When last we saw our heroes, Green Arrow, Supergirl, and The Flashes of two worlds had confronted The Monitor over his enablement of John Deegan to meddle with the timeline. The standoff ended with the seemingly all-powerful Monitor teleporting away with the Book of Destiny, returning it to Deegan so that he could try again with another timeline rewrite. Suddenly history was altered yet again, and Barry Allen and Oliver Queen found themselves as a powerless duo of outlaws known as The Trigger Twins—and square in the sights of a black-clad Superman…
This year’s Arrowverse crossover is officially over. Last night’s Supergirl presented part 3 of “Elseworlds,” and the story ended in about as satisfying a fashion as it could, with high-stakes action, some solid character work, a few crowd-pleasing moments, some big unanswered questions, and an ending that teases an event like no other for next year.
Before the episode even starts—before the episode even starts—in the pre-show, pre-’previously on’ summary, which is usually dedicated to Kara and her status quo, we instead learn that, in this latest rewritten reality, John Deegan (Jeremy Davies) has made himself the black-clad Superman who first appeared at the end of the previous night’s Arrow. That’s a hell of a way to kick off an episode, and it’s a pretty decent indication of how crazy things are going to get before the hour is over.
Facing down a Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) who doesn’t recognize them, Oliver (Stephen Amell) almost immediately figures out that this is Deegan. Super-Deegan gloats about how he’s Earth’s true hero now, and about the other changes he’s made to reality, and specifically to Barry (Grant Gustin) and Oliver’s life. The pair escape after forcing Super-Deegan into a situation in which he has to act heroically rather than stop them, and immediately develop a plan: find Cisco (Carlos Valdes), and get him to breach them to Earth-38 so they can get help from the real Superman.
As Barry and Oliver search for whatever version of Cisco they’re going to find here (presumably evil), Mar Novu, aka The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett), intercepts them and transports them to some sort of star platform. Novu seems impressed by Barry and Oliver’s refusal to give up despite the overwhelming odds against them, and says there may be hope for this universe yet. Novu says that only by discovering their true selves can the heroes of Earth-1 avoid the fate of all of the other Earths. Then he zaps Barry and Oliver back to Earth-1.
Still focused on the task at hand, Oliver and Barry head to a known criminal hangout in Central City. There they find a few familiar faces: Gary from Legends of Tomorrow (Adam Tsekhman) the bartender; the Earth-1 doppelganger for James Olson (Mehcad Brooks, going by ‘Jimmy’ and speaking with a truly horrendous Brooklyn accent) is hired muscle; and Cisco is a crime boss who expects to be referred to as ‘Mr. Ramon.’ Before Cisco can have Jimmy kill Oliver and Barry, they convince Cisco to listen to them by invoking the name of Cisco’s death brother, and promising to rid the world of Superman. In Cisco’s private office, Barry offers to help him learn how to breach to other worlds, and a short time later they make it to the Fortress of Solitude on Earth-38, where they find Superman and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) preparing for a quiet evening in. Barry and Oliver figure that, if they can get the Book of Destiny yet again, they should be able to fix things, and Clark agrees to go back to Earth-1 with them.
Meanwhile, on Earth-1, we get a better look at how Deegan has rewritten reality yet again, this time with himself at the center of it. This reality basically worships Superman, and STAR Labs is now the base of operations for Super-Deegan, with Diggle (David Ramsey) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) helping run the show. They also have a prisoner in the pipeline: Supergirl, a person who Deegan doesn’t know anything about because she’s not included in the Book of Destiny (presumably because it’s the Book of Earth-1 Destiny and she’s from Earth-38), but who he knows is powerful. He rewrote the timeline based on his encounter with her in Arkham during Part 2, but rather than become Supergirl he decided to become Superman because why not add misogyny to the list of Deegan’s offenses. It also turns out that there’s an Earth-1 doppelganger of Kara’s sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), and in this version of reality she works for Super-Deegan at STAR Labs. After a few different encounters, Kara is ultimately able to appeal to this Alex’s goodness by telling her all about how wonderful her version of Alex is. This Alex lets Kara out of her power-dampening cell, and as they make their escape they’re confronted by Super-Deegan, Diggle, and Caitlin. As Deegan is about to use his heat vision on the two of them, a breach opens up between them, and Barry, Oliver, Cisco, and the real Superman appear.
