A crisis is coming – and not every TV viewer is prepared.

The CW’s annual crossover kicks off Dec. 8 and will span across Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow. This year’s event, titled Crisis on Infinite Earths, is promising to be the network’s most ambitious crossover yet, and the DCTV shows have been planting seeds about it for weeks (or, in some cases, months). But what if you don’t watch every series? Here's what you need to know so you won't be lost when the Crisis hits.

The Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover is set to feature alternate Earths – and presumably alternate versions of our favourite characters. In the comics, the Crisis destroyed the multiverse and only left one Earth remaining. We've already been introduced to a mysterious, 'verse-hopping character called The Monitor (also known as Mar Novu) who appears to be able to see the future and is central to the Crisis. He has been gathering items and heroes across all shows to help stop someone called the Anti-Monitor from destroying all Earths.

Here’s a recap of what's been happening on each participating show leading up to the crossover:

More so than any other DCTV show, Arrow seems like it will be most affected by the crossover and has been doing the lion's share in terms of buildup. The Crisis setup kicked off in Arrow’s emotional season finale back in May, when an all-knowing figure called The Monitor whisked Oliver Queen away from his wife Felicity and newborn daughter Mia to help prepare for the upcoming battle. He also revealed that Oliver is destined to die in the Crisis, but his participation may be able to save the multiverse. 

Last season, the show introduced flashforwards, which take place 20 years in the future and depict a grim and violent world. Oliver is presumed dead following the events of Crisis, vigilantes have been outlawed, and Felicity spent decades in hiding raising Mia, who eventually ran away to become a cage fighter. She met up with her brother William, Rene's daughter Zoe, and Diggle's adopted son Connor, and they banded together to try to restore Star City and fight the leader of the Deathstroke Gang, Diggle's son JJ. Along the way, they got assists from Felicity, as well as Star City's Canary Network, led by Dinah and Laurel. Last season's flashforwards ended with the Monitor taking Felicity through a portal, presumably to reunite with Oliver after being separated for 20 years.

Back in present day, the current season sees the presumably doomed archer following the Monitor’s orders to retrieve specific items -- including dwarf star particles, an anti-matter weapon, and a scientist who created a deadly virus -- from across the globe (and the multiverse) to help them fight in the Crisis. On one of these missions, Oliver and his team witnessed the destruction of Earth 2, convincing them that the Monitor is telling the truth about the upcoming Crisis obliterating Earths unless they can stop it. They also discovered that the Monitor secretly recruited Lyla and turned her into a "harbinger," and tested Black Siren by tempting her to betray Oliver. When she passed the loyalty test, he allowed her to say goodbye to Quentin, her father figure who died last year. Speaking of rewards, the Monitor also transported adult versions of Oliver and Diggle’s children from 20 years in the future to the present timeline, allowing Oliver the chance to get to know them before he has to sacrifice himself. It looks like the future kids will be sticking around for the battle; in an Arrow-centric promo for Crisis, a grown Mia can be seen fighting alongside dad Oliver (see video below).

The Flash
The other show to have plenty of Crisis setup is The Flash, which also predicts a doomed destiny for its lead character. In the very first episode of the series, a newspaper headline from the future claimed that the Flash would disappear in 2024 in an event we now know to be Crisis. In last season’s finale, the date in the headline changed from 2024 to 2019, likely due to Barry and Iris' adult daughter Nora visiting them from the future and messing up the timeline. In the current season, the Monitor visited Barry to deliver a similar message he gave Oliver: in the Crisis, The Flash will die but his death may save the world. Unconvinced, Barry used the Speed Force to see the future and in the billions of possible scenarios, the only one in which his family and friends survived the Crisis was the one where Barry sacrificed himself.

Cisco, who recently took the metahuman cure to get rid of his Vibe powers, is now prepping to take over as leader of Star Labs following Barry's predicted death. However, a new version of Harrison Wells called Nash (aka Pariah, named after the comic book character who accidentally released the Anti-Monitor and then tried to prevent him from destroying the multiverse) arrived in Central City to hunt the Monitor (or, more likely, the Anti-Monitor) and seems to believe he can change Barry’s fate. In a bumper that's airing at the end of every show's pre-crossover episode, we see Pariah finding a door engraved in symbols. He punches a code into the symbols and then a bright light flashes and he's sucked into a portal. 

Also Flash-related: actor John Wesley Shipp will return for Crisis as The Flash from Earth 90.

This season of Supergirl has been focused on Kara’s struggle to remain a journalist amid a corporate takeover which has seen CatCo transform from a respected media empire to a clickbait machine, while Lena inches toward the dark side as she grows resentful that Kara hid her superhero identity from her for so long. Lena’s brother Lex died in last season’s finale, however the Monitor resurrected him and has been keeping him in a space prison until Crisis, telling Lex he can use his mind in the upcoming battle to "become the hero he has longed to be." The Monitor also transported J’onn’s brother Malefic to National City, where he terrorized the team until Lena held him hostage and stole his ability to control other people. In the episode before Crisis, Malefic was redeemed, and the Monitor told J’onn his brother's arrival was a test to get him ready for the fight by conquering the demons of his past and learning that his vulnerabilities are his strengths.

Besides John Cryer reprising his role of Lex, other past Supergirl characters to appear in Crisis include Tyler Hoechlin's Clark Kent/Superman and Elizabeth Tulloch's Lois Lane, who both appeared in last year's crossover as expectant parents. Tom Welling's Clark Kent and Erica Durance's Lois Lane from Smallville are also set to appear in Crisis.

Legends of Tomorrow
Legends did not participate in last year’s crossover, but promos indicate the time-travelling crew of lovable misfits is back in a big way this year. The show does not return until mid-season (technically after the crossover), so there has been very little Crisis setup. However, in last season’s finale, the Monitor was briefly spotted at Heyworld, a fantastical theme park, eating popcorn among the crowd and watching the Legends perform with magical creatures. Also in that episode, Zari went back in time, encountering her younger self and changing the past, which resulted in her no longer being part of the Legends. Instead, her brother is on the team and no one seems to remember her time as a Legend.

In the crossover, actor Brandon Routh will be pulling double duty, appearing as both his Legends of Tomorrow character Ray and the Kingdom Come version of Superman. Jonah Hex, an old-timey sheriff who has popped up in several episodes to help the team, will also make an appearance.

Though this is the first season of Batwoman, we were introduced to the lead character in last season’s crossover, in which Kate Kane/Batwoman met and helped our heroes. The Monitor has yet to pay her a visit in Gotham, where she has been busy establishing her new superhero identity and trying to reconnect with her long-lost sister Alice, who was presumed dead but has resurfaced as a villain. In the episode before Crisis, Alice killed Kate's stepmother, Katherine. 

Black Lightning
Though Black Lightning has previously not been part of the Arrowverse, Crisis on Infinite Earths will see the show’s lead character, Jefferson, interact with the other series’ masked heroes for the first time. He is set to appear in the Flash and Legends hours.

Crisis on Infinite Earths begins with Supergirl on Dec. 8, followed by Batwoman on Dec. 9, and The Flash on Dec. 10. After the winter break, the crossover will conclude on Jan. 14 with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow airing on the same night.

Watch each show's Crisis promo below:

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