Catching Up with The CW’s DC Universe

This article contains SPOILERS for The CW’s five DC superhero shows pictured above.

Since the introduction of Arrow back in 2012, The CW has done an excellent job of expanding their comic book universe with a vast assortment of characters and stories.  What once began as a small time, vigilante-based crime show has blossomed into five programs that carry a good chunk of the viewership for one of America’s five big TV networks.

Leading into their return next week, this is a brief overview on where we currently stand with each series and what our relationship has been with them over the course of their run.  During the season, Tyler Harford and Carl Broughton will be reviewing the series for FilmEra, featuring a weekly reflection on the entire Arrowverse and a separate review for sophomore Black Lightning.  Both of them are excited for these shows to return and can’t wait to share their thoughts on them in the weeks and months to come!  Here, they wanted to give some brief opinions on where they’re at with each series:

Supergirl

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Odette Annable and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl, “Battles Lost and Won”

Tyler:

Supergirl was in a very interesting place at the end of its first season.  It had taken about a third of its episodes to find its footing, but once it did, I found it to be really thrilling and a very different beast from its cousins on The CW.  It had a polish and pleasantness that the other shows lacked.  Unfortunately, since leaving CBS and moving over to The CW, that has certainly changed.  In addition to losing Calista Flockhart and her wonderful performance as Cat Grant, the show took on a grittier and darker tone more akin to its CW counterparts.  The show did some things to keep viewers engaged, like marketing the addition of Superman to the cast and bringing in Teri Hatcher in a villainous role.  However, it seems that after two seasons on The CW, Supergirl is at its lowest point yet, having last season finished with an anti-climactic defeat of a subpar season-long villain in Reign and Winn (played by Jeremy Jordan) exiting the show.

There is still reason to like the show. Melissa Benoist is a relentlessly likable and engaging lead, Lena Luthor is the MVP of the show since being promoted to a regular role on the series, and good old James Olsen mixing it up with the two of them and getting to play superhero as Guardian.  I used to love Alex as well, but I grew tired of where they took her character last season.  It feels like she is always on the edge of serious emotional trauma, rather than earlier on in the series when she was a straight up badass working at the DEO.  Now she has been promoted to the lead position at the DEO, so we will have to see where that takes her.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

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Franz Drameh, Tala Ashe, Dominic Purcell, Caity Lotz and Johnathon Schaech in Legends of Tomorrow, “The Good, the Bad and the Cuddly”

Tyler:

The silliest and most fun show on The CW is easily Legends of Tomorrow.  During the first season, it was trying to find the right balance between its humor and a compelling narrative.  A lot of complaints about the first season stemmed from it having an uninteresting villain in Vandal Savage.  Notably, the show killed off the beloved Leonard Snart at the end of its first season, but it also saw the departure of problematic characters Hawkman and Hawkgirl.  For the second season, the show introduced The Legion of Doom featuring Damien Darhk (of Arrow fame), Eobard Thawn (of The Flash), and Malcolm Merlyn (of Arrow).  The excellently portrayed villainous group brought new zest and flavor to the series, and finally, it seemed that the show knew what it was and what it wanted to be.  Adding the incredibly likable characters Nate and Amaya and eventually shedding off team captain Rip in favor of Sarah, the team took on an entirely new dynamic and ever since then the show has been moving at a refreshingly bouncy clip.  Whereas the other CW shows sort of chug along, mixing really strong episodes with complete bummers, Legends of Tomorrow features a shorter season, which works to its benefit.  All of the characters on the team are very charismatic and relatable, and the writers do a great job of giving interesting character arcs to everyone.

Damien Darhk stayed on as the villain for the third season and the series continued to churn out enjoyable episodes with different locations (times) and themes explored in all of them.  I appreciated a lot of the plot points, like Sarah exploring having a relationship, the loss of Dr. Stein (and Victor Garber’s earnest performance), and Amaya reckoning with what will become of her native people.  The season ended on a fittingly ridiculous note, with John Constantine appearing to tell the Legends that more demons were unleashed on the world during their bout with Darhk and his daughter.  It is now known that Constantine is joining the team as a regular this season and I think that will bring a fun new dynamic.  Out of the Arrowverse shows, this is probably the one I am looking forward to the most simply because you can always count on watching the Legends jump back in time and get into some shenanigans.

Arrow

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Stephen Amell in Arrow, “Life Sentence”

Tyler:

Arrow has had many different iterations during its past six seasons.  It was the show that started this whole live action superhero trend on television, both with DC’s universe and Marvel’s Netflix series starting a couple of years later.  When Arrow broke onto the scene, it was a very trendy and thrilling show for comic book fans and television fans alike.  It featured a pretty dark and gritty tone, which suited the character of Green Arrow well.  Ollie’s rich vigilante protagonist was essntially a substitute for Batman.  Nothing had really been done like it on TV and it was exciting.  The show also had a great supporting cast of characters and an amazing villain in Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman).  In the second season, the show returned in even greater fashion with a tremendous villain in Deathstroke (Manu Bennett).  The show was surprisingly mature in its themes for a show on The CW and it was almost universally acclaimed.  In a lot of ways, the first two seasons of Arrow were a direct inspiration with what would come for Daredevil on Netflix.  Season 2 ended on an incredibly high note and anticipation for the third season couldn’t have been any higher.

