This year’s big annual Arrowverse crossover was as splashy as ever, spanning four cities, three Earths, and multiple potential realities, all while packing in as many DC references and Easter eggs as possible. As stories go, it was largely satisfying, featuring strong character moments, fun in-jokes for fans, and an epic final battle. But unlike the crossovers of years past, this one devotes an awful lot of time to looking forward in a way that “Crisis on Earth-X” and “Invasion” did not. “Elseworlds” spends as much screentime building toward next year’s long-awaited “Crisis on Infinite Earths” adaptation as it does telling a cohesive story this year, introducing us to multiple characters who will only become truly important later on.
In addition to setting the table for the 2019 crossover, “Elseworlds” was also originally pitched as sort of a backdoor pilot for a potential Batwoman series, since this year’s event would finally take us to Gotham City and introduce us to Kate Kane. But while Ruby Rose was certainly compelling in her Batwoman debut, the character’s appearance was actually surprisingly brief, and one that didn’t necessarily make a case for a full series if you weren’t already hoping for one. (And I say this as someone who wants to see Batwoman happen.) Instead, “Elseworlds” almost accidentally ends up making the argument that what the DCTV universe needs, at least as much as a Batwoman series, is a Superman one.
While Tyler Hoechlin’s version of the Man of Steel has only appeared in the Arrowverse a handful of times, he’s certainly left an impression befitting the character’s legend. He’s everything you could ever want this character to be, whether as Clark or his heroic alter ego. Delightfully dorky, awkward, and down to earth for a guy who can shoot lasers out of his eyes and punch people through walls, he exudes big-hearted farmboy charm. This incarnation feels more Clark Kent than Superman, less an invincible god and more like the person you’d call when your kids are getting bulled at school or your neighbor’s kitten is stuck up a tree. He embodies unselfish goodness, but in a way that still feels achievable for regular folks who don’t have superpowers. His brand of heroism remains something we just might be able to replicate in real life.
Yet, this Clark isn’t depicted as perfect, which goes a long way to make him someone worth watching. Despite having grown up prior to Kara’s arrival on Earth, he still allowed his cousin to be raised by the Danvers family without knowing him, and we’ve seen that he has plenty of weaknesses, including letting that same cousin stand on her own because he wanted to take a break from protecting Earth. Which is maybe not the worst idea, given that Supergirl – and Superman himself – has been pretty adamant about the fact that Kara is his superior when it comes to strength and skills. But it’s still kind of rude.
This year’s crossover event took things a step further, taking us to the Kent family farm (complete with Smallville theme song!) in order to offer a more fully rounded picture of Clark’s life outside of his superhero costume. “Elseworlds” also introduced Elizabeth Tulloch as the Arrowverse version of Lois Lane, giving us our first look at this universe’s take on this classic romance. And it definitely did not disappoint.
This incarnation of Lois is as close to perfect as anything we’ve seen on television to date – feisty, brave and every inch a hero in her own right despite her lack of super powers. (Also: Totally Team Barry, which makes so much sense in hindsight.) Even though much of her relationship with Clark was pre-established offscreen, their banter was charming and felt true to the longstanding, supportive dynamic between the two from the comics. Yes, Superman still had to catch her at one point – because that’s what he does, obviously – but it only happened because Lois literally threw herself into danger to defeat Deegan and rescue everyone else. (That hammer move? Kiiiind of iconic.) Even though we’d only seen the two together for less than an hour total, the proposal scene at the end of the third episode nevertheless felt extremely earned. Not an easy storytelling feat, by any stretch, and one that underlines how strongly these characters have been conceptualized thus far.
The conclusion of “Elseworlds” also leaves Clark and Lois in a perfect position to tell a very different sort of Superman story should they ever get the chance to do so. Clark has hung up the cape for the moment at least. (Though we all know that will never stick.) He and Lois are already engaged, therefore we don’t need to see a story in which he hides his identity from her, they struggle to date or she’s (rightfully) angry about being lied to — which is kind of something we’ve seen and done before.
This version sees Clark and Lois already having been through all that, ready for an entirely new journey: Parenthood. The idea of “Clois” having a baby is extremely appealing, not just because of who these characters have been set up to be in this universe, but because it’s a story we haven’t really seen before. (The series finale of Lois and Clark introduced a toddler, but that’s as far as it ever went.) And there’s something incredibly cool about the idea that a CW series could not only add a beloved character into the weekly Arrowverse roster, but also build a new, lasting piece of Superman’s onscreen legacy at the same time.
Of course, the potential existence of a CW Superman series is affected by a lot of outside factors, most notably the existence of Warner Brothers’ larger DCEU film universe. But with rumors swirling that Warner may not have much current interest in continuing the Man of Steel franchise, perhaps the small screen’s moment for a new Superman has come at last. It’s certainly hard to argue that the CW hasn’t taken care of these characters over the past seven years, dedicating nearly half its existing airtime to building this messy, flawed, but really rather incredible love letter to hope and heroism. If anyone has earned the right to take on the next chapter of DC Comics’ greatest hero, it’s these folks, who’ve generally handled even the most secondary of characters with such thoughtfulness and consideration.