We are days away from what is most certainly the largest crossover in television history. It may very well even exceed the MCU in scope with over 20 seasons and 300 hours of content from the Arrowverse alone, not to mention all the additional material, stories, and characters from the last 50 years of DC on-screen history. That level of backstory would intimidate most viewers from even trying to get caught up, especially not in the next couple of days.
So, to help those who might have fallen off the wagon, those who have never watched a single episode of the Arrowverse, or those who only watch some of the shows, I have assembled a crash course in Arrowverse history broken down on a show-by-show basis. This is a crash course, so I have to assume you WANT spoilers, but just as a precaution (and to use my graphic again)...
The show that started it all.
Arrow has been going for eight seasons now having started back in 2012. In that time, it has spun off or integrated some half a dozen additional shows into its shared universe which fans have dubbed “The Arrowverse”. Largely considered a Batman knock-off early on (and reasonably so), it even introduced and co-opted quite a few of Bruce’s cast of foes from outside Gotham proper. Oliver Queen has faced off against the League of Assassins and Ra’s and Talia al Ghul, Deadshot, and Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad to name a few. While other cases were not direct lifts from Batman, they were certainly in the same style as many previous Batman stories and you could easily see the characters being changed with little difference.
While Arrow may have started as “The Green Knight” and continued to tell stories you could see Bruce in, it did greatly expand in its own right into a series which has, of course, managed to stay on the air for eight years and spun off an entire franchise named after it. Arrow has expanded in the last eight years, not just in the sense of the expanded universe, but the core cast as well. What starts as Oliver against the world quickly added core team member, John Diggle, and shortly long-time love interest and future wife, Felicity Smoak. Within a season or two, two different versions of Speedy (Roy Harper and Thea Queen) join and leave the team and a Black Canary (one of many) joins and is consequently killed, Sara Lance (who eventually becomes lead on the spin-off show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). Eventually, we get what has been dubbed “New Team Arrow” with the introduction of Dinah Drake, Rene Ramirez, and Curtis Holt as Black Canary, Wild Dog, and Mr. Terrific respectively. While their relationship with the original “Team Arrow” was not always smooth, they worked together as needed and maintained respect for one another in the end.
This, of course, does not even include the growth of Oliver himself from the time where he was stranded on the island of Lian Yu up until the time he returns to the island for what may well be his last days on Earth. Oliver was the stereotypical billionaire playboy who hadn’t worked a day in his life and instead had family money. Until the day he, his father, and Sara Lance were lost at sea and he washed up on Lian Yu. It was there, through his fight for survival alone in nature along with conspiracies involving the island, that Oliver is prepared both in body and mind to take on the eventual mantle of “The Hood” and eventually “The Green Arrow”. The island changed him in that he became isolated and lacked trust in others. He also, for better or worse, picked up an attitude in that he cannot lose and will never give up.
Over the past eight years, he has however grown to trust, love, and protect those around him. He fell in love with and married Felicity, found out he had a son in William, and eventually has a daughter with Felicity named Mia. It was because of all these things and the love he has for everyone, not to mention his absolute fortitude as a hero willing to make every sacrifice required that he ultimately traded his life for Flash and Supergirl’s back during last year’s Elseworlds event.
In the year since, Oliver and Felicity had moved out of the city to have and raise Mia in secret and to essentially retire and have a chance to live a normal life while he could before The Monitor came to claim his life. Sadly, it came quicker than Oliver expected and he was forced to leave Felicity and Mia while she was still a baby to go with The Monitor to attempt to save the multiverse in the coming Crisis...a mission which Oliver knows he will die to complete.
This final season has had several aspects to it. The first and most obvious is the main plot: the mission to stop Crisis. The Monitor immediately sends Oliver on a mission to a different Earth to obtain materials for a weapon. While he is mission-focused initially, he quickly learns that he cannot help but be the hero no matter if it’s his world or not. After however seeing that Earth destroyed in a wave of antimatter, Oliver begins his journey to accept the inevitable as well as the fact that he cannot complete his mission alone.
Also, this season, we have been experiencing flash-forwards to the year 2040 where we see Team Arrow’s kids as adults who have taken up their parents’ mantle and become the heroes of Star City in the future (who may well star in their spinoff, Green Arrow and the Canaries)...that is until they are pulled from the future to the year 2019 at which point they team up with their parents in order to continue and complete The Monitor’s mission.
In the final episode before the Crisis, the team returned to Lian Yu which for “reasons” is the only location in which a weapon needed for the Crisis can be completed. In this episode, we ultimately see all the characters coming to terms with the end. Diggle comes to terms with the fact that he cannot go with Oliver when the time comes. Mia comes to terms with the fact that her father, whom she felt had abandoned her as a baby, was always going to be a hero and finally understood why he had left and that she was happy to have been able to see him and be a small part of his story. Roy has to come to terms with the fact that he could not run from his problems and bloodlust, but by the end must also come to terms with heroic sacrifices and the cost of being a hero...in his case, his right arm. Oliver comes to terms with the fact that he cannot fight The Monitor and instead must trust and understand that he cannot always win. He also learns that he needs the help of others, but also that he has to trust them to handle themselves without him around.
