NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
After pivoting to a more character-focused direction during its second offering, the third episode of The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, which is being hosted on The Flash, seemed to continue in that direction for the most part. This time, any action pretty much took a total back seat in, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three.” There are enough strong character moments to make for a fairly satisfying episode regardless, but this third crossover episode for Crisis on Infinite Earths still feels like a bit of a speed bump compared to the previous two, exhibiting a noticeable degree of ‘Middle Chapter Syndrome’, before the remaining two crossover episodes finally conclude the event in mid-January.
With just a few Earth’s remaining in this third crossover episode, the Arrowverse’s heroes have to quickly find a way to reverse the fast-approaching anti-matter wave, before it finishes annihilating the Multiverse. Fortunately, after Cisco is brought in to help finish Ray’s ‘Paragon Detector’, the remaining three Paragons are identified, with J’onn being the Paragon of Honor, Barry being the Paragon of Love, and a stranger named Ryan Choi being the Paragon of Humanity. Avid DC fans would likely recognize Ryan Choi as being the second Atom in DC Comics lore, the one who would eventually succeed original Atom, Ray Palmer. Ryan’s addition to the Arrowverse’s main Earth-1 setting doesn’t feel like an accident either, considering that Ray is about to exit Legends of Tomorrow during this coming season, to be potentially replaced by Ryan.
The fact that the remaining two Paragons are so easily identified however stinks most noticeably of this episode rushing certain story developments, since it has trouble cramming in all of the setup for the crossover’s climax in January. This is especially noticeable during the subplot in Purgatory, wherein Diggle is brought on board the Waverider, in turn learning of Oliver’s death, just in time to join Sara and Constantine on a quest to retrieve Oliver’s soul by other means. This does admittedly result in one of the most surprising and best cameos of the crossover so far, involving Diggle, Mia and Constantine going to Earth-666, which happens to be the setting of Lucifer, the much-beloved former FOX series, now Netflix series, which has been made canon with the Arrowverse! I have to admit, that’s incredibly cool, especially since Tom Ellis reprises his role as the titular Lucifer Morningstar, for a very amusing interaction with Constantine and his friends, in turn giving them the means to proceed into Purgatory, while hinting that Lucifer is repaying a favour related to his co-escapee from Hell, Maze. It would be awesome if this Maze favour from Constantine was addressed during Lucifer’s upcoming fifth and final season next year, but either way, Lucifer having a Crisis on Infinite Earths cameo is an amazing surprise, especially since he originated as a character from DC’s Vertigo imprint, not the main DC Universe.
After the glee of that Lucifer cameo wears off however (there’s also a brief revisiting of The CW’s short-lived Birds of Prey series to kick off this episode, which apparently takes place on Earth-203, before the anti-matter wave destroys it, for what that’s worth), the rest of this Oliver subplot falls pretty flat. Constantine, Diggle and Mia go to Purgatory after meeting Lucifer (which not-so-coincidentally resembles Lian Yu), with a time-sensitive ‘devil card’ that serves as their escape route, before their souls are lost forever. Despite hyping up the fact that Oliver would have no memory, and would viciously attack his former friends however, this lasts for all of ten seconds, before Oliver simply regains all of his former memories, upon a few words from Diggle. That’s incredibly lame. There is a cool implication for later at least set up here, when an alternate Jim Corrigan suddenly appears, now played by Stephen Lobo, rather than Emmett J. Scanlan (Constantine even references the change in actors by commenting that it’s not the Jim Corrigan he knows, i.e. the one that guest starred in an episode of Constantine a few years ago, so it’s likely that this is Earth-666’s Jim Corrigan), and says that Oliver must receive a higher power to save the Multiverse. This seemingly foreshadows Oliver becoming the Spectre, in a great twist on a long-running occult DC anti-hero, but even so, this subplot was too hasty and undercooked to truly satisfy, especially on the basis of it being a reunion with Oliver’s trapped soul.
Outside of that, most of the other heroes simply tried and failed to save other Earth’s throughout much of this episode, which entirely happens off-screen. Fortunately, there were still a couple of solid subplots on Earth-1 and the Earth-74 Waverider though, despite Iris, Ralph and Ray too easily recruiting Ryan with a pep talk (take a shot). Kara struggling with not using the Book of Destiny to try and remake Earth-38 is pretty interesting, for example, especially when Kate decides whether it would be prudent to stop Kara with the Kryptonite she grabbed from Earth-99. Kate standing up to an increasingly desperate Kara is pretty good, especially when we know that Kara is leaning on her recognition as the Paragon of Hope, despite it being potentially destructive to the other heroes. This temptation with the Book of Destiny has a particularly great payoff later too, but I’ll get to that. It was also great to see Kate handing the Kryptonite over to Kara in the end, as a gesture of good faith, which Kara responds to by saying that Kate should keep it, so Kara can have the courage to know that Kate will never have to use it. This is possibly the most mature that I’ve seen either of these characters act, and that’s very satisfying, considering how infuriatingly juvenile the writing for Supergirl and Batwoman can sometimes be.