What follows is actually a pretty impressive aerial battle between Superman and Super-Deegan in the skies over Central City. We’re treated to Superman rescuing civilians who are caught in the line of fire, and to an office working mistakenly thinking that the real Superman is Bizarro. Back at STAR Labs, Oliver engages with Diggle and Caitlin, while Barry, Kara, and Doppel-Alex go looking for the Book of Destiny. Alex leads them to Super-Deegan’s Fortress of Solitude, which is actually the Time Vault in STAR Labs (the hidden room that Eobard Thawne used to use). The Book of Destiny is there, and luckily it’s unlocked already. Kara opens the book briefly and, her powers still weakened from being in the Pipeline, is almost overwhelmed by the power inside. She the Book of Destiny from the vault and races out of STAR Labs, finding Clark in downtown Central City. She gives the book to Clark, who opens the book and begins the process of fixing reality – at least as far as Kara, Barry, and Oliver are concerned, as the three of them appear in costume. The Flash and Green Arrow (who has defeated Diggle and Caitlin in an off-screen battle) join Supergirl and a still-writing Superman, but Super-Deegan returns and, in what is clearly a glance in the direction of Man of Steel’s controversial climax, threatens to snap Barry’s neck unless Superman closes the book. Oliver nocks a Kryptonite arrow and threatens to kill Super-Deegan, but Barry talks him down, saying that being better than his inner darkness may be part of The Monitor’s test. After a moment’s hesitation, Oliver lowers his bow. Super-Deegan throws Barry aside, creates a thunderclap with his hands that knocks everyone off-balance, and grabs the Book of Destiny before taking off.
Back at STAR Labs, Supergirl and Alex toss the unconscious Diggle and Caitlin into the Pipeline. Doppel-Alex expresses concern about whether she’ll still be herself after history is rewritten, and Kara reassures her that she will be no matter what reality is like. Meanwhile, outside, the timeline is going crazy. STAR Labs cycles through being an Earth-X version of the building, to the normal Earth-1 model, then back to being Super-Deegan Central. Back in the command center, our quartet of heroes are trying to figure out what to do. Barry theorizes that, if he and Kara travel in opposite directions around the earth at just over Mach-7, they should be able to slow the Earth’s rotation—and slow down time itself, allowing Oliver and Superman a chance to stop Deegan. As they set off to try it, Superman tells them they’re going to die in the process, which he knows because he read it in the Book of Destiny. Even knowing what their fates might be, Kara and Barry insist they have to try anyway, and they take off. Oliver leaves as well, having an idea for a way to stop Kara and Barry from dying. He tells Clark to get the book, and hopes aloud that destinies can be rewritten.
Oliver’s returns to where he and Barry were intercepted by The Monitor earlier in the episode, and storms through the door, ending up on Novu’s star platform. Ollie calls The Monitor on his BS, saying he doesn’t think the Monitor is testing them on their strength, but on their goodness, and The Monitor admits that Oliver is the first person to confront him. Oliver says that Barry and Kara are the best of them, and if The Monitor’s test is going to end up killing them, he’s not a very smart god. Novu counters that that balance must be maintained, and asks what Oliver would do to maintain it in exchange for Barry and Kara’s lives.
Back in downtown Central City, Super-Deegan has the book open, changing reality left and right and reveling in the chaos that he’s created. Superman confronts him, and Deegan brings Amazo back to handle the Man of Steel. Suddenly a breach opens, and Earth-38’s Brainiac-5, Martian Manhunter, and Lois appear. Brainy fights Amazo, and Lois uses some sort of a big hammer to knock Deegan off-balance, while J’onn protects the civilians. Deegan counters Lois’s strike by turning the energy of the book on Superman and Lois, which knocks Clark back and sends Lois flying. That’s when Kara and Barry’s plan begins to work, and time starts to slow. Unfortunately, the two of them are literally burning up in the process.
With time slowing, Oliver appears back in Central City. Deegan turns the Book of Destiny on him, and Oliver fires an explosive arrow into it, causing it to rupture. The alterations to the timeline instantly cease, and time returns to a normal speed. Clark catches the falling Lois, as she knew he always would, and Barry and Kara return to Central City to regroup with their friends. Meanwhile, Deegan is transformed by the last of the energy from the Book of Destiny into a withered creature, still living but hideously deformed. The pages of the book now appear browned and charred, and Oliver shuts it without reading a page. Brainiac-5 returns to the group with Amazo’s motherboard in hand, and everyone is relieved that the crisis is over.
