Now that all four of the DC superhero shows 2015-16 season finales, it’s a good time to look at what having Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow (shortened here to Legends) all under the same Vancouver roof might mean.
(Yeah, blah blah, spoilers, yadda yadda.)
Arrow started the whole shebang as a Dark Knight-inspired take on the Green Arrow. No superpowers, just muscle, brains, grit, fists, and a fair amount of homicide from both the bad guys and the hero. It’s generally been a show with shifting class alliances, a fair number of kidnappings, and a city-wide terrorist attack every end of season (ah, you can just smell the tenacious spirit of the folks of Star[ling] City in the springtime). Solution of choice: hope with a large helping of punching and arrows.
Since the hero of The Flash by definition required superpowers, the Flash had to take a different path: one where strange powers were the norm. With only two seasons under its lightning-inspired belt, it’s hard to be sure of trends, but so far the season-wide arc has mostly been about insecure, psychopathic narcissists who get all of their worth from the certainty that the Flash will never be faster than them (and, so far, they’ve mostly been right). This leads to bad consequences due to the destructive nature that bad-guy caused, physics-esque forces have on Central City and/or all the other Earths in the multiverse. Solution of choice: running really fast in a potentially self-sacrificing way followed by moping after something went sideways when time traveling to the night Barry’s mother died.
Super-powered foes have often been an obstacle on Supergirl as well, but as often as not this comes in the form of aliens instead of enhanced humans (though there are plenty of those as well). Given that Supergirl is, in fact, and alien herself, this isn’t terribly surprising. Its season ender sort of combined the philosophies of Arrow and Flash with a city-wide terror attack with a technobabbly weapon. This escalated to an attempt at global homicide with a spoil-sport version of that previously thwarted weapon. Solution of choice: hope combined with punching, heat vision, and super strength done in a potentially self-sacrificing way.
This brings us to Legends, which was centered around a selfish time-traveler, Rip Hunter, who constantly risked the timeline and his team’s lives just so he might save his wife and son so he wouldn’t have the sads. That he stumbled on the fact that his nemesis had actually been manipulating events in the timeline all along, corrupting the overseers of said timeline in the process, was pure accident. Still, since even a frozen analog clock is right twice a day (once, if it’s a 24-hour clock), the team managed to find their solution: bunch up the timeline’s wibbly wobblies just enough for the win.
The Flash left the DCTV-verse in a difficult situation. Flash/Barry saving his mother has the potential to blow up all the other shows simply because he’s the one person who is common to all of them. Causality is not Barry’s friend. Leaving that aside, even if his actions are solely localized on him, there are bound to be consequences for successfully pulling off a Rip Hunter (i.e. traveling in time to save a loved one) on the timeline.
Both Arrow and Supergirl concluded in fairly stable places. Though every supporting regular not named Felicity has bugged out, Ollie did become the interim mayor with no major cliffhanger threatening. While the pod that landed at the end of Supergirl is likely an important plot device, as cliffhangers go it’s a pretty tame one — which was, of course, necessary since its fate was the least secure of the four shows and it needed to finish up mostly resolved.
The arrival on Legends of Rex “Hourman” Tyler, a member of the Justice Society of America, wasn’t nearly as obvious of a story-altering cliffhanger as the Flash created on his show (though Barry’s act might have accidentally created this one), but invoking the JSA is a very significant nugget for the upcoming season.
So, the question on the mind of every fan of any or all of these shows is, “Where do they go from here?”
The writers of the shows have only been feverishly working on the new season for a week or two as of this writing, so there really isn’t much to go on unless you are one of the lucky few to have seen the massive white boards used for breaking the season’s stories. I’m not one of those few. I’m mostly just going to toss a few coins in the mix based on very little but Internet rumors, speculations, and my rambling imagination.
Just about everyone suspects that Flash is going to do a “Flashpoint” inspired story since they’ve already pulled elements from it in the course of the season. Basically this would involve a lot of existential angst leading to the Flash merging hunks of the multiverse. In the comics, this resulted in “The New 52”, which, let’s be honest, left a lot to be desired. The most obvious consequence of this would be merging Supergirl into the Flarrowverse. By and large, most commenters think this will happen at the mid-season, four show crossover event. I think they’re right, but I hope the creative team opts to be more surprising.
First, I don’t think spending half a season to resolve what Flash did to the timeline is in anyone’s interest. The obvious consequence of the finale is that Barry is again powerless since the events leading to him becoming the Flash didn’t happen. Yeah, that was such a joy for the two episodes in season 2 where that was the case. Even if they toss in an obvious twist and have Wally be the one who became the Flash, it’s pretty much an idea that will kill the show’s momentum. Think about it. It means a good hunk of the episodes up to the Flashpoint crossover, one way or they other, won’t have happened, which means the creators just wasted your precious air time by dicking with you (cf. Bobby in the shower from the original Dallas).
