"Crisis on Infinite Earths": Brandon Routh's Superman Feels Like Farewell

With Brandon Routh leaving 'Legends of Tomorrow,' his dual role as Superman in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" just became an homage.

Brandon Routh, who spent the last few years as the size-shifting superhero The Atom/Ray Palmer in The CW’s “Arrowverse,” is bidding farewell in the upcoming season of Legends of Tomorrow. Suddenly, his double role as Superman in the mega-crossover “Crisis on Infinite Earths” makes more sense: It’s an homage to the actor’s career in the DC multiverse.

On Friday, Deadline reported that Routh, along with co-star and real-life romantic partner Courtney Ford, who plays the villain-turned-ally Nora Darhk, will leave Legends of Tomorrow in the show’s fifth season on The CW.

The exit was confirmed by Routh and series producers Phil Klemmer, Grianne Godfree, and Keto Shimizu, who told Deadline: “Brandon and Courtney have been invaluable members of the Legends family … They have always brought a level passion and collaboration to their characters and to the show — both on and off the screen – that we deeply admire and for which we are eternally grateful.”

Says Routh, “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to bring the big-hearted and humorous Ray Palmer to life for our fans over the last 5 years, but unfortunately, his storyline is pointed in another direction.” He added, “I’m saddened to see Ray’s journey end for now but wish my Legends family well.”

Brandon Routh, as Ray Palmer, in a Season 4 episode of  'Legends of Tomorrow.'

The CW

Season 5 of Legends of Tomorrow will be the final season of Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer. But the season will mark another, special occasion: The Avengers: Endgame-caliber crossover event, “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” spanning the entire Arrowverse (plus the so far non-canon series, Black Lightning) in an epic story that pits the heroes against a villain who threatens to destroy the multiverse.

Although known for playing Ray Palmer, Routh also played Superman in the 2006 film Superman Returns. And at Comic-Con in July, Routh appeared at a panel where he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a Superman t-shirt underneath. And it wasn’t just any Superman shirt, but Kingdom Come Superman. This means Routh will play an older Superman retired from superhero life, as seen in the acclaimed Mark Waid/Alex Ross 1996 classic comic Kingdom Come, a story that deconstructed the archetypes of DC’s most famous heroes.

But Routh has spent far more time as Ray Palmer, and earned recognition from DC fans from both roles. It’s for that reason that one can’t look at Routh’s reprising Superman and not think of it as an homage to the actor’s long career under the DC umbrella as it comes to a symbolic end.

Of all the original Season 1 actors in Legends of Tomorrow, only Routh, Caity Lotz (who stars as Sara Lance/White Canary), and Dominic Purcell (Mick Rory/Heat Wave) have stuck around to appear in a fifth season. The show’s time travel premise has given it a rotating ensemble with relatively high turnover. This also gives actors opportunities to return, which will probably happen with Routh and Ford.

This also means Routh’s Ray Palmer is unlikely to die in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” if the door is wide open for a return in the future. Then again, death hasn’t stopped anyone from rejoining the Legends either.

“Of course, when we have had main characters in the past whose journeys take them away from the Waverider, it’s never truly goodbye,” the producers said in their statement. “We love these characters and hope to check in with them in future seasons, to see how life off the ship has transformed them for better or worse.”

Since Routh revealed his Superman’s return, the actor has kept quiet to the press about the role and what it means for “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” And we can only imagine what it means for him.

“Crisis on Infinite Earths” will air on The CW, starting with Supergirl on December 8 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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