Crisis on Infinite Earths

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Available With:
Supergirl: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray, $44.98;
Batwoman: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, $44.98;
The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season Blu-ray, $44.98;
Arrow: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray, $29.98;
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray, $29.98;

Warner;
Sci-fi/Action;
Not rated;
Stars Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Ruby Rose, Brandon Routh, Cress Williams, David Harewood, Tom Cavanagh, Tyler Hoechlin, John Cryer, Matt Ryan, David Ramsey, LaMonica Garrett.

Multiverses are all the rage nowadays.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the live-action DC movies are scrambling to introduce the concept in their upcoming blockbusters, filling the Internet with casting rumors of the return of previous versions of certain characters. And one reason they may be motivated to do so is how popular the idea proved in the CW Arrowverse’s big crossover event last season, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which brought together characters from six of the DC superhero shows and featured cameos from several more, and even referenced a few from the big screen.

The TV Crisis is based on a major DC Comics storyline from the mid-1980s, which redefined and modernized all the publication’s classic characters while seeking to streamline convoluted histories that went back decades. In doing so, characters encountered versions of themselves from parallel realities in an epic battle against a villain called the Anti-Monitor who was destroying entire universes.

The CW networks’ “Arrowverse” shows adopted the same basic premise. The series have been doing annual crossovers for a while, and have been laying the groundwork for Crisis on Infinite Earths for years.

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The crossover itself is structured like a miniseries, though each of the five parts are actually an episode from one of the participating series: part one is an episode of “Supergirl,” part two is an episode of “Batwoman,” part three is an episode of “The Flash,” part four is an episode of “Arrow,” and part five is an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.” Though they use a unified Crisis title card instead of the individual show, the main credits still reflect the cast of that show. This is likely more a matter of contractual obligations, since it probably would have made more sense to produce the crossover as a separate production outside the purview of any of the shows. The fact that these are technically separate episodes of different series makes for some awkward distribution scenarios.

For home video, Warner has chosen to include a special bonus disc containing all five episodes and bonus materials with the relevant season Blu-ray releases of each of the series. It’s the same disc for every show, so “Arrowverse” fans who pick up the Blu-ray for each show will get it five times.

Since the individual parts are also episodes of the shows, they are also included with the regular episode runs for each show on disc. Since the miniseries version is exclusive to the Blu-ray, anyone wanting each part just on DVD has to buy each show’s separate season, and those don’t come with the special “Crisis” extras.

In years past, the crossovers on disc were handled a bit differently, with Warner including all crossover episodes on the Blu-ray for each show’s relevant season as part of the regular episode listings, so that they’ll come up in a “play all” binge.

Either way, it kind of points to a more common sense solution being to release the Crisis disc as a standalone miniseries, and not part of any of the shows’ seasons, but contracts are what they are.

The fact that these are individual episodes of each show makes for some messy plot developments in terms of where certain events happen in relation to what show they are technically happening on. Major life events affecting Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) happen on “Supergirl,” and not his own show, “Arrow.” However, “Arrow” does get a monumental cameo involving The Flash, rather than that bit of fan service actually happening on “The Flash.”

With the central conceit that every TV show and movie ever based on a DC Comics property exists alongside the others in a multiverse, producers have packed in cameos from a number of these other shows, in many cases offering a reunion or update for some of the characters. These range from quick glances at other current shows such as “Titans” and “Stargirl,” as well as drop-ins on the worlds of Superman Returns, the 1989 Batman movie, the 1960s “Batman” series, “Smallville,” the 1990 “Flash” TV show and even the recent Justice League movie.

It’s all in good fun for the fans of these characters who have been following them not just on the CW, but on the other shows as well, not to mention the original comics. The idea of using “Batman: The Animated Series” star Kevin Conroy to play a live-action version of an older Bruce Wayne is just a marvelous idea. As is putting Brandon Routh back in the Superman suit to play an older version of the character. Routh already plays the Atom in the Arrowverse, but physically he seems much more suited to play Superman now that he’s a bit older than he did in 2006, which he was a bit to thin for the part.

