With the 2016-2017 season of the Arrowverse coming to a close, I thought I would have some fun and rank the shows according to how successful I thought each one was this season. While I enjoy watching all of the shows, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and I thought this season in particular some of them really took off and improved while others wallowed and didn’t quite achieve the heights I think they’re capable of.
On a side note, is there a season number for the Arrowverse? All of the shows have different season numbers at this point, but does the ‘verse itself have one? Season 2 maybe? It would be a lot easier to say that than “the 2016-2017 season”. But I digress…
I’m going to be mentioning things that happen throughout each season as I compare the shows, including things that happened in the finales, so:
On to our first entry in the Arrowverse power rankings!
While Arrow is the flagship show of the Arrowverse, I think it’s been the weakest of the bunch for the past couple of seasons. The first two seasons of the show were fantastic, but since then it’s struggled and hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of its early story arcs. Sadly, the fifth season was no different in that regard.
In a story arc that was supposed to be about Oliver facing a threat from his past, an enemy who his own actions as The Hood in Season 1 created, the writing team decided it was the perfect time to introduce a bunch of new characters onto the show. To me, thematically, this premise would seem like a great time to double down on past characters from the show rather than explore something new.
With the threat of Prometheus, a character who wanted to expose the fact that Oliver is a killer at heart, I think it would’ve been really compelling to see the old guard members of Team Arrow have to either grapple with their loyalty to Oliver or at the very least to really have to reconsider the whole vigilante lifestyle.
Instead, several of the older characters were shunted to the side in favor of a new batch. Quentin and Thea in particular were sidelined for several episodes each and had minimal story arcs that had little impact on the overall season.
This might have worked out if the new characters actually brought something to the show, but I think most of them didn’t end up amounting to a whole lot. Oliver tried to train up a series of new recruits (and had a new love interest!), but I felt the majority of new characters didn’t find their footing in the ensemble dynamic, largely because I don’t think the writers really knew what to do with them.
Williams came on as a reporter who had uncovered the secrets of Oliver’s past and was also supposed to be a love interest. But the character went nowhere, and plot-wise all she did was play damsel in distress once before Oliver dumped her. She never ended up amounting to anything as a love interest. Even if the plan was for the relationship to be short-lived, I feel Oliver and/or the audience should’ve learned something from it, but that didn’t happen.
On top of that, she didn’t get to play out the more interesting part of her character where she might have exposed Oliver as the Green Arrow. She was collecting all of this info for a story, and then that story never materialized. There wasn’t even an episode where her notes got stolen and someone threatened to expose what she had gathered. Instead her career is destroyed by Thea, another plot arc that doesn’t really go anywhere.
Rory aka “Ragman”:
I was initially excited about Rory joining the new recruits Oliver gathered mostly because I really liked Joe Dinicol during his stint on Blindspot. But his character got the least screen time of the new batch of heroes, and he ended up having an early exit about two-thirds of the way through the season after losing his powers. His biggest contribution was probably during the Invasion! crossover when he was able to help the Dominator code because it was similar to Torah text.
I don’t know that the writers had any idea what to do with this character, and he didn’t really fit with the team given that he has powers, and pretty strong powers at that. Ragman may have found more of a home on The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow, but instead he played out as a low-level supporting cast member.
Dinah aka “Black Canary”:
The latest incarnation of Black Canary is probably the biggest offender of being a waste of space. After the midseason finale cliffhanger where we found out that the returning Laurel Lance was in fact Black Siren of Earth-2, Oliver decides that it is suddenly imperative to fill the Black Canary mantle. After searching around for a bit, the team finds a woman who has exactly the same powers as Black Siren. Oliver manages to convince her to join the team. And that’s it. I don’t think Dinah has done one meaningful thing since then.
This is the second attempt to fill the Black Canary role after Sara Lance left it, and so far it hasn’t been very successful, in my opinion. The writers (and Stephen Amell) did note that Black Canary is an important part of the Green Arrow mythos, and that she should be included in the show, but of all the characters introduced this season, Dinah has had one of the smaller roles and doesn’t seem to add a whole lot to the team. I think there are a couple of ways the writers could’ve gone about bringing in a new Black Canary, but their approach to this character so far leaves a lot to be desired.
Evelyn aka “Artemis”:
Evelyn, one of Oliver’s recruits, ends up betraying the team and joining forces with Prometheus. If she had had more screen time, I think the betrayal might have had some emotional weight behind it, but instead it left me scratching my head. She hates Green Arrow because he was a killer once, and because of that she’s apparently okay joining forces with a psychopath who is willing to murder a child to get back at Oliver. I guess she really, really hates hypocrisy? Like hates it enough to go along with a plan that involves killing a ton of people and blowing up an island.
