Crisis With The Arrowverse TV Shows

Lately, headlines announced some issue or another befallen one Arrowverse TV show after the other, and this gives the impression that  the Arrowverse TV shows are in trouble. It seems collectively, the superhero shows hit their peak earlier this year with the crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, and things largely went downhill from there.

This is just a broad generalization, some of the Arrowverse TV shows are doing fine, namely Black Lightning and Stargirl, but there is a sense that these superhero shows have run out of steam and feel dated.

The Hood

Arrow, the show the live-action DC superhero TV universe is named after, concluded its eight-season run earlier this year, just as it had found renewed energy. The reason the show ended was because the main actor who played Green Arrow, Stephen Amell, wanted to leave to resume a more normal life. For anyone, who doesn’t know, these shows are filmed in Canada, which requires the cast and crew to be away from their families. Arrow was justly celebrated when it ended, but there were questions of how the the Arrowverse would continue without its flagship show. Other shows like The Flash have eclipsed Arrow in terms of popularity and ratings, but the Arrowverse still seems empty without Green Arrow stalking around in the dark alleys telling bad guys “You have failed this city!”

Older, remaining Arrowverse shows such as The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are running low on creativity. For the most part, the episodes and scripts are bland and uninspiring. The Flash ended its season with its main character no longer having his natural powers and his wife trapped in another dimension. But it was so dull and shrug inducing. The Flash has had problems in recent years with coming up with engaging villains and story arcs. For too long, the show relied on evil speedsters, but the new batch of villains are just blah. Then there is the undeniable fact that the actors seem bored and going through some drama, which will be covered shortly. It is just a shame, given the excitement most fans felt for the show and its lead character after the thrilling encounter between the TV version of the Flash with his DCEU counterpart during “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. The crossover event was supposed to provide a new spark of creative energy but very little has happened aside from some Flash villains being reimagined and not very well; although Lex Luthor’s revamping in Supergirl was interesting.  At the very least the meeting between the two Flashes rekindled interest in the upcoming movie version of the Flash.

Legends of Tomorrow is a mere shadow of its initial premise: C-list superheroes who time travel to get some respect. That is still there somewhere but it has been buried lately in these nonsensical magic-related plots and most of the original cast is gone. Some of the replacements are not very compelling, though to its credit Legends of Tomorrow does a decent job of being goofy and funny. Some episodes are very humorous and the show wisely figured out long ago not to take itself too seriously and embraced its comedic tone. However, other shows like Doom Patrol overshadowed Legends of Tomorrow by being quirkier and more insightful superhero shows.

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Arrow Hits Its Mark

“My name is Oliver Queen. I was stranded on an island with only one goal, survive. Now I will fulfill my father’s dying wish to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this I must become someone else. I must become something else.” — Oliver Queen’s opening intro to Arrow, first season

The long-running superhero TV series Arrow just aired its final episode “Fadeout” on the CW. As series finales go, “Fadeout” was surprisingly well put together and a fitting conclusion to Arrow. The series had its ups and downs during its eight-season run but generally was a solid superhero show that introduced a larger DC universe that was appropriately dubbed the Arrowverse.

When Arrow premiered on October 2012, there was some trepidation over it. Some saw it as a weak version of Batman, specifically the Christopher Nolan version because of its initial grounded feel. Others unfairly complained Arrow’s version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow was not the one played by Justin Hartley in Smallville. Keep in mind, Smallville ended its run a year earlier and it was hoped then that some spinoff would be created from that show. Instead the character was reimagined by Arrow’s showrunners, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg.

The Hood

However, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of actor Stephen Amell as the title hero and the shows’ supporting cast, Arrow quickly won over many viewers. Looking back, it made sense that the show had a grittier and less fantastical feel than standard superhero fare. Amell’s Green Arrow (first called “The Hood”) was an intense, no-nonsense hero who took no quarter. This enabled the showrunners to tell solid stories about crime and corruption in Oliver Queen’s Starling City and his quest to save his city.

