Back in December, the CW combined two of its biggest shows together in a two-night crossover event. Coming from the same creative team and already established as existing in the same universe, Arrow and The Flash made their first big team-up, checking off a lot of fan desires for such interaction in comic book adaptations. And not only did it boost the ratings of both series, but it was largely a hit in its reception from both critics and fans alike.
Given the state of the industry, it’s not surprising at the explosion of comic book properties working their way more and more onto television. Gotham has been a decent hit for Fox, Agent Carter a welcome extension of the MCU, and Agents of SHIELD is one of the most improved shows of the season.
And no established cannon has benefited from – or paved the way – more than what we’ve gotten from The Flash and Arrow, with the former already the highest-rated show pretty much ever for the network, and Arrow arguably one of the best shows on TV.
So it’s no surprise that expansion is already looking to continue – and that the creative minds behind this particular established DC universe are among those being asked to expand it. Indeed, as Greg Berlanti was a pivotal player in getting both Flash and Arrow off the ground, he’s additionally developing a Supergirl series for CBS; something that had been rumored for a long while.
Of course, CBS president Nina Tassler then caused a bit of stir when she announced that their new Supergirl series will not be living in the same universe as Flash and Arrow – at least at the outset of the series. This means no such similar interactions between Kara, Oliver, and Barry.
Continuous universes are becoming all the rage, thanks to the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So much so that any number of other film studios are now looking to their own properties – from Star Wars to DC comics to Universal’s backlog of horror classics – to create a continuous established universe that can let characters interact and exist within the same established continuity. No doubt this very thing is what both drove and enabled the eventual spinoff of The Flash altogether, to say nothing of its successful crossover event.
And while no doubt there are fans who might be disappointed we may never see Kara Zor-El on the same screen as this Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, it’s actually probably okay that they remain separate. Indeed, it might actually even be for the best.
Crossover stories can be a lot of fun, and Marvel has already demonstrated admirably a lot of the storytelling that can be accomplished when you pre-establish characters and then throw them all together on screen for a big romp.
But it’s also important to remember that that’s not the only legitimate form of storytelling in these kinds of movies and TV series. That it’s not the only way to utilize comic characters. And perhaps most importantly, it’s good to remember as audience members that we can’t let ourselves get swept up in the hype of these kinds of events.
The Arrow-Flash crossover, while exciting in both conception and execution, didn’t do all that much for each series individually. Arrow in particular was forced to push more than one cast member into the background for the duration to make way for Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco. And as fun as it is to watch the proto-Green Arrow and Flash duel in a fan-pleasing handling of the age old “who would win in a fight” question, it doesn’t do much for each show’s (and cast’s) singular development.
In other words, it’s good for a big event every now and again – but it’s also important to remember that each individual series needs to stand on its own. Arrow and Flash were each respectively developed with the intent of letting us see Queen and Allen evolve into their iconic identities – and specifically with the given cast built around them. Crossover events inevitably means letting each series’ individual growth and storylines pause to allow for de facto Justice League events. But the problem is that neither show is called (nor is about) any form of the Justice League. They’re about Oliver Queen and Barry Allen.
Indeed, the first half of Arrow‘s third season somewhat stagnated, refusing to commit to a long-term plot or villain to claim the season, much the same way the show did in its first couple of years. And it’s hard not to wonder if that was done expressly to keep the series in a holding pattern until the crossover event – since such an occurrence may have been too difficult to insert into the narrative once the season-long stories took over. Meaning that not only did it stagnate the show in the moment, it stagnated the entire first half of the season, somewhat to its detriment.
If Supergirl were inserted into the mix, this would likely become even more of a problem. Too many fans might be sitting around wondering and waiting for the next interaction between the trio – and not only would that potentially hinder the individuality of each series, but it would be a disservice to fans who signed on to see the relationships with Barry and Oliver and their respective casts, rather than the occasional team-up between superheroes.
This also has the benefit of Supergirl getting to find its own footing on its own terms. Without those pressures and expectations, it can get off the ground and discover its own individual voice that doesn’t inherently need to cater to an already-established tone and universe. At some point down the line, if the three shows/heroes could be organically integrated in a way that both the CW and CBS could work with, no doubt it could be appealing. But for now, it’s for the better letting this one stand on its own.
Cinematic Universes are becoming an in thing now and while that’s exciting, it also has some inherent risks. Superhero storytelling can often fall to these risks, perhaps because of the natural associations from source material. All the same, while such on-screen character interactions can be fun, it’s also good to remember that Arrow was conceptualized to let us see the evolution of Oliver Queen, The Flash for Barry Allen, and similarly Supergirl likely will be for Kara Zor-El. And that can only be accomplished if each character can do it on their own.