Later, the heroes of Earth-38 return to their homeworld, and we return to Smallville with Kara, Clark, and Lois. While Kara was away Clark and Lois finished fixing up the farm, and after praising Kara’s strength and heroism, Clark finally gets around to telling her what he had wanted to tell her before Oliver and Barry showed up: he and Lois are going to live in Argo City…because Lois is pregnant. The idea of Superman stopping being Superman is initially unthinkable, but Clark says he’s comfortable stepping aside for a bit because he knows Kara is there to protect the world, and that the world doesn’t need Superman if it already has Supergirl. Later, at the Fortress of Solitude, Clark finally proposes to Lois, and it’s the most Lois and Clark moment ever but it’s really adorable.
Back on Earth-1, Barry and Oliver have retired to a bar, which they always seem to do when these Arrowverse crossovers are over. The pair talk about the joys of superspeed, and Barry thanks Oliver for whatever he did to get The Monitor to change he and Kara’s destinies (though Oliver denies any involvement and says Barry and Kara did it themselves). Oliver then proposes a final toast: “to appreciating what you have, however long you might have it.” As he and Barry drink, Oliver’s phone rings, and he steps away. On the other end of the line is Batwoman (Ruby Rose). Deegan is now locked up in Arkham, and Kate tells Oliver that Deegan seems to have made a friend.
In Arkham, we see a seemingly catatonic Deegan, and in the next cell over is the Psycho-Pirate, who utters a familiar tagline: “Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same.”
That’s right, friends. Crisis on Infinite Earths is coming to the Arrowverse next fall.
Even aside from the absolute shock of the final Crisis tease, there’s a lot to love in this episode. From Barry’s physical discomfort at doing anything remotely evil, to the pleading, thoughtful interaction between Kara and her sister’s doppelganger, to the wall-to-wall action of the show’s second half. Slowing down time is some of the most comic book-y stuff we’ve ever seen on a CW show, but it feels totally natural in the context of the characters and what’s happening. I was also glad to see the Psycho-Pirate return at the end of this episode, as his appearance in Part 2 had felt like throwaway fan service, and I have a great affection for the character largely because of his role in Crisis on Infinite Earths (and in the Grant Morrison-written Animal Man storyline that followed up on it).
The true standout in this episode is Tyler Hoechlin, who not only continues to embody everything I could ever want in a live-action Superman, but also delivers a fantastic performance as Deegan-as-Superman. The way he portrays the latter, in terms of physicality, line delivery, everything, is completely different from the former. One gets the sense that, even if he’d been wearing the exact same Super-suit as the Earth-38 version, you would still be able to tell them apart just based on Hoechlin’s performance alone. I was also surprisingly affected by the developments in Clark and Lois’s relationship. These are characters who have only appeared a handful of times on Supergirl—Lois just made her first Arrowverse appearance two days ago—so it may just have been affection for the characters as they exist in the larger cultural ether that led to my reaction to their engagement and baby news. I also liked the moment between Clark and Kara a lot. I’ve been watching Supergirl from the beginning, and I’ve never felt that she was particularly under the shadow of Superman on the show, but it was still nice to have Clark pass on the figurative mantle to Kara.
As a whole, “Elseworlds” may not have been the strongest of the five Arrowverse crossovers, but it was still very entertaining in a ‘don’t think about it too much and just enjoy the ride’ sort of way. At the end of Part 2 I wondered how well the finale would be able to tie up all of its loose ends, and if anything that had happened up until that point would ultimately matter. Thankfully Part 3 was able to tie together the disparate elements from the previous installments, and to conclude the story in a satisfying way. This episode was definitely the most substantial installment, and the biggest one in scope. The lingering questions left in the end will surely come back on our heroes at some point: What threat was The Monitor preparing Earth for? What happened to the Earth-90 Flash? And most significantly, what bargain did Oliver make with The Monitor in order to spare Barry and Kara’s lives? Hopefully we don’t have to wait a full year for the answers to those questions.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.