Establishing A Universe

In many ways the sophomore season of Arrow was among its best with its ongoing story of Oliver Queen’s confrontation with Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who was so well played by Manu Bennett. A distinctive feature of Arrow was its use of flashbacks in most episodes that interwove or were relevant with current storylines. The flashbacks during the show’s early days focused on Oliver’s adventures when he was marooned on the island Lian Yu. This structure paid off handsomely in the second season as we saw him first meeting and befriending Wilson on the island and how the two became bitter enemies. Meanwhile, the current storyline in the second season featured the return of Deathstroke and his machinations to destroy Queen and his city.

Naturally, as the show found its footing and gained in popularity, the DC universe was introduced. To Arrow’s credit this was done organically and not rushed. It started with blink-and-you-miss-them Easter eggs and the introduction of more superhuman-related plot devices like the strength-enhancing drug mirakuru or characters like Huntress, Deathstroke and later Barry Allen/The Flash. This introduction of the larger DC universe, as well as its driving plot lines helped propel the show’s popularity late into its first season and during its second.

While the show introduced viewers to the Flash (who was soon spun off into his own series), it also featured other distinctive DC Comics characters like Black Canary, Wild Dog, Ragman Batwoman, and Supergirl, who were often introduced in series crossover events or became important supporting characters.

One outstanding character was Queen’s confidante and best friend John Diggle (David Ramsey). Although Diggle was an original character, many speculated he was a stand-in for the Green Lantern, John Stewart. The showrunners teased fans with cloy Easter eggs throughout the show’s run such as the revelation that Diggle’s stepfather’s last name was Stewart. Finally, in the last few minutes of “Fadeout” it was shown that Diggle was on his way to becoming Green Lantern to the delight of many. However, do not expect more to be made of this. Even though Greg Berlanti is developing a Green Lantern series for the upcoming streaming app HBO Max, it is doubtful Ramsey will continue to play the role or that the show will be part of the Arrowverse. The best we can hope for is that Ramsey will reprise his role as Green Lantern in other Arrowverse shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Incidentally, John Diggle is slated to appear in an upcoming episode of The Flash this season, but he won’t be Green Lantern.

Diggle finds green lantern ring

Another notable character introduced in the show was Ray Palmer/The Atom, who was played by Brandon Routh. When Brandon Routh was first announced to portray Palmer, it seemed like stunt casting since he portrayed Superman in Superman Returns. This casting turned out to resurrect Routh’s career as he was promoted to the show lead in Legends of Tomorrow and excelled in his performance as the goofy scientist. As many know, Routh’s redemption came full circle when he reprised his role as Superman in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover event.

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When Legends Meet

crossover-poster

Editor’s Note: We asked two of our staff writers/geeks, C.S. Link and T. Rod Jones,  to opine on the “epic” four-part crossover event at The CW that covered Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Here are their quick thoughts.

CSL: Basically, the entire event was a Four(three)-Part crossover. The CW’s crossover event linking its four superhero shows is now over. Overall, I enjoyed the story and interaction between the different characters. But it should be known that the 1st part that started with Supergirl only encompassed the last minute of the show when Barry Allen and Cisco Ramone show up at Kara Danver’s apartment through an interdimensional portal.

TRJ: Yeah, that was kind of a lame way to start off the event. Seriously, the entire story on Supergirl didn’t have anything to do with the main story on Arrow’s Earth. If you’re not a fan of Supergirl (and I’m not), if you skipped the first part, then you didn’t miss anything. Hell, that last minute of Supergirl with Barry and Cisco jumping into her apartment was actually reshown on The Flash the next night! And the worst part is that  during most of the event Supergirl didn’t do much.

CSL: I think the best parts were The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow segments. They both featured good action scenes and showcased creepy looking aliens called The Dominators who seek to eradicate all meta humans from Earth. The Arrow episode was not bad at all, but it mostly took place in a shared hallucination that the aliens subjected Oliver Queen and his friends to. That episode didn’t feel central to the invasion except for the last act.

four-part-cw-heroes-event

TRJ: I agree that the Arrow episode felt separate from the event (not as badly as Supergirl though) , but remember this was the 100th episode of Arrow, so in a way that whole group hallucination featuring characters who are or were in Arrow made sense. It was a way to look back at many important events in Arrow’s five-year history. They do this in comics all the time and it worked for me.

