Barry, Ollie, Alex, Sara, Jax and Stein are trapped in a concentration camp on Earth-X - a world where The Nazis won World War II! Thankfully, they have unexpected allies... including the Earth-X version of Leonard Snart! Meanwhile, back on Earth One, Iris and Felicity must free their friends from the STAR Labs pipeline and save Supergirl before her heart is removed to save a sickly Overgirl.
General alternate reality tropes involving The Axis Powers winning World War II, Justice League of America #107 (Vol. 1) (basic plot, idea of Earth-X), the movie Die Hard (heroes using ducts to traverse a building, avoiding a small army, name-dropped by Felicity), Flashpoint (concept of Citizen Cold - the heroic Captain Cold), Final Crisis (concept of Overgirl - the Nazi Supergirl), The Terminator (appearance of Earth-X Metallo, Felicity says "Come with me if you want to live" to Kara), All-Star Superman (a Kryptonian dying because of absorbing too much solar energy) and the comics of Len Wein.
Paul Blackthorne does a good German accent. Unfortunately, his accent only serves to remind us that none of the other regular cast playing villains from Earth-X are bothering with German accents.
Despite being billed as a major part of the crossover event, The Ray is barely introduced as a character here and nothing is given of his background.
There's a nice bit of non-verbal acting on the parts of Caity Lotz, Chyler Leigh and Martin Garber as they see the badges on the uniforms of their fellow inmates and realize just how much trouble they are as a Jewish professor, a lesbian and a bisexual without saying a word.
Lotz does something similar opposite Paul Blackthorne, when she sees the man her father is on Earth-X. Not a word is said as Sara learns that this Quentin Lance killed his own daughter for loving men and women, but her eyes give away how disturbed she is to see her father like this.
Melissa Benoist gives perhaps her finest performance ever as Kara Danvers, confronting an evil version of herself who is, strangely enough, everything Kara has been threatening to become in Season Three of Supergirl the more she forsakes her humanity.
Jeremy Jordan brilliantly plays against type as Freedom Fighter General Winslow Schott Jr here.
There's another great moment between Caity Lotz and Chyler Leigh as Sara and Alex bond over their strong connection with their sisters and their complicated relationships.
The production team did a marvelous job of capturing the despair and horror of a concentration camp in the opening scene, right up to the open grave full of the bones of other people killed by the firing squad and left to rot that our heroes see as they are marched off to be executed.
Supergirl's speech to Overgirl is a perfect encapsulation of the political zeitgeist in America at the time this episode aired - an argument against the politics of the Alt-Right which normalizes racism and fascism in the name of some Nationalistic ideal of purity.
The DC Comics Multiverse has a tradition of alternate realities where the Nazis won World War II. The first was Earth-X (Two) - an alternate version of Earth-Quality, which housed the superheroes published by Quality Comics who were later bought by DC Comics. Justice League of America #107 (Vol. 1) (October 1973) introduced this Earth-X, when The Freedom Fighters - a team formed to fight the Nazis after they developed mind-control technology - summoned The Justice League from Earth One to help them.
The Earth-X rebellion against the Nazi regime which rules the world is called The Freedom Fighters. Their members include Citizen Cold, The Ray and Freedom Fighter General Schott.
Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, Earth-X was folded into the unified DC Universe. It was revived as Earth 10 in The New 52 reality.
On Earth 10, the rocket carrying the last son of Krypton to Earth landed in a Nazi-controlled Sudetenland. This child became Overman - Champion Of The Fourth Reich. He lead a team of Nazi metahumans, including Overgirl - a human girl who gained Overman's powers after being injected with Overman's genetic material. Overgirl was introduced during the Final Crisis storyline.
The entrance gate at the concentration camp on Earth-X that we see has a sign which reads "Arbeit Machit Frei". This is the German phrase for "work sets you free" - a slogan that was posted above the gates of many real-world concentration camps.
The caption labeling Earth-X changes to read Erde-X. "Erde" is the German word for Earth.
As in our world, the inmates in concentration camps on Earth-X are made to wear badges which denoted their crimes. Pink Triangles were used for homosexuals. Yellow Stars of David (six pointed stars) for Jews.
Rather than the usual The Flash logo, this episode opens with a special Crisis on Earth-X logo.
