Raise your hand if you have crossover fatigue?
Between The CW’s Arrowverse and The Defenders on Netflix, there’s a been a lot of superhero team-ups as of late. But don’t think I’m only pointing my finger at all those Marvel and DC series, Dick Wolf’s One Chicago is just as much to blame. They likewise had four shows playing in the same sandbox last year.
Even FOX, without a connected universe of any kind, hasn’t been able to resist the crossover having paired up Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl within the past TV season. And a couple of years ago they even made a Bones / Sleepy Hollow crossover happen, talk about reaching.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved a good crossover, but its been increasingly difficult for me to keep up with all my favorite TV shows let alone all of their offshoots. Maybe this is just a “me” problem, but if you don’t already watch all the shows involved it’s kind of a big ask to watch 1-3 extra hours of TV in a week.
When Supergirl kicked off The CW’s Crisis on Earth-X crossover event during November Sweeps I actually only watched that singular episode and went about my life. Sure the episode didn’t really make much sense in the larger context of Supergirl’s third season, but I had a boatload of other stuff going on at the time and rightly assumed that neither Supergirl nor her sister would be killed off on another show.
However, curiosity got the better of me during the TV doldrums of the holiday season. I also needed something lighter to watch after binging The Handmaid’s Tale, so I located the other three episodes from Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and went to work. And you know what, I loved it! (If you too want to catch up on any or all of the Arrowverse crossovers, past or present, here’s the episodes you’ll want to watch.)
Crisis on Earth-X made me rethink my recent stance on crossovers, here’s why:
Maybe the Arrowverse has an inherent advantage compared to the other connected universes I referenced above, but still, if I’m going to spend my time doing something I want to at least enjoy it. And Crisis on Earth-X delivered. There were plenty of great action sequences, nice character beats, and snappy one-liners. The four-part event felt like the literal equivalent of dumping out the toy box and playing with all the action figures and accessories at once. No pairing or universe was off limits.
Typically in a crossover, one character will venture from their show to another show in order to take care of unfinished business (think CSI or Law and Order), or you know to save the world (a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And when that happens they are essentially “guests” in every way on the show they visit. However, Crisis on Earth-X was one of the first crossovers I’ve ever seen where all the shows come together for a storyline outside of their current season arcs. Think about it this way, it was like the difference between having home field advantage and playing on a neutral site. Sure, there were some moments I didn’t have the background info for, but the mission at hand was new for everyone and that made it easier for me to become invested in it and all the parties involved.
The storytelling format I alluded to above also allowed for more parity among the shows, each core set of characters had their fair share of moments, both action-y and emotional. Conversely, in last year’s Arrowverse crossover, Supergirl showed up and just chilled in the background for a lot of it, which was super unsatisfying as she was the only “horse” I had in the race. So it was a pleasant surprise to see how much better Crisis on Earth-X handled all of its characters (there were almost twenty superheros to account for) plus three different earths.
I know, I know, just a few paragraphs prior I balked at the notion of having to watch an extra three hours of TV. However, as I’ve already established, this wasn’t just a normal episode of TV stretched over two nights and four TV shows for a ratings grab. (I mean, I’m sure they were also hoping for above average ratings.) What the team behind the crossover did was no small feat, they had over two dozen characters to incorporate, a new storyline to introduce, and ongoing story treads to serve. And to be fair, without commercials the four part event comes in much closer to the 3-hour mark, which is practically the length of an average superhero movie these days.
Bottom line, The CW’s Crisis on Earth-X wasn’t just labeled a “special event,” it was one. The annual team-up stepped up its game and made me a believer in crossovers again. At least in regards to the Arrowverse. I might still skip the One Chicago crossover events, at least until someone can convince me otherwise. And no, that someone won’t be NBC’s overly dramatic promo department. When every episode is labeled “must see” or “can’t miss”, I remain skeptical. As Crisis on Earth-X proved, actions speak louder than words. And its action was AWESOME.