“How do you guys change so fast?”
Welcome to what has become known as The Arrowverse. It’s the common name used to describe the DC Universe as it is presented and maintained on television, primarily those shows featured on the CW. It’s named after the first of those shows to hit the air: Arrow. That world has been steadily expanding to the point where it began to include each of the shows as they arrived on the network. On The Flash that expansion went on to include older television shows that featured DC characters, in that case the 1990’s series The Flash. Now that universe is growing to include the films both past and present and was reaching a point where it might all collapse under its own weight. It might have just been too much to handle as the comic-friendly concept of a multi-verse is used to explain these various incarnations of characters and events. It could get confusing, and that’s exactly what started to happen in the DC comics in the 1980’s.
That’s when Marv Wolfman was courted over from rival Marvel and sold the company on a huge game-changing idea. That idea was Crisis In Infinite Earths. For over a year all of the DC titles converged into one large crossover story. The end result was an attempt to bring everything back to a simpler time with only one Earth and a chance to reboot origins and continuity to give the next generation of writers a bit of freedom and to also bring in the new age of intimidated comic readers. It turned out to be one of the most successful comic events in history. It put DC’s circulation back on the map and literally saved the world of DC characters. If it could do that for comic books, why couldn’t it do the same for the television universe? Time will tell what the impact of this experiment might be, but this is the year of Crises, and all of your Arrowverse shows will be changed significantly.
So why am I telling you all of this in a review for the fifth season of Supergirl? Supergirl is the show that will be most changed by all of this. It’s the only one that existed completely on a different Earth than the rest of the shows: Earth-38, to be exact. So if only one Earth is to survive, Earth: Prime, what does that mean for Supergirl? It means it will have to adapt to a brand new world, and that’s what this fifth season is all about.
Villain Lex Luthor (Cryer), who was killed in the previous Earth, is now considered by mankind to be a good guy. He’s getting the Nobel Peace Prize and hyped as the Man of Tomorrow, a moniker often associated with his enemy Superman. He runs the DEO, and by the way, Kara Zor-El (Benoist) has been his best buddy and now has a new uniform with pants. Of course most of that had little to do with the destruction of the multi-verse and more to do with actress Benoist having weight and balance issues between that cumbersome cape and the mini-skirt. CATCO has been sold to Andrea Rojas (Gonzalo), and she wants to turn the online media giant into a clickbait site. This isn’t going to sit well with our reporters, and it leads to the resignation of James Olsen (Books) and him passing off his mantle of The Guardian. Part of this is Lena’s feeling of betrayal about Kara and not sharing her secret with her friend. So as you tune into this fifth season, things will look very different.
So, you’re asking yourself, who the heck is Kara Zor-El, and what is this DEO.? I get it. You’re just not caught up on the CW series Supergirl. It’s not such a good idea to start here, however. You can check out our reviews for the first three seasons here. Catch up on the episodes, and then join the rest of us for Supergirl: The Complete Fifth Season.
The changes find Lena (McGrath) taking her feelings of betrayal a step further. She sets out to create a way to reprogram human brains to eliminate the bad stuff. She wants to program a prime directive that states “Do no harm”. But she’s not the only one attempting to change people through tech. There’s a new company and product called Obsidian. Rojas is using CATGO to launch new virtual reality (VR) contact lenses that end up allowing people to design and then pretty much live in their own virtual world and life. It’s addicting, and Luthor is using a glitch in safety protocols to bring vegetable-brained people to a group called Leviathan. These are ancient aliens who crashed on earth back in the days of the dinosaurs. They tell us it was their craft that caused the kill-off of the dinosaurs. They have been laying low with unimaginable powers and consider themselves the protectors of the Earth, just not so much the people. Yeah, we’ve had the whole “people are the parasites killing the earth” plot before. The cool part is this one stars X-Files and Stargate favorite Mitch Pileggi as the godlike alien who becomes part of this literal triple threat to Earth.
“In the beginning there was only a single black infinitude. Then the infinitude found release, and finally the darkness broke, filling it with life and finally the multiverse, every existence multiplied by possibility, and spread out before space and time in infinite measure. Civilizations rose and fell. And rose and fell again across reality’s grasping expanse. Life. A precious gift persevering in the face of every obstacle until finally the age of heroes was born. Chaos, the constant enemy of life kept at bay by champions from across the multiverse. Joining forces to fight on behalf of all creation. They found each other just in time, because now the entire multiverse is about to come under attack. There is a malevolent force at work, one driven by a singular goal: the destruction of all there is. I have planned, there are some who say I have schemed, but the day for preparation has passed. The crisis is upon us…”
Batwoman joins the other shows in the epic 5-part crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths. Give Warner Brothers bigtime credit here. They have been doing a great job of including these crossover episodes in each of the different shows’ release sets. They’ve fine-tuned the inclusion this season by taking some advice I’ve been giving for years. This time they cut a separate disc that has the entire event all in one place so you can pop that baby in and watch it all without interruption. That’s exactly what I did, and man, was that fun.