This episode marks the first time we get to see the Pipeline cells "in storage" when they aren't being opened to let one of the inmates talk to whoever is at the entrance.
Felicity makes a reference to Josef Mengele in discussing Thawne's plans for Kara. Josef Mengele was a Nazi doctor famous for his cruel and unusual experiments on captive subjects.
While the idea of a more heroic Captain Cold has come and gone over the years, Citizen Cold first appeared in The Flash storyline Flashpoint. In the world where Barry Allen never became The Flash, Leonard Snart became Citizen Cold and turned upon his former criminal partners, becoming the protector of Central City. It was largely an act, however, and Snart was still as profit-minded as ever, stealing from the criminals he captured. He was later killed by Iris West as revenge for his murder of Wally West, who had uncovered Snart's secret identity and criminal past and threatened to reveal the information to the public.
The glasses which Leonard Snart wears as Citizen Cold are based on the classic Captain Cold glasses from the original The Flash comics.
The Earth-X version of Leonard Snart is a much more cheerful fellow than the snarky, dispassionate master criminal we saw on Earth One. He's fond of puns and is rarely not smiling. He insists that everyone call him Leo and seems to be easily distracted. He also has a code against killing, as evidenced by the fact that he chills the weapons of his enemies making them too cold to hold rather than freezing them solid.
The Ray first appeared in Smash Comics #14 (September 1940), published by Quality Comics. Originally, reporter Lanford "Happy" Terrill was said to have developed energy-control powers after being exposed to sunlight and lightning at the same time while ballooning. This was changed after Crisis On Infinite Earths, with the first Ray gaining his powers as a test-subject for a secret government group called RONOL (Research On Nature Of Light) in a staged ballooning accident.
The mind behind RONOL was Dr. Dayzl, who had radical theories about all of the light in the universe coming from a sentient and potentially dangerous entity. He created a light bomb and exposed Terrill to it, hoping that his offspring would become a union of light and humanity capable of communicating with his theoretical Light Entity. Shockingly, Dayzl's theories seem to be confirmed when Lanford Terrill's son was born glowing! To spare his wife the shock of this weird truth, Lanford fakes his infant's son's death and sent him away to be raised by his brother, Thomas.
Lanford's son, Ray Terrill, became the second Ray. He first appeared in The Ray #1 (February 1992). He had been raised in total darkness, told that he had a disease that made sunlight lethal to him. In truth, his foster father (uncle) had been trying to hide his nature. Ray learned the truth from his uncle's death-bed confession.
A third man - Stan Silver - adopted the name of The Ray when The Freedom Fighters were reformed. He first appeared in DCU: Brave New World (July 2006). Like Lanford Terrill, he was a reporter who gained the power to become "a living laser light" after being exposed to upper atmosphere radiation. Unlike Lanford Terrill, he was a womanizer, a braggart and a double-agent for the organization S.H.A.D.E..
A fourth Ray was introduced into The New 52 reality in The Ray #1 (December 2011). This Ray was a man named Lucien Gates - a Korean-American lifeguard who developed energy-control powers after getting caught in the path of a particle beam. Comments made by Lucien suggest that he is not the first hero to use the name of The Ray in the new reality and that Lanford Terrill (at least) was The Ray before him.
Unlike his comic-book counterpart, the Earth One version of The Ray is gay.
The Freedom Fighters use a Red Tornado robot to destroy The Nazi's temporal gateway. It's worth noting that T.O. Morrow, the scientist who created The Red Tornado in the comics, is a Polish Jew - his original name being Tomek Ovadya Morah.
Earth-X has power-dampening collars, similar to the technology developed by STAR Labs on Earth One. The collars are also capable of electrocuting those bound by them, which is why even the non-powered heroes are fitted with them.
The Cold Gun of Citizen Cold also has some ability to fire explosive projectiles, as we see when he shoots a round from his gun that takes out a watchtower.
The Nazis on Earth-X have control of a temporal gateway - a device which operates in much the same manner as a breach, only much larger and more stable. This is what they used to travel to Earth One.
The Temporal Gateway is guarded by 30 Panzer XIIs, 50 Strumtigers and 100 Schutzstaffel officers. It is also full of metahuman power dampening fields.
The Nazi super-weapon is revealed to be a time-ship dubbed The Wellenreiter (a.k.a. Wave-Rider in German.)
