Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Surprise Black Lightning Crossover Episode Follows Shocking Twists, Smallville, Batman and More on Crisis

After insisting it would sit out the Arrowverse “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, “Black Lightning” fashioned a crossover episode anyway that catapults its hero into the event.

Let’s make that a six-episode event as "Black Lightning" dropped a surprising "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover episode on Monday night follow Part 2 of the epic Arrowverse saga.

And that on the heels of an epic hour of television that gave us shocking developments from the world of "Smallville" and perhaps the darkest Batman we’ve seen yet on film. Add new developments in the saga of Oliver Queen — yes, even after his death Sunday night — the return of Lex Luthor, the deaths of many Supermen and the first appearance of the Anti-Monitor and this "Crisis" is in full gear.

Remarkably, this episode of "Batwoman" (technically) was light on deaths and even featured an unexpected resurrection. It also payed homage to the infamous 1992 "Death of Superman" storyline with a unique twist of its own as part of Lex Luthor’s role in these sordid affairs. All of this in service to the Monitor’s new quest to find seven "Paragons," who he now hopes will stop the coming end of everything.

Yes, we are officially on to Plan B after Oliver’s untimely death put even the Monitor into unforeseen territory. In order to facilitate it, he was forced back into the timestream to fetch the Book of Destiny, which only served to prove that he can do anything and that anything that happens in this event can probably be rewritten or undone by the time it’s over.

That said, we still expect things to be very different by the time the dust is settled, even if Supergirl did make clear her intentions to try and use the Book of Destiny to restore Earth-38 and put her life back the way it was. We laid out last night how we think "Supergirl" and the whole Arrowverse could benefit tremendously from not doing that, though with reality-altering powers, even if Supergirl stays on Earth-1, they could just make it like she was always there.

That’s kind of how the original "Crisis" resolved things, whittling the DCU temporarily down to one reality with only a select few people remembering there was ever anything different. Could this "Crisis" have a similar ending? If it does, how much do you want to bet Kara will be one of the ones who knows her entire life has been rewritten?

Earths Visited

This was a night big on parallel realities, including our triumphant return to "Smallville" as well as some dystopic future Gotham City that we hope isn’t the future of "Batman: The Animated Series." Sure, it was always dark but we don’t want to picture that Batman becoming this Bruce Wayne.

Earth-1: The home of Green Arrow, Batwoman, The Flash and the Legends of Tomorrow. This is where our heroes make their final stand against the Anti-Monitor and the destruction of everything. Some version of this world will surely survive.

Earth-18: In their misguided attempt to resurrect Oliver via a Lazarus Pit, Mia and Barry are joined by Sara Lance and John Constantine on a trip to this reality (a wild west reality in the original comics), where they meet an unscarred Jonah Hex trying to protect the mine where the pit resides. He relents, though, when Sara decides to brutally just slice into the cheek that gets famously scarred … but it was still a little aggressive to watch. Damn, girl! Oh, and for the record, all of the anti-matter nullified Constantine’s magic, so now they’re stuck with a soulless Oliver body that’s just a touch aggressive.

Earth-74: In what appears to simply be a nod at the silliness of "DC’s Legends of Tomorrow," Lyla fetches a Waverider from an alternate reality where the team retired and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) took over the ship to write his romance novels with the snarky aid of Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold (as the A.I. of the ship). As it turns out, he makes an excellent babysitter for Jonathan Kent, even if he is reading from his self-published "Caged Passion." We kind of love this Mick Rory.

Earth-75: In a clear nod to Superman #75, the issue where Superman died at the hands of Doomsday in the comics, this briefly-visited Earth showed a different version of events, as it was Lex Luthor — having absconded with the Book of Destiny — who laid this Superman down as part of his quest to rid the multiverse of all Supermen.

Earth-96: If this isn’t the Donner Universe, then we don’t know what is. It featured Brandon Routh back as an older Clark Kent, and even had the iconic "Superman" music from the original films. That said, he’s wearing something similar to the "Kingdom Come" S-symbol and this Earth’s number comes from the year that comic series was published. In this world, someone from Gotham (probably the Joker), gassed the Daily Planet, killing everyone he loves. He also has (had?) a son named Jason, just like in "Superman Returns." So it’s a love letter to all three.

Earth-99: A dystopic Gotham City featuring Kevin Conroy ("Batman: The Animated Series") as an extremely broken Bruce Wayne, and we do mean broken. In every way, this is not the man Kate Kane knows and loves as he took a much darker and deadlier path. And apparently that darkness still resides within him. After killing his world’s villains, and even Superman, he tries to take out Supergirl before Kate takes him down. He died without hope, but helped the heroes find one of their paragons. Also, we know we totally wanted Kevin Conroy to serve as older Bruce Wayne in a live-action "Batman Beyond" series, but maybe not this one, mmkay … even if ’99 is the year that series kicked off, making us think that’s what the creators were homaging.

