The CW's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" will finally bring to life one of the DC Universe's biggest threats, The Anti-Monitor. The character is one of the publisher's ultimate villains, among names such as Brainiac, Doomsday and Darkseid. The Anti-Monitor will threaten to destroy swaths of worlds in the Arrowverse crossover, much as he did in the original comic book. The biggest question, however, is why.
Monitor/Anti-Monitor actor Lamonica Garrett recently revealed the character's motivation, and it isn't complicated: "There's no greater purpose. He is just evil." Given that "Crisis" is to the Arrowverse what Infinity War and Endgame were to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's a disappointment that it won't have an antagonist as nuanced as Thanos.
Much of Thanos' popularity from the last two Avengers films, outside of the stellar performance from Josh Brolin, was the character's motivation. Wiping out half of the population of various worlds, the Mad Titan saw himself as an inevitable necessity. His massacres supposedly restored a sense of balance to each world, as well as the potential for naturalistic regression.
Even in the midst of committing such heinous acts of violence, Thanos was justified in his mind due to what he saw as a need for population control. With the potential for war increased by more people and fewer resources, Thanos' black heart becomes considerably greyer when seen through the veneer of his sacrificial culling.
Even Killmonger's actions were, while not justified, explainable in his quest for right the wrongs afflicted upon his people. On the other hand, these two could be considered outliers in the universe. One consistent criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies has been the typically lackluster villains, with Thanos, Killmonger, and Loki being the few exceptions. Loki's extra dimensions came from his jealousy of Thor, and the resentment that stems from his being adopted. Loki was of course taken to even greater heights off of the written page by Tom Hiddleston, with the portrayals of Thanos and Killmonger receiving similar acclaim. Perhaps as long as the performance is good, the motivation will for the villain will be secondary in viewers' eyes.
"Classic" Villains in the Arrowverse
The Arrowverse is itself no stranger to these "evil for evil's sake" type of villains, with the ratio being somewhat split down the board. In the first two seasons of Arrow, the seasons' big bads of Merlyn the Dark Archer and Deathstroke the Terminator were given tragic, dimensional premises for their actions. These helped explain why they stood against Oliver Queen and the people of Starling City, adding depth.
However, later villains in the universe, would be considerably less nuanced or justifiable. The Reverse Flash, much like in the comics, becomes a villain simply because that's his arbitrary destiny. His vendetta against Barry Allen doesn't extend too far past the fact that it was supposedly fated. Zoom was even more evil for its own sake, having an appearance to match. While Savitar and The Thinker were written have somewhat understandable positions, Damien Darhk and especially Ricardo Diaz instead reveled in their evil acts. Diaz in particular impulsively struck back at those who had slightly wronged him years before.
More recent villains have had more tragedy and rationale for what they do, namely Black Lightning and Batwoman's Tobias Whale and Alice. Given how personal their stories feel in relation to both their shows and their respective heroic rivals, it is a bit strange to see the Arrowverse's greatest threat be so comparatively... boring. While having a classic, pure evil bad guy is by no means a bad idea, it does somewhat dilute the hype for the event if the villain causing it has such a one-note incentive. It does allow the various heroes from various Earths and their interactions to take center stage, but why should audiences care if their reason for teaming up is something so utterly unrelatable?
There is the potential nuance of The Monitor and The Anti-Monitor being essentially mirror images of each other. The Monitor, however, isn't a perfect, kind-hearted Samaritan, and comes off many times as abrasive and misanthropic, similar to Marvel's The Watcher. Thus, if the hero can have extra layers in how he is written, why stick with such an old school approach just for the villain?
Potentially, the larger approach could come down to respect for the source material. This fit how the character was in the original story. He seeks out worlds to destroy simply because he's an evil version of The Monitor, and not for any deep or personal reason. More recent versions of the character, namely the New 52 version off of which Crisis is basing his appearance, have attempted to add more layers to the character's back story. It seems that for the TV version of The Anti-Monitor, however, evil needs no justification, and simply is.
Crisis on Infinite Earths begins Sunday, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Supergirl, then continues in Batwoman on Monday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and in The Flash on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. After the winter hiatus, the crossover will conclude on Tuesday, Jan. 14 in Arrow at 8 p.m. ET/PT and in DC's Legends of Tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET/PT.