up for the infrequent weather issues.  At least I think the weather issues are infrequent.  The summer rainy season in Florida may be an issue.  Summer is coming…

With a high capacity DVR, I’m juggling more TV show plates than ever.  Here is a sample of some of the newer shows I’m watching now:
Shannara

MTV, yes, that MTV, has a new fantasy show called The Shannara Chronicles.  It’s based on series of fantasy books which I’ve never read, but it has all of the usual elves, trolls, and so forth, but the hook is that it takes place in a future post apocalyptic Earth, not some other world like Middle-Earth or GoT.  I’ve watched a couple of episodes and I like it. The show is filmed in New Zealand so the scenery is gorgeous. But what is really surprising is how good the digital and costume effects are.  I didn’t expect this kind of quality effort from MTV.  As for the show itself, it strikes me as Lord of the Rings meets the CW; hot elves flirting and dating while demons threaten the world.  Maybe they should have called it Shannara 90210.

Supergirl, yes Supergirl. I find the show enjoyable, despite its flaws.  On the other hand, maybe because of its flaws and let me tell you, this show has them!  Most of the problems of the show can be summed up in a Saturday Night Live parody trailer for a Black Widow movie:

Yes, it’s Supergirl, played as a romantic comedy.  There is the hot guy Supergirl desires, Jimmy (excuse me, James) Olsen, who is dating someone else, and there is the friendzoned work friend, who wallows in his self pity, but he is such a good friend that Supergirl would never want to change what they have.

So yes, you have seen this movie before.  However the show does have its own charms.  Calista Flockhart plays Supergirl’s media mogul boss Cat Grant with a hypercharged, manic gusto.  All words I would never have thought to use in relation to Calista Flockhart.  But the selfish, driven, work-is-all boss with the secret heart of gold probably gives the show its best moments.  Will a Superhero themed romcom attract the woman viewer?  No idea.

The Magicians is a new Syfy show that can best be described as Harry Potter goes to Graduate School, because that’s the setting of the show, a secret, magical grad school hidden away in upstate New York.
Magicians

The magic seems a little less ridiculous, although still magic, and it’s treated like alcohol or drugs; enjoyable but potentially addictive and very dangerous if misused (and it’s misused often apparently). The problems are more adult; or perhaps specifically young adult.  Finding your place in the world and of course relationships seems to drive a lot of the action.  There is even their own version of Voldemort; “The Beast.”  Apparently Brakebills University has a similar policy as Hogwarts; keep every threat and danger secret even when people start dying.  Nothing says school administrator like keeping everyone in the dark.  I give this show two and half wands.

Limitless is not only based on the movie of the same name, but it’s more or less a sequel to it. Bradley Cooper, who was the star of the film, has a recurring role as his movie character, now Senator Eddie Morra.  The new victim/recipient of the brain enhancing drug NZT is Brian Finch, a loser wanna be musician, who comes across NZT, likes it, and stumbles across both the FBI and Senator Morra.  Since the film, Morra has figured out a treatment to prevent the mental and physical decline from prolonged NZT use and offers it to Brian if he will be a mole for him inside the FBI.  The FBI wants Brian because they think his Morra supplied treatments are a natural immunity, so they hire him as a consultant, both to study him to see if they can reverse engineer his immunity to the deleterious effects of NZT and take advantage of his NZT enhanced IQ to solve cases.
Limitless

This show really works because Jake McDorman, who plays Brian, is exceedingly likable.  He plays Brian as basically a good guy who is forced to spy and betray his new FBI friends.  He’s also one of the few regular pot smokers on network TV.  His bong is a prominent accessory of his apartment.  You don’t usually see that in a crime drama.  The show’s breaking of the 4th wall makes this different from most shows on TV and fun to watch.  I ended up liking this show much more than I thought I would.  It’s fun.

If I were to cram every childish, pulpy thing I liked into one show, I couldn’t have done a better job than DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It has superheroes, it has time travel, and it has a super villain.  I mean, that’s one delicious stew. And it’s all sitting in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash. It’s not surprising since many of the characters are side characters borrowed from those two shows.

The premise is, 150 years from now, an immortal super villain, Vandal Savage, conquers the world, so Rip Hunter, one of the “Time Masters” decides to go back in time to stop him from ever getting that far.  To do that, he goes back to 2016 to assemble a team of heroes and villains from the Arrow/Flash universe to travel in time with him to stop Savage before he gets to conquer the world.

Well, I did say it was childish and pulpy.  But it’s also fun too.

One of my more oddball shows that I’m trying out is You, Me, and the Apocalypse.  Now I love a good Apocalypse, and TV and movies have often tried to put a comic spin to the idea with movies as diverse as Night of the Comet,and  Zombieland to This is the End, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  Not to mention TV’s Last Man on Earth. With 34 days to live before an asteroid renders Earth uninhabitable, a diverse group of people worldwide end up following paths that will somehow cross…I’m not sure how but the show is throwing out clues left or right.  With a great cast (Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer, and Megan Mullally) and a tight, well written script, this show is growing on me. And Megan Mullally as Leanne, an escaped neo Nazi prisoner on the run with housewife and Librarian Rhonda (Jenna Fischer), provides some of the shows funniest moments.  The word for this show is intriguing. I’ve not seen anything quite like this on TV before and I like it.

