Some Problems with the DC TV Shows
I love the DC TV shows, they are right in my wheelhouse and it would take an awful lot to make me stop loving them. That being said I don’t think they are flawless masterpieces that are above criticism, because the last season of all of them was a bit shaky. Just to be clear I am talking about Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl, none of the other TV shows based on DC comics like Gotham, Lucifer, or iZombie. Those four shows are the ones that are all connected, Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow are all in the same universe, and Supergirl is set in an alternate dimension which Flash travelled to for an episode. That interconnectivity has fans buzzing with excitement, heroes meeting up and crossing over has been a staple of comics for decades and doing that in TV form is a treat for fans. But I get the feeling that those treats are harming these DC shows.
*No real spoilers will be mentioned from the last seasons of all the shows*
Now when Flash first started and they had an awesome crossover two-parter with Arrow I was happy and couldn’t wait to see more. Then the more came. The later parts of Season 3 of Arrow and Season 1 of The Flash had characters and story points crossing over. The next seasons of both shows began and they started laying the groundwork for the new show, Legends of Tomorrow, with multiple subplots spanning a lot of the early episodes of the season, as well as the mid-season crossover event. I liked what they were doing with these guest characters, Atom, Firestorm, White Canary, not so much Hawkman and Hawkwoman, but they can’t all be winners. The problem is the fact that Flash and Arrow devoted a lot of time to setting up a new show, with characters and subplots just gone because they’d all moved to Legends of Tomorrow. So the main characters on Flash and Arrow, as well as their own plots, had less time and space to work with in their own shows. It was a neat idea, and certain things needed to be sacrificed for their shared universe building, but what if that sacrifice was too much.
The more pressing issue I have is what happens next. Recently it was announced that the title for the first episode of Flash season 3 is “Flashpoint” and that kickstarted my worry from the end of the previous season of Flash. Flashpoint in the comics was a crossover event where Barry Allan changed history and screwed everything up, all the DC comics changed as they ran stories from this new Flashpoint universe. So will the TV universe follow suit and their shows be set in this Flashpoint universe too. Based on how much the creators have played with the interconnectiveness of these shows in the past then it is possible all these shows could start their new seasons in this new Flashpoint altered timeline. Which if you’re just watching Arrow it would suck to have the start of the new season uprooted and unrecognisable just because of another show you’re not watching. It’s another cool idea to have ‘alternate timeline’ versions of these shows, playing with what could’ve been and milking all the drama, but there’s the sacrifice to it all. There’s the short-term gain of pleasing the fans who watch all the shows as soon as they come out, and then there’s the long-term which means screwing over anyone who watches it on DVD, Netflix, or just doesn’t watch all of the shows. Thinking how the show’s going to be viewed by the binge watcher is a big deal now, so you’ve got to weigh your options and think how best to make both the weekly and binge watchers happy. The current season trailers don’t make it look like Flashpoint will effect the other shows, but there have been some comments by producers that suggest otherwise.
I’d rather the showrunners would go with Barry creating an alternate timeline, one that is separate from the one he came from. It was rather simply and easily explained in Back to the Future 2, and was mentioned as something that would happen if Barry changed the past like this in season 1. Then Arrow and the other shows can be free to do whatever they wants to do,, no strings. When Flash is done playing with Flashpoint they can bring Barry back to the main timeline with no harm done to the other shows. Maybe they’ll use it as the reason for the big crossover between all the shows, though all signs point to no on that front right now.
It was already announced that a crossover between all four shows is planned to happen, so it’s only a case of how well they do it this time round. Maybe lessons have been learned and it’ll be a much smoother ride, or maybe they’ll try to old “bigger is better” approach and try to top everything they did last year. At the moment I’m just hoping that Supergirl stays in her own separate universe, with limited crossover appearances. Merging her series into the Arrow/Flash/Legends one would just make a mess of things. They just don’t really fit together. Supergirl has lots of big classic and iconic superheroics, whereas the other shows are a bit more down to earth and trying to offer a more “realistic” take that clashes with it. In Supergirl there’s two big superpowered heroes in the world and so there has to be lots of big threats to combat them. So while the other shows try to have threats that are comparable to each other, so when Arrow and Flash crossover they fit well and don’t feel out of place. Supergirl upsets that balance, if she’s set in the same world any big threats in the other shows would lead the audience to ask “why aren’t Supergirl and Superman trying to stop the end of the world here?” It was bad enough last season when they had a end of the world threat in Arrow and then Flash was no where to be seen and Canary was told “go help your friends in Legends of Tomorrow, we can handle an impossible to beat magic man who’s nearly causing nuclear armageddon.” Someone launching nukes around the world didn’t have anyone outside of Arrow trying to help stop it and it wasn’t even mentioned on The Flash.
