Warning: this review contains full spoilers for Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part 3! If you need a refresher on where we left off, here's our review for Crisis: Part 1 and our review for Crisis: Part 2.
The Crisis just keeps growing and growing. This Arrowverse crossover opened with the destruction of Supergirl’s universe and has only continued to escalate from there. A multiverse comprised of thousands of parallel Earths has shrunk to a small handful as this episode opens. Unfortunately, this episode also raises an important question. Is there such a thing as too big when it comes to superhero crossovers? That’s a question that has to be asked as Crisis continues to draw in more heroes and balance more plot threads.The cracks are definitely starting to show in this middle chapter, which adds Cress Williams’ Black Lightning, John Wesley Shipp’s Flash, Stephen Lobo’s Jim Corrigan, and Arrowverse newcomer Osric Chau as Ryan Choi to an already sizable cast. This is the first installment of Crisis that really seems to bite off more than it can chew in terms of story. I already voiced some concerns about how much ground the crossover needed to cover before arriving at the cliffhanger point, and it turns out those concerns were well-founded. The scene where Ray fixes his multiverse doohickey and suddenly three more Paragons turn out to be standing in the room… well, it all seems like a convenient way of booting the conflict back into gear.Apart from setting up Nash Wells’ transformation into Pariah and beating the “Barry is doomed to die” gong repeatedly, The Flash: Season 6 didn’t wind up becoming the essential Crisis prelude it was billed as. Watching this episode, it’s hard not to wonder why Ryan Choi’s debut didn’t happen in an earlier episode. It would have helped introduce this pivotal new character sooner and get some of the backstory out of the way before the crossover began. And it’s not as if his conversation with Iris wouldn’t have been equally fitting a few weeks before the Crisis. Chau seems like a solid addition to the Arrowverse, but his character’s introduction eats up a lot of valuable screen time in this episode.The Purgatory storyline also deserved far more attention than Crisis Part 3 is able to devote. No sooner do Constantine, Diggle, and Mia arrive and wrestle with Ollie than Jim Corrigan pops out of nowhere to provide an exposition dump. To be clear, I’m very much behind this idea of making Ollie the Arrowverse’s Spectre. It’s a fitting transformation for the character, and not just because he’s so fond of green hoods. It’s also a neat subversion of traditional DC lore, where Hal Jordan becomes tethered to the Spectre. But such a huge moment really deserved more.In general, it’s easy to see the strain the crossover is having on the production process. The way certain scenes are framed and edited, it’s sometimes painfully obvious the actors weren’t actually filming together at the same time. Not that you can blame the cast and crew for having to work around all these limitations. With so many actors and competing schedules to manage, it’s a wonder this crossover ever came together in the first place. But it’s another sign that maybe the next crossover could benefit from a smaller, more contained approach.Ultimately, though, as much as the frenetic editing and rushed plotting can frustrate in Part 3, this episode never loses sight of the core appeal of Crisis. These are characters we’ve come to know and love over the course of many years. Crisis is all about giving them their big moments and celebrating the connections these characters have forged. If the story itself is strained, the individual moments are enough to make up for those flaws.Take the heroic sacrifice of Earth-90 Flash, for example. Just as Part 2 gave Tom Welling’s Clark Kent the rich farewell he deserved, Part 3 closes the door on this TV Flash in a profound and moving way. The use of an archival clip from the 1990 series makes Shipp’s grand farewell connect all the more. And here again, Crisis is clever about taking an iconic trope from the comic and subverting it. Barry Allen must die in Crisis, but maybe not the one we were expecting. After six years of buildup to what we thought was going to be Earth-1 Barry’s sacrifice, it’s tempting to complain about this quick and easy loophole. But when it hits all the right emotional notes, who really cares?Black Lightning’s official induction into the Arrowverse is also handled well. Cress Williams feels right at home despite the much bigger and comic book-ier nature of this story compared to his own series. Keeping Jefferson’s story anchored on his grief over the death of his world and his newfound rapport with Barry definitely helps. That bodes well for the future of Black Lightning, as presumably we’re going to start seeing more interplay between Black Lightning and the Arrowverse.You also can’t discount how much a good Christopher Reeve tribute can elevate any hour of superhero television. I love seeing Brandon Routh wearing the cape and tights again, and never has Routh done a better job of channeling Reeves’ Superman – that positivity, warmth and innate goodness – than when delivering his monologue about hope and the significance of his new S-logo.Though you also have to give credit to composer Blake Neely for so effectively working John Williams’ incredible Superman themes into the score. Neely may well be the unsung hero of this crossover. His music tells the story of Crisis, particularly during Supergirl and Batwoman’s tense standoff, where their respective themes battle it out in the ear even as a physical fight looms.This episode also features the coolest DC cameo since Robert Wuhl’s Alexander Knox when Constantine pays a visit to Earth-666 and meets Tom Ellis’ Lucifer Morningstar. The rights issues can’t have been easy to navigate there, but the effort was well worth it. The two characters have a terrific dynamic, and it would be fantastic if Legends of Tomorrow somehow found a way to flesh out what’s clearly a long and sordid history between John and “Lucy.”Overcrowded though Part 3 is, at least this episode manages to rectify that problem in the climax. It’s certainly a fitting place to leave viewers hanging for the next few weeks, with the entire multiverse destroyed and seven heroes (or six heroes and one Luthor, anyway) all that remains. That promises a much tighter and more focused conflict in the remaining two episodes. Now comes the waiting…
With so many moving parts and such an enormous cast of characters, it’s hardly surprising that Crisis on Infinite Earths is becoming too large for its own good. This middle chapter attempts to cover too much ground, with the result being that some critical plot points feel rushed and unsatisfying. Still, with so many rousing character moments and nods to DC’s TV history, Crisis is still a blast to watch. And given how Part 3 ends, it appears the crossover will take a much tighter and more focused approach when it returns in January.