Elseworlds, this year’s big DC/CW crossover, is upon us—kicking off in last night’s episode of The Flash, the mysterious Monitor made his move... and gave us an hour of giggle-inducing metahumor in the process, along with some pretty key character moments for TV’s finest heroes. It was so huge, Gizmodo needed a teamup of its own to discuss!
To wrap our heads around the laughs, the spectacle, and to speculate about the Monitor’s sinister plans for reality, io9 crossed realities (well, pinged each other on our work Slack) to unite the ultimate superteam of James Whitbrook, Jill Pantozzi, and Alex Cranz to discuss “Elseworlds, Part One” — and the truly shocking answer it gave to a question we’ve had about these shows for years.
Yes, really! Check it all out below.
James Whitbrook: Superfriends! The first part of the big Arrowverse crossover this year, Elseworlds, premiered last night—giving us a classic case of body-swapping switcheroo for Barry and Oliver. What were thoughts? Because I think this might have been the one of the most delightfully silly hours of TV the CW has done in a while.
Alex Cranz: It was the first time in what, six or seven years, that Ollie got to be funny?
Jill Pantozzi: Everyone on this show is hysterical and I had no idea how much I needed that levity.
James: Stephen Amell might secretly be one of the best comedic actors on the CW after last night. It’s so sad that he doesn’t get to flex that more on Arrow—his reactions to everything in that opening sequence of him waking up as “Barry” for Breakfast with Iris were giffable perfection.
Alex: I think I cackled nearly every time Ollie was on screen. His complete discomfort really worked for me!
Jill: Like, actually laughed out loud.
Alex: Oh definitely. I was glad no one else was at home last night to hear.
James: They play it as this perfect balance between like, yeah, Ollie’s been through SOME STUFF lately, so he’s out of the loop a bit, but he’s also just baffled by the existence of Barry’s life, in all its silly, quippy, tropey glory.
Alex: I really appreciated that when Iris kissed him he didn’t say why, but “What about Barry?” As though Ollie just assumes everyone is in love with him, and would abduct him and make him breakfast?
Jill: Ha, right. What surprised me first about this episode though was that we didn’t dive into some large, world-ending plot right away. It stayed relatively small.
Alex: Yes! All we know about the destruction of the world is the lightning and red skies.
James: Yeah, there’s some stuff in there to sow the seeds—that Earth-90 teaser, all the Monitor stuff being on the periphery—but this was a great episode that was both incredibly goofy, but also about Barry and Oliver’s relationship with each other.
Jill: And how differently they go about doing their superheroics.
James: It made all the goofballing actually PLOT RELEVANT!
Alex: It was a really kind of wonderful character study. And I loved how it highlighted why Barry, Ollie, and Kara each do superheroics. Like Barry does it to protect those he loves, Ollie for atonement and survival, and Kara...because it’s just the right thing to do.
James: The scenes on Kent Farm were really lovely — not just the silliness of Barry and Oliver recreating their first crossover training sessions, but Kara and Clark together talking about why they keep their identities secret, too.
Jill: Yeah, as someone who watches all these series, they did a good job of bringing in the separate plot threads here without it feeling awkward or unnatural.
James: Speaking of Kent Farm, we should talk about a certain someone added to the cast for this crossover: Bitsie Tulloch as Lois Lane! Who was excellent, but there needed to be way more of her.
Alex: She was WONDERFUL!
Jill: There was less of her than I expected, which was a bummer. But hopefully she’ll pop up later!
James: I was so sad when they made it sound like she was coming back to Earth-One with the rest of the gang, and then she... just didn’t?
Alex: I briefly thought she was the one on the motorcycle.
James: WHERE DID BARRY FIND THAT MOTORCYCLE, THOUGH!?
Alex: YES. Did he steal it from Smallville!? Did Lois loan it to him?
James: Please let it be Lois’.
Alex: Did Clark carry it under his arm when he headed back to Earth-38?
Jill: Oh, we need to back up for a minute though and talk about that big musical cue leading into the Kent Farm portion of the episode — Remy Zero’s “Save Me,” the theme from Smallville. For a splitsecond I thought maybe, MAYBE they were about to pull a HUGE surprise on us.
Alex: I may have as well.
James: And there’s a TON of Smallville references in the Earth-90 opener, too... mainly that all those bad versions of the heroes we’ve now seen get good CW shows are dead, basically. But still!
Alex: I was very much hoping Annette O’Toole would appear in Smallville.
Jill: Apparently the set was the same one from Smallville though, so that’s a nice nod. But I was still hoping they got Tom Welling and Erica Durance in there for something wild.
Alex: There’s still time! We have two more whole episodes.
Jill: Ha, true!
James: Earth-90 is Smallville world, Earth-38 is CBS world, and Earth-1 is where all the absurdly attractive CW stars hang out. That’s my headcanon.