Probably the most relevant coming to terms as it relates to Crisis though is that of Lyla Michaels, the wife of John Diggle. This season it was revealed that she had been working with The Monitor for some yet unspecified amount of time to prepare for the Crisis. First of all, everyone must come to terms with the fact that Lyla had been keeping this information from them for possibly years. In addition to that though, Lyla and John have to come to terms with the fact that Lyla was to be the weapon in the end and they only had a few moments to process and accept that before she vanishes through a wormhole.
Going into Crisis, we see a very large, mixed group Team Arrow. They have each come to terms with Crisis coming and have done all they can to prepare and have all had a moment and opportunity to process the magnitude of the coming events. Despite Arrow’s tendency to be the most angsty of the early Arrowverse shows, heading into Crisis, the team is surprisingly centered.
The Flash is the first spin-off of Arrow and is what I would consider my main show of the Arrowverse...though Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow are right up there. It has been running for six seasons after starting in 2014. In those years, we have seen time travel, enemies from the future, paradoxes, doubles, doppelgangers, and changes to the timeline that have had impacts even outside The Flash in the Arrowverse at large.
Since the very first episode of The Flash, we have been told about some sort of crisis involving a red sky during which was destined to occur in 2024. So we as long-time viewers have been expecting some sort of Crisis to occur eventually, but we certainly did not expect it this soon nor of such an outlandish scope six years ago. However, through the expansion of the Arrowverse and some temporal meddling of Barry’s daughter, Nora West-Allen, what was once destined for 2024 has now changed to December 10th, 2019...night three of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event.
Barry has known for all this time that he was destined to disappear. This includes spending time with his daughter from the future last season to get to know her since she grew up without him because he was gone in the future. Due to the changes made to the timeline by her coming back to see him and changing some events of last season regarding the villain Cicada, the Crisis was moved up and consequently deleted her from the timeline since she was no longer able to be conceived before Barry vanishes.
So, after discovering the newly accelerated timeline, Barry begins the process of preparing the rest of the team to continue to protect Central City when he’s gone. This includes appointing Cisco Ramon, formerly (and possibly again) Vibe, as team leader when he is gone, public recognition and establishment of Ralph Dibney, Elongated Man, as a hero and symbol of hope for Central City, and helping Caitlin Snow and her other personality, Frost, come to terms both with Barry’s impending “death” as well as Frost’s own sense of self.
Additionally, we see Barry and his family coming to terms with the impending Crisis and Barry’s “death”. Iris is, of course, putting on a brave face and is constantly distracting herself with stories for her new “newspaper” (is it a newspaper if there’s no actual paper?). As usual, though, it’s the scenes between Barry and Joe that absolutely wreck me emotionally. Their relationship means a lot to me, for reasons that I may write about at a future date, so seeing Joe and the heartbreak in his eyes and he knows what is coming, but also having been there in his way every day as a cop and knowing full well that there’s nothing he could do to change Barry’s mind...as a father, it kills me, but I love seeing how Joe is understanding and accepting even through the pain.
Then, of course, we see Nash Wells. For those of you who watch one of the other shows, but not The Flash, he is the man you have seen in the promo for Crisis at the end of each episode before the event. Nash is a doppelganger for Harrison Wells, a character who has shown up as a different doppelganger each season of The Flash (with some returning Wells some seasons). “Nash” though is somewhat different from previous Wells. While most are some level of arrogant, annoying, and/or generally abrasive, “Nash” is on a different wavelength from most in that he only helped Team Flash insomuch that it was actually in his own best interest. He has been completely separate from Team Flash, for the most part, this season as he has searched for who he presumes to be The Monitor.
In the two-part midseason finale (not counting Crisis that is), the villain for this half of the season, Ramsey Rosso (a.k.a. Bloodwork), had attacked Ralph Dibney and infected him with his blood which behaves as essentially a sentient, hive-mind infection. Ralph’s elastic biology at least slowed the infection, but ultimately it took a blood transfusion from Barry to give him some of his speed healing to save Ralph from becoming one of Ramsey’s “blood brothers”. Unbeknownst to Barry though, Ramsey’s blood being a sentient infection, some of it travels back during the transfusion to Barry and infects him at which point the infection starts to take hold. Back at home, Barry finally physically succumbs to the infection and fever and collapses, at which point we see in his mind the conflict between Ramsey’s sentient infection and Barry’s own will as well as his connection to the Speedforce.
While under the influence of Bloodwork’s infection, we see Barry’s fears and doubts brought to the surface. When faced with the prospect of not only surviving Crisis though Bloodwork’s powers, but also the ability to save others, even from death, Barry falters and is prepared to surrender to the infection in order survive Crisis, save others, and ultimately hold his daughter, Nora...completely ignoring the implications of what infection means, not just for his own free will, but for that of the city and possibly the world. Thankfully, Cisco had found or synthesized a serum called Velocity X, an apparent new variation of the previously seen Velocity serums, which boosted the Speedforce within Barry and gave him a chance to fight back against the infection once more.
