“Crisis on Infinite Earths Ignored All Of The Arrowverse’s Crossover Setup”
Warning: The following feature contains SPOILERS for Crisis on Infinite Earths.
While the Arrowverse crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths has satisfied both critics and fans alike, there is one thing it didn’t do well; resolve all of the many plot-points that set up the event. This is rather surprising given all of the call-backs and references to earlier episodes and the comic books that inspired it that the event made.
The road to Crisis on Infinite Earths was first established in the pilot episode of The Flash. The episode concluded with two shocking developments; that STAR Labs founder Harrison Wells was faking his immobility and that Wells had access to a newspaper from 2024 which spoke of The Flash disappearing during some kind of crisis. Since then, The Flash and other Arrowverse series have hinted at the approaching Crisis, with much of the 2019 television season being used to lay the groundwork for the biggest crossover event in television history.
Many of these lost plot points could be explained away as flotsam and jetsam in the time stream. It wouldn’t be the first time that the reality of the Arrowverse randomly changed because of time travel. Still, it is somewhat disappointing that these things weren’t addressed in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The first confirmation that Crisis on Infinite Earths was approaching came at the end of the 2018 Arrowverse crossover event Elseworlds. The event ended with its chief villain, Dr. John Deegan, committed to Arkham Asylum and a man in a gold mask in the cell next to him assuring him that everything was as it should be and the stage had been set. “Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same,” concluded the masked man.
Though never identified by name in the episode, the masked man was meant to be the Psycho-Pirate and his words were a paraphrase of the lines used to promote the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic. The Psycho-Pirate was a Justice Society of America villain, who had the power to manipulate the emotions of others, through the use of a set of magical masks that he melted down into a single golden face-plate. The Psycho-Pirate was one of a few villains who entered into the service of the Anti-Monitor in the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic, in exchange for an Earth of his own to play with.
While fans of the original comics caught the reference, the Psycho Pirate’s appearance in Elseworlds was largely pointless. He didn’t appear in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In fact, there was no indication that the Anti-Monitor recruited any supervillains to aid him in his plans to destroy reality. Not even crazy ones who wouldn’t object to such a thing!
Another indication that the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths was originally meant to build up an army of villains to fight the heroes lay in the story of the Reverse-Flash, who had posed as Harrison Wells and triggered Barry Allen’s transformation into The Flash several years early as a means of restoring his own powers and returning to his own time. Thawne spent most of the first season of The Flash charting his plotting against a newspaper from the future, to make sure that everything was progressing according to his plan.
Many details about the article changed along with other fluctuations in the timeline over the course of The Flash. Chief among these changes was whether the article was written by Iris West-Allen or another reporter or which heroes were present for the battle where The Flash disappeared, with Batwoman replacing Hawkgirl. One detail that stood out was that some witnesses reported seeing the Reverse-Flash leading an army of Shadow Demons; the minions of the Anti-Monitor.
For some reason, this did not come to pass. The Reverse-Flash didn’t put in an appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yet he told Barry Allen that he would “see you in our next crisis,” in the season 5 finale “Legacy.”
While an explanation for why the Reverse-Flash didn’t appear has yet to be made, producer Marc Guggenheim defended the exclusion. He claimed that with everything else scheduled to happen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it would have been difficult to work in an appearance by the Reverse-Flash and do the character justice. While Guggenheim has a point, Thawne’s fans are still disappointed this plot didn’t play out.
Season 8 of Arrow saw Oliver Queen traveling around the multiverse, gathering various items at the request of The Monitor for a purpose he refused to explain. Never one to follow orders blindly, Oliver decided to seek out information on Mar Novu to determine if the cosmic being was truly on the level. This led Oliver on a quest to seek out the secret library of the League of Assassins and a team-up with his sister Thea and former mentor Talia Al Ghul in the episode “Leap of Faith.”
Oliver ultimately recovered the journal of Al-Fatih, the founder of the League of Assassins. In it, Al-Fatih described how he created the League following the instructions of a “sky god” to maintain the balance between good and evil and how failure in this mission would bring about the end of the world. An illustration in the journal confirmed this being to be either the Monitor or the Anti-Monitor, but why either of them would care about a balance between good and evil on Earth was never explained.
Season 6 of The Flash introduced a new Harrison Wells doppelganger, Harrison Nash Wells. A self-described myth-buster, geologist and archaeologist, Wells had tracked Mar Novu to Earth-1 in the hopes of proving that the so-called Monitor was just another alien using advanced technology to pretend to be a god. Instead, the arrogant scientist accidentally freed the Anti-Monitor. As punishment, Wells was stripped of his memories and became Pariah; cursed to be forcibly teleported from Earth to Earth, watching as the multiverse slowly shrank because of his actions.
In the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comics, Pariah played a major role, having been cursed by the Monitor to act as an early-warning system so he could track the movements of the Anti-Monitor and move his forces accordingly. The Arrowverse storyline never made it clear just who had cursed Pariah and why he was given the power to teleport other people across reality if he was meant to be punished for his actions. For that matter, it was never made clear just where the Anti-Monitor was imprisoned or why the gateway to that prison was hidden in a sewer in Central City on Earth-1 in the first place.
The mid-season finale of Black Lighting season 3, “Earth Crisis,” was not officially part of the crossover event. Despite this, the episode still tied into the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths as the anti-matter storms shaking reality reached Freeland and had an interesting side-effect on Jefferson Pierce’s youngest daughter, Jennifer. Possessing the power to generate energy rather than merely absorbing and channeling it like her father, Jennifer found herself phasing in and out of reality. Peter Gambi, Jefferson’s foster father and spiritual uncle to his daughters, theorized this was due to Jennifer passively absorbing the ambient anti-matter and becoming unstable as a result.
As Jennifer’s family tried to get her body back to some state of normalcy, her mind went somewhere else, meeting two alternate versions of herself from different Earths who were having similar problems. “Earth Crisis” largely focused on telling the stories of “Good Jennifer” and “Bad Jennifer” and how they had gone down different paths of the decision that Jennifer was mulling over before the anti-matter storms started. While the episode was a fantastic character study of Jennifer Pierce, the implication that she was capable of projecting her mind into other realities was barely explored and didn’t factor into Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the Arrowverse‘s take on Crisis on Infinite Earths was that we didn’t see the return of Nora West-Allen. Nora’s erasure from reality in The Flash‘s season 5 finale was somehow linked to the date of the Crisis being pushed forward, from May 2024 to December 2019. Much like the prophecized appearance of the Reverse-Flash, the foreshadowing of Nora’s return didn’t pay off and no explanation was given for why the date of the Crisis had changed so suddenly.
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