Unfortunately, the show quickly plummeted to almost unwatchable lows with convoluted plots, uninteresting villains, and cringe-worthy character development.  For the next two seasons, countless fans bailed from the show entirely after being bombarded by infuriating plot points like the League of Assassins, character deaths, and revivals, and characters making idiotic decisions.  By the end of the fourth season, only a small sector of the show’s biggest supporters remained, but the outlook for the series was bleak and was it not for news about an upcoming major crossover event, I was getting ready to bail from the universe myself.

Season 5 saw the show takes a shift in tone back to its darker and grimier roots, while also adding in new team members that proved to be wildly beneficial to the series as a whole, adding in a new team dynamic and more sympathetic characters to balance Oliver, who had somewhat run out of topics to explore.  Along with the new team members, the show added perhaps its best villain yet Prometheus and retconned a lot of the indefensible decisions they made in the prior two seasons.  Last season continued the same tone and featured another entertainingly brutal villain in gangster Ricardo Diaz.  Ending the season with Oliver being sent to prison for having been convicted of crimes as the Green Arrow, along with the survival of Diaz and the regrouping of “Team Arrow,” the show seems poised to continue with its reshaped image and maintain its return to form.

Carl:

I am a huge comic geek and remember when I started watching Arrow the day it aired. There were some differences from the comic, but man was it entertaining to watch. Season 2 introduced Deathstroke and was my favorite, but after that, the show started to decline.  Season 3 had a great premise, but by the time I got to the latter half of episodes, I started forcing myself to watch the show.  Season 4 made me hate certain characters like Felicity, and honestly, I didn’t even finish it until 2018. Season 5 was a return to form, and season 6 had its moments that warranted me giving season 7 a try this year. Ollie facing some of the people he put behind bars will be entertaining as hell.

The Flash

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Grant Gustin in The Flash, “We are the Flash”

Tyler:

The Flash might be the roughest look for the Arrowverse right now, and it’s a real shame.  After coming onto the scene first with an introduction in the second season of Arrow where we saw Barry get his powers, the character got his own show off to a bang with a frankly really incredible first season.  The season’s arc of Barry’s struggle with learning his abilities and responsibilities, managing his life with friend, family, and romance, and his fight towards defeating the looming Reverse Flash was an exhilarating hero’s journey.  The entire cast was ace in their roles, and the show was a refreshingly fun and lighthearted cousin to its big brother Arrow.  Unfortunately, the series could not keep that momentum going past its first season, flailing with ridiculous and repetitive storylines and boring villains.  With Zoom in Season 2 and Savitar in Season 3, the show seemed hellbent on featuring faceless villains with zero personality or intrigue.  It was a dark time for the series, and like Arrow, many people bailed.

Luckily, I think the show picked back up some steam last season by having a compelling dynamic with a new villain in DeVoe and his wife Marlize.  He was a villain with an actual agenda and the relationship between the two of them was wildly interesting and paid off big time by season’s end.  Unfortunately, DeVoe was killed off and Marlize left the show.  The finale ended with the appearance of Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future and it appears that will be the focus of the new season, at least at the beginning.  I’m not sure that this will be an interesting plot to explore, but only time will tell.

My current level of intrigue for the Arrowverse shows going into the new season would be ranked as follows:  Arrow > Legends of Tomorrow > The Flash > Supergirl

Black Lightning

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Carl:

It is no secret that I think Black Lightning has the best season 1 of the CW shows. Hell, I would even put it above Marvel’s Netflix series.  The show is a perfect blend of social commentary, stand out characters, and all the superhero action that we have come to love from the CW. The season 2 trailer is actually a recap of season 1. For those asking for more reasons to watch this show, let me break it down for you. Black Lightning is in a completely different universe than the Arrowverse. That’s right, folks: no crossovers or anything like that for season 1 and 2 of Black Lightning. The hero is not only a high school principal, but a father of 2 kids, who eventually gets their own powers. As a retired hero who came back to save his city, he has a lot of experience and doesn’t make the same mistakes other heroes make starting out. Need more? In Black Lightning, you never know who is going to die and the violence is real.  I can’t wait for season 2 this Tuesday and it is my most anticipated show this month.

All of The CW’s DC superhero shows have their past seasons available to stream on Netflix, and the new season will be airing on the following schedule on The CW:

Sunday: Supergirl 8pmET
Monday: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 8pmET | Arrow 9pmET
Tuesday: The Flash 8pmET | Black Lightning 9pmET

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