Freedom Fighters: The Ray will return to the world of Crisis on Earth-X, but before the events of the latest Arrowverse crossover. Following the Vixen animated series on CW Seed, the Arrowverse is set to expand even more thanks to Freedom Fighters: The Ray. Long before the Nazi doppelgängers of Earth-X interrupted Barry and Iris' wedding, The Ray and his resistance movement were meant to arrive for a 6-part animated series. But along the way, a few big changes occurred.
While Vixen has had a big impact on the Arrowverse for the past few years, from the hero appearing on Arrow to Legends of Tomorrow fleshing out her family and mythology this season, Freedom Fighters: The Ray was designed to explore a completely different world. But as the show was taking shape, the minds behind the universe decided Earth-X would be the perfect backdrop for this year's live-action crossover. Once Russell Tovey joined as The Ray, the only thing that could be done was to work him into the animated series and delay its release.
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CBR spoke with Arrowverse producer Marc Guggenheim in celebration of Freedom Fighters: The Ray dropping all six episodes on the CW Seed today. For the minds behind the series and the crossover, there was only one course of action to take once Tovey came aboard:
"There was just no way to turn those kind of changes around and release it before the crossover. It was just more important to have Russell’s voice in the series than it was to get it out early, so that’s why you’ve seen the crossover before you’ve seen the animated series, even though the animated series does take place before the crossover. Complicated enough?"
For most fans, the existence of Freedom Fighters: The Ray is likely unknown. But for anyone following both the series and the main shows, it's been a confusing few months deciding how things add up. Without spoiling the new animated series, there's a number of elements that haven't added up. While Guggenheim confirms what many have suspected, that The Ray is set before Crisis on Infinite Earth, the show may not fit into strict Arrowverse continuity.
For one thing, a poster for Freedom Fighters: The Ray confirmed Vibe would make an appearance. Why Cisco makes no mention of fighting alongside the Freedom Fighters is just one of the potential conflicts. There's also the lack of any of the other Freedom Fighters in Crisis on Earth-X and the addition of Jimmy Olsen as a hero not seen on the animated series.
There's also a stark contrast in the costumes worn by the evil doppelgängers in both the animated series and the live-action shows. That's easy enough to explain away, but it was confusing to see Eobard Thawne as the Dark Flash when Barry Allen was positioned as the character in the early looks at The Ray. As it turns out, there are actually two takes on the Dark Flash:
"His name is Blitzkrieg. Obviously, he’s different from Thawne, who is our evil speedster in the crossover. The great thing about the Arrowverse is there’s plenty of evil speedsters to choose from. We had written and conceived of the whole animated series long before the crossover and even longer before the idea of doing Earth-X, long before the idea of doing Earth-X in the crossover was a twinkle in our eye. If we had thought out that far in advance, maybe we would have done Thawne, but I kind of dig evil Barry Allen. He’s fun."
What Guggenheim doesn't make clear is why evil Barry wasn't simply used in the crossover. Not only would it have added more thematic weight to things and mirrored Oliver and Kara's counterparts, but it would have dispensed with Reverse-Flash once again returning from the grave in some manner. While Arrowverse die-hards may be disappointed to hear Freedom Fighters: The Ray doesn't perfectly align with the other shows, there's a lot that can be explained away when parallel Earths are involved.
Freedom Fighters: The Ray is out now on CW Seed.