CSL: One thing I would have liked to have seen was the aliens invading different parts of the planet and causing havoc. This would have made the threat even more dangerous. As it was, the action mostly took place in locations in each hero’s respective cities. In the end, this was a good start to having the whole CW DC universe come together and seem like a truly shared universe. Hopefully the next crossover event that comes will truly have it span all 4 shows and have an epic feel and consequences to each hero’s show.

heroes-unite

TRJ: The event only came alive in the last part of Legends of Tomorrow when they all fought the aliens. But we have to wonder why the gang didn’t bring everyone they knew into the fight. Where was the rest of Team Arrow? Why didn’t the Legends go back in time and bring in the Justice Society of America? On that note, why not use future knowledge to defeat the Dominators?

Still, it was great seeing all those heroes fighting those CGI aliens on the rooftop. Some of the Easter eggs were memorable, like how Ray Palmer commented on how Kara looked like his cousin, an obvious tongue-in-cheek Superman Returns reference. The whole event was corny but fun for us geeks.

C.S. Link and T. Rod Jones

Superman & Batman Should Be In The Arrowverse

real JL 2

While I really enjoyed some of the most recent episodes of the shows in the so-called Arrowverse (Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow), there’s this nagging notion that has grown with me. It has to do with the fact that in the shared universe of these shows (leaving out Supergirl for now since that show takes place in another reality) Superman and Batman don’t seem to exist.

I understand the reasons why DC Entertainment/Warner Brothers don’t want their two most popular superheroes in the Arrowverse. Early on when it was just Arrow, the show’s flahs and GAcreators/producers wanted a superhero show that was grounded in reality without any connections to the just-concluded Smallville. So that meant no characters with superpowers and Arrow had to appear as if what happened was kind of plausible. But superpowers started to creep its way into Arrow by its second season when a drug was introduced that can grant people superhuman strength and when Barry Allen made his debut appearance, which ended with him getting struck by lightning. Not only that, but other elements of the DC Universe started appearing such as the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller.

The following season of Arrow had the title superhero battling with the Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul and The Flash premiered with an explanation as to what caused people to suddenly develop superpowers. It seemed like a good starting point to jumpstart a DC Universe. The producers even took things a step further by introducing magic in Arrow with the Lazarus Pit and an appearance by sorcerer John Constantine, as well as the supernatural heroine Vixen. It didn’t end there, both shows served also featured the superheroes Hawkman and Hawkwoman, which were then spun off to co-star in Legends of Tomorrow.

proto jL

All this is going on in the Arrowverse so why not have Superman and Batman be a part of it? To me, this Arrowverse feels a bit off since neither of those characters are in it and the Flash is probably the most powerful superhero in it. The obvious answer to the question is that Warner Bros. and DC don’t want their two big guns appearing on the show. They’re being held for the big leagues, IOW the movies. That’s fine, leave the epic heroes for the silver screen with the big budgets, but what is baffling is this idea that TPTB have that they don’t want audiences confused or have their product diluted. The average fan wouldn’t expect to see Ben Affleck or some other big shot actor appearing as Batman or Superman in The Flash. Nor would they be confused if they saw someone else portraying the Man of Steel. We’re not stupid.

This doesn’t mean that Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have to feature the actual appearances of Superman or Batman, just allude to them like they do in Supergirl. We don’t see Superman on that show, but he is mentioned and has a presence. Would it hurt to just name drop the city of Gotham or Lex Luthor? No. It would make the Arrowverse feel more complete and richer. Instead we keep wondering why Ra’s al Ghul exists but not Bruce Wayne.

supergil flashSeriously, I think the Arrowverse shows should be allowed to refer to both superheroes. And on a personal note, I think they do exist in the Arrowverse. In one episode of Legends of Tomorrow the time traveler Rip Hunter said that he saw Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall. That couldn’t be any more clear who he was alluding to. The fact that Ra’s al Ghul exists implies that the world of Batman also exists in the Arrowverse. Ditto goes for Superman when you throw in Supergirl. In that already famous Supergirl episode “Worlds Finest” the Flash visits her dimension and he states that he doesn’t know of any aliens on his world. That implies that Superman may exist in the Arrowverse, but has not revealed himself to the general public. The same can go for Batman, who is probably operating deeper in the shadows than Green Arrow and may be considered an urban legend at this point.

Real JL 3

Maybe after some time, we’ll see some kind of reference to the two superstars of DC Comics. It won’t be the end of the world if this never happens, but it would make watching the Arrowverse shows much more fulfilling.