Another new show I’m kicking the tires on is Second Chance. Just a guess, but I don’t think this show is going to be around too long.  The premise is that a grumpy and disagreeable retired Sheriff is murdered and brought back to life by a Google like company run by twins, one of whom is dying of cancer.  So after conventional treatments fail, just bring someone back from the dead and use their blood as an anti cancer treatment.  Pretty standard medical procedure right?  The entire bringing someone back from the dead angle sounds totally implausible.  And I mean by Science Fiction standards.  People come back from the dead all the time in science fiction and fantasy shows, but it’s either with “magic” or some sort of semi plausible technobabble that sort of, kind of, makes sense.  Not this time; it’s just technobabble. Maybe if I could like the characters more, I could get pass that.  But so far, only the tech genius twins seem likable.

There are those who might think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew in TV watching.  Maybe some critics might think I’ve let the hubris of an 800 hour DVR cloud my thinking on what’s practical to watch.  Only time, and a full DVR can say for sure.

 

 

If Christopher Nolan Did Green Arrow…

…you might get something very similar to the CW’s new Arrow.  It’s not surprising that the new show should take a similar path.  Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman was hugely successful, both critically, and financially.  Batman, the Frank Miller inspired version; the obsessed, little-bit psychotic vigilante, fighting his own demons as much as bad guys, translated well onto the screen.  So if you were looking for another DC superhero property to give the same treatment to, there probably isn’t a better choice than the Green Arrow.

The show looks good on the screen, although the foyer of the Queen mansion looks suspiciously like the one in Lex Luthor’s transplanted castle in Smallville.  As much as I enjoy the miracle of CGI and its ability to bring anything that you can imagine to the screen, there is nothing like good old fashioned stunts.  The pilot has lead actor Stephen Amell demonstrating some fairly impressive parkour skills and in fact Amell did train in parkour to prepare for this role, although many of the stunts are done by stunt doubles.  It’s a smooth enough transition that I can’t tell the difference though.  I was watching and it looked like Amell did all of the parkour stunts.

As originally portrayed in the comics, Oliver Queen was a millionaire playboy who also dabbled in crime fighting as the Green Arrow.  He was an expert archer, acquiring those skills while stranded on an island.  His stock in trade was trick arrows that could perform assorted functions.  He was Batman, without the compelling reason to be a Batman.  Eventually the comics provided a reason, having Queen lose his fortune and discovering the living is a lot harder without lots of money to fall back on.  Green Arrow becomes a crusader for social justice as well as the old fashioned kind.

In Arrow, the CW takes those basics and tries to re-imagine a much grittier, edgier version; a Green Arrow to match the edgier Dark Knight version of Batman.  As the pilot episode opens, Oliver Queen is rescued from his island prison after being missing and presumed dead for 5 years.  However this Oliver has a specific agenda, that’s partially revealed in flashbacks to the sinking of his yacht and the death of his father.  If you’ve not seen pilot, I won’t spoil it other than to say the death of his father gives him a very specific list of wrongs to be righted.

This Oliver Queen is rather morally ambiguous.  Is he a good guy?  It’s not so clear cut, and it looks like the show intends to draw that out.  The outing he was on when his yacht sank has him bringing along his then current girlfriend’s sister for a little cheat-o-rama. That girlfriend, Laurel Lance, despises him for her sister’s death although their futures may be linked since careful comic book readers will note that Laurel Lance is the future Black Canary, Green Arrow’s long time girlfriend in the comics.  But cheating on a girlfriend isn’t that edgy or gritty; killing a kidnapper who is helpless is.

In most superhero sagas, guns are never used and killing is strictly forbidden.  However for this show, we have a superhero that does kill, not in self defense, but to protect his secrets.  That ups the ante in the gritty and edgy department.  Without the normal limitations of the superhero genre, who knows where this show will go?

Weaved into the plot is more potential “drama” than you can shake a stick at.  His kid sister is using drugs, there is a new stepfather, and mommy dearest isn’t exactly the June Cleaver type; she has secrets of her own.  Not to mention the local police detective is the father of both Laurel Lance and the sister who died when the Queen yacht sank.  Guess who he blames for his daughter’s death?

And for that, I’m enthusiastic about this take on the Green Arrow story.  Yes, I realize there is the potential to go too far; turning this version of Green Arrow from less like an edgy Batman and more like a rich Dexter.  That would be a mistake, and hopefully the producers will put the brakes on any mass murder spree by a DC superhero.

Still, I like what I see so far and am willing to give this show some long rope to see where it goes.

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