It’s hard to write about this week’s episode of The Flash without talking about the two episodes of Crisis on Infinite Earths that preceded it. But rather than break down the events of each episode, it is important to consider the characters that didn’t disappear in the cliffhanger. The Paragons.
Crisis on Infinite Earths focuses more on “Paragons” than on heroes – characters who best exemplify certain virtues. These heroes are supposedly the key to saving the infinite universes – or at least trying. There is no guarantee that they will succeed, but the entire multiverse is doomed without them. So who are these Paragons, and what role might they play?
Paragon of Love – Barry Allen
Anyone who has paid attention to the love story The Flash has built between Barry Allen and Iris West since even before the Pilot aired shouldn’t be surprised that our Scarlet Speedster is the Paragon of Love. It is only fitting, given how much love drives him. His love for his family, determination to free his father from wrongful imprisonment, and desire to save his mother’s life drove him through the first season. His grief over losing his mother and father subsequently drove him to create Flashpoint at the end of the second.
But it is his love for Iris that keeps him going as a hero. A glimpse into a future without her during the third season showed just how much that is true. Later that season, he sacrificed himself to the speed force to save Iris and the rest of Central City. It was his love for Iris that pulled him out of his mental state when he escaped in the fourth.
After losing Nora, his future daughter with Iris, in the fifth season, Barry discovered the revised timeline for the looming Crisis. Since that moment, his love has driven him. His determination to save his world – every world – even if it meant his death. His desire to make sure other heroes would carry on in his absence. His desperation to save Iris.
It is even more heartbreaking, therefore, that his willingness to self-sacrifice has (so far) backfired. Although he was willing to sacrifice himself to destroy the anti-matter cannon, the Flash from another Earth temporarily stole his speed and made the sacrifice instead. And though he was prepared to put his own life on the line to save his wife and the rest of the multiverse, he lost everything in the end.
Barry was willing to sacrifice himself to save all worlds. He sacrificed much of the time he had left to train other heroes to carry on in his absence. In a sense, a sacrifice is hardest on the people left behind, who have to deal with the grief that remains. Barry was so prepared to sacrifice himself that it didn’t occur to him that the story might end another way. Ultimately, he wasn’t the one to die. His world did. Every world did. And then his wife disappeared, too.
His grief when he reached for her one last time, only to disappear before he could make contact, was palpable. But Iris faced her own death with resolve, sharing one last glance with Earth 38’s Superman. Undoubtedly confident that the Flash (and other heroes) would find a way to reverse fate and bring them back. Because if there’s one thing that’s been as constant as Barry’s love for Iris throughout the course of the show, it’s her love for him.
Paragon of Humanity – Ryan Choi
Iris isn’t just the person who keeps the Flash running. She’s also a hero in her own right, with her own part to play in this Crisis. She helped track down two paragons, the Paragon of Truth and the Paragon of Humanity. The Paragon of Truth hasn’t exactly worked out as expected (more on that in a bit). Whatever part the Paragon of Humanity has to play is yet to be seen. There is no doubt that he – like Iris West and Lois Lane – will show that one doesn’t need superpowers to be a superhero.
Paragon of Hope – Supergirl
What is a Paragon of Hope who has no hope? Yet if anyone deserves to lose hope, it’s Kara. For the second time in her life, she’s lost her world. She’s lost her family. And she wasn’t even given proper time to grieve before she was called to the fight to save the rest of the multiverse.
Like the rest of the Paragons, Supergirl has a part yet to play, and it isn’t clear what that role will be. Will she use the Book of Destiny to unwrite what has happened, bring back her world and all the others that were lost to the Anti-Monitor? Will doing so come with a sacrifice of its own, as Kate Kane fears?
Of course, there’s no question whether some Earths will return, when all is said and done. Otherwise, the rest of these series will be very short-lived. There is still a question of whether the writers of Supergirl will use Crisis to move Supergirl and her supporting cast to the same Earth as the rest of the heroes. It seems likely, but only time will tell.
Paragon of Courage – Batwoman
Like Superman and Batman are often considered two sides of the same coin, one might consider Supergirl and Batwoman to be the same. While other heroes have focused on tracking down other Paragons, Kate and Kara have been occupied with their own subplot. Kara is determined to bring back her Earth using the Book of Destiny. Kate, on the other hand, is concerned with the potential cost. As she wisely points out, if Supergirl fails and falls in trying, then all worlds in the multiverse are destroyed.
Kate’s advice is not without compassion, however. And while she has a chunk of Kryptonite, bestowed upon her by a fallen Batman, she finds the courage – and the hope – to give it to Kara as a symbol of her trust. Kara, ever hopeful and optimistic, finds the courage to reject the offer, confident that Kate will never find the need to use it against her.
Paragon of Destiny – Sara Lance
Beyond the stories of the Paragons, Crisis has focused on returning Oliver Queen back from the dead after he died in the first episode of the crossover. Sara’s plot thus far has revolved around recognizing Oliver as a hero and trying to help bring him back. She assisted Mia and Constantine to take Oliver’s body to the last remaining Lazarus Pit to resurrect his body. That wasn’t enough to recover his soul, however, so Constantine, Mia, and John Diggle went to Purgatory…with a little help from the Devil himself (in one of the best cameos of a crossover filled with great cameos).
Mia’s determination to save her father while every world explodes doesn’t exactly go as planned. Although they find him and manage to return him to his right mind, Oliver decides to stay behind with John Corrigan of the cancelled Constantine series. John implies that Oliver has a higher purpose. To become the Spectre, perhaps.
(As an aside, now that Supernatural is ending, what are the odds the CW revisits the idea of a Constantine series to fill the supernatural void left behind?)
Paragon of Honor – J’onn Jonzz
I hate to give J’onn the fuzzy end of the lollipop, here, but his role as a Paragon is perhaps the most vague of all. He helped the heroes in their attempt to evacuate Earth 38 before it was destroyed. However, he has had little else to do in the rest of the crossover.
That said, the cliffhanger left a grand total of eight people alive in the entire multiverse – the seven Paragons and the Anti-Monitor. If the crossover has been hectic and occasionally overstuffed at times, it is no doubt about to get a lot more intimate and personal. So one imagines that J’onn will step more into the spotlight when the shows return in January.
Paragon of Truth – Earth 96 Superman / Lex Luthor
Oh, boy. If it was already difficult to predict how the Paragons would come into play in the conclusion of Crisis, the last little twist made it harder still. At least, it was a twist for anyone who didn’t know Lex Luthor. For those familiar with his character, it was pretty par for the course.
Although Superman from Earth 96 was originally the Paragon of Truth in the Book of Destiny, Lex Luthor had other plans. Not wanting to be destroyed with the rest of the Earth, he wrote his own name in the Book. In so doing, he made himself the Paragon of Truth.
It will be an interesting twist, if nothing else. Lex is hardly a shining beacon of Truth. On the other hand, the way he twists his words may end up helping others see the truth, regardless. Since it’s hard to know how the Paragons will undo what has been done, it is impossible to know how he will fit in to the bigger picture.
Crisis on Infinite Earths concludes with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, starting at 8/7c on January 14 on The CW.