It's my first time joining the Couch Club crew and I'm completely honored to be here. It's a killer column with a sterling pedigree and I’m feeling more than a little pressure because of that. Luckily, there's nothing I love more than intimate character arcs hidden in massive spectacle, so being asked to write about The CW's “Elseworlds” crossover—which was full of reflection, parallels, personal growth and lots of fighting—is a complete joy.
As a lifelong DC fan, this particular event was an incredibly exciting prospect, with a world filled with deep-cut characters like the Monitor and Doctor Destiny, cameos from John Wesley Shipp (the Flash I grew up with) and the introduction of our first live-action Batwoman. Though what truly surprised me was the writers’ dedication to using this epic, three-episode journey as a way for our characters to reflect on their roles and their place in the world.
This was sparked primarily by the Freaky Friday/Quantum Leap set-up of Oliver and Barry waking up with their roles, lives and powers reversed. It would have been easy for the crossover to have simply leaned into the comedy of the situation—which it did brilliantly—and call it a day. But from the outset, “Elseworlds” began to build in bigger ideas, from the parallel universes our characters inhabit, to the way that they began to see themselves reflected in each other.
The result was a powerful take on the material that elevated the fun trope “Elseworlds” began with. As Barry and Oliver were both faced with trying to live the other's life and wield their powers, there was a hilarity to the juxtaposition that highlighted how different the characters are. At first, during chapter 1’s battle with Amazo, the pair became almost caricatures of each other, playing with our expectations. Barry's Oliver was hyper-violent and grim-dark to the point of parody, and Oliver's Barry was cheerful to the point of sarcasm.
It's rare that we ever truly get to walk in the shoes of those that we know. Barry and Oliver are no doubt affronted by the sudden change in their lives, but the situation ultimately resulted in a mutual respect for each other in which they came to see strength where they once saw weakness. This particularly came into play after they were both infected with the Scarecrow's toxin and hallucinated the other's deepest fears.
It's not just Ollie and Barry who discovered shared ground, though. When the group ventured into Gotham, Kara found a kindred spirit in Bruce Wayne's billionaire cousin, Kate Kane.
And no, it wasn’t just the fact that their cousins are world-famous "frenemies"! Supergirl and Batwoman are both immensely powerful in their own way, and it was awesome to see them interact while Barry and Oliver fumbled their way through Gotham. In Kate, it was clear that Kara saw an equal—someone else who has had to lead a double life and struggle to affirm her own identity after growing up in the shadow of her more famous cousin. This lead to one of the best moments of the crossover where the pair acknowledged that they knew each other’s identities. They also both expressed their desire for future collaboration, with Kate stating they'd be “the World's Finest," which is a nice nod to the comics and another reflection as we get to see the Arrowverse's new, exciting vision for the iconic team-up.
Focusing a bit more on Supergirl for a moment, her “Elseworlds” introduction was an utter joy! Kara, Clark and Lois were seen resting up on the Kent farm, as Kara sought advice from her cousin about some recent events. It was a sweet moment, which just like John Wesley Shipp's appearance at the beginning of the episode, reflected on the small screen history of these characters that we love so much. As we saw the Kent farm for the first time, we heard the theme song from Smallville. It was a great fan nod, but also hinted at the wider world and multiple universes that the Arrowverse seems to contain. We know that Shipp's Flash hails from the now established Earth-90, meaning that there’s a possibility that all the versions of these characters that we've seen in the past still exist within their own parallel universes and could potentially appear in the future.
But if the first two chapters of “Elseworlds” were interested in highlighting different approaches to heroism, the third inverted the notion entirely, borrowing heavily from the DC Multiverse’s infamous Earth-3, where everyone good is a villain and everyone who we know as a villain is good. Though we got fewer intimate character beats in the crossover’s finale, we got to see some of our favorites having fun in completely reversed roles. It's especially interesting to see John Deegan's vision for Superman. After he rewrote reality for a second time, he cast himself as the iconic hero, creating a fascistic organization to help him keep his iron—should I say steel?—fist around the world. It's a fear that has often been levied against Superman, as he is essentially a god, and sure enough, when a maniac is given the chance to wield his powers, the path he chooses is the worst possible one.
Of course, we can’t talk about “Elseworlds” without talking about that reveal. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” will be coming to the small screen in 2019! We have a year of speculating, hoping and getting excited ahead of us, but before we dive into that, I have one small request. In the endlessly exciting cosmic potential of bringing Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s epic storyline to life, let’s not overlook the sort of brilliant character work that made this year’s crossover truly stand out. It’s great stuff, no matter which earth you happen to reside on.
Looking for more Couch Club? Our weekly #DCTV column will return next month after the midseason TV hiatus.
Rosie Knight writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com. Be sure to follow her on Twitter at @RosieMarx.