For a being who is almost a god, The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) sure is confusing. Ostensibly the character, who was first introduced last year in The CW’s “Elseworlds” crossover, is trying to stop a Crisis that will destroy the entire multiverse. But based on his actions — and with only a month left until the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover kicks off in all the Arrow-verse shows — his plan is confusing, at best.
Spoilers for Arrow Season 8, Episode 4 “Present Tense” past this point.
There was actually a ton to like about this week’s Arrow, which took the main players from the show’s Star City 2040 flashforwards and thrust them into the present timeline. Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara) got to meet her father Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) for the first time. William Clayton (Ben Lewis) also got to bond with his dad Oliver, and come out to him in a delightfully sweet scene. And Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones) clashed with his own father, John Diggle (David Ramsey) who, through the magic of time travel, hasn’t actually met him yet.
The bulk of the episode was focused on these interpersonal relationships, as well as pushing the present day Team Arrow characters forwards to their ultimate destinies. Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) dove forward in his run for mayor of Star City, armed with the knowledge that his 2040 version has compromised too much to corporate interests. Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) took an idea from the future — the establishment of a vigilante network known as the Canaries — and pushed up the timeline, not waiting for the next disaster to start cracking on a good idea. And though Diggle knows his son JJ will grow up to become the next villain known as Deathstroke, he’s not going to stop trying to give his kid the best life he possibly can.
Basically, they’re all committed to using their knowledge of the future to make sure they push as hard as they can to do good… While in the background, The Monitor is secretly mucking everything up. Specifically, in the stinger he approaches Laurel Lance, and makes a deal with her: he’ll bring back her entire planet, Earth-2, if in exchange she betrays Oliver. Ba bah BUM.
But, uh, how does this fit in with everything else The Monitor has been doing in order to seemingly prevent the coming Crisis? Naturally, we’re not supposed to know how all the puzzle pieces fit together until the event begins on December 8 over on Supergirl — it will continue 12/9 on Batwoman, 12/10 on The Flash, and conclude January 14, 2020 on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Regardless, his actions seem haphazard at best, vacillating wildly between missions and counter-missions.
As a side-note, this is technically consistent with The Monitor’s pre-Crisis behavior over in the comics. In the long lead up to the event, which was written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Pérez, The Monitor was an arms dealer for villains, something that allowed him to pop up in various other comics, but didn’t actually seem to have any impact at all on “Crisis on Infinite Earths” itself. So maybe that’s what the Arrow-verse is going for?
Whatever it is, let’s lay out the broad strokes of his actions so far. We know that about a thousand years ago, he inspired the League of Assassins, and the first Ra’s al Ghul to keep balance in the world (usually through death and violence). Much later, he recruited Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), Diggle’s future wife, who will become the being known as Harbinger in the TV “Crisis” crossover.
Here’s where things get even more confusing. After killing every hero on Earth-90 (which he blamed on themselves), he traveled to Earth-1, home of Green Arrow (Amell), The Flash (Grant Gustin), Batwoman (Ruby Rose) and others in order to do the same thing. He gave a powerful artifact called the Book of Destiny to a crazy person, and told him to test the Earth by changing it to his (crazy) desires. In the process, The Monitor decided that Earth-1 was worthy of being his defenders in the upcoming Crisis, and made a deal with Oliver to help him in, in exchange for The Flash and Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) lives.
Side-note: Supergirl lives on Earth-38. Superhero shows are confusing!
After that, he freed J’onn J’onzz’s (David Harewood) evil brother Malefic (Phil LaMarr) from The Phantom Zone, and potentially resurrected Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer). Oh, and also destroyed a part of S.T.A.R. Labs so that Team Flash wouldn’t find out the timeline for the Crisis got moved up from 2024 to 2019, and try to change time again.
All in all, not very heroic behavior, and it only continued as he took Oliver from his family, pulling him onto Earth-2 in order to steal some Dwarf star particles. In the process, Earth-2 was destroyed by a wave of anti-matter, which The Monitor blamed Oliver for. Then he had Lyla kidnap a scientist named Dr. Robert Wong, and at around the same time told The Flash that in order to stop the Crisis, Barry Allen had to die.
Two other tidbits: over on The Flash, Harrison Nash Wells (Tom Cavanagh) has been trying to break into a chamber under Central City where The Monitor was doing… Something, and has told Team Flash that whatever was down there can save Barry Allen; and on Arrow, there’s that whole “betray Oliver Queen” thing.
And one other important piece of information! Oliver is pretty sure that The Monitor isn’t going to stop the Crisis, he’s going to start it; and has begun taking steps to build a weapon that can kill a god.
So what does this leave us with? Pure speculation, but if The Monitor does line up with his comic counterpart, a lot of what Oliver has discovered, and some of these moves, are to prepare for the coming of the Anti-Monitor, also played by Garrett. Where The Monitor wants to preserve life at any cost, the Anti-Monitor wants to destroy it, and that’s where that antimatter wave came from in the Arrow Season 8 premiere.
That said, does, uh, killing all the heroes on Earth-90, throwing Oliver around the multiverse, taking his kids and tossing them back in time, resurrecting Lex Luthor, pitting an insane martian against Team Supergirl, telling Laurel to betray Oliver and more make any sense when lined up with a treasure hunt to find dwarf star particles and a scientist, as well as trying to prevent the destruction of the multiverse? Short answer: no. You can excuse it as “The Monitor is a god and who are we to understand what he wants?” But right now, he’s playing like a petty jerk obsessed with Oliver Queen. Hopefully in the few remaining episodes left before “Crisis,” his motivations will become a little more clear.
Arrow airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.