Last night was the conclusion of the CW’s annual three-night Arrowverse crossover, Elseworlds, and a story that began with the Flash and Green Arrow swapping bodies became so much more than that by its conclusion. In its finale, the CW’s suite of DC Universe shows revealed the next crossover-level threat its heroes will face: an adaptation of the 1985 maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The 1985 comic book event is famous for a lot of good reasons. Its twelve issues and multiple tie-ins were the original “most ambitious crossover event in history;” DC Comics’ first line-wide reboot that involved the lasting deaths of several major characters. The events of the TV version will almost certainly have major repercussions for Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash. But first, how did we get here?
Meanwhile, in Elseworlds
Thanks to the machinations of the Monitor, a cosmic entity who is testing different parallel earths to find which one is strong enough to stand up against a mysterious and powerful enemy, Arkham Asylum doctor John Deegan was given the Book of Destiny. With its powers, he rewrote reality so that Oliver Queen was the Fastest Man Alive and Barry Allen was the guy with the bow and arrow.
After some initial confusion, and training in part one of Elseworlds’ three-episode span, part two saw both men and Supergirl track Deegan down to Gotham City to take the Book back. In response, Deegan just rewrote history again, this time to make himself Superman and imprison Supergirl. In this reality, Barry and Oliver weren’t even superheroes: They were wanted criminals known as the Trigger Twins. Short on allies, they decided to make a play to save to Kara and reclaim the Book, but not before a chat with the Monitor.
The Monitor has been granting the Book to different realities to test its heroes, and prepare them for a “Crisis,” but all the other realities that he’s sent the Book to have ended with its heroes being killed. Barry and Kara are destined to die while running in tandem to slow down time and stop Deegan from changing reality a third time — but Oliver, full of hope after being the Flash for a few days, goes to the Monitor and demands that their lives be spared. Whatever he says to the Monitor was not shown in the episode, but he shows up with a new arrow that destroys the Book and saves Barry and Kara from running themselves into oblivion.
But as we’re winding down and Barry and Oliver are sharing a celebratory drink, the plot starts to thicken again. Oliver gets a call from Batwoman back in Gotham City, who’s annoyed that they dropped Deegan on her in Arkham. And it’s revealed that Deegan’s next-door neighbor is none other than Roger Hayden, aka the Psycho-Pirate. Hayden is a little known villain who played a major role in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“The stage is set,” he monologues, wearing his trademark gold mask that allows him to control the emotional state of his victims, and recites the tagline of Crisis on Infinite Earths: “Worlds will live, worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same.”
During “Elseworlds,” Both the Monitor and the Barry Allen of Earth-90 (John Wesley Shipp from the 1990s Flash series) make allusions to some greater evil on the horizon. That evil would seem to be the Anti-Monitor, who destroyed realities in his effort to become the ruler of all, the big bad villain of The Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Crisis, orchestrated by comics creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, was created as an cosmic team-up story that would create an in-universe reason for the DC comics multiverse to become one coherent universe and timeline, and that same outcome is likely for its live action adaptation. Though most of the shows are on the same Earth, Supergirl has existed in Earth-38 — due to her original season airing on CBS — and is only able to hang out with the other shows thanks to portal tech they invented for her.
As for what this means for the shows themselves? Crisis in the comics is known for its high death count — a rare thing for comics of its time. And Barry and Kara were its most notable casualties. This is sure to be where long gestating threads pay off, such as Barry’s eventual “disappearance” during a “Crisis,” which was established back in the first episode of The Flash, along with the reveal of whatever deal Oliver made with the Monitor in “Elseworlds.” (Assuming the Monitor isn’t killed in “Crisis” like he was in the comics.) We may even see the return of John Wesley Shipp’s Barry Allen, or John Diggle become a Green Lantern.
Crisis won’t air until next fall — but don’t be surprised if all the shows end their current seasons preparing for the crossover to end all crossovers.