With connections to both "Lucifer" and the 2000s "Birds of Prey," Arrowverse continues expanding its reach, even as the number of existing universes shrinks to ... let's just say it gets very specific.
As expected, the middle chapter of The CW's five-chapter Arrowverse crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," delivered the most complexity as the stage was set for the final battle to come, but it also proved to be the absolute darkest hour.
It's said that before the dawn must come the darkness, but it's pretty damned hard to see the sun coming up at all after the events of this chapter, which included the Flash meeting his pre-ordained fate, the revelation of the final three Paragons, the emergence of the Anti-Monitor and the continued destruction of universe after universe after universe until...
We expected a final standoff, and presumably on Earth-1, but we didn't even get that, really.
Monday night's episode revealed the identities of four of the Paragons (Supergirl as Hope, White Canary as Destiny, Brandon Routh's Superman as Truth and Batwoman as Courage. Thanks to a little computer tinkering by Ray and Cisco -- Team Flash showed up to save the day, and because this is technically an episode of "The Flash" -- the other three stood revealed.
Martian Manhunter is the Paragon of Honor, The Flash is Love and some unknown named Ryan Choi is the Paragon of Humanity. The latter makes perfect sense, because at this time Ryan is the most human of all the Paragons, having neither superpowers or the superheroic identity he would ultimately (and reluctantly) take on in the comics, the all-new Atom.
That reluctance dominated Osric Chau's performance, too, as this scientist had no interest in saving anyone, simply wanting to ride out the end of the world with his wife and six-month-old baby. It took a power speech by Iris to convince him to get on board, though what role he will play remains a mystery.
That said, Chau is a delight in the role and we hope this means he'll be sticking around, either taking over the role of The Atom from Routh on "Legends of Tomorrow," or even joining one of the other shows. You can't have too many shrinky-dink guys, right?
Since the premiere of "The Flash," Barry Allen has been running toward (and sometimes away from) this destiny, as laid out in a newspaper from the future. Well, that moment finally came to pass in this hour, but with a twist. The Flash did disappear in the Crisis, and it appears that the Barry Allen did die. Just not that one.
In a twist we should have all seen coming, the Anti-Monitor's Anti-Matter Cannon treadmill was being powered by John Wesley Shipp's Flash from Earth-90, and the 1990 "Flash" series. Moments later, Cress Williams' "Black Lightning" showed up moments after he disappeared in Monday night's surprise crossover episode of his own series.
It turns out his lightning powers (and suit) enabled him to temporarily hold the energy output of the anti-matter cannon long enough for the Flash to set up his big sacrifice. But it came with a twist.
Last seen in last season's "Elseworlds" crossover, Shipp proved he was every bit the hero that Grant Gustin's Barry is, and that he has a few tricks up his sleeve after 30 years in the suit.
Stealing Barry's speed powers temporarily, it was Flash-90 who sacrificed himself to stop the anti-matter wave and save what was, by that time, the last remaining universe and Earth, Earth-1.
It was a beautifully filmed moment, with the Barrys sharing a powerful scene together and Shipp even getting a flashback moment of his own from his "Flash" series before disappearing much the way he did in the original "Crisis" comic series.
As pointed out in the "Crisis Aftermath" show that came on after this episode, Shipp was touched that this moment gave him closure and a final chapter for his iteration of the Flash, after all these years. After all, his series was canceled after just one season.
We didn't hit nearly as many universes this week, probably because there weren't as many left, but the hour did open with a fun cameo by Ashley Scott, reprising her role from the failed 2002 "Birds of Prey" television series. The best thing about all of these cameos is the continuing expansion of the Arrowverse to slowly encompass every DC iteration on film and television.
We can only hope there's a "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" cameo forthcoming as one of the secrets yet to be revealed in the final two chapters. It seems like the most prominent iteration of the DC characters not yet captured in cameo form. Plus, who wouldn't want another Superman, or Lois, or both? Or maybe junior Batman from "Gotham"?
One of those big surprises came this hour when Constantine brought Diggle and Mia to Earth-666 (which was brilliantly hilarious), where he found Tom Ellis' "Lucifer" (from the Fox-then-Netflix series) just hanging out and doing what he does best, flirting with everyone and making deals.
While brief, it turned out to be a key role as it was Lucifer who enabled our heroes to make their way to Purgatory, where they encountered Oliver Queen's soul. Yes, Stephen Amell has appeared in every chapter of this crossover, despite dying in the first one, and it looks like he has an even bigger role yet to come.
That role won't, however, be in the resurrected body waiting for him back on the Waverunner, and for a couple of reasons. The first is that the Spectre approached him just as his rescuers needed to pop out of Purgatory and told him, "Only you can light the spark. Oliver, It is your destiny." But what does that mean?
The bottom line, though, is that things went much darker than we anticipated in this chapter, which brings us to the second reason Oliver can't go back to his waiting body. It isn't there anymore.
In the closing moments of the episode, Lyla returned to the Waverider alongside Pariah. Only it wasn't Lyla or even Harbinger, it was the Anti-Monitor in her body. He was able to take down the Monitor -- a nod to Harbinger's betrayal in the comic -- and in doing so, the anti-matter wave re-emerged.
As we watched it wipe out the last remaining world, Earth-1, Pariah made his final desperate move, shunting the seven Paragons out of the Anti-Monitor's reach at the Vanishing Point, a place outside of time and space. So it is from here that our heroes must make their final stand.
We thought it monumental that "Crisis" wiped out the earths of "Titans" and "Black Lightning" and even "Supergirl," as it meant something was going to have to bring those worlds back, or merge them into one. Now, though, the ante was upped considerably with the destruction of Earth-1, as well. Gone is the home planet of "Arrow," "The Flash," "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" and "Batwoman." There is no Arrowverse anymore.
So where do you go from here? It's absolutely anyone's guess, but previews reveal that Oliver Queen, in whatever form he takes, will join the other seven survivors of reality in the final battle with the Anti-Monitor. Oh, but there's just one problem.
Moments after they arrived, Brandon Routh's Superman collapsed to the ground and it looks like he was destroyed by anti-matter. But that's not quite what happened. His destiny was being rewritten by one Lex Luthor, who used the Book of Destiny to replace the Paragon of Truth with himself. And so, this desperate Plan B, which relied on these seven paragons of humanity, has now been tainted by Ducky, of all people!
How much worse will that make things? Probably pretty bad. How can Lex Luthor serve as the Paragon of Truth when he's a sociopathic villain? Or maybe his truth is just what is needed, and this too was part of the role he was meant to play in this "Crisis."
And we didn't even get into Kara and Kate's standoff over Supergirl's desire to use the Book of Destiny to try and revive her Earth. But we did get a tease from Marc Guggenheim in that "Aftermath" special that their relationship is likely going to supplant Oliver and Barry's as the fulcrum on which the Arrowverse is built. Do we need to rename this universe? We still like the DCW Universe, ourselves.
We have to wait a month to see how it all plays out when then two-hour final lands on Tuesday, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.