The Flash was also dealing with its own End of the World scenario, but it was more contained so it wouldn’t effect the other shows. That’s the key here, you need to have interconnected shows but not have events that’d make the audience wonder why the other shows doesn’t get involved. Always trying to “top the last season” leads to bigger events like these “End of the World” stories, so it gets harder to ignore why these other heroes aren’t helping out more. It also leads to some other story problems, such as some rather silly plots and silly justifications for those plots. Every season of Arrow has had a bigger threat nearly destroying Star City, they even have characters slyly comment on how often it happens. Season 4 had a world ending catastrophe, as did season 2 of The Flash, and Legends had the entirety of history at stake. If the showrunners do try to top all of that in the next season then I worry what’ll happen to those stories. Bigger isn’t always better.
The shows had problems in the last few seasons. Season 1 of The Flash and Supergirl were great, after the usual amount of “first season settling in” had happened to get the shows firing on all cylinders. Season 3 and 4 of Arrow, season 2 of The Flash, and season 1 of Legends were really shaky though. I still enjoyed them, they were fun and had great moments to them and The Flash was definitely the better out of the three shows, even though it got into some stupid plotting and even more tedious and annoying pointless cheap drama moments that has plagued all three shows. It’d take too long to get into all of those problems but I think I can pinpoint a common cause of them, creators stretching themselves too far.
Season 2 of Arrow was the best of that show, the best season of any of these shows, then in season 3 they had to split their focus on The Flash. Getting that new show up and running and trying to fit those shows in together with crossovers and references between the two of them. It was obvious that the main energy was spent on trying to get The Flash working right and things get to slide a little on Arrow. Then the next year Legends came along and the focus was split even more, not helped by the need to establish all of the characters in Arrow and Flash first before sending them off in Legends. Which lead to time taken in the early parts of those seasons that could’ve been used to better improve their own shows. Supergirl avoided this by being on a different network and so all of the crossover shenanigans weren’t there. They did one crossover with The Flash and left it at that, so the Supergirl creators could spend their time focusing on their own show. With the new seasons boasting a four show crossover I wonder how much that will impact all of those shows if they’re going to focus the early parts of the season on building to that crossover rather than trying to make their own individual overarching seasonal plots work.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, when Star Trek The Next Generation hit its seventh season the writers were moving on to work on the sister show DS9, then there was the producers working on trying to launch the brand new show Voyager, and also moving TNG into the movies. So that final season of the show suffered greatly. It succeeded so well that no one had time to work on it and the quality went down, its a minor miracle that the show ended as well as it did. So I do have to wonder if the same thing isn’t happening with the DC TV shows. Four shows, each trying to do crossovers with one another and trying to keep each one concurrent so they can reference one another. These aren’t just crossovers but ones made to be aired the same week as each other, part one airs on Tuesday with The Flash and part two concludes on Wednesday with Arrow. That’s a lot of work to make sure two shows are kept on the same schedule that it can happen, and that’s just the big crossover events rather than just the smaller crossovers that they do every now and then. Imagine that with four shows airing on the same week, while also trying to keep each show’s plots intact. That’s a tall order, and one that I think is leading to less overall quality control.
At this point I don’t know what to suggest, dialling back on the crossovers isn’t much of an option, that genie is already out of the bottle. Keeping Supergirl separate at least means it can be isolated from most of the crossovers and so it’s one less show to try and fit into this patchwork puzzle. The rest could use some tighter planning for story arcs and also less cheap drama. We don’t need another season of Barry not being able to tell his love interest he’s the Flash “for their own safety” while gleefully telling everyone else he comes across, his friends, villains, even the barista at the coffee shop. Or Ollie deciding to keep secrets when the only possible outcome will bite him in the ass later on, the same goes for most of the cast. These shows are all soap operas and have been since the very beginning, but using cheap drama only makes for weak storytelling and annoyed viewers. Hoping for the best and that they can pull off a four show crossover event without damaging the individual shows, it’s all we can do.
Or fans could just keep blaming all the shows problems on the blond haired computer hacker, as if she’s some sort of viral infection that is slowly killing these shows. But I’m sure I’ll hear all about how she’s the ruin of the DC TV line up before the mid-season hits.