News

15 Memorable Crossover Episodes Ranked

How does the Walking DeadFear the Walking Dead crossover fare in the history of TV crossovers?

by | April 16, 2018 | Comments

The Flash, "Duet"; Fear the Walking Dead, "What's Your Story"; Scandal, "SCANDAL - "Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself"(Jack Rowand/The CW; AMC; ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

Post-apocalyptic worlds collided Sunday night when Lennie James’ character Morgan Jones left the world of The Walking Dead to enter the story of its sister series, Fear the Walking Dead, giving viewers of AMC’s zombie series the fan-satisfying crossover-episode experience.

So far, critics seem to approve: Fear the Walking Dead’s season 4 premiere, “What’s Your Story,” has a Tomatometer score of 100% on 12 reviews.

It’s hard to say how the concept of interweaving stories or characters from one project to another originated. The Paley Center for Media curator David Bushman argues that literature has used the trope for centuries, noting Mark Twain’s decision to make Tom Sawyer appear in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. More recently, Film Twitter lost its collective mind in March over the assertion that Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War may be the most ambitious crossover event in history and cited numerous other examples that are no doubt better because Film Twitter said so.


Marvel's The Defenders (Sarah Shatz/Netflix)

Whatever the origin, crossover plot tactics are extremely lucrative for the entertainment industry. So much so, in fact, that titles like Netflix’s Marvel superhero series — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist — used character crossovers as primary plot tactics to remind us that they operate in a larger story together even before The Defenders (pictured above) officially united them.

“Crossovers are a pain in the a–. Everybody hates doing them,” uber producer Dick Wolf told journalists at the winter 2017 Television Critics Association press tour, referring to the scheduling headaches that ensued to facilitate overlapping stories on his Law & Order and Chicago franchises. He added, however, that they’re “like ratings crack, and it’s a bad addiction because you don’t want to overuse it.”

That said, TV crossovers are unlikely to be going away any time soon. Paley Center’s Bushman says the consolidation of media companies that allows a larger studio to gobble up smaller ones and their media libraries makes it easier for events like Supernatural’s recent Scooby Doo episode on The CW. They’re also expected occurrences on the many series that fit into the CW’s CW’s Arrowverse programming and are signals to loyal fans of one ratings juggernaut that a new series in that orbit may be worth watching (see ABC’s introduction of Station 19 via Grey’s Anatomy).

But just because crossovers get good ratings doesn’t mean they get positive reviews. We consider some of the more noteworthy events in recent crossover history.


1. Supernatural–Scooby Doo


Supernatural Season 13, Episode 16: Scoobynatural

Zoinks! Supernatural brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) entered the world of Scooby Doo in this much-hyped animated episode in the long-running show’s 13th season. Titled “Scoobynatural,” the episode also starred Matthew Lillard, Kate Micucci, Frank Welker, and Grey Griffin as the voices of the Scooby Gang (Lillard featured in the Scooby Doo movies). It was a ratings win and pretty much every critic ate it up like a crime-solving Great Dane at snack time.


2. The Simpsons–24


The Simpsons, Season 18, Episode 21: 24 Minutes

In a feat of Fox synergy, the cast of 24 leant their voices to a Simpsons parody of their high-stakes world when the pressure’s on to stop a stink bomb from igniting at Springfield Elementary. It’s one of many, many crossover stunts the long-running animated show has pulled and is often listed as a favorite when critics consider the show’s knack for both parody and casting guest talent. It also won that year’s Annie Award for best writing in an animated television production.


3. The X-Files–COPS


The X-Files, Season 7, Episode 12: X-COPS

As weird as a crossover of the sci-fi The X-Files and crime-focused reality series COPS sounds, keep in mind that both versions are all about finding the truth that’s out there. Shot in real time and recorded on videotape, writer Vince Gilligan and director Michael Watkins’ homage to the popular police series follows Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), as they investigate a mysterious incident in Los Angeles with the hopes that a live TV crew might garner them more public support for their research into the paranormal. The episode is almost always on critics’ lists of best X-Files episodes ever.