It really started with last year’s crossover and the introduction of The Monitor (Garrett), who used that crisis to test the heroes of the Arrowverse. Then the final season of Arrow used its last handful or so of episodes to lay the groundwork. Oliver becomes the central hero who makes a deal to lay down his own life to protect Barry and Kara, whom fate has originally selected to die in the crisis. The crossover event begins on Supergirl.
Lyla Michaels (Anderson) becomes harbinger and gathers the players from the various Earths and cities. Supergirl is first, because Earth-38 will be the first to be taken by the antimatter storm that is driving across the multiverse to inevitably destroy all Earths in all universes. She has to watch her Earth die along with Argos, where her cousin Clark (Hoechlin) and Lois (Tulloch) are living with their new baby, Jonathan. Both are saved along with Kara to fight the crisis. We learn there was an Anti-Monitor who was experimenting with antimatter and created this wave. His plan is to wipe the multiverse clean so that he can write his own universe of antimatter, and thanks to Nash Wells, this year’s Flash Wells, the door is opened, and the destruction is unleashed.
The second entry comes with Batwoman, and we learn that the only hope of defeating this anti-universe is through seven people called paragons. They represent virtues like truth, courage, love, hope, humanity, destiny, and honor. Four are revealed in this episode, and the search is on for the other three. That means we get to meet alternate versions of the heroes that are represented by earlier film and television depictions of these characters. Kevin Conway, who has voiced Batman/Bruce Wayne on a ton of animated shows, is one of those encounters. He’s dressed in an exoskeleton suit and is a bitter Wayne who lost everything and has become an instrument of destruction, even killing the Superman of his world. We get to see Tom Welling return as a retired Superman, and we’re back on the Kent farm from Smallville. Brandon Routh gets to jump out of his Ray Palmer guise for a short time and put on a modified version of his Superman Returns suit to show us a retired version of that Man of Steel. He’s now The Daily Planet’s boss. We even get a short cameo by Burt Ward who, of course, played Robin in the camp 1960’s television show opposite the late Adam West’s Batman.
The Flash delivers hour three, where the Arrowverse is joined by another comics hero enjoying a third season as a streaming DC show. Cress Williams brings his Black Lightning character to the show. It also marks the return of the 1990’s The Flash, John Wesley Shipp, as Jay Garrick.
In hour four Arrow spends one of its final 10 episodes joining the fun. Here we even catch up with Ezra Miller, who played The Flash in the Justice League film and the intended but beleaguered Flash feature film. Now Oliver is playing a little Jedi Master game with the team. He’s a rather mysterious hooded character who helps guide the team. Barry has to travel to the Speed Force, where he must reunite the team after the destruction of the multiverse. It’s a place outside of space and time and the only place they can exist at that point.
The final hour comes courtesy of Legends of Tomorrow. The team now has a version of the time ship which is now voiced by Wentworth Miller, who of course played the redeemed Captain Cold Leonard Snart and who was Dominic Purcell’s Prison Break brother. Purcell is Rory, Snart’s old partner, and they manage to have great chemistry even when one of them is nothing but a voice. The end of Crisis on Infinite Earths is not exactly a win. They could not save the multiverse, but they did save one of them. Now Earth: Prime contains elements and characters from various Earths so that Supergirl now lives on the same planet as the other heroes. The 1980’s comic event was the brainchild of Marv Wolfman, who had migrated over to DC from Marvel and pitched the idea to solve DC’s then really bad continuity issues. Multiple places had confused readers to such a point sales were at a decades-long low, and this story across all the DC’s titles allowed them to reset everything to free them from old continuity and issues, much like Star Trek employed the Kelvin timeline in the new films to reset everything. The entire Arrowverse will now get a chance to reboot things without completely wiping the slate clean. There will be no more “breaching” to travel between the many Earths. The timelines will also be altered so that each hero will be returning to a world somewhat changed from the one they left, and they’ll have to catch up on the new history of the consolidated planet.
Overall this was a very good event. It’s the best yet, and now I’m not sure how they are going to beat it in future years. With COVID shutting down productions, I’m willing to bet there will be no major crossover this next season. That doesn’t mean there won’t be visits, but it’s going to take heroic effort just to get the seasons back on track without the pressure and challenge that such a huge event entails. The event also sets up the establishment of a Justice League within the Arrowverse. In a wonderful homage to the old 70’s cartoons of Justice League and Super Friends, they set up in a building that looks just like the cartoon Hall Of Justice, and there’s even a nod to the alien monkey character Gleek.
