With the CW’s four-night comic book show Arrowverse crossover event looming, we take a look at Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, and how they’re shaping up.
With Supergirl’s induction into the CW’s stable of superhero shows, entitled the Arrowverse, the network could officially bring her into the continuity of this, now vast, television universe. Arguably Supergirl should have been on the CW all along, instead of CBS where the show struggled to gain an audience, even bringing The Flash in for a Hail Mary crossover. Despite being the new show on the block, Supergirl’s second season shares a quality with the rest of the returning shows: that it’s going through a soft reboot. The same thing is happening with Arrow and The Flash (both of which had under-par previous seasons), and Legends of Tomorrow which has to make a case that it isn’t just an event series. Before the four-night Arrowverse crossover happens let’s take a look at each show’s new direction, and whether they’ve been an improvement or another step backward.
The Arrowverse and TV’s Finest Heroes
Season one of Supergirl was a bit of a charming mess. Like many origin stories and indeed many first seasons, Supergirl had a hard time finding its identity (especially distinguishing herself from her famous Kryptonian cousin). What it did have going for it was the excellent Melissa Benoist who embodied the dual role of Kara Danvers and Supergirl with an air of authority and a dash of screwball comedy.
Season two has been a massive improvement. The show’s move to the CW has given it a new focus, and its season-long arc about alien civil rights remind us that science fiction can be allegorical as well. Everything that bogged down season one has been improved: Jimmy Olsen, with a little help from Wynn, has a heroic arc of his own, Superman turned up and didn’t even try to steal the show, Kara has a student in the art of super heroics in the form of Mon-El, and the action has a much smoother feel to it.
The real revelation has been the treatment of Alex Danvers, Kara’s sister. In the action stakes she takes a bigger role with her hand to hand combat at times being much more entertaining than all that heat vision. But its Alex’s coming out as gay that has been the show’s greatest achievement so far. Handled with grace, and sensitivity, it not only does a lot to fill in Alex as a character outside of Kara, but also gives the show more women centric stories to tell: which is the whole point of Supergirl in the first place.
The first season of The Flash was nearly perfect comic book television. Lacking the broodiness of DC’s film properties, and that of Arrow, an episode of The Flash, with its wacky villains, light tone, and in Tom Cavanaugh’s Reverse Flash, the most captivating villain that the Arrowverse has ever had. Then season two happened, clearly showing that the show might already have peaked. Season two was a miserable affair, even with the inclusion of the Multiverse, and Earth 2. What it did do was create for Barry the necessary conditions for Flashpoint, in which saving his mother from the Reverse Flash in the past would change the future.
The Flash writer’s room really wrote themselves into a corner with Flashpoint. Since it’s only one show of a wider universe it could only really change the present in its own show, give or take a Diggle baby, meaning that the world changing events of the landmark comic couldn’t be recreated. Season three has been a mixed bag. Like season 2 the main threat came as a consequence of something Barry done: changing the timeline back caused people to have powers in the alternate timeline to have them again with the help of the Mysterious Alchemy. It’s the second time in a row in which the team have to spend a season trying to fix Barry’s mistakes. In good news, apart from episode two which was miserable, the show has found its sense of fun again, in spite of some truly terrible villains of the week. It won’t be easy, but for The Flash to recapture the dizzying heights of season one, it’s going to have to take the slow road.
The Arrow instalment of the crossover week will mark the show’s 100th episode, a landmark for the show which has been the foundation for all the others. After reaching its creative peak with season two’s Slade Wilson/Deathstroke arc, Arrow spent the next two seasons becoming more and more convoluted with the introduction of magic, seemingly unbeatable foe’s like Damien Dahrk, and getting swallowed up by Oliver and Felicity’s doomed romance.
