Episode Title: World’s Finest
Original Airdate: 03-28-2016
Otherwise known as The One Where The Flash Guest Stars. If it’s possible for two shows to poke meta-referential fun at each other, “World’s Finest” does the job well. It has to be remembered that at one point a crossover between CW’s The Flash and CBS’s Supergirl was never even on the table: producer Greg Berlanti stated that bringing either hero into each other’s respective universes was a pretty big long shot, and yet here we are, 18 episodes into Supergirl’s first season (and a dozen or more into Flash’s 2nd) and both Barry Allen and Kara Danvers trade interdimensional references and powers in one of the “fun” episodes of the series’ run thus far.
The Silver Banshee arises in “World’s Finest”, which teams the vengeful Siobhan Smythe (Italia Ricci) with previous Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) nemesis Livewire (Brit Morgan): both with a vendetta that put them in direct path with Kara, the recently arrived Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), and Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). Barry, who arrives from his Earth a little nonplussed after “rescuing” Kara from falling to her death (Smythe’s newfound ability to scream really loudly blows her out a window of CatCo’s office tower) is stuck in Supergirl’s world until he can find a way to open a portal and return, so in the meantime he agrees to help Kara battle the threat to Cat’s safety.
Cloaked in the mask of “silliness” at having two heros from competing networks in the same show, “World’s Finest” has plenty of solid dramatic work in the offing. The progressive work on Winn’s relationship with Siobhan obviously becomes key to the episode, with his “girlfriend” becoming the co-star of her own episode, alongside Brit Morgan’s returning sparky monster. James Olsen (Mechad Brooks) struggles with his own feeling towards Kara as he watches her with Barry, while there’s almost no mention of the on-the-lamb Alex Danvers and Hank Henshaw following last week’s episode. The expected “race” between Kara and Barry teased in the episode’s promotional footage lasts about three seconds (such a shame), and the episode’s concluding revelation (or cliffhanger) sees Non’s long-awaited, long-teased “Myriad” plan kick off.
Team-up issues of comic book titles has been a long tradition in the medium as a way of boosting sales; initially, low-selling titles often saw a guest appearance by a major star (such as Superman or Batman) to boost interest and hopefully salvage a flagging book, but in the decades since those early “fun” issues it’s become almost commonplace for team-up’s to occur across even the best selling titles – the ubiquitous cross-over event on an annual basis sees entire rosters of heroes come together to fight massive world ending threats. With that in mind, seeing Barry’s Flash appear ever-so-briefly in Supergirl’s universe is a literal breath of fresh air. Although averting dropping into zany self-referential silliness such as the kind Superman would encounter in any 60’s team-up book, Supergirl’s adventure with Barry Allen is brisk, fun and filled with knowing nods to both series’ and to the proclivity of superheroes to somehow find each other wherever (or whenever) on Earth they are.
If I had a problem with the episode it would be with Smythe’s Silver Banshee, a character I think has had far too little development within the series proper to make her transition from bratty, spoiled wannabe journalist to cursed killing machine work as well as it otherwise might: Smythe’s been teased for weeks now, with even a silly little flirtation with Winn to offset the darker nature of her character. A sidebar scene featuring Smythe’s “aunt”, who fills in her Irish Curse backstory (what the whatnow?) is transitory and nonsensical, given it comes out of nowhere, but in keeping with the series’ furiously forward tone it matters not a jot. Smythe’s team-up with Livewire feels a tad undercooked, as if the writers were stumped as to which two series’ foes to throw up against both Kara and Barry. Neither villain seems to be really a match for either, if I’m honest, and a crucial scene which sees Kara flattened by Livewire’s lightning and Barry out of action and the gathered National City crowd come to the rescue of her fallen hero kinda, sorta jagged me the wrong way. The city’s distrust of Supergirl following the events of “Falling” is brushed aside with a single easy-to-write comic book trope, and if I’m honest I expected better. Ahh well.
But “World’s Finest” is all about the Barry/Kara team-up, and thanks largely to both leads’ bubbly personalities they provide sparks enough for both shows. Gustin looks suitably happy and confused to be there, Benoist spends most of her scenes with him with a cheesy grin plastered all over her face, and even Cat Grant’s typical cynicism can’t mute the breathless energy of the episode. A variety of meta-references (some of which won’t age particularly well in twenty years or so) smatter throughout the dialogue, and you almost have the sense that both shows might gear up for another cross-over event at some stage in the future – it’s never directly stated, but I like to think it’s hidden between the lines.
Fast, fun and furiously plotted, “World’s Finest” is probably the most outright entertaining superhero episode of any show delivered this year, at least as far as jostling two self-contained franchises and their disparate narrative arcs goes. Obviously this episode remains Supergirl-heavy in terms of propelling its current plot devices along (Lucy Lane’s brief interlude with Jimmy was more character building than anything they’ve previously done so far in this show), but it’s a great time watching a well established character from another network make a name for himself in this cross-promotional venture. Here’s to many more!