Supergirl. The Flash. Arrow. The Legends of Tomorrow. CW’s block of super hero shows that bring the pulse-pounding four color excitement of DC Comics characters to the small screen every week. Each episode is almost a mini-movie in it’s own right. I won’t say they have always been stellar entertainment every week but damn close. Recently CW had another of what I hope will continue crossover events. In comics, a crossover is when characters from one book meet up with characters from another book to deal with a problem too big or too expansive for just the one title. This has been a tradition in comics almost from the first printed stories. Last year was INVASION! and now we have Crisis On Earth-X. In the canon of the shows, there exists 52 alternate Earths which represent different paths life on earth could have taken. Earth-X is the 53rd, existing outside the cosmology of the Universe. A place so evil and vile no one wants to go there. A dark and shattered world where the Nazi had conquered the world.
Crossovers are tricky. Often the story would focus on the main characters of a given book and then shift as the story moved to another book. Crisis On Earth-X took the other approach wherein the story is a stand-alone and keeps the “camera” moving within those perimeters. The slang term is called “sandbox.” All the elements and characters exist in a singular space. Unlike INVASION!, Crisis On Earth-X got it right. The story moved along at a quick but unsubstantial pace and gave screen time to the principals and secondary characters alike. What I enjoyed most were the little Easter egg moments like Wells telling Supergirl to fly “Up,Up, and…Away!” and the appearance of new heroes like The Ray. (A personal favorite of mine from the comics.) The Nazi winning the war scenario is established canon as is the existence of Earth-X. It’s the attention to these little details that strengthens my love for these shows. They are different, yes, but they also give nods to the original material. The action was in-your-face amazing to watch. I love playing and running superhero based games and seeing it come to life like that really gets me in the mood to grab my dice and gather some friends.
The CW’s take on these characters can be a tad left of center from the original characters. Nothing wrong there. However, to borrow a phrase from a friend, it can be a little too “Dawson’s DC” at times. I presume the lean towards more touchy-feely characters and stories is to attract non-comic readers to watch. I have nothing against emotion-driven drama so long as it doesn’t become the central paradigm. The CW Block has, from time to time, fallen into the valley of the feels. I get it. Arrow is an angst-ridden guy and Flash has issues about his mother’s death. Supergirl does make a strong try at out emoting Buffy the Vampire Slayer but all things in moderation. Sometimes all I want is a good old fashioned “let’s kick some ass” story. Okay, I’m not a total hard case. Anyone who knows me knows I love substance and style. My problem is when the style just won’t stop. We get it already. You have problems. Do an episode where everybody has a good cry and get back to the face smashing.
If you’re going to use something like the Nazi to portray evil, don’t assume everyone knows why. We don’t need a history lesson but at least show the evil a little more than a concentration camp that suspiciously looks like the sound stage of Arrow on any given night. (Alternate world…I see that. Hush.) The CW plays it too safe. I am aware children may be watching. I am aware that not everyone has a strong enough emotional center to handle excessive violence and/or outright gore. I’m not saying they should go full Ash vs Evil Dead over-the-top but sometimes the softball play conflicts with the story. Nazi are not something you throw at a group of heroes lightly. It felt watered down. I will concede the CW is a family friendly-ish channel and content on broadcast television has to be measured accordingly. Having used Nazi in campaign before I will admit to having a bias for dark versus light. Nothing wrong with light and happy entertainment. I’m getting whiplash switching back and forth.
Crisis On Earth-X is even better than INVASION! but I worry if the CW can top themselves next year. Stories with so many characters can get muddy real quick and uber-plots do tend to burnout faster than smaller longer down-to-Earth ones. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good cosmic level event once in a while. Especially on TV. Balls in your court, CW. Let’s see if you can up your game next year.