The Buzz: The CW superhero crossover is Avengers on TV

The CW superhero crossover: Invasion! Massive superhero team-ups were first seen on a movie screen in 2012’s Marvel’s Avengers, which was revolutionary for the genre at the time. The film paved the way for many more superhero team-ups in films, most notably in subsequent Avengers film (successfully) and this year’s Batman Vs. Superman (not as successfully). This time around, we’ve gotten what may be our biggest super powered team up yet – but it’s on a television screen. The CW aired a massive four-part crossover of its superhero shows – Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. The event was huge in scope, and it delivered on every level (thankfully so, after DC’s last mash-up attempt). Check out our breakdown of each of the four parts below:

Supergirl: Frankly, I find Supergirl to be the least appealing show of the lineup. The show started on CBS and was projected to be a hit, but didn’t maintain its audience. It premiered to a sizable 12.96 million viewers and gradually dipped down to 6.11 million by its season finale. I find its overly serious tone to be at disagreement with its wacky, comic book content – a balance The Flash has embraced and mastered. Supergirl herself (played by Melissa Benoist) wields the power of Superman, the most powerful hero prominent today, but she’s hard to take seriously when she’s saddled with a script that calls for her to ask a romantic interest if he “like likes” her.

The episode is the least involved with the crossover events, and only becomes connected in the last minute. It follows Supergirl as she attempts to prevent the spreading of a virus that could kill all alien life, which makes up a sizable portion of her universe. The production value of the show is solid, and perhaps the best of all CW’s superhero lineup. Supergirl inhabits a world that allows her bigger action – she frequently fights with aliens and explores settings on other worlds. The show is at its best when we see Supergirl, her allies and her enemies in action.

The episode, and the show in general, suffer most in its quieter moments. None of the actors can sell the corny lines they are given, removing a level of believability the other shows have. “You might be an alien, but I’m Cyborg Superman!” an enemy cries in the middle of battle, and it’s as nerdy as it sounds. To the show’s credit, there is a heartwarming subplot involving a touching moment between a secondary character and her mother. But, Supergirl overall contributed the weakest hour to the crossover, and remains the weakest show in the lineup.

The Flash: The main plot of the crossover truly begins with The Flash, and this is where we realize how cool of a television event this truly is. This episode has elements reminiscent of The Avengers, or perhaps more accurately the all-out superhero brawl that was Captain America: Civil War. At Star Labs, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and his team are made aware of a spaceship crashing to Earth nearby. When Barry checks it out, he sees aliens running toward civilization. With no more questions asked, it’s time to assemble the team – well, they don’t have a team name, like the Avengers. So, just everyone who’s around.

Heroes from Team Arrow, the time-jumping Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl herself (through a universe-crossing portal) gather at Barry’s request. The interactions between the variety of heroes are fun, especially everyone’s response to Supergirl (who is used much more effectively here than in her own show). The training scenes highlight the DC TV universe’s impressive accomplishments. We have street-level heroes like those in Team Arrow, who excel at hand-to-hand combat, next to the super-powered metahumans and time travelers from Flash and Legends. It’s an interesting mix, with Supergirl’s overpowered abilities serving as an equalizer to the varied strengths.

I believe The Flash is the best show overall in the lineup, and it delivered what it does best. The storytelling is quick and action-packed, but it doesn’t slow down on its more emotional moments either. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) has always been one of the universe’s best characters, and both his newly found powers and recent character development have time to shine across the whole crossover. The episode culminates in a massive battle between the heroes after some get brainwashed. We get to see the super-powered mutants battle each other in the sky while the normal fighters brawl on the street. The scene is one of the most ambitious television action scenes of the year, and provides relentless entertainment. The crossover finds its stride this episode – and runs away with it faster than the Flash himself.

Arrow: Arrow was the first show to bring me into the DC Television Universe, but I’ll be the first to admit its later seasons have declined in quality. That’s why what excited me the most about this entire crossover was seeing that the show pulled out an episode that could easily hold its own in the show’s first two seasons, its best. This episode wasn’t only the best of the crossover, I think it’s one of the best Arrow has ever produced.

Between time travelers and mutants, Arrow is the only show of the bunch that does not regularly dabble in the supernatural. The show started with and excels in gritty realism; its battle scenes demonstrate immense physicality through hand-to-hand combat (and, of course, some well-aimed arrows). That’s why Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his team, who we’ve already seen grow through so much, taking on aliens was so dang impressive. The show adapted to the crossover’s supernatural themes with ease, and used them to further develop the emotional weight each character bears.

The episode is mostly a dream in which Oliver imagines an alternate reality where he never became the Arrow. It brings back Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), a beloved character who was killed off last season, in a dream sequence where Oliver and Laurel are able to get married. The characters slowly realize something is wrong with the universe, though, and must fight their greatest enemies of the past to escape – while saying goodbye to Laurel yet again.

It culminates by throwing the characters into a completely alien setting (literally) and having them figure out a way to get back home. I’ve been desensitized to seeing the supernatural characters from the other shows pull off a feat like that, but launching Arrow’s realistic cast into the situation drastically raised the stakes. It’s reassuring that, well into its fifth season, Arrow continues to find ways to up its game while teaching us something new about its characters.

Legends of Tomorrow: Legends of Tomorrow is an anomaly. The show has an intriguing concept – a team of heroes travels through time to ensure no one messes with the time continuum (which apparently happens more often than we’d think). With such an interesting concept, it’s interesting that Oliver, Barry and Supergirl dominate the screen time on an episode that isn’t even from one of their respective shows. The problem with Legends is that, even though its cast is large and they all have interesting abilities, they don’t focus on a single character like the other shows do, and therefore lack a character as sharply defined as Oliver or Barry.

The episode is certainly a climax to the crossover, though. After three episodes, we finally arrive at the big alien vs. hero brawl we’ve been waiting for. The action scenes look lifted straight from Civil War, complete with expansive shots showcasing aerial battles and fighting on the ground. It’s a spectacle, and there’s a sense of wonder to the achievement. This isn’t entertainment just for the sake of attracting an audience. These are top quality action scenes made to give fans what they want. They’re excellent.

Still, while every other episode felt strongly attached to the show it was from, this episode could have fit anywhere in the Universe. It feels more like an episode for all four shows in general than just Legends. The episode closes with an interaction between Oliver and Barry that is satisfying for fans of their shows, but may leave Legends fans out cold. Considering the overall scope of the crossover, though, the CW delivered to the highest of fan expectations. I can’t wait for next year’s.