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This fall marks one of the largest media endeavors we’ve seen on TV since the heyday of Star Trek in the ‘90s. CW, the kings of television superheroes, will be launching 4 individual series this fall, each one interconnected with the other 3 and all building towards a massive 4 crossover that will add up to a week long event. This is the culmination of years of work and building, starting with Arrow in 2012, building into The Flash in 2014, launching Legends of Tomorrow in 2016 and now taking on CBS’ Supergirl show. This will be the third such crossover for CW and, in the tradition of these multi-show team-ups, it’s aiming to handle a pretty hefty task.
The first CW crossover between The Flash and Arrow in 2014 took on the job of more or less completely redirecting CW’s style of superhero production, making it more light and fun rather than drab and dreary. The 2015 crossover between the two shows acted as a prequel episode to Legends of Tomorrow, setting up team members Hawkman and Hawkgirl as well as series villain Vandal Savage. Now, this new crossover takes on the new big issue facing CW’s superhero universe: how do you solve a problem like Supergirl?
To be clear, Supergirl the TV show is mostly great as it is now. The FX and action are all very well choreographed and created, the cast and acting are phenomenal, and while the individual episode plotting hinges a little too heavily on “heart!” being the answer to most problems there’s enough good in there to make-up for it.
Most especially, Supergirl is a show that understands and appreciates the Superman mythos and core ideology, to the point that even though their vision of Superman so far has only existed in a handful of text messages he’s a more caring and well realized vision of the character than Henry Cavill’s Superman.
No, the problem facing Supergirl currently is an in-universe one, specifically that because she started on CBS it was established initially that she and her entire attendant universe of characters existed in a parallel universe.
Without getting too in-depth on the idea, this basically just meant that everything that happened on Supergirl took place in a different world form what happened on The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. That made sense for the time but now that Supergirl has migrated to the CW it’s a great big monkey wrench thrown into things because the different worlds conceit means Supergirl can’t easily crossover into any of CW’s other shows.
As it stands, if CW wants to they can have Flash characters show up in Arrow or Arrow characters show up in Legends of Tomorrow with complete ease. That’s the joy of making a shared universe of TV shows; characters, events, and plot devices can move freely between the series and, ideally, act as free marketing for the other shows.
That’s part of why Firestorm was introduced on The Flash before moving on to Legends of Tomorrow, to try and get people who liked The Flash to try out Legends. However, when alternate worlds pop up that means characters can’t casually come and go between shows, stranding Supergirl outside the reach of the other shows and making it harder to grow the audience the series needs to justify its high production costs.
So, how does CW solve this? By moving Supergirl to Earth-1 of course, though what that means is still unknown at this time. All we know for sure is that in the wake of the 4-way crossover Supergirl, the show, will take place on Earth-1 and all contradictions will be hand-waved off as being a result of the crossover.
This is actually a pretty common maneuver for DC in the comics, usually coming under the guise of something called a “Crisis.” Back in 1986 DC had a similar problem to the one CW has right now: heroes they wanted to crossover but occupied opposing continuity and they’re way to solve it was to have a big event where all the different continuities were smashed together to make everything similar.
That was called Crisis on Infinite Earths and it was a big hit and marked the first DC reboot/relaunch, so now whenever they compress their continuities in a big event comic it’s tacitly referred to as a “Crisis” by fans and critics.
The base imagery of the Crisis has already come up in The Flash, first in an easter egg headline on Reverse Flash’s newspaper of the future stating that the “skies turned red,” and then again in the season 2 finale when Zoom tried to destroy all realities and the skies turned red again. Given that, it seems most like the upcoming crossover will revolve around a similar Crisis event merging Supergirl’s Earth and the main universe of the CW TV shows.
Where things get a little tricky is the question of how this Crisis Crossover will tie to The Flash. Currently speaking, The Flash is the only show to have crossed over with Supergirl, with a second crossover currently in the works. It’s the hub of the weird sci-fi stuff in the CWniverse and would be incredibly vital to any kind of Crisis storyline. The problem then becomes how will the Crisis story fit into The Flash season 3’s ongoing story arc “Flashpoint,” in which the Flash has created an altered present by monkeying with the past.
Honestly I think the answer’s a lot simpler than people probably think. We know that ‘Flashpoint’ won’t directly impact Supergirl or Legends of Tomorrow and that the altered timeline story will only last for the 1st half of The Flash season 3. Given that timing and that set-up, it seems most likely the crossover will be dealing with reversing the Flashpoint event, which would probably make The Flash the villain of the crossover in a weird twist of fate.
We know that ‘Flashpoint’ is going to impact Arrow as well as The Flash and we know that the heroes of Legends of Tomorrow spend the 1st half of the season scattered through time. Making the crossover a team-up of Supergirl and the Legends in order to put right what the Flash put wrong would be a great way to bring the two major plots of ending Flashpoint and integrating Supergirl together while also playing off The Flash season 3’s series thesis of whether or not Flash’s actions make him a villain.
The big question this all leaves for me is what impact Supergirl’s cast of other heroes would have on the rest of the CWniverse. Having Supergirl or the DEO on hand is fine but the big thing now is that adding Supergirl also means adding Superman. Adding Superman to the CW universe seems like a huge risk as it suddenly transposes one of Supergirl’s biggest problems to nearly all of CW’s shows because suddenly, the question hanging over every superhero crisis is “where’s Superman?”
Now, the man of steel doesn’t necessarily have to migrate with Supergirl as, technically, we only know that Supergirl is moving to Earth-1 not how that’s happening. It could be that CW is planning to have Supergirl and some of her supporting cast end up stranded on Earth-1 and try to get home, or possibly Superman will just be removed from continuity as part of the hand-waving they mentioned earlier.
Whatever the choice, Superman’s existence seems like the third big problem this crossover will have to address and given the other weight on its shoulders maybe it’s a good thing the crossover will have 4 nights to address its many concerns.
Currently no date is set for the Supergirl/The Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow crossover.
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