If Evelyn had been given more screen time, even if we got to see her working alongside Chase more often and learning from him, becoming something of a student, that might’ve made this work more for me. In fact, that could’ve been really cool, seeing Oliver struggling to teach his recruits while Chase has a very willing and able student. But instead she just popped up at random times and was mean. The end. Possibly literally if she ends up getting blown up in the Lian Yu explosion.
Rene aka “Wild Dog”:
Of all the new recruits, I think that Rene is the strongest, largely because he has the most screen time and an actually developed back story involving his daughter and his journey into vigilantism. He turned out to be Oliver’s hardest challenge because he was so stubborn and had a set way of doing things. He also has great chemistry with Curtis, and their scenes together are always fun.
So yeah, I did feel like Rene added to the ensemble, and I think his character was worth having around because it was strong in its own right and revealed the desires or shortcomings of other characters in the group. If this season had kept the new team additions down to Wild Dog and Curtis’ Mr. Terrific (who I’m not including in this rundown because he was introduced last season), I think things might’ve worked out better. It’s hard for me to say that his addition to the show was necessary, but his character is at least someone I enjoy watching and learning about.
Okay, dude was a villain…but what the hell happened to him? Unless I’m missing something, his last appearance was being thrown off a roof by Prometheus. Is that it? Is he dead now? That would be really lame, since we never got to find out who he was, and he appeared enough times that I thought that would surely happen. I mean, WTF?
Ultimately it felt like the writers were throwing things at the wall this season to see what stuck. Most the characters didn’t feel like they were fully developed, and the bloated ensemble crowded out some characters, making them feel arbitrary and unnecessary or lacking in depth.
The poor comparison for these newer characters is only highlighted towards the end of the season when older Arrow characters return to the fray. Merlyn, Nyssa, and Deathstroke all have a pretty immediate impact when they’re on screen. They are longstanding and well developed characters who command emotional and narrative weight. Next to them, most of the newer characters feel paper thin.
And just so we’re clear, I think this is the fault of the writers, not the actors. I find the actors in these roles to be engaging and good at delivering what they’re given. It’s just that I feel their characters aren’t fleshed out nearly enough.
I guess I should also touch on the finale…but I really have no idea what to say about that. I’m certain at least one person dies, but I couldn’t really guess who. Maybe Quentin? Or maybe Deathstroke goes out heroically saving everyone? Or maybe the entire cast just got blown up, and Season 6 will be a real reboot (though judging by the casting news, I highly doubt that).
My feeling is that the writers have a lot of work to do with developing these new characters if they want them to be meaningful in Season 6. I hope that they can do it. I do think that the lack of flashback sequences will give them more time to play with some meaningful subplots, so at least they have that going for them.
Anyway, we’re going to wrap my laundry list of things I think didn’t work here. I actually ended up writing a ton about this season, but I didn’t want to have the Arrow entry totally dwarf the entries for the other shows. So my next post will be about what I would’ve done differently for Season 5.
What I hope for next season:
Olicity. Or not. Honestly I don’t really care, but I think this just needs to be resolved. Either they should be together, and we should see them working together and growing as a couple, or the relationship should end, and Oliver should move on to someone else. I’m just tired of the drama surrounding all of this.
Oliver being a dad. We don’t often get to see superheroes have families, and we certainly don’t get to see them be fathers from an accidental pregnancy. I think exploring this part of Oliver’s character would bring a new angle and some diversity to the standard superhero story arc. I hope that Samantha survives the explosion (not least of all because I like Anna Hopkins from her time on Defiance), and that she moves to Star City where she and Oliver can split parental duties.
The old guard returns. I’d like to see Nyssa and Deathstroke in more than one episode next season. In fact, I’d really love it if they have substantial arcs or became series regulars (though that might overcrowd the show at this point).
Evelyn lives. This might be a weird thing to hope for, but I found it really unsatisfying that the Evelyn arc ends with her in a cage, especially if she just dies in the island explosion. It feels like her character is ripe for a redemption arc where she finally realizes what Chase was and how the Green Arrow isn’t that bad. Even if she remains a villain, I think she should survive to be killed or captured in a more fulfilling way.
100th episode during the Invasion! crossover
The al Ghul sister showdown
Adrian Chase…he was actually a really great villain, RIP
3.) The Flash
Of all the Arrowverse shows, The Flash has been the most consistent, but part of that is that it has stuck to the same formula for three years in a row and trotted out pretty similar story arcs. Thankfully it seems that the show will finally start moving in a new direction with the showrunners announcing that the villain for next season will not be a speedster.