4. Supergirl–The Flash musical crossover


Supergirl Season 2, Episode 16: “Star-Crossed”
The Flash Season 3, Episode 17: “Duet”

Two TV tropes for the price of one: These two episodes of the fan-favorite series Supergirl and The Flash didn’t just have overlapping story lines, there were also song-and-dance numbers (a respected feat given that both Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin, who play the eponymous superheroes in question – as well as many others on their shows – are triple threats). The duo’s fellow Glee alum, Darren Criss, also guest stars as the Music Meister, a sort of Pied Piper-like villain who manipulates others through song. Empire magazine’s review gave it (almost) equal marks to another beloved musical episode, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More with Feeling.”


5. CSI universe 3-way crossover


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 9, Episode 5: “Leave Out All the Rest”
CSI: Miami Season 8, Episode 7: “Bone Voyage”
CSI: NY Season 6, Episode 7: “Hammer Down”

This crossover synergy from 2009 marked the first time in the franchise’s history that the trio of shows came together for one overarching story. Billed as “Three Cities, Three CSI Teams, One Big Mystery,” the events took place during a week of November sweeps. It followed Laurence Fishburne’s Raymond Langston as his hunt for a missing girl allows him to uncover a black market human trafficking operation. The Entertainment Weekly review argued that the final episode – which happened to be set at CSI numero uno – was probably the best, but that Fishburne himself was not necessarily that much fun to watch.


6. The Vampire Diaries–The Originals


The Vampire Diaries, Season 7, Episode 14: Moonlight on the Bayou
The Originals, Season 3, Episode 14: A Streetcar Named Desire

When you’re immortal, you’ve got plenty of time to travel – particularly when you’re hiding out from a vampire hunter, as The Vampire Diaries’ Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) did in this crossover episode with The Originals. While it wasn’t uncommon for characters on these shows to swap places – despite what its name suggests, The Originals was a spin-off of TVD – but fans liked that one of the Salvatore brothers made the trip to the Big Easy. Reviewers also liked that the story lines intersected in a natural way that didn’t feel like an obvious promotional ploy.


7. Scandal–How to Get Away With Murder


Scandal Season 7, Episode 12: Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

It was about time Scandal’s Olivia Pope and How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating got to share some screen time. During Scandal’s final season, actors Kerry Washington and Viola Davis appeared in the same episode for a one night Shondaland extravaganza. Audiences paid attention via a noticeable ratings boost and critics mostly embraced the stunt. The A.V. Club called it “fanbait,” but a “well-crafted” one.


8. The Flash–Supergirl–Legends of Tomorrow–Arrow 4-way crossover


The Flash, Season 3, Episode 8: Invasion!
Supergirl, Season 2, Episode 8: Medusa
Arrow, Season 5, Episode 8: Invasion!
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Season 2, Episode 7: Invasion!

This ambitious four-way crossover event has the heroes of the Arrowverse banding together to stop an alien invasion, marking the first time characters from all four of that world’s live-action shows would join forces at the same time. The spectacle, for which all shows but Supergirl were coyly titled “Invasion!,” was such a commercial and critical success that they repeated their efforts the following season.


9. Law & Order crossovers


Law & Order, Season 10, Episode 14: Fools for Love
Law & Order: SVU, Season 1, Episode 15: Entitled

While Richard Belzer’s John Munch has popped up in several series (even in Arrested Development!), the Law & Order franchise has long made use of crossover episodes with intersecting story lines over various shows. The first time it happened with Law & Order: SVU was in 2000, which was that show’s freshman season. The gamble that audiences would double-down on gritty crime dramas paid off, with The Washington Post saying the stunt packed “twice the punch.”


10. Chicago crossovers

Chicago P.D., Season 4, Episode 16: Emotional Proximity (NBC)

Chicago Fire, Season 5, Episode 15: Deathtrap
Chicago P.D. Season 4, Episode 16: Emotional Proximity
Chicago Justice, Season 1, Episode 1: Fake

Another Dick Wolf franchise, the Chicago series shares Law & Order’s penchant for showy crossover episodes. There have been two instances of crossovers involving just Chicago shows, the most recent one happening in 2017 when the franchise welcomed Chicago Justice to the family (and was thus the reason why Wolf was grumbling earlier). Not only did the stories cross over among the Chicago Justice, Fire, and P.D. series, but some of the Chicago Med characters also came along for the ride.


11. Station 19 premiere–Grey’s Anatomy crossover


Station 19 season 1, episode 1: Stuck
Grey’s Anatomy Season 14, Episode 13: You Really Got a Hold on Me

This episode, which set up the story for Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Station 19, reminded audiences that they now had the option to watch hot firefighters learn how to save a life. It also welcomed actress Jaina Lee Ortiz’s Andy Herrera into the family of powerhouse Shondaland women. According to an interview with creator Stacy McKee, there are still chances for more crossovers to come.