(As an aside, I think this is showing one of the fundamental weaknesses of way too many superhero TV and movie efforts from both DC and Marvel: adapting from existing comics stories. First, it’s lazy. Second, comics storycraft often makes for lousy on-screen storytelling because the expectations of plausible reality are different. Third, often the base story really isn’t as good as fanboys remember. Fourth, too often something get shortchanged: a major comics character becomes nothing more than a soundbite, or the key twist is watered down in the adaptation. Fifth, it cheapens the shows by not giving them enough room to create their own legendary stories.)
Personally, I’d like to make Flashpoint just disappear. There could still be changes, but they’d be minor. How? As Rip so often reminded us, time wants to have its way. Just because Nora wasn’t killed by Thawne doesn’t mean she couldn’t be killed at home the next night by some burglar and that Henry still gets arrested for the murder he didn’t commit. Pretty much everything stays the same except Harrison Wells and his wife, Tess Morgan, aren’t murdered by Thawne, either, and they have both been helping Barry at S.T.A.R. Labs. Thus Tom Cavanagh gets to play the real Harrison Wells for more than an episode. Other than Barry being a little confused about his new history, and a slightly tweaked past with the Reverse Flash, everything else stays pretty much the same.
Assuming they do enact some extended version of Flashpoint, as most think they will, I don’t have high hopes that it will play well — certainly not if Barry isn’t the Flash the entire time.
The other thing that will likely tie things together comes from Legends. The JSA is a big deal. It existing in the Flarrowverse as well as the Legion of Super-heroes existing in the Supergirlverse (we’ve seen the ring in the Fortress of Solitude) means there is the potential for huge events happening that make Zoom seem like a pathetic bully. Because of this, it seems the most likely that the Legends will be at the forefront of trying to correct Barry’s mucking around with a nexus point within the timeline.
This doesn’t mean that Supergirl couldn’t have a hand in any of this. Kara might be fast enough, with some tech, to make it over to Earth-1 on her own, if only by accident. After all, according to Zoom, all multiverse Earths lead to Earth-1. Or she could be contacted by the JSA somehow, or the Legends. She’s probably the wildcard, being all Kryptonian and all.
As for Oliver Queen…I’d like to see Hizzoner turn out to be an outstanding mayor who is actually rebuilding Star City and making it a place where people want to come and live. Wouldn’t it be neat to see that nothing messes that up for once. Let a hero’s city become a nice and safe place to raise a family without fear of a yearly city-wide terrorist attack. Instead, let the Arrow do his work behind the scenes. A champion of the people fighting other just-regular human people (and criminal organizations) most of the time. Get back to its roots, and let Ollie save the city (really save it) for at least a little while.
Much of that is what I want to happen. If the writers continue their trends, they’ll likely do something different. It’s not a bad guess to think Flash is going to bog down and continue to adopt more of the morose, clinging to dark and gritty threads of hope feel that has mired Arrow for so long. Not quite as dark, but hardly a joyful romp.
Arrow is going to be more of the same ol’ same ol’ with a too-long flashback series (joining the Bratva as an officer while still having enough time to grow that magnificent tangle of hair and beard Ollie had when he was rescued) that most just want to go away already.
Supergirl might also lose some of its light and hope if Calista Flockhart doesn’t work out something so that her Cat Grant doesn’t noticeably fade from the show (she’s easily either the second or third most important character after Kara).
And Legends has to get its act together now that Rip’s criminally inept tries at saving his family and vanquishing Vandal Savage are at an end. The show is spectacular but so far it’s also a CG ship without a good rudder (or Snart, or Hawkpeople). Maybe the JSA plot will give them a clearer purpose.
An interesting question is whether Supergirl will actually end up in a merged universe with the other shows or if it gets to stay on its own separate Earth with a (Vibe-created) breach available for necessary crossovers. I favor the second option if only because it allows for less homogeneity of the threats between the shows.
I had high hopes for the four shows all being on the CW until the Flash twist. Now I’m much more guarded. I’m also not sure about having all four shows involved in a massive crossover. That’s a lot to expect from these casts and creative teams. It looks good on paper, and makes a great soundbite, but in all likelihood one episode will be good, two episodes are going to be just OK, and one is going to be “why did they do this?”
What I want is for the focus for all the shows to be on story. Good stories. Knock-my-socks-off stories. Crossovers when it makes sense for the stories. Borrowing from the comics when it makes sense for the stories. Don’t commit to a season-long arc if you don’t already have a season’s worth of stories to fill it. Don’t force it. If I’ve learned anything from a few decades of writing screenplays and books, and listening to other writers (yes, writers whose names you’d know), trying to force the story in a direction it doesn’t want to go just because the writer wants it to go there is a recipe for losing an audience. I don’t want that for any of these shows. I’m sure the creative teams don’t want that, either. Some of the fanboys might, but you’re never ever going to satisfy all of them.