For comic book fans, the looks of Conroy’s Bruce Wayne and Routh’s older Superman borrow a lot of influence from the 1990s Kingdom Come miniseries.

Tom Welling also makes an appearance as the “Smallville” Clark Kent, and between him and Routh they just make the Arrowverse’s Superman, Tyler Hoechlin, seem way too undersized for the role.

In addition, Cress Williams shows up in a couple episodes to play Black Lightning from his own CW show. While “Black Lightning” doesn’t have one of the Crisis episodes, it did do its own prelude to Crisis episode similarly to the other participating shows. That episode isn’t included here, but it is available with the third season of “Black Lightning” which is available digitally now and coming to DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Archive Oct. 27.

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Nostalgia aside, Crisis does a lot to resolve several of the storylines from the various shows, not the least of which is to finally put Supergirl and Black Lightnine in the same universe as the other heroes (though that has raised its own plot problems as the shows have continued post-Crisis). It’s an ambitious piece of television that should satisfy fans of the series involved, but the various crossovers and nostalgia bait do a lot to distract from flaws that become apparent on subsequent rewatches.

Primarily, the quaintness of plotting that persists on the five main shows carries over here, and the dialogue can get a bit grating the more one hears it. In some instances the collective writing teams may have been in over their heads coordinating such a big production, as there are many attempts to cram in the supporting casts of the various shows in their series’ respective episodes with subplots that end up going nowhere or having no effect on the larger storyline. Some of these are excuses for cheap cameos, while others just seem like they are giving the characters busy work.

When these shows are syndicated to various stations and streaming services in the future and have to stand on their own, I can only imagine the confusion some viewers might having when encountering the crossover episodes in the middle of a binge and seeing partial storylines that have little to do with the rest of the show they’ve been watching. But, a happy fan is an informed fan, and they should know what they’re getting into with the Arrowverse to begin with.

The extras on the Crisis bonus disc are fun backgrounders typical of the kinds usually found on Blu-rays of DC-based content, particularly the DC Universe animated movies.

Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Architects Return” is a 12-minute featurette that reflects on the original comic book, featuring interviews with its original creators, plus a look at the new comic book tie-in created for the Arrowverse version.

“Crisis Management” is a 13-minute making-of featurette looking at how the five shows coordinated to bring the crossover together.

“Crisis Past and Present: Kevin Conroy Bat Legend” is a three-minute profile of Conroy and bringing him to play a live-action Batman for the first time.

“Crisis Past and Present: Superman vs. Superman” is a four-and-a-half-minute featurette about a showdown between Routh and Hoechlin for super-supremecy.

“Characters in Crisis: Pariah” is a four-minute video about turning Tom Cavanagh’s “Flash” character into the Pariah role from the original comic.

Finally, “Characters in Crisis: The Anti-Monitor” is a five-minute examination of the main villain of the story.

‘Supergirl’ Season 5 on Disc Sept. 8

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Supergirl: The Complete Fifth Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Sept. 8. The season’s 19 episodes are available now for digital purchase.

In the CW’s show’s fifth season, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) confronts a shadowy organization called Leviathan, while National City becomes enthralled by an addictive new virtual reality program. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) returns as a global hero thanks to the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover with the CW’s other superhero shows.

The cast also includes Chyler Leigh, Katie McGrath, Jesse Rath, Nicole Maines, Azie Tesfai, Andrea Brooks, Julie Gonzalo, Staz Nair, Mehcad Brooks and David Harewood.

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Home video extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel and highlights from the DC TV 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panels.

The Blu-ray will also include a limited-edition bonus disc that includes all five “Crisis” crossover episodes, plus six “Crisis” featurettes.

‘Arrow’ Showrunner Reflects on Series’ Legacy on Eve of Final Season Arriving on Blu-ray

For most successful TV shows, a final season allows the writers to prepare for the finale by wrapping up various storylines in a way that sends the characters out on a high note. For the CW’s “Arrow,” wrapping up the series was going to be a bit more complicated, considering the series was the anchor of a multi-media franchise of several shows based on various DC Comics characters.