12. Parenthood–About a Boy

About a Boy episode "About a Poker Night" (NBC)

About a Boy, Season 1, Episode 7: About a Poker Night
Parenthood, Season 5, Episode 13: Jump Ball

Of course Parenthood’s Crosby (Dax Shepard) and About a Boy’s Will (David Walton) are poker buddies. Not only did they both have man-child tendencies and live in the same city, but they’re also fictional characters on two shows developed by Jason Katims. Crosby was a natural fit to introduce Will to Parenthood’s Kleenex-clutching audience. (Incidentally, this is not the only time Katims has made his series’ worlds intersect. Some cast members from Friday Night Lights also appeared in a Parenthood web series).


13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine–New Girl


New Girl Season 6, Episode 4: Homecoming
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 4, Episode 4: The Night Shift

Zooey Deschanel’s Los Angeles lady, Jess Day, got more than she bargained for on her New York vacation when Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) needed her help with a case. This attempt at comedy synergy, however, was not as open-shut. Slate ran a lengthy take-down on what was described as a “missed opportunities” for both shows and IndieWire called it an “ill-fated pairing.”


14. Bones–Sleepy Hollow


Bones Season 11, Episode 5: The Resurrection of the Remains
Sleepy Hollow Season 3, Episode 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Bones’ Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) help Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie) solve a case of historical significance in this Halloween-themed crossover. It drew decent ratings, but critics were mixed. TV Line argued that, for a scenario involving particularly eccentric circumstances and people, the event was “just not that weird.”


15. The Simpsons–Family Guy


Family Guy, Season 13, Episode 1: The Simpsons Guy
Family Guy, Season 13, Episode 2: The Simpsons Guy (Episode 2)

Fox animated series The Simpsons and Family Guy each have strong fan bases — so devoted are they that they sometimes turn on each other to argue similarities in the shows’ premises or episodes. So it seemed appropriate that the two would join forces for a two-part episode of the latter to prove that everything is derivative — with a special surprise guest making the final ruling. Vulture called it an “anti-classic” while The Telegraph argued that it suffered from too much forced humor.

Did you watch The Walking Dead–Fear the Walking Dead crossover? What did you think? Tell us in the comments.

