We’re seven seasons into the Arrowverse, and I still have to pinch myself. That any of this is happening, that any of this is on network television as a prime-time event is still utterly beyond comprehension for me as a life-long DC and comic book fan. The second part of the Elseworlds crossover event took Team Flarrow to Gotham City.
We’re definitely going to get into spoilers.
The Elseworlds crossover has continued to be additive to the Arrowverse in a way previous crossovers – all of which I’ve enjoyed – haven’t been able to. The first crossover, the Brave and the Bold, was simply an experiment. Invasion! was a scale test. Crisis on Earth-X was a test of the conceptual and logistical bounds of the CW superhero catalog. They were all successful, but the creative teams behind these smartly didn’t try to up the ante in terms of sheer size, instead going with a more intimate core cast and a concept that starts a slow burn for the future of the series.
The end result is that we get moments between these characters that give them new dimensions and tell us something new.
We had more of those funny moments from the previous night’s episode, like Arrow-Barry, commenting that he’d never deign to compare himself to a badass like Batman, and Speedster-Ollie insisting that he’s the real, original vigilante. I loved these moments because they work both on a meta level for us fans and as lines actually coming from these characters’ mouths. With Grant Gustin’s comment, we see that quippy, fun, fast Flash we know and love, that the main series so often has trouble writing into the ultra-serious storylines they put together for him. He’s in there. The writers can make that character work. The Amell’s line shows that the Green Arrow has some insecurity about there being more than one vigilante. It fits with the growing character we’ve been getting used to throughout this season of Arrow, and it hits the mark perfectly for the changes he’s going through.
But on a meta level, the writers are talking right to us. “We’ve all had a lot of fun here tonight, but we all know Batman’s actually the coolest guy, right?”
Other moments throughout the episode include a very Barry Allen-like speech from Speedster-Ollie to Felicity that shows a confidence in the character and in the writers. This marital drama isn’t a will-they-won’t-they, but rather the kind of fight every couple has, turned up to 11. The one-on-one talk between Supergirl and Batwoman reminds us that Kara is smart and powerful as heck. Her bullheaded approach to being good can make her seem a little dim at times, but moments like these remind us that she’s holding back, because reminding your friends and coworkers that you can hear their heartbeats and see through their clothes doesn’t win friends or popularity contests.
All of that aside, Elseworlds part 2 is a love letter to us DC fans from end to end. All at once, last night’s episode made canonical Dr. Jonathan Crane and his fear toxin, Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nigma, Psycho-Pirate, Victor and Nora Fries, Bane (through a small on-screen easter egg) and, most importantly, the Bat family and Gotham itself. DC and Warner Bros. seem to be embracing the idea that people can handle more than one version of a comic-book character at a time. It’s a far cry from the aborted Suicide Squad we saw hinted at and then taken away so long ago.
The Arrowverse is doing what no superhero production outside of a comic page has ever done more than dally with by truly embracing the multiverse. Kara mentions that her cousin and Batman are “frenemies.” Batwoman doesn’t know the full truth of that, but we do. Elseworlds puts Gotham and Batwoman firmly on Earth One, but Kara’s admission confirms a random character comment about “the bat guy” from an early Supergirl episode. If Batwoman does end up getting her own show, it could be anywhere in the multiverse.
And that’s why that moment, late into the episode, it so satisfying: John Wesley Shipp in his 90s Flash outfit, complete with the muscle suit, warning the heroes of Earth One about the incoming Crisis. This crossover, despite being called Elseworlds, matters to the Arrowverse perhaps more than any crossover before – even if the puppet on Legends of Tomorrow last week reopened the wound of Martin Stein’s death during the last crossover.
And as for Batwoman specifically, her debut was a strong one, but I’m hoping she’ll pop up in the next episode. I’ve been intentionally keeping myself in the dark on whether or not that’ll be the case, but she definitely deserves more screentime.
What this episode did show, though, is that the Arrowverse team has some work to do with figuring out how to “shoot” Batwoman fights. She (and her cousin Bruce) sit somewhere around Arrow on the Superhero scale, requiring a physicality that Stephen Amell has committed himself to. He’s a skilled athlete who can do pretty well on American Ninja Warrior, and he can actually handle a bow and arrow pretty well, too. Videos of his workouts have made their way online over the years and shown someone who doesn’t want to just stand aside when battles come up, and the prison battle from this season of Arrow is proof positive that that hasn’t changed. Ruby Rose is going to have to dive into training, and the team is going to have to figure out how to edit her fights to make her gadgets feel convincing. Right now, the shots feel more like disparate camera shots.
But it’s a great start for the character, and everything going on in this episode is satisfying in a way that makes it feel like a reward for the time we spend on these shows. In the same episode, we saw Batwoman, Reverse Flash, 90s Flash, a Monitor, a Bat Signal, Arkham Asylum, and black-suit Superman. I’ll be pinching myself right up until Elseworlds part 3 debuts tonight.