That being said, Savitar was a pretty badass speedster villain to go out on…mostly because he was Barry Allen, or at least a time remnant of Barry Allen. I thought the plot around Savitar worked well, and that between him, Alchemy, and a quick jaunt into Gorilla City, Team Flash was kept very well occupied with fun challenges throughout the season.
I was mostly happy with the finale as well. I figured that one of the Wells’ would be the one to die when Savitar told them someone died in the future, mostly because Tom Cavanagh plays multiple Wells on the show, so killing one off would be emotionally resonant while not costing him his job. While HR was amusing this season, I didn’t see how he could fit in with the team long term, so that move made sense.
As for Barry entering the Speed Force, I wish it had been foreshadowed a little bit more. Maybe someone could’ve mentioned what would happen to an unoccupied Speed Force prison at some point, like when Barry went into it to save Wally, though that might also have spoiled too much. Either way, having the prison suddenly appear at the end and Barry just walking off into it was a little jarring, but I was ultimately fine with the decision, I think.
Unlike both Arrow and Supergirl, The Flash actually does a really great job of managing its ensemble and making it feel like everyone gets a good amount of screen time and has a meaningful back story with interesting motivations. I think part of this is that they don’t overwhelm the show with tons of new characters, and the characters who are added get an appropriate amount of screen time.
This season we got a new Wells, Gypsy, Julian, and Tracy Brand. Also Joe’s girlfriend. While the ensemble swelled and some characters who had been playing more supportive roles stepped up to larger ones (most notably Wally), each character had meaningful appearances and showed up at the right times to contribute to the overall story. I didn’t feel like there were any characters who were totally extraneous and didn’t add in some way to what was going on.
While I have nothing bad to say about The Flash in its third season, it ranks fairly low on this list largely because I think that the shows placed above it improved a great deal and did some more interesting things. As I said, this show has largely spun out the same tale three times. I’m excited for next season because with Barry gone, or at least starting the season gone, and a non-speedster Big Bad in the mix, I think the show will have a great opportunity to try out some new things and improve.
What I hope for next season:
Barry stays in the Speed Force for 3-4 episodes and we actually get to see how Team Flash is dealing with issues and moving on after his departure. Personally I found it a bit disappointing that the Flashpoint part of a Flashpoint season lasted all of one episode. I think it would be cool to see Barry dealing with issues in the Speed Force, maybe going through some quest that eventually allows him to be released. In the meantime, we see Wally West be the hero of Central City and get to watch the other members of the team working together. Then when Barry inevitably returns, he’ll have to figure out what his place in the team is because he isn’t necessarily the de facto leader anymore.
Caitlin rejoins Team Flash as a hero. I was very happy that Caitlin decided to remain as Frost and keep her meta powers. I think seeing her join Team Flash as a meta ally would be great. Honestly I’ve been hoping for it for awhile, and having a team of more metas to aid Barry could let the writers up the difficulty on the villains they face, or even have the team face an ensemble group of villains, something we’ve only really seen on Legends of Tomorrow. But if she must go on her spirit quest of self-discovery, I could see her joining the Legends. That might be fun.
Barry and Iris get married. So the one thing that really annoyed me about Barry entering the Speed Force was that yet again his relationship with Iris is being put on hold right when it’s heating up. I really don’t like this “will they / won’t they” element of Arrowverse romances, and I’d really like to see a couple just get to be a couple and not dance around whether or not it will work out. I hope the midseason finale is these two tying the knot, and then we can end any romantic suspense between them. If the show needs that element, it can come from the supporting cast members.
The Musical Crossover
Barry teaming up with Captain Cold on a heist
Following its launch on CBS, Supergirl had its first season on the CW this year, and I thought it was hugely improved from Season 1. I felt like the show really hit its stride and found its identity and voice.
First and foremost, the writers took a lot more time to develop the supporting cast and give (at least most of them) meaningful screen time and subplots. In the first season, the show revolved almost entirely around Kara, and the characters were there just to prop her up. Cat Grant and the Martian Manhunter were her mentors, Jimmy and Winn were her love interests, and Alex was her sister, the bedrock of her world. But this season we actually got to see these characters be themselves.
Perhaps the best example of this was Alex’s arc where she discovers that she’s a lesbian at the age of 30 and has to deal with all of the emotional stress and uncertainty that goes along with that.