In its eighth and final season, “Arrow” was tasked with not only its own finale, but also a setting up a potential spinoff, not to mention servicing one of the largest crossover events in television history. And it had just 10 episodes to do it, when previous seasons had averaged about 23.

“There were challenges, but also we were very excited about the shorter episode order because  it allowed us the freedom to do a different kind of structure, and I don’t think we would have been able to do that if we had a full 22 or 23 episodes,” said executive producer Beth Schwartz, who has written for the show since its first season and served as showrunner for seasons seven and eight.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment April 28 will release Arrow: The Eighth and Final Season as three-disc Blu-ray Disc and DVD sets. The same day also sees the release Arrow: The Complete Series on 31 Blu-ray Discs or 38 DVDs containing all 170 episodes of the show that began in 2012.

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Adapted from the Green Arrow comic book, “Arrow” stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, the billionaire’s son who spends five years in exile following a shipwreck that leaves him stranded on a distant island. Tasked by his father’s dying wish to clean up Starling City, Queen returns home and takes up the mantle of a ruthless vigilante who will stop at nothing to complete his mission.

“Arrow”

The show’s cast included David Ramsey as John Diggle, Rick Gonzalez as Rene Ramirez, Juliana Harkavy as Dinah Drake, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. Former cast members such as Paul Blackthorne, Willa Holland, Colton Haynes, Colin Donnell, Echo Kellum, Susanna Thompson, John Barrowman and Josh Segarra return as guest stars in the final season, many in the finale, called “Fadeout.”

For the first five seasons, the show used a flashback structure interweaving and contrasting Oliver’s time in exile with events of the present.

“In some ways the flashback structure was so great, especially in the first two seasons, where is explains that missing time and that’s how it’s constructed,” Schwartz said. “But once we got past that time, it started to feel a little formulaic, where we were just putting flashbacks in because that’s what the structure was. I think that’s when we all realized that it would be nice to take a break from the flashback structure and spend more time with our present-day characters.”

In season seven, the show adopted a flash-forward narrative set in 2040 focused on Oliver’s children, Mia (Katherine McNamara) and William (Ben Lewis).

“We always talked about flash forwarding, but we didn’t want to assume the show was going to go for as many years as it went for, so we didn’t know if that was ever going to be a possibility,” Schwartz said. “But there was always the discussion early on that it would be interesting to see this idea of flash-forwarding to his children.”

Over the course of the series, Oliver meets new heroes, spawning a shared universe, known as the Arrowverse, that contains the TV shows “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Black Lightning.”

“Arrow”

In the final season of “Arrow,” Oliver becomes one of the key players in averting a crisis that threatens to destroy the multiverse. While annual crossovers between the Arrowverse have become a tradition, the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event was bigger than them all, involving characters from all the Arrowverse shows, but also cameos from previous DC Comics movies and TV shows such as “Smallville” and the 1966 version of “Batman.”

“Crisis” began with an episode of “Supergirl,” continued on “Batwoman,” “The Flash” and “Arrow” before concluding with an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.”

The season-eight and complete-series Blu-ray sets include a limited-edition bonus disc with all five episodes of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and six crossover featurettes. The ability to collect the entirety of “Crisis” thus gives the Blu-ray a distinct advantage over the DVD, which just includes the “Arrow” episode of the crossover.

“Arrow”

“We wrote the story imagining the viewer experiencing all of them in order as you watch them live on television,” Schwartz said. “You want to serve your own show obviously in your hour, but you’re also serving a larger story. And how the crossovers have evolved, especially ‘Crisis,’ is it has turned into a huge movie event. But it’s not even about your show anymore, it’s about the story of ‘Crisis.’ Yes, on the DVD it probably won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the other ones.”

Schwartz credits the shows’ assistant directors for keeping all the logistics of the crossover sorted out.

The real heroes are the first A.D.s on all the shows because the scheduling has the most challenges,” Schwartz said. “And for us having the crossover and also the series finale where we have so many guest stars from the other shows, I’m super grateful for all those actors who were able to squeeze that in after working tirelessly on all the crossover episodes.”

