Re: Arrow / The Flash / Supergirl by Informant
I thought CRISIS ON EARTH–X was good and a strong correction on INVASION last year. The creators filmed four episodes of CRISIS when they would have normally filmed four of ARROW, four of FLASH, four of LEGENDS and four of SUPERGIRL.
As a result, the lead cast (Oliver, Barry and Kara) are evenly distributed across the entire story as opposed to last year where they were front and center for the first, reduced to cameos for the second and only returned fully for the last half of the third episode.
With CRISIS, Parts 1 – 2 feature them prominently. Part 3 has them appearing just as much but has them confined to locations (Kara at STAR Labs, Barry and Oliver either at the Nazi base or the Resistance HQ). In Part 4, the Legends take center stage to start, but Oliver, Barry and Kara resume their lead roles at the 1/3 mark.
As with last year, the crossover frontloads their screentime, then reduces them but has them return in full force for the end. This time, however, the supporting cast were sufficiently foregrounded that it doesn't feel like actor unavailability as much as giving the other characters their spotlight. Jax and Stein have a great rapport and arc throughout the crossover. Alex's uncertainty with a post–Maggie sex life is hilarious. When Mr. Terrific, Wild Dog and Black Canary show up in Part 3 to defend STAR Labs, it feels like a delightful surprise and when the Atom and Nate come to the rescue in Part 4, it feels appropriate to spend some time with them after lavishing so much attention on the stars.
Stein's exit from the series was meaningful and everything Professor Arturo's death wasn't on SLIDERS. It wasn't necessary to kill Stein off, but I appreciate the show wanting to take Victor Garber's departure as an opportunity for tragedy and growth and accept that he wouldn't return as a guest-star or come back next year. Where INVASION felt overblown, incidental and quickly forgotten, CRISIS will leave lingering impact on all the shows: Alex has gotten over Maggie; Barry and Iris are married; Oliver and Felicity are married; the Legends have lost their father figure.
Also, the CRISIS villains were much more effective than INVASION. The Dominators were generic thugs who wanted to invade Earth by attacking one rooftop. In contrast, Overgirl, Dark Archer and the Reverse Flash had clear goals in wanting Kara's heart. In terms of production, the scale was so much larger and yet the story was so much smaller and much more effective.
Production sounds like it was a bit desperate at times. Apparently, even with a four week shooting schedule for four episodes and the crew of four TV shows working on the project, actor availability was an issue. Every single actor had multiple photo doubles filming scenes concurrently so that any sequence that didn't need the actor's face onscreen was used for maximum advantage. The Dark Archer and Overgirl had masks so that it wouldn't be necessary for Amell and Benoist to play them except when exposed. It worked.
Amell says that taking four weeks to shoot four episodes (instead of 16) threw all the shows badly off schedule and that they can't do it again next year -- but from a quality standpoint, the INVASION approach was rather disappointing to me and I hope they don't return to it. It'd be best to accept that a crossover, to serve all the characters and get all of them onscreen for satisfying periods of time, will push back the subsequent episodes.
There were a bunch of minor issues with CRISIS. There were a few shots where the heroes are tag-teaming a villain while Nazi soldiers are firing guns offscreen (at civilians?) which almost makes one think the heroes care more about grudge matches than saving people. I was confused as to why Overgirl and Dark Archer, seeking Supergirl's heart, target an Earth on which Kara doesn't live. I missed the explanation for why only Sarah, Jax, Stein and Mick were at the wedding while the other Legends weren't. These are small issues.
My main problem with CRISIS: Reverse Flash has gone from confusing to inexplicable. LEGENDS got confused with showing Eobard Thawne after his erasure in the FLASH Season 1 finale. The explanation was confusing: he says he escaped into the Speed Force but was captured by Barry for "Flashpoint" except the Thawne in "Flashpoint" was the pre-Season 1 version. Ignore the reference to getting captured and it works to say that "Flashpoint" altered history so that Thawne, before he was wiped out of reality, escaped into the Speed Force, leading to his appearance in LEGENDS -- which ended with him being consumed by the wraith–form of Hunter Zolomon.
CRISIS offers no explanation for how Thawne survived that. It's also unclear why Thawne is working with the Earth–X villains, what he hopes to gain from associating with them or why this arrogant master manipulator and genius is following their plans and serving their goals. Thawne's time on THE FLASH was all about maneuvering Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, Joe and others. His tenure on LEGENDS was marked with controlling Damian and Merlyn. Downgrading Thawne to Overgirl and the Dark Archer's henchman is awkward.
Thawne also doesn't even offer any explanation for why he's played by Tom Cavanagh beyond a joke. He might as well have said, "Matt Letscher was busy this week." There's also a serious problem with Cavanagh's performance as Thawne which recalls neither the measured, aloof manipulator of Dr. Wells or the smug, superior antagonist of LEGENDS.
Instead, Cavanagh plays Thawne as clownishly malicious and it's a strange acting choice. Previously, Cavanagh and Letscher gave Thawne a restrained danger where, because he was so distant, you could never sure if he'd be (faux) avuncular or terrifyingly homicidal. But this time, Cavanaugh's Thawne is so unsubtle that he's predictable and because he's following Overgirl and the Dark Archer's orders, he's not scary. He's just silly.
And then we come to the end where Barry for some reason doesn't kill or incapacitate Thawne. I'm not sure what to think. The truth is, I too would hesitate to kill Thawne because I have no idea how he's alive again or why he's working with the Earth X villains. Without any clear sense of where Thawne's at in his personal timeline, without any clarity as to how killing Thawne could change the past or present (last time, a black hole opened), it makes a sort of sense for Barry to let Thawne go.
The problem is that none of this is onscreen. It's confusing why Barry thinks Thawne will simply leave the fight because the Flash pinned him. It's baffling why Thawne exits the scene willingly rather than rejoining the battle and forcing Barry to fight him again. Thawne's motivations are unfathomable to me here. Now it falls to subsequent FLASH episodes to explain how Thawne is alive and what he wants now.
It's rather sad that the most significant villain of THE FLASH has become a muddled mess of confusing exposition and mystifying contradictions and reduced to being Dark Archer and Overgirl's pawn. Cavanagh doesn't play this as the original Thawne; I wonder if this was an acting choice or the result of Cavanagh not having played this character for over two years and forgotten what he was like, or if he was trying to distinguish Thawne from Harry and went too far.
The simplest explanation, of course: this isn't Eobard Thawne. It's a time remnant.