Alex: And Earth-2 is Earth-1...with blimps. Although the commenters took me to task last week for calling Earth-90 Smallville world, as a number of the costumes were actually recycled from Earth-1 heroes, including the Ray and Stargirl ones.
Jill: No one will believe you unless they say it explicitly in the episode, ha.
James: Sure, but it’s totally still Smallville world. Starring TV’s The Flash (no, the other one).
We should also talk about what actually brings Kara, Clark, Barry, and Oliver back to Earth-1 other than their weird freaky Friday situation—because on top of all that funny character work, this episode also had Amazo as a main villain!
Alex: I was delighted by Amazo, but bummed that he got the Red Tornado treatment. Amazo is such a major threat in the comics, so to see him taken out so quickly was a little bit of a downer. The animation for him was absolutely wonderful, the eyes in particular were creepy.
Jill: Amazo was interesting, an often-used, and very daunting villain from the comics. I actually turned to my partner when he showed up and went, “Well usually they have to dismantle him completely and store his parts separately because he really gets powerful.”
Alex: But also...didn’t Ollie kill Ivo? Back on the island?
Jill: But yeah, Ivo had a whole plot back on the island, there was the big boat called the Amazo too if memory serves? And Sara was there too.
James: Ivo, real big fan of the word “Amazo.”
Alex: I had to root around the Arrowverse wiki last night as I could have sworn he was a character. I guess his company continued without him? And made a killer robot it then failed to do anything with?
James: Amazo was definitely a lot less daunting here, sadly—but it kind of worked anyway, because the fight was really fun, not just for the action, but because it was a way to facilitate forcing Barry and Oliver to think like each other.
Alex: Oliver had fun! Barry did a grim dark voice!
Jill: Oh let’s not forget Kara making fun of that voice earlier too! That was great.
Alex: It was amazing. An absolute highlight.
James: It wasn’t even that grim! I love that their abilities are secretly linked to them being as cliché as possible.
Alex: Also nice to see Kara that confident in her abilities as a hero, and sort of therapist to other heroes.
Jill: What did you all think about Superman getting into the big fight with the other folks?
Alex: It was kind of nice, but he really felt like the Supergirl of previous versions of this fight. Like, the ‘Other Big Gun,’ you know?
James: I was sort of expecting Clark to take the lead, but it was great to see Kara step up and be the one to guide her friends and like, actually be the one to figure things out with them. Clark being there just as their sort of muscle against Amazo was fun, but seeing Kara step up was lovely.
Bless Superman for just attempting to keep super-speed punching Amazo when he copied all their powers, though. Just TRYING to show off.
Alex: I mean, we did establish last year or the year before that Superman is second fiddle to Supergirl. She beat him and he told her so. So he’s got to show off to all her friends.
Jill: OMG OLIVER PUFFING OUT HIS CHEST!
Alex: LOT of super-flexes between Ollie and Clark.
Jill: I died.
James: Between Barry doing the salmon ladder, Ollie’s whole chest thing, and then Iris just openly lusting for Oliver-as-Barry, this episode might as well have been called “Crisis on Infinite Thirsts.”
Jill: Considering all that’s happened on these shows already, did you two find it odd Team Flash locked up Barry and Oliver, or was that just the natural reaction they should have had?
Alex: Yes! And they locked them up together?
James: I love how blasé they were about it, though. Mirroring everyone’s criticisms of Star Labs as a defacto meta prison by just chucking them both in there was hilarious. That, and all the “Barry Allen, did YOU mess with the timeline AGAIN???” reactions to everything at first.
Alex: And the hugs. All the hugs.
Jill: At least the locking them up together came with the greatest revelation so far in the Arrowverse.
Alex: YES IT DID, JILL.
James: This is the moment we’ve all been waiting to discuss. Specifically Alex.
Alex: One so monumental I messaged both of you as it happened.
Jill: I might have screamed.
Alex: Honestly this episode could have been a stinker and that moment still would have made it all ok.
James: Ha! Stinker. Because, as Barry reveals to Oliver as part of their breakout plan: THE META CELLS HAVE SECRET WALL TOILETS.
Jill: So yes, if you’ll recall there’s been long criticism of the jails not having toilets for the prisoners being held there indefinitely. So Barry’s casual kick and “Duh, of course there’s toilets” was outstanding.
James: It’s been a whole thing pretty much since The Flash started four years ago.
Alex: SECRET WALL TOILETS! Prisoners still can’t exercise, shower, or feed themselves, but now we know they don’t have to just hang out in their own filth.
James: I can’t believe that a) it was a joke they made and b) it actually mattered to the narrative of the episode.
Alex: it was wonderful. Screw their revelations about their abilities and what motivates them. I am here for plot-necessary toilets!
James: And once again, with all the mirroring between Oliver and Barry going on in this episode, you contrast the toilet reveal as Barry’s casual “secret” to give to Oliver, whereas Oliver’s “secret” for Barry is “oh, you can dislocate your thumb like, really easily.”
