While the Snyderverse and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice divides critics (to put it mildly) and entertains moviegoers (if this weekend’s box office is any indication), DC fans can turn to their HDTVs for brighter, more colorful, and ultimately more fun superheroes (the CW’s Nolanized Arrow excepted), specifically The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow (not necessarily in that order). Over less than two seasons, The Flash has brought wonder and awe, but mostly, camp-free fun that’s drawn generations of comic-book readers, moviegoers, and TV viewers to DC and Marvel’s bigger-than-life superheroes. While Marvel does the whole shared superhero universe across movies and TV, DC’s gone a different route, the multiverse route, with the big-screen, big-budget films in one shared universe, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow (all on the CW) in another, and Supergirl on CBS in a third. A superhero crossover might not have been inevitable (different networks and all), but it was certainly welcome, not to mention highly anticipated by The Flash and Supergirl’s overlapping fanbases (quick, someone draw up a Venn diagram).
Spoiler alert: The Supergirl/Flash crossover doesn’t disappoint, at least not within the inherent limitations of doing the comic-book superhero thing on TV is concerned. The budgets might be significantly smaller for a one-hour TV show, the visual effects might be more variable, sometimes even risible (though charming in their own way), but the 18th episode’s (“Worlds Finest”) unique mix of characters, drama, and humor more than makes up for any deficiencies. If anything, the crossover feels too short. Maybe logistics are to blame, but the Supergirl/Flash crossover obviously needed more screen time, more screen time to introduce Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) to Kara Danvers/Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) slightly different world (meta-humans exist in Barry’s world, but super-powered aliens don’t, at least not yet), more time to develop their relationship, and more time for them to figure out a way for Allen to safely return to his world. In less than an hour (closer to forty minutes, including credits and commercials), we get it all: The Flash appears magically out of nowhere to save Kara from a fall that would seriously injure or kill a non-Kryptonian.
Within seconds, they’re friends, and within minutes, they’re practically best friends, bonding over their unique abilities and their relatable struggles as superheroes with responsibilities, duties, and obligations. It’s all to the good, if again too briefly developed onscreen. Given that this week’s episode, “Worlds Finest” (note the missing apostrophe), is more or less a standalone episode (more about the season-long battle against the Kryptonians later) and the Flash will return to his world by episode’s end, cramming in not one, but two superhero vs. super-villain fights feels like too much of a good-to-great thing (probably because it is). Still, it’s hard to complain when Supergirl and the Flash face off against Livewire (Brit Morgan), a onetime Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) employee-turned-enemy, and Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci), Grant’s recently fired executive assistant turned into the Silver Banshee (her screams can rupture eardrums and create sonic waves). Their first fight ends in the obligatory draw or stalemate before the second, final fight retires the C-level super-villains for, at minimum, the remainder of the season.
With Allen in rapid-fire quipster mode throughout, even making the occasional meta joke (e.g., about fights occurring in abandoned warehouses on both shows, a nod to budget limitations), everything, including this week’s stakes, feels appropriately lightweight and consequence-free, though Barry’s brief presence in Supergirl’s life and their equally brief camaraderie convinces James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) that maybe, just maybe they should start that slow-simmering romance that’s been repeatedly teased throughout the first season. But just when the status quo ante (i.e., the Flash returns to his universe) has been restored and James can make his move (and vice versa), the Kryptonians led by Non (Chris Vance) are back to put their master plan, “Myriad,” into motion. Surprise, surprise, Myriad involves a form of body snatching that turns non-Kryptonians into a mindless army.”Today, National City; tomorrow, the world [Earth],” Non says in the closing moments to an approving underling in classic comic-book super-villain speak. Now that we finally know what Myriad is and what Non intends to do with Myriad (well, we knew that part all along), the end is in sight, both for Non and the Kryptonians under his command and the first season.