As I mentioned, I think this show also found its voice, and perhaps being in the Trump era helped with that. Supergirl, like Superman, is all about having hope and appealing to humanity’s best qualities, which this show (unlike the movies…) seems to actually understand. In fact my favorite moment from the first season was when Kara confronted the mugger without her powers and talked him down from killing anyone. To me that captured the essence of Supergirl.
Trump is a candidate who rode to victory on a wave of anger, racism, xenophobia, and white hate. I think Supergirl does well to overtly express themes of inclusion and compassion, especially for aliens, the metaphorical stand-ins for undocumented immigrants and war refugees. I very much enjoy the show’s flat out embrace of an anti-Trump meta view, and I think its messaging very much is in line with Supergirl’s ideals of hope and a better humanity.
These positives being stated, there were still some areas of the show that were problematic. Like Arrow, it felt like the writers were throwing some things at the wall to see what would work, and there were characters who I feel were either unnecessary or didn’t get enough necessary screen time. However, unlike Arrow I can forgive this more because the quality of the show was higher overall, and it was Supergirl’s first season on a new network.
Anyway, the characters below are characters I think either needed much more screen time or to possibly be eliminated:
We’ll be getting more Lena Luthor in Season 3, as Katie McGrath will be a season regular, so that’s good. This season, I really wish we had a bit more of her. I love McGrath, and I love her take on Lena, and I think really having the screen time to flesh out her friendship with Kara would add a lot to the show. I wrote a bit about this earlier in the year, but I also think giving her more screen time would cement her role as a friend in Kara’s life and make her feel less like a romantic partner (unless that’s what the writers were going for…in which case I don’t object). Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how Lena develops with a larger story arc.
In the shift over from CBS, Jimmy Olsen’s role in the show was greatly diminished. In the very first episode the writers quashed his relationship with Kara for seemingly no reason other than to prep for the Mon-El romance (but they still could’ve done that over the course of a few episodes rather than having her immediately throw out the decisions she made at the end of last season).
From there he took over as the head of Catco after Cat Grant’s departure, but there weren’t a ton of Catco scenes this season, and he didn’t seem to do anything as the boss. And then he moved on to become the Guardian, but again, the Guardian didn’t really end up amounting to much, and was even largely sidelined during the two final episodes of the season during a massive alien invasion. We didn’t even really get to see Jimmy interact with Superman all that much, and the two of them are supposed to be really good friends.
The only really meaningful Jimmy Olsen episode was the one where he befriends the alien telepathic kid and protects their kind from going crazy after Rhea and Lena open a portal for the Daxamites.
It feels like the writers really don’t know what to do with this character, and I think they need to figure that out and get him more screen time and better story arcs, or find a way to have him exit the show.
I think Snapper is a great character who had some really great lines and moments this season, but I think he suffers from a similar issue as Jimmy Olsen, and that’s the lack of Catco scenes. I think the writers should find a way to add a bit more of Kara’s normal, work life into the show. Maybe have more episodes (like the one with the nano bots) where Kara works as a sleuth/reporter to figure things out before she goes all Supergirl and flies around punching things. I think this could help up the importance of both Snapper and Jimmy Olsen in the series.
Of all the characters, Lyra was probably the least necessary. She showed up out of nowhere to become Winn’s girlfriend, had one relevant episode where she frames Winn for a theft, and ends up dragging Winn, Guardian, Alex, and Maggie into action together. Then she seemed to be set-up to start working with the already underutilized Guardian, but that never materialized, and she didn’t appear at all in the final two episodes when the Daxamites were attacking.
I honestly feel like this character was added because someone thought “hey, we need a human character who dates an alien!” I like the actress, and I found Lyra’s appearances onscreen funny and engaging, but she just doesn’t feel like she has a place in the overall story. Unless the writers plan on spending more time with her in Season 3, I don’t think she really needs to stay on the show.
And touching on the finale and the tease for next season’s villain, I believe it is already confirmed that the character in question will be Reign, a new-ish character from the New 52 era of Supergirl comics. I think picking a newer villain and bringing someone less well known to the screen is a good choice. The writers can play with her character a bit more and not risk angering any die-hard, long-time comic fans. I assume rights-wise this was also an easier get than someone like Doomsday.
What I hope for next season:
Lena finds out who Supergirl is. And also that she doesn’t become bad. I think the show has spent a lot of time emphasizing how Lena is escaping her upbringing, how not all Luthors are bad, and I think that making her evil would send a problematic message about how we can’t escape our heritage. I’d prefer if she helped out Supergirl and was a friend Kara could rely on. I’d be fine with some moments where they were antagonist towards each other, so long as Lena is mostly a friend and never a Big Bad.