Earth-167: Red skies never came for "Smallville" in the time we were with it, but fans got to enjoy the returns of Tom Welling and Erica Durance as Clark and Lois. In perhaps the best nod yet to the ridiculously grounded decade the show was on the air, this Clark gave up his powers to raise his family with Lois back on the family farm. It’s a bit of a shocker (and we don’t exactly know how he did it), but it was enough for Jon Cryer’s Lex to spare him. Oh, we also learned that "Smallville" Lex is president on that world. Even "Crisis" couldn’t bring itself to mess up this Clark’s happy ending.

Paragons Revealed

Paragon of Truth: As revealed above, this is Superman-96 from that Earth, an older and somewhat darker Superman inspired by the original Christopher Reeve Superman films, Brandon Routh’s continuation in "Superman Returns" and the "Kingdom Come" comic series. Hilariously, everyone recognizes that this Routh Superman looks virtually identical to their Routh Atom.

Paragon of Hope: The Monitor made this one easy, simply naming Supergirl this paragon, per the Book of Destiny.

Paragon of Destiny: Ditto this moniker for the White Canary.

Paragon of Courage: Like "Truth" above, the Monitor did not know the identity of this "Paragon" until after Kate and Kara’s ill-fated jaunt to Earth-99. Once they returned, though, he revealed that it wasn’t Batman they needed to be this paragon, but Batwoman, herself.

Paragons 5-7: There are three paragons yet unidentified or uncovered.

Anti-Harbinger of Things to Come

Harbinger has been working for the Monitor for quite some time, so it was interesting that the Anti-Monitor was able to summon her to his side at the close of this hour. Is she going to start working for him now? She appeared to choose working with the Monitor, so what will happen now? As the Monitor weakens and the Anti-Monitor grows in strength, wills he have no choice?

There are other surprises to come, as we’re not sure why Kate held on to a piece of krytponite, nor why she looked at it when Kara was talking about using the Book of Destiny to revive Earth-38. We get that this is incredibly dangerous and ill-advised, but would Batwoman really shut her down like that?

What’s the deal with the soulless Oliver husk? We get that the team is still going to try and put a soul into it, but if they are unsuccessful, perhaps he will still have a role to play in the Crisis, even without his soul. Could Stephen Amell get a second death scene, although one with far less eloquent phrasing. Perhaps some grunts and screams?

What is Felicity doing with the Tome of the Guardians? Are we finally going to get some Green Lantern love? The Guardians is a powerful and ancient race of aliens that created the Green Lantern Corps (after a slight debacle with their first police force, the Manhunters). But what is this book, why does Felicity have it, and when is she going to show up, dammit!?

Red Skies, Black Lightning

In a huge surprise, and a treat for DCW completists, the latest episode of "Black Lightning" proved a surprise "Crisis" crossover event of its own, even as it only tangentially connected to the larger events. That said, "red skies" has been an oft-mocked trope in comics to signal a crossover with virtually no connection to the event other than something completely superficial, like red skies, because there were plenty of books that did only that for the 1985 maxi-series event.

That said, "BL" did better than this, actually introducing the concept of parallel earths into their story (though we’re not sure if the "Earth 1" and "Earth 2" monikers they used actually line up with what’s going in the rest of the Arrowverse. For one thing, Earth-2 has been obliterated since the "Arrow" premiere months ago, so the timing would get wonky.

Regardless, the hour was primarily used as a tool to help Jefferson’s daughter, Jen, come to terms with her role within Freeland, her family and the ASA that has occupied the city. Seriously, things have gotten very dark and twisted on this show, which has a whole different feel than the rest of the Arrowverse. It’s fresh and feels more dangerous and grounded than "Arrow," even.

Regardless, the red skies hit early in the episode, and the anti-matter that came with it played havoc with Jen’s powers, effectively causing her to shift into and out of three different parallel realities. In one, she saw where she gave up on herself and her powers. In another, she went way too far with her powers and ultimately killed her family, becoming a villain.

We don’t even get to see how this resolves, though, as the anti-matter wave came for Black Lightning’s universe before Jen could even settle back into her body. Moments after Jefferson himself was plucked from his reality — where he’ll next appear in Tuesday night’s episode — the anti-matter wave obliterated his world.

In the middle of a massive event. And that right there proves just how big this "Crisis" really is. Supergirl’s world was destroyed, and now Black Lightning’s. Either "Crisis" needs to end with a multiverse again, so these two characters can return to their respective worlds and lives, or they’re planning to merge all of their DC shows into one world.

This has been expected for Supergirl for three years now, but would come as a colossal shock for "Black Lightning" fans, as that show has existed separate for its entire run, avoiding every crossover event until this one. Would the writers make such a shocking change? Or will they simply hit the reset button and drop Jefferson back into his world?

A question we didn’t expect to have to face, but with the obliteration of his reality in this bonus crossover episode, it’s now one we definitely have to consider and ponder. We knew Black Lightning was joining the "Crisis," but we had no idea "Black Lightning" would be as well. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until next year to see what happens to all of the DCW shows.

"Crisis on Infinite Earths" wraps its 2019 run Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET, followed by another installment of "Crisis Aftermath" with Kevin Smith. Then, the story takes a holiday break before wrapping up with a two-hour finale on Tuesday, January 14.

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