The Temporal Gateway requires an automated power cell be activated before its control console works.
(Harry is bouncing a ball against the wall of his cell to annoy Cisco. Cisco, in turn, is banging on the wall of his cell to annoy Harry.)
Dinah: Are they going to do that the whole time we're in here?
Supergirl: (weakly) You did all of this just.. just to get me?! Do you know how many innocent people you've killed?!
Overgirl: Their lives to save mine? They should be honored.
(A Nazi officer enters the yard of the camp.)
Sturmbannführer Lance: So these are...(scornfully) the heroes?
Guard: Yes, Sturmbannführer!
(Sturmbannführer Lance walks forward, stopping as he sees White Canary.)Sturmbannführer Lance: (sighing) Blonde hair. Blue eyes. This is Nordic perfection. (stepping forward toward her) Why would you align yourself with the unpure?
Sara: Because I like men. And I like women.
Sturmbannführer Lance: (sighing, his expression sad) You know, I had a daughter who looked just like you, with similar compulsions.
(Sturmbannführer Lance reaches out and stroke's Sara's cheek with his gloved hand.)
Sturmbannführer Lance: (suddenly angry) And I expunged that filth from my family line forever!
(He pulls his hand away. Sara puts on a brave face but her eyes reveal her torment.)
(Barry, Ollie, Alex, Sara, Stein and Jax are lined up before the firing squad. They steel themselves, ready to face the end unflinching.)
Sturmbannführer Lance: Ready!
(The Nazi guards raise and cock their guns.)
Sturmbannführer Lance: Aim!
(Suddenly, a blast of blue energy washes across The Nazi guards. They all drop their guns as a familiar figure comes into view from around a Nazi truck, cold gun in hand. His glasses are different but the smile on his face as the Nazis freeze is unmistakable.)
Citizen Cold: I hate "fire".
Everyone Else: Snart?!
Ray: About time!
Citizen Cold: (To Barry) That is a fantastic outfit! Did you make that?
Citizen Cold: Right. (starts removing Ray's collar) Time to make you shine, buddy.
Ray: Uh, you, uh, might want to close your eyes?
(As the collar comes loose, Ray begins to glow with a blinding yellow light. He flies into the sky above and begins shooting energy blasts at the approaching Nazi soldiers.)
Stein: Well, I believe he just answered your question.
Overgirl: You're looking more human. Scared. Helpless. Pathetic. Inferior.
Supergirl: We're not that different from them.
Overgirl: Oh, please. We're everything they want to be: blonde, white - Aryan perfection.
Supergirl: I'm not like you. I don't think I'm better than everyone else.
Overgirl: You should. You are. You're a god to them. You could have been living like one.
Supergirl: (laughing weakly) Like you?
Overgirl: Yes, like me! They want someone to bow to. To worship. To lead!
Supergirl: What you're doing is not leading. It's ruling.
Overgirl: (considers this and nods) Yes. It is.
Ray: (To Ollie) And you're the good version of The Fuhrer?
Sara: "Good" might be an over-simplification.
Stein: I may be a learned man but I am not always an astute one. I think I was just so thrilled with the reality of my imminent departure that I neglected to consider your feelings.
Jax: Look, man - I'm not trying to take you away from your family or nothing-
Stein: You are my family!
(Jax stops in mid-protest, stunned.)
Stein: Long before I unexpectedly found myself with a daughter, I found myself unexpectedly with a son.
Jax; (embarrassed) Yeah, I know.
Stein: "You know?" You know? Do you? Look around you. We're standing in one of the.. darkest places imaginable. Yet somehow, I am optimistic. Do you know why?
Jax: Because you are a crazy old man?
Stein: Yes. (suddenly) No!
Stein: Because I am standing here with you. You are a better son than I could have ever hoped for. And no length of time or distance will ever change that.
Jax: (nods) A'ight. Apology accepted. Come here.
(The two hug.)
Alex: You don't understand! I can't lose her!
Sara: I understand more than you think. I lost my sister. The anger and guilt that I felt for not being able to save her... it took me down a dark path.
Alex: I'm sorry. I didn't know.
Sara: How could you? The only thing we know about each other is... what we look like with clothes off. Beautiful, by the way. You also don't know that I protect my team, and you, Danvers, are on my team. And I promise you we're not going to let what happened to my sister happen to yours.