Alex: Ollie’s glee over Barry’s thumb, allowing him to use his speed better.
Jill: Ha, yes!
Alex: I was so glad to see Ollie have fun for the first time in over a decade.
James: Only Oliver Queen could truly be so joyful and miserable at the same time.
Alex: He hasn’t smiled this much since he first met Felicity back in season 1.
James: Even though it wasn’t really a major part of the episode, we should actually talk about what caused all the “freaky Friday” (or Quantum leapery, as Barry rightfully pointed out) in the first place—the Monitor giving that comically gigantic tome to Dr. Deegan to re-write reality, something that Cisco then sees in the mother of all vibes.
Alex: OK I have questions about this James. Because Monitor is a kind of benevolent figure in the comics right? Like, he does some bad stuff early on as he’s studying heroes and villains, but ultimately he is a good guy. So why on Earth does he find the one psychologist advocating EUGENICS and say, “This is the man who should receive a reality altering tome!”
Jill: It’s all very questionable at this point.
James: Yeah, it’s really the Anti-Monitor that is the supervillainous counterpart to him. Which makes me wonder if they’re going to secretly reveal that the Monitor we’ve seen is actually Anti-Monitor, and we’ll get a more benevolent version teaming up with the heroes.
Alex: That would be nice! But also the pink skies left me confused, as that was a hallmark of when the worlds were transported to the Monitor’s safe space, after the Anti-Monitor started to destroy them.
James: Yeah! I think we need to see a lot more before we can really start speculating, because he’s barely a part of this episode. But I feel like you can’t really do the Monitor without the Anti-Monitor, so I’m interested to see how it all plays out.
Alex: Right. The Monitor serves no real purpose absent the Anti-Monitor.
Jill: Him speaking directly to them vibing him was a neat look, though.
Alex: That was super, super cool.
James: Also, my other question about that whole vibe moment actually ended up being “Err, did Jim Lee draw Oliver’s superspeed sketch of the Monitor in Gotham?”
Alex: Yes, he did!
James: That was a lovely touch.
Alex: Now canon: Ollie draws like Jim Lee.
Jill: Well, he should get into the comics business then!
Alex: You mean instead of working for the police?
Jill: I mean, a lot of comic creators have other jobs...
Alex: Police man with fancy outfit by night, comic artist by day.
James: Speaking of Gotham and things this episode only barely teased, I think we should come to a close by discussing the very last moments of the episode. Barry and Oliver find common ground in acknowledging each other’s approach to superheroics, they get ready to go to Gotham, and then... we get our first tiny, tiny glimpse of Batwoman.
Jill: Standing epically on a rooftop!
Alex: Tiny, tiny, tiny glimpse, even from afar she looked fabulous.
James: Here’s hoping she’s as great as that teaser shot—although I am bummed that its clear she’s not on Earth-38, which means Batman is the only superhero found on all Earths.
Jill: Very excited and nervous for her arrival.
James: I have high hopes they can do Kate justice—the CW put out a tiny clip of her fighting from tonight’s episode that already has me hyped.
Alex: She’s practically magic in it. I feel bad for calling Ollie the Arrowverse’s Batman for so long after that clip, because clearly he lacks the gadgets.
James: And agreed Alex, I hope that’s something the rest of the crossover gets into—because aside from Ollie getting to namedrop Bruce Wayne on Arrow last season, we don’t know much of anything about Earth-One’s Gotham outside of the fact Kate is there now.
Jill: Do we think they’ll keep up the humour, for the next two parts or will we get Super Serious again?
Alex: I wonder. Because last year had a very fun first hour, and then immediately tilted into Super Serious, and ditto the year before.
James: I hope they keep it light—maybe not almost as straight comedic as this first episode, but I kind of want it to be as earnestly fun even if they’re going up against something as serious as the re-writing of reality as we know it. Let Batwoman have Ollie’s usual role of the crossover grump, now that he’s learned he’s gotta be happy to go fast!
Alex: I welcome this. Also, won’t tonight be a kind of backdoor pilot for the character? Should we expect most of the hour to focus on her?
Jill: Yeah, I think that’s the idea. Very sad Sara won’t be around to meet her!
James: I HOPE it does. If this just ends up being Batwoman, Guest Starring Some Lovable Goofs, I think we’re in for a treat. Especially if it can carry on from Elseworlds’ strong start in last night’s episode.
Alex: I’m assuming we’ll get some more reality writing before the episode ends, to take us into Tuesday’s big finale.
Jill: Yeah curious what Dr. Deegan has in store. Did he know of Barry/Oliver before? Or was this some random machination? Seems like an odd choice, all things considered.
Alex: Yeah, as alterations of reality go it was...kind of minor? Can’t wait to see what the actual purpose behind the switch, and the book, are.
James: Indeed. There’s still a ton of stuff left to answer, obviously, but that, the promise of Batwoman, and hopes for more Barry/Oliver/Kara silliness has me super-excited for the remaining two episodes.