Tag Cloud

space docudrama thriller Universal die hard WGN aliens Image Comics Epix fast and furious Chernobyl Paramount YA 71st Emmy Awards streaming movies Crunchyroll Heroines Super Bowl American Society of Cinematographers worst movies casting independent CW Seed Turner Classic Movies Awards Tour MTV unscripted TCM sports new york cancelled book Premiere Dates asian-american Women's History Month criterion directors Discovery Channel Paramount Plus critic resources Opinion Comedy Central Character Guide Broadway Rocketman Winners romantic comedy kaiju posters comics slashers Animation heist movie 99% 2017 women technology best 2016 Turner child's play Baby Yoda target LGBT Disney Plus robots spanish language Schedule kids political drama binge SDCC facebook Tumblr Superheroes Nat Geo 2019 Mary Poppins Returns adenture Hear Us Out reboot OWN Marvel Television renewed TV shows Creative Arts Emmys psychological thriller Disney+ Disney Plus Comics on TV satire TCA DGA Horror strong female leads police drama spider-man finale stop motion Tubi PlayStation a nightmare on elm street 1990s Stephen King classics concert TV One ghosts south america WarnerMedia jurassic park mcc Mystery GIFs rt archives Drama spain crossover 007 Disney slasher jamie lee curtis 24 frames Disney streaming service TCA Winter 2020 what to watch batman FX book adaptation Netflix Lionsgate rotten TLC TIFF CNN blaxploitation godzilla HBO Max elevated horror miniseries Chilling Adventures of Sabrina San Diego Comic-Con BBC indie Film 73rd Emmy Awards universal monsters Starz natural history anime Sundance TV Photos canceled comic book movies Endgame streaming Martial Arts trailers DC Universe name the review Grammys Acorn TV Pet Sematary crime Anna Paquin cancelled television feel good Trivia news First Look Fox Searchlight 72 Emmy Awards Film Festival award winner Musical Black History Month Calendar Superheroe Ghostbusters canceled TV shows vampires X-Men rom-coms king kong latino screenings DirecTV GoT screen actors guild live action Emmys cats Academy Awards See It Skip It kong Cartoon Network adventure scene in color debate Brie Larson Apple talk show zombie spy thriller superman Music justice league science fiction disaster archives Reality king arthur LGBTQ action-comedy 4/20 cooking CBS All Access SXSW OneApp marvel comics stoner hollywood franchise suspense BET Awards Box Office ABC Family ABC Signature Pacific Islander documentary mockumentary 45 young adult Logo Travel Channel tv talk Infographic Oscars Cosplay remakes mission: impossible halloween TV supernatural Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt high school cults The Witch The Arrangement ABC nature Cannes stand-up comedy psycho The Walt Disney Company Syfy New York Comic Con witnail Sony Pictures period drama comic book movie Netflix Christmas movies 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Ovation popular fresh Paramount Network BAFTA Toys international travel DC streaming service comedies sag awards TV Land foreign blockbuster Western cops Hallmark Christmas movies Television Academy game of thrones Comedy DC Comics Dark Horse Comics Warner Bros. television based on movie video on demand basketball Crackle zero dark thirty A&E free movies E3 rt labs critics edition Black Mirror scorecard anthology Tomatazos AMC Kids & Family theme song Marvel dceu Britbox toy story Shudder new zealand Lucasfilm Biopics toronto BBC One blockbusters Tokyo Olympics SundanceTV emmy awards 2018 GLAAD Emmy Nominations Masterpiece Certified Fresh 93rd Oscars Rom-Com quibi Nickelodeon cartoon nbcuniversal BET Pride Month The CW HBO versus Holidays Sci-Fi Rocky Lifetime Christmas movies APB History golden globe awards Apple TV+ all-time TruTV doctor who 20th Century Fox VICE Family Year in Review Video Games gangster documentaries TNT Valentine's Day Countdown Marathons monster movies video YouTube Premium medical drama TCA Awards laika hispanic heritage month VOD spanish Tarantino dragons crime drama boxing werewolf saw Ellie Kemper cancelled TV shows hist Avengers Alien obituary Holiday TBS Lifetime Amazon Bravo TV movies Pirates sequel singing competition Amazon Prime Video CMT teaser Food Network Elton John Wes Anderson rt labs Extras razzies ViacomCBS USA YouTube Winter TV Legendary children's TV Country royal family ITV Classic Film Mary poppins biography cars Song of Ice and Fire transformers composers japan Vudu ESPN crime thriller Quiz green book series dramedy deadpool telelvision 2021 The Purge Trophy Talk Binge Guide The Academy joker biopic Pop HBO Go Shondaland ratings Polls and Games President Mudbound Rock french NBC twilight romance spinoff Amazon Prime films Comic Book festivals 2020 BBC America Red Carpet Disney Channel Walt Disney Pictures politics animated USA Network IFC Showtime El Rey Star Trek dc Summer diversity comiccon ID TCA 2017 james bond prank FX on Hulu RT21 serial killer Spring TV MSNBC golden globes NYCC indiana jones Exclusive Video dark Freeform richard e. Grant Mary Tyler Moore boxoffice comic books aapi historical drama superhero halloween tv japanese Captain marvel movie Awards Election Trailer RT History Spike 21st Century Fox critics The Walking Dead IFC Films Writers Guild of America cinemax Arrowverse Fox News sequels Podcast cancelled TV series breaking bad australia Thanksgiving Sundance Now VH1 Fall TV dogs Marvel Studios game show football Spectrum Originals Mindy Kaling new star wars movies italian chucky christmas movies PBS A24 Peacock dexter TV renewals YouTube Red venice sitcom discovery National Geographic First Reviews Esquire Interview PaleyFest pirates of the caribbean zombies Pixar 90s Watching Series Musicals FXX hidden camera docuseries comic legend Best and Worst Columbia Pictures festival movies worst marvel cinematic universe FOX Comic-Con@Home 2021 Sneak Peek olympics scary movies Pop TV Adult Swim mutant true crime Apple TV Plus lord of the rings Fantasy revenge war parents Hulu MCU rotten movies we love E! Set visit Nominations wonder woman NBA Christmas CBS Star Wars 2015 Teen social media Television Critics Association black adaptation Amazon Studios know your critic hispanic Hallmark Funimation nfl Sundance harry potter Reality Competition reviews Action