This episode also finally deals with a key conflict that’s been foreshadowed throughout this entire season of The Flash; Barry sacrificing his life during the Crisis. After the source of the anti-matter wave is discovered on Earth-1, in the exact place that Nash was formerly trying to access before becoming Pariah (how convenient), Barry, Cisco, Frost and Pariah discover that the Flash of Earth-90 is powering the anti-matter wave device. Cisco pulling Earth-90’s Flash off of it simply triggers a failsafe that accelerates the destruction of the remaining Earth’s as well. Fortunately, after Earth-73 is destroyed by the anti-matter wave around this moment, none other than Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning, is teleported to the device by Pariah! It’s not explicitly spelled out that Earth-73 is Black Lightning’s Earth at this point, but it’s very heavily implied, and the timeline of events would add up, considering Black Lightning’s midseason finale this past week. Regardless, after some early tension, Jefferson helps slow the wave, and Barry prepares to use his speed to reverse its energy and destroy it, only to have his speed stolen by the Earth-90 Flash, who sacrifices himself in Barry’s place. Yeah, a lot of people saw this loophole coming, including myself. This sacrifice is nonetheless a good way to provide some formerly-unseen closure for CBS’s live-action The Flash series from 1990 though, especially with the brief flashback to the younger Barry and Tina of Earth-90, before Earth-90’s Flash disappears in a wave of energy during the present time.
If you were hoping for a truly exciting role for Black Lightning, now that he’s finally joined the Arrowverse however, that’s another disappointment in this episode. Instead, after the anti-matter device is destroyed, with Earth-1 being the only Earth in the Multiverse left standing at this point, Lyla teleports onto the Waverider, only for Barry to quickly deduce that it’s a trick by the Anti-Monitor. This results in all of the heroes being subdued, but the Monitor manages to hold off the Anti-Monitor-possessed Lyla long enough so that Pariah can teleport the seven Paragons off of the Waverider. Transporting these seven heroes to the Vanishing Point is pretty smart too, since it’s the one place where the Anti-Monitor can’t get to them, seeing that it’s outside the confines of space and time. It’s a good thing too, since Earth-1 is subsequently destroyed by one final anti-matter blast, killing all of the remaining heroes that aren’t Paragons, including Ralph, Iris, Earth-38’s Superman and Lois, Ray, Pariah, Brainy, Alex, and, worst of all, Black Lightning, which makes his inclusion in this crossover practically pointless for now. Still, the inspired return of the Vanishing Point, a formerly-aborted plot element from Legends of Tomorrow, also gives way to one great final twist, when the Earth-96 Superman is painfully torn apart by a wave of energy, and is replaced by Earth-38’s Lex Luthor! Apparently, Lex rewrote a passage in the Book of Destiny, making him the new Paragon of Truth, and a survivor of Earth-1’s destruction. That’s a pretty awesome way to kick off the Arrowverse’s lengthy midseason break, even though the month-long wait for the Crisis on Infinite Earths conclusion is nonetheless going to be pretty brutal.
Despite these fantastic ending twists though, “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three” still feels like a weak link in the crossover’s episode selection at this point. The demise of Oliver continues to drag down the crossover here, with only an awesome Lucifer Morningstar cameo making that subplot worthwhile. Likewise, as cool as it is that Black Lightning has finally joined the Arrowverse, it didn’t feel like the crossover quite knew what to do with him. Sure, Jefferson at least got a chance to be useful in slowing down the anti-matter wave, and he does have some pretty solid scenes with Barry especially, but considering that Black Lightning was previously going out of its way to not connect to the Arrowverse, it’s a let-down that Jefferson’s addition to events practically feels like an afterthought. Granted, there’s still two episodes left with which to wrap up Crisis on Infinite Earths in January, likely resulting in permanent changes to the Arrowverse as we know it, so hopefully characters like Black Lightning and Jim Corrigan get something more useful to do at that point. For now though, it’s annoying that the crossover stalled a bit before its month-long break, even if it at least managed to set the stage for its upcoming climax pretty well, considering where events ultimately leave the Arrowverse’s six surviving heroes (and sole surviving villain).
- More great character moments, especially the Lucifer cameo
- Earth-90's Flash sacrificing himself to save Barry
- Awesome final twists that follow Earth-1's destruction
- Oliver subplot still feels too undercooked
- Black Lightning's addition feels like an afterthought