Braniac has the best story Post-Crisis hands down. Several versions of himself have made it onto this Earth, and he has to come to grips with his various personality traits and abilities. He disables his emotional restraints in order to deal with a romantic relationship with Nia Nal (Maines). He ends up helping Luthor because he believes Luthor can defeat the Leviathan guys but ends up caught having to betray those he cares about. Rath gets to do some amazing work here, not only playing his different parts but also his journey with Luthor is changing him in ways that Rath does an incredible job of bringing to the surface. What a wonderful performance and story arc.
My biggest complaint for the season and show in general is a tendency to overplay the melodrama. We get far too many scenes of Kara crying to Lena about how sorry she was to betray her, and I can’t help thinking that she’s doing it over and over again. We get it. Lena gets it. We all get it. Now make it stop, please.
The season has some milestones to celebrate. Benoist gets to direct her first episode, and the show also celebrates its 100th episode this season. The 100th episode is a play off the iconic Jimmy Stewart Christmas annual It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s called It’s A Super Life. Mxyzptlk returns with a new actor Thomas Lennon. Kara is trying to come to grips with her new life, and the imp gives her a chance to go back and change certain moments that she thinks might help her relationship with Lena and have a better life. Of course, each change leaves her unsatisfied and even disastrous for one or both.
You get all 19 episodes on four discs plus the bonus disc for the complete Crossover Event.
There are new characters to deal with this season. In the previous season finale Brainiac (Rath) was stranded in our time and now works for the DEO. Rath gives us a wonderfully nuanced character who has a little bit of Data and a little bit of the Tin Woodsman in him. You have to love his confusion over pop culture. He also has an obsession with Keanu Reeves and looks to his movies for inspiration. It’s a bit of a fun gag, because Rath looks remarkably like Reeves. His arrogance would b off-putting if it weren’t so flawed and innocent. I like the addition and hope he remains for the duration.
The other new character is Nia Nal, played by Nicole Maines. Nia is a shy girl who comes to work at Catco and befriends Kara. She’s also an alien-in-hiding who has the ability to dream glimpses of the future. She’s that typical hard-to-fit-in character who everyone wants to shelter. With the help of the team she finds her self-confidence and becomes a hero. She learns to create energy projections in various forms and fights with the team. There’s potential here I hope to see explored down the road.
I’m a huge fan of David Harewood, who brings a lot of heart to the series as ‘Jonn ‘Jonzz, also known as the Martian Manhunter. We don’t see him quite as much this season, as he’s on his own little journey of discovery. He returns to his roots as a private detective and isn’t given the kind of screen time the actor and character deserves. I love the actor’s passion and hope to see him back to full involvement in the future.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.200:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. There are six episodes per disc, and that hurts the bit-rate somewhat. There are good production values here, and you get something better than broadcast or streaming, to be sure. Black levels are fair, and the colors do pop on this show in particular.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is much more dynamic than the video presentation. The score is very uplifting and pierces through even when it’s not overly loud. You still always hear the dialog with clarity and perfect placement. The surrounds complete the immersive experience with wind while she’s flying and sweet sub range during the more explosive scenes.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Gag Reel: (7:38)
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Crisis On Infinite Earths – The Architects Return: (11:55) Many of the DC people who were involved in the original 80’s comic story talk about that event and the impact it had on DC and comics in general. Marv Wolfman is the center of that discussion and offers a ton of inside information on the comics event.
Crisis Management: (13:08) Showrunners from each of the five shows talk about the connection between the comic event and the crossover. There’s some welcome behind-the-scenes footage, and Marv Wolfman continues to glue it all together.
Crisis Past And Present – Kevin Conway Bat Legend: (3:17) A profile of Conway and his cameo on the crossover.
Crisis Past And Present – Superman vs. Superman: (4:37) A behind-the-scenes look at the Superman fight as well as a profile on Brandon Routh’s chance to put the suit back on from his film version of Superman.
Characters In Crisis – Pariah: (4:18) A behind-the-scenes look at Tom Cavanagh’s new version of Wells, who plays a big part in the event.
Characters In Crisis – The Anti-Monitor: (4:55) A character profile on the event’s big bad.
The Best Of DC TV’s Comic Con Panels San Diego 2019: (51:05) Warner Brothers has shifted from including each show’s panels to highlights from all of the DC shows appearances. It’s the same feature on each release. Take what you can get here, because next year there won’t be any Comic Con stuff to include thanks to the pandemic.
The Post-Crisis season gets a little harder to follow. I know. So much for simplification. Several episodes go back to early points and give a particular character point of view. It’s clever and serves to give us some good stories, but there are moments I’m confused at exactly where we are. It doesn’t help that the season lost three episodes so that the season did not end where it was planned. We all know what happened. COVID shut down productions all over the globe, and seasons were forced to end at whatever point shows were ready to air. The rest will be reworked and added to the next season. Nobody could have foreseen let alone prepared for what was to come, and these show crews did and continue to do their best. This was one villain these heroes could not defeat. “Sometimes the good guys just don’t win.”