Alex: I'm sorry. I just want to... I want to save Kara and I want to get back to Maggie.
Sara: Maggie is...?
Sara: Yeah. I had a Maggie too. And I think about going back to her all the time. Look, Alex... you seem like a pretty thoughtful person. And if you thought it wasn't going to work out and had to end it, I'm sure that reason was valid. Trust your instincts.
(Ollie reveals his half-improvised plan.)
Citizen Cold: That's the whole plan?
Barry: Well, as the Snart we used know used to say, "Make a plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan."
Citizen Cold: Wow. That is... that is -terrible- advice.
As the episode opens, Barry, Ollie, Sara, Alex, Jax and Stein are being held prisoner in a concentration camp on Earth-X. Caitlin, Cisco, Harry, Rene, Dinah, Curtis and Rory are being held inside The Pipeline in STAR Labs on Earth One. Kara is being held in a red-sun field in STAR Labs on Earth One, about to be operated on by Eobard Thawne. Iris and Felicity are still free, hiding in the ducts under STAR Labs.
Cisco awakens from his coma from S308.
The Earth-X version of Quentin Lance is a Sturmbannführer in the Nazi army. This is roughly the equivalent of a Major in the United States Army. The name literally translates from German as "assault unit leader."
The Earth-X Version of Quentin Lance apparently killed the Earth-X version of Sara Lance personally when he learned of her bisexuality.
The Earth-X version of Leonard Snart goes by the name Citizen Cold. He is armed with a cold gun, similar to that used by the Earth One Leonard Snart. His personality is quite different, however, being more cheerful and easy going.
It is confirmed that the Earth-X version of Oliver Queen is The Fuhrer of the Earth-X Nazi government.
Ray is originally from Earth One.
Felicity sends a distress signal to the rest of The Legends.
It is revealed that the Earth-X version of Winslow Schott Jr. is a General in The Freedom Fighters. This version of Winn Schott is more confident than his Earth 38 counterpart and more militaristic in his approach to things.
Stein refers to the events of L205 and how he inadvertently created a daughter by altering his own past, so that his younger self tried to be a more attentive husband and wound up having a child.
Alex Danvers is certified in the use of 30 military weapons.
Sara refers to the death of Laurel Lance and her own efforts to try and prevent it by killing her murderer before he had a chance to kill her in Season Two of Legends of Tomorrow.
Sara talks about a complicated relationship she had with a woman who she thinks about going back to but ultimately decided it wouldn't work out with. This is likely a reference to Nyssa Al Ghul, whom Sara was romantically involved with during her time in The League of Assassins.
The Ray and Citizen Cold are in a romantic relationship.
Eobard Thawne claims to have fought Superman at one point in Kara Danvers' future and that he was faster than Superman.
The Nazi super-weapon is revealed to be a time-ship dubbed The Wellenreiter - a.k.a. Wave-Rider in German.
The Earth-X version of Felicity Smoak is an inmate in the Star City concentration camp. Sturmbannführer Lance uses her as part of a test to confirm that the Oliver Queen who shows up unexpectedly is not the true Fuhrer.
The weapon The Freedom Fighters are using to destroy The Nazi's Temporal Gateway is a Red Tornado robot, like the one Supergirl fought in S106.
Eobard Thawne claims that the history books where he comes from are full of legends of the Age of Heroes and stories of Green Arrow, Black Canary and The Flash. He says that nobody in his time has heard of Felicity Smoak.
The episode ends with Professor Stein being shot, seemingly fatally, as The Red Tornado moves to destroy The Nazi base.
Earth-X - Star City
Earth One - Central City
The Fridge Factor
Iris is completely useless in this episode. Felicity does everything that stops The Earth-X villains from killing Supergirl. Iris is just along for the ride.
The Bottom Line
Curiously, despite being an episode of The Flash, Barry doesn't do much in this episode and the regular supporting cast is largely absent and even the ones we see don't do much. (Looking at you, Iris!) Still, there's a lot of great performances here from other Arrowverse actors. As part of the larger crossover event, it's a damn good penultimate chapter with one hell of a cliff-hanger ending. Shame they didn't do more to give The Ray a proper introduction, though.