Which is why season five has shrewdly taken the show back to its roots. After the events of season four Team Arrow was scattered to the four winds with all but Oliver and Felicity leaving the team. Season five has Oliver training a new set of recruits: Mad Dog, Artemis, Rags, and Curtis, who isn’t quite Mr Fantastic yet. Arrow is still recognisably part of the wider CW universe but it leaves all the crazy sci-fi stuff to the other shows. Instead it has become a tale about vigilantism, and urban warfare, grounding its stories with recognisably human threats. Yes, it is like season one, but the show’s writers have a better understanding of their characters both old and new. This soft reboot isn’t without its problems: the show still doesn’t know what they’re doing with Felicity, and Thea benching herself hopefully won’t last too long as she was the best thing about the shows previous two difficult years.
Once again Arrow has a sense of what kind of show it wants to be. Take this season’s villains: Tobias Church was nothing but a garden variety gang leader, but his ambition and cutthroat attitude made him a formidable opponent for the new fledgling Team Arrow. Prometheus, this seasons current big bad, is still a potent mystery, but has a strong connection to Oliver and his past actions as the Hood. The latest episode even had Vigilante, who from his first appearance seems to be filling a Red Hood role: taking a much deadlier approach to saving the city than Oliver. After two season being the midwife for other shows, Arrow is finally just focusing on itself. Will this great early season form be disrupted by the crossover? (much like it was last year). Let’s hope not.
We’ve seen a lot of remakes and reinventions of classic sci-fi TV shows, from the modern Battlestar Galactica reboot to Marvel characters appearing on Netflix. However, there are still a lot great shows whose potential has gone untapped, and which fans would love to see return. So, here are 8 classic sci-fi TV shows I’d love to see come back:
The Invaders – The Earth is being secretly invaded by aliens. David Vincent knows the truth, and he’s fighting back. But the aliens are everywhere, they’re in disguise, [Click here to read more…]
Legends of Tomorrow
Legends of Tomorrow was a big gamble when it was first announced. Taking side characters from Arrow and The Flash and have them travel in time in order to defeat an immortal tyrant. The first season succeeded almost in spite of itself. Granted the stories were often silly, and the characters acted downright dumb at times, but the sheer spectacle of it made the show feel like watch Saturday morning cartoons. In a year where Arrow and The Flash were taking themselves way too seriously, Legends was just roaring good fun.
Season two has fixed some of season one’s problems: the boring Hawk people are gone, the team have a more defined mission, rather than an entire season fighting one villain, and there is a stronger creative direction overall. Much like Doctor Who (which it will always be compared too so get used to it) the premise of Legends is elastic enough that the show can attempt any story. Both the writers and directors have run with this, not only telling stories of different genres but also executing these stories with some of the filmmaking techniques of these genres. So far this season we’ve had a Samurai episode, a zombie episode, and 80s episode, and another cowboy episode featuring the returning Jonah Hex.
The problem that remains is the characters. Each of the other shows work because they have the traditional lead and supporting character structure. Legends has seven leads, seven personalities vying for position yet all they can do is repeat the same beats. Ray The Atom Palmer is still moaning about not feeling like a hero, much like he did last season. Jax is still criminally underused, unless the writers want to tackle a story about race, but even then Jax’s story is marginalised by at least to others. The one character who has been consistent since the beginning is Sara Lance. With Rip Hunter going AWOL, Sara has become the leader of the team (which makes a hell of a lot of sense since she was basically Rip’s first mate in season one), which should make her the de-facto lead of the show except everyone needs to get a line in every scene. Like Supergirl, Legends is still finding its feet as the prospect of being on the air long term looks more likely, so it’s no surprise that it still has some growing pains ahead of it.
Overall each show has benefited from a re-set, especially the old stalwarts Arrow and The Flash. The Arrowverse is very much like the DC comic universe: endlessly creative, exciting, and ever more complicated. It’s now only a matter of days until Supergirl jumps into the Arrowverse proper, and the CW tries to pull off the most ambitious thing the network has ever attempted. By the looks of it the crossover should be amazing as the shows it brings together are only getting stronger.