T. Rod Jones

The Would-Be Legends Of Tomorrow

legends of tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow is the latest superhero TV show airing on the CW network taking place in the so-called Arrowverse (named by the show Arrow, the progenitor of this shared universe) and is an ensemble show featuring B-lister superheroes from DC Comics. In many ways, it’s an ambitious program, one of the first to star a superhero team. A show of this scope should scream “difficult to pull off” just in terms of special effects, scope of the story and air time for the characters. There are many things that Legends of Tomorrow gets right and many missed opportunities.

As an ensemble show, there isn’t one true lead character among the mostly colorful group, but the premise of Legends of Tomorrow is jump-started by time traveler Rip Hunter (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill). In the future, the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) has taken over the world and killed Hunter’s family.

hunter leaves

Defying his group, the Time Masters, Hunter steals a time-traveling spaceship called the Waverider (a nod to the time-traveling character from DC Comics) and travels to our time to recruit a team to stop Savage’s rise to power throughout history. The eclectic group he gathers includes Ray Palmer/The Atom (Brandon Routh), whose armored suit allows him to shrink; Martin Stein (Victor Gerber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), who make up the combined fiery entity Firestorm; Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), the martial artist anti-hero featured on Arrow; Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée), who discovered she is the reincarnated warrior priestess Hawkwoman; and the sibling criminal supervillains from The Flash, Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell).

inside waverider

When Hunter initially recruits the team to help him stop Savage in the past (starting with the 1970s), he doesn’t tell them that the reason he recruits them is because they have minimal impact on the timeline so their disappearances from normal time wouldn’t really matter. Once they learn the truth, most are crestfallen, but decide to use this opportunity to make a difference outside of their eras and become actual legends.

This TV show, has been described as a mix of Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy. That is an apt way of putting it, but it doesn’t reach the heights of those properties. Much of the time, Legends of Tomorrow is a lot of fun to watch and is fast moving. Cluttered with Easter eggs and nods to all things genre and meta (at one point Snart made a typically snarky statement about having experience breaking out of jail–a tongue-in-cheek reference to Miller and Purcell’s last collaboration Prison Break), and unlike the ABC/Marvel Studios TV shows, it takes full advantage of the shared universe it occupies. old arrowIt’s thrilling to spot characters from other shows making guest appearances and all the time traveling allows for a further exploration of the Arrowverse.  One of the best episodes to date was the most recent one “Star City 2046”, which featured a post-apocalyptic Star City where Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) was MIA and the city was taken over by Green Arrow’s nemesis Deathstroke, actually Deathstroke’s son (Jamie Andrew Cutler). In a nice tribute to the classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, Queen shows up missing an arm and has to be inspired to fight for his city again  with the help of Connor Hawk (Joseph David-Jones), who takes up the mantle of Green Arrow.

hunter recruits

Still, as much fun as that episode was, it had a flaw in its logic. Sara wanted to help Queen out, but Hunter did not want to get involved because that would be interfering with time and that as a past event in his time it was set and could not be changed. Yet, he wants to travel throughout history to find Savage and alter the timeline. This diminishes Hunter and makes him seem selfish. Then there is the concept that 2046 was the past and set in stone for him, but is the future for the others, so otherwise malleable. There are attempts to address the problems with time travel in the show but they are uneven at best.

snart and legendsThat unevenness is the basic tone and flaw of Legends of Tomorrow. Some plots and subplots are engaging and fun, other times the stories are rushed and thin without any subtlety. The same criticism applies to the characters. This was quite apparent in the pilot episode. Rip Hunter just shows up and asks them to joni him and most of the characters all-too-willingly oblige without deeply questioning Hunter or exploring their motive to leave their lives on a lark. It does take pains to develop them and some of the actors like Miller steal scenes with their acting prowess, but the show struggles to juggle all these characters. That is probably a reason why Legends of Tomorrow killed off the character of Carter Hall/Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) early on to thin the herd. But frankly, it wasn’t a loss since his performance as Hawkman was rather wooden.

Like the team, Legends of Tomorrow isn’t quite legendary, but it has huge potential. Given enough time and guidance, it may find its footing and move past its inspirations and become something of a legend.

José Soto