UK TV review: Supergirl Season 3, Episode 8 (Crisis on Earth-X, Part 1)
Ivan Radford | On 10, Dec 2017
Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Supergirl, click here.
Superhero crossovers are all the rage these days, but they come with a degree of risk – just ask anyone involved in DC’s big screen blockbusters or Marvel’s Iron Man 2. Now, the crossover craze has made it to the small screen, with The CW following up Netflix’s The Defenders with its latest multi-show team-up, Crisis on Earth-X. And The CW have clearly been taking notes from The Defenders, as well as from their own Invasion! last season: this four-part event is more like a standalone mini-series, and all the better for it, serving up genuine spectacle, huge entertainment and a fair dose of emotional weight too.
Supergirl is a huge part of that success, not least because it tees the whole thing up, as we see Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) head to the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West on Earth-1. A wedding? Just as Kara is getting over Mon-El’s return as a married man, and Alex is trying to move on from Maggie? It’s a perfectly timed excuse for a crossover, giving both our leading ladies something to work with, in a crowded ensemble piece that will inevitably leave them with little screentime. Indeed, it’s testament to how economically written this whole affair is that Supergirl’s instalment finds time for cute humour and character beats, even when it’s having to do a lot of heaving lifting, exposition-wise. (And let’s not even get started on Kara singing, as Barry goes down the aisle – a delightful touch from these Superfriends.)
“What happened with Mon-El?” asks Barry, as Grant Gustin and Benoist immediately strike up their adorable banter once again. “The end of the world?” she offers. “Faced it.” he replies. “He’s married,” she continues. He pauses. “I’ve got nothing for that.
Alex, meanwhile, is a joy to see, as she ends up in a one-night stand with Sara Lance from Legends of Tomorrow (an on-fire Caity Lotz). Her crawling noisily out of bed the morning after is almost as fun as seeing them action in action together in a fight against Nazi Doppelgangers. (“The only thing we know about each other is what we look like with clothes off,” quips Sara, at one point. “Beautiful, by the way.”)
Speaking of which, the Nazi Doppelgangers. They come a parallel universe – from Earth-X, to be exact – rudely interrupt the nuptials, just as Barry and Iris attempt to say “I do”, and what ensues is the first of several impressive set pieces, as Supergirl finds herself facing off against a sinister, dark version of Supergirl (called Overgirl), and Oliver from Arrow goes bow-to-bow with Dark Arrow. (See also: the set piece that involves Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash stop a building from falling over in a slightly hurried barrage of cuts, but still coordinating their complimentary powers effectively.) So well done is this initial action sequence (complete with Alex and Sara punching their way through Nazi henchmen) that when Episode 2 rolls around, we don’t need the “twist” explaining to us: we already understand that these are the sinister, SS equivalents of our main heroes.
The Doppelgangers’ plan is pretty simple. Dark Arrow is the latest successor to Hitler himself, and is teaming up with Overgirl, an evil Prometheus and Reverse-Flash from The Flash, so that they can steal a sublight generator. Not so they can blow up Earth-1, but so they can generate enough artificial red sunlight that both Kryptonians (Kara and Overgirl) will be weakened enough to permit a heart transplant – and, in case you haven’t guessed by now, it’s not the kind of heart transplant that will leave Kara alive afterwards.
And so Supergirl spends a large chunk of this crossover strapped to a chair in S.T.A.R. Labs, as Dark Arrow and Reverse-Flash prepare to cut Kara open (Prometheus-X takes the cyanide route very quickly, after being captured by Arrow, but Tom Cavanagh is having so much fun that the Tommy Merlyn Doppelganger Prometheus-X is revealed to be isn’t sorely missed). Arrow and the others, meanwhile, are moved to Earth-X and kept in a concentration camp, overseen by a Doppelganger of Arrow’s Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne is having a whale of a time).
If that sounds like Kara doesn’t have much to do, though, you’d be wrong, because the more time Supergirl is stuck in that chair, the more time Melissa Benoist gets to play nasty as Overgirl – and she is superb in the role, sinking her teeth into sinister stares and matter-of-fact threats, all total contrasts to her usually open and sincere presence. We soon discover that Overgirl isn’t just a partner of Dark Arrow, but also his wife – and full credit to Benoist and Stephen Amell for having convincing chemistry, while still being hilariously cartoonish in their villainous costumes.
As the crossover progresses, we get more time to admire the well-balanced silliness and spectacle of the Legends in action, as well The Flash doing his thing – often against Earth-X cousins of villains we’ve met on Supergirl, including Metallo and Red Tornado. We also get to meet members of the Earth-X rebels, including none other than Russell Tovey as Ray (he does a lot with a little screentime) and General Schott, Winn’s Doppelganger (three cheers, as always, for The CW finding something for Jeremy Jordan to do). He may be absent on the Supergirl side of the story, but he’s clearly enjoying playing gruff and important in the parallel world, spearheading the plan to sabotage Dark Arrow’s temporal gateway machine thing.
If the biggest emotional impact comes from Jax and Stein’s ongoing conflict – culminating in an uneasy union to save Stein just long enough to get him through the portal back to Earth-1 – the most satisfying pay-off comes from seeing Supergirl battle her anti-self. From the off, Kara seems stronger than Overgirl, injuring her significantly in the opening battle; even when Kara is trapped (effectively waiting to be rescued by the always-enjoyable Ray Palmer), Overgirl is vulnerable and in pain, the kind of weakness that could have left anyone other than Benoist failing to provide an intimidating nemesis. Even when Overgirl is used as a bargaining chip by Oliver, threatening to kill her unless Dark Arrow surrenders, it’s a result of Benoist and Amell’s chemistry that makes the effectiveness of that threat believable.
It all climaxes with another punch-up/fly-off between the duo, and director Gregory Smith (a veteran of Legends, Arrow and the Flash) has lots of fun seeing them one-up each other, or spinning around in the sky, grappled in a mutual eye-laser stand-off. Overgirl, though, eventually goes nuclear, and so Kara flies her up into space, where she detonates harmlessly – paving the way for Arrow to dispatch Dark Arrow with a similarly kick-ass finality.
The final moments, which see Barry and Iris and Oliver Felicity get double-hitched, are a sweet coda to a guns-blazing, powers-bursting extravaganza. It’s telling, though, that while the Supergirl characters are quietly pushed back into their territory, we still get the sense that Alex has taken a promising step towards moving on properly from Maggie. Character beats and exciting action all in one four-part adventure? This is what a successful crossover looks like – DC’s big-screen heavyweights could learn a thing or two.
Supergirl Season 3 is available on Sky 1 every Monday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.