Mon-El joins the Legion of Superheroes. I mean, more superheroes is fun, right? And honestly this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to seeing something like the Green Lantern Corps, so…do it!
Livewire returns! I’d really like to see at least one episode where Livewire comes back to help out Supergirl, since Supergirl helped her out this season. Maybe she could even join the show in a recurring role as a hero in training? That might be a bit too much to ask, but I would love for there to be more than one Livewire episode this season at least.
Cat Grant appears in more episodes. The only thing I really missed from Season 1 of Supergirl was having Calista Flockhart appear in every episode. Given that she’s still in National City at the end of this season, I hope she’ll be back for Season 3, and if she’s not a series regular, I hope that she’ll at least have more guest appearances. I think Supergirl has improved to the point where Cat Grant doesn’t need to appear in every episode, but it would be great if she appeared in more than the premiere and the finale and had her appearances spaced out more throughout the season.
Alex’s coming out monologue
The conference call with Calista Flockhart, Lynda Carter, and Teri Hatcher
Cat Grant knowing who Supergirl is (because of course she does)
The Musical Crossover
Kara Lois-Lane-lifting Lena after she gets pushed off her balcony
1.) Legends of Tomorrow
This show definitely surprised me with how good it was this season. Last season I would argue that Legends of Tomorrow was probably third on this list, maybe just over Arrow’s divisive and rather disastrous fourth season. But in one season the show has turned it around and become an absolute joy to watch week in and week out.
In the first season, Legends of Tomorrow took itself very seriously and constructed a very dramatic arc around the idea of a team of superheroes traveling through time to stop Vandal Savage from taking over the world. In season two the writers figured out that a show about time traveling superheroes really shouldn’t give a shit. This season featured a robo-samurai, Camelot turned into a real historical place, George Lucas being saved by the team, J.R.R. Tolkien helping the team find a religious relic, and Rip Hunter baking cakes in the Wave Rider for the better part of an episode.
This show became insanely fun, transforming itself into an action-comedy that hit all of the right notes in just about every episode. The bickering brother-like relationship between Nate (Nick Zano) and Ray (Brandon Routh) is fantastic, as is Dominic Purcell’s pitch perfect adaptation of Heat Wave, or Victor Garber’s veteran presence as Dr. Martin Stein. On top of all of that, Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance is the emotional center of the story, and she does an amazing job carrying the ensemble.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the villains who had a large role in the success of this season. Matt Letscher, John Barrowman, and Neal McDonough walked through their villain parts and were fully engaging every time they were on screen. It was also great to see a supervillain ensemble team-up against a hero ensemble.
What I hope for next season:
Victor Garber singing more. Because you know you want it.
Caitlin Snow / Killer Frost joins the team. IF Caitlin doesn’t come back as a regular on The Flash, I think this would be a good fit for her. I think this group is in desperate need of more female characters, and what better choice than someone who is already very well known in the Arrowverse? I think Danielle Panabaker could add a lot to this cast, and it would be fun to have her involved, even if it’s only for a season. Having a new ice power person on the team could lead to some fun interplay between her and Mick Rory, and she’d probably have to develop a new relationship with Stein, as they were friends prior to her change.
Nyssa joins the team. Okay, admittedly this is a super far fetched scenario, but how awesome would it be? Nyssa and Sara together again would be amazing, and, as I said, I think this team does need some more female characters. I think Katrina Law would add a lot to this ensemble, and if she’s not being cast as a regular or recurring character on Arrow, then why not try and fit her in here?
A good villain. The villain ensemble of the Legion of Doom really helped elevate this show, and I hope that they have just as strong an antagonist (or set of antagonists) in the next season.
Mick Rory becoming BFFs with George Washington
Amaya being the inspiration behind Princess Leia
Mind wiped Rip Hunter as a film school student
The Legion of Doom working together
Sara’s reunion with Laurel via the Spear of Destiny
Oh yeah, and this:
So yeah, those are my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of all the different shows in the Arrowverse this past season. Do you agree? Or would you rank them differently? Let me know in the comments.
As I stated earlier, my next post will be a brief rundown of how I would’ve done things differently in Season 5 of Arrow. I think the other shows were mostly fine with how they handled their plot arcs (sans some minor things), but I feel like there is a lot I would change about Arrow if I magically got the opportunity. I hope you’ll check out that post when it goes live.
On another note, if you like this kind of content, let me know. And if you’d like to see me do this with all of the superhero shows I watch, let me know as well. I may get around to doing it anyway because I think it could be fun, but if people tell me ahead of time they’ll actually read it, then that’s just some more incentive.
Thanks for reading, catch you next time!