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Because the ‘Crisis’ storyline involved alien beings with the power to bend time and space, Oliver’s future children were brought to the present to join the fight.

That was super important in terms of getting that connection between Mia and Oliver because they never met,” Schwartz said. “So as soon as we knew we were doing ‘Crisis’ and we were allowed to do things like that, because our show as much as we can keep it is very grounded, so it opened it up a lot more which we were grateful for because we knew we could get these amazing scenes between Stephen and Kat. Mia and Oliver because had never met before and she was so much like him, and those scenes were great.”

“Green Arrow & The Canaries”

The fourth episode of “Crisis” was also the third-to-last episode of “Arrow.” The second-to-last episode of the final season, “Green Arrow & The Canaries,” was made as a backdoor pilot for a new spinoff in which Mia picks up the mantle of the Green Arrow 20 years in the future.

“The spinoff was the most challenging because we had to fit it right between ‘Crisis’ and the finale,” Schwartz said. I think it works really well looking back because you were actually able to see 20 years in the future after ‘Crisis’ …  and the other future that we saw leading up to ‘Crisis’ had been changed forever. So I think it allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we didn’t have that backdoor pilot in that position.”

Production shutdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have delayed the decision about whether the spinoff has been picked up, she said.

The Blu-ray and DVD also include deleted scenes, the Arrow: Hitting the Bullseye finale retrospective special, and highlights from the DC Comics shows at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The series is also available for purchase through digital retailers, and the Blu-ray editions of the series and final season will come with digital copies of the episodes.

Schwartz is now working on a project that will take her beyond the Arrowverse, but looks back fondly at her time helping to develop the franchise.

I think about it more in terms of the characters and not the reality of how they’re making all the shows, but the legacy of ‘Arrow’ and specifically Oliver Queen brings out this world that sort of got out of control with so many shows and it’s so crazy to think about it,” Schwartz said. “I just remember season one, watching the pilot and joining everyone in the writers room and wondering if people were going to like this show. We all liked it and we felt it was something different, but we had no idea how people would respond to it. It’s just so hard to wrap your brain around what it has created and it just makes me feel happy to have been a part of this experience.”

“Arrow”

‘Arrow’ Final Season on Disc April 28

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Arrow: The Eighth and Final Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD April 28 (order date March 24). Arrow: The Complete Series also will be available on Blu-ray and DVD the same day. All episodes from the series are currently available for digital sellthrough purchase.

The CW series debuted in 2012 as an adaptation of DC Comics’ Green Arrow character, a vigilante archer named Oliver Queen who fights corruption and injustice in Star City, with Stephen Amell in the title role.

The series eventually spawned the CW’s “Arrowverse,” which includes “The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman” and “Black Lightning.”

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In the 10 episodes of the final season, Oliver joins forces with current allies and his family from the future to fight an intergalactic crisis that threatens to destroy the multiverse, culminating in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover with the other Arrowverse shows.

The cast in the final season also includes David Ramsey, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Katherine McNamara, Ben Lewis, Joseph David-Jones and Katie Cassidy.

The ninth episode of the season, “Green Arrow & The Canaries,” serves as a backdoor pilot for an upcoming spinoff about Oliver’s daughter (McNamara) taking up his mission twenty years later with the help of the two Black Canaries (Cassidy and Harkavy).

Season eight Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes, the “Arrow: Hitting the Bullseye” retroactive documentary special, and highlights from the DC TV panels at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The Blu-ray also contains a code redeemable for digital copies of the episodes.

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The Blu-ray for the eighth season (also contained in the complete-series Blu-ray set) will include a bonus disc containing the complete five-part “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover with episodes from “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” Extras on the “Crisis” bonus disc include the featurettes “Crisis Past and Present: Kevin Conroy Bat Legend,” “Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Architects Return,” “Crisis Past and Present: Superman vs. Superman,” “Characters in Crisis: Pariah,” “Crisis Management” and “Character in Crisis: The Anti-Monitor.”