Ultimately, Barry succumbs to the infection and becomes Negative/Dark Flash. However, that last Speedforce boost by Cisco was enough to at least alloy Barry to maintain some level of self-control while infected. He is also able to subtly influence Bloodwork to manipulate him into setting up a scenario that allowed the remaining Team Flash to cure the entire city of Bloodwork’s zombie-like infection of Central City.
With Bloodwork now contained, we have one last moment between Team Flash where they reminisce about the simpler days before doppelgangers, time travel, and Crisis. Barry establishes how proud he is of everyone and they reciprocate. We see how Barry has finally moved on beyond his past and enjoy his life, but just as Crisis is poised to take that life from him. Even so, he’s come to accept his role in the coming Crisis.
Team Flash is accepting and as prepared as they can be for the coming Crisis, but they are certainly more apprehensive than Team Arrow.
Supergirl initially started as a show on CBS rather than the CW, but it was quickly folded into the Arrowverse fold with a crossover episode with The Flash that established that it was a part of the Arrowverse multiverse. Since then, she and some of her supporting cast have crossed over into the main Arrowverse world of Earth-1 in order to fight off alien invaders, attend a wedding, kick some doppelganger Nazi ass, tell Barry and Oliver apart (long story), and even to have a musical episode with Barry, who, along with Kara, has a doppelganger who has quite a set of pipes and really enjoys singing covers of hit songs.
Supergirl this season has dealt with issues of acceptance, regret, and forgiveness. These center around two major plot points of Lena Luthor discovering Kara’s secret identity as Supergirl as well as the arrival of J’onn J’onzz’s (Martian Manhunter) brother, Malefic. Lena is understandable hurt by the revelation that Kara was Supergirl because of her history of people lying and betraying her. It was doubly impactful to her as the revelation came to her from her brother, Lex, as he lay dying after she had shot him. In her hurt and anger, she takes it upon herself to become the hero and utilize a new technology, Q-waves, which allow for direct interaction with a patient’s brainwaves. She intends to combine that technology with a Kryptonian weapon from an earlier season, Myriad, to manipulate the minds of the entire world to “do no harm”.
This coincides with the other large plot of this season, Malefic. Malefic is a green martian, just as his brother J’onn, but he has a condition such that his telepathy does not work in the same manner as a traditional green martian. Instead, it allows him to control other beings, just as Lena intends to do, so she combines her research and technology with further study of Malefic whom she secretly captured, to create her mind-control weapon.
In the end, Malefic is convinced by J’onn that he is no longer his enemy. You see, Malefic had been locked away as a youth for his condition. He was feared and their father could not bear the thought of locking his son away despite the people’s fears, so J’onn wiped both his and his father’s minds of any trace of Malefic. In the end, Malefic was freed by the white Martians and worked alongside them to get revenge on the people who had betrayed him until eventually he was trapped in the Phantom Zone.
Released by The Monitor as a means of strengthening J’onn for the coming Crisis, Malefic lashed out against his brother seeking his revenge once more. In time, J’onn unlocked the memories within that he had sealed away and was immediately remorseful and sorry for what he had done and worked at length to atone for his mistakes. In the end, that meant allowing himself to open his mind to Malefic to show him the truth within his heart and ultimately convince him to end his crusade of revenge.
That is why Malefic, along with the support of the DEO, was able to counteract Lena’s weapon and prevent her from manipulating the minds of the world. This, of course, did not ultimately stop her for, in true Luthor fashion, she was able to concoct a story which kept her out of jail while “Hope” took the fall for her instead. It is unknown the future of Lena and Kara’s relationship, but it is currently high tension and will likely factor into the Crisis as they will likely be working together regardless of their disagreements because, despite her methods, she sees herself as the hero, just like her brother, Lex.
Speaking of Lex and villains who think themselves the hero, this heroic villain was a theme both with this season of The Flash and Supergirl and, as the teaser clip leading into Crisis showed, Lex will be returning as well for Crisis. This has me wondering if there will not be a significant focus on this idea of “ends justifying the means” during Crisis to continue these lines of thought and to give The Anti-Monitor some sort of motivation for the Crisis.
Going into Crisis, Team Supergirl is not in a good place relative to the other shows. The once exception being J’onn as The Monitor’s manipulation with Malefic has healed him of an emotional wound he was not even aware of and is probably in the best place he has been emotionally.
This one is going to be relatively short since Legends is a highly insane, incredibly fun thrill ride of a show which doesn’t require much of an overarching plot. The biggest thing is that the end of the previous season they had defeated the demon Neron, but a girl Constantine had sent to Hell named Astra had made her way up through Hell and had stolen 16 evil souls (including such names as Charles Manson, Genghis Khan, and Stalin) which she releases at the end of the season. Also, it seems that one of the heroes, Zari, was temporally replaced by her brother due to some timeline shifts and only Nate Haywood is even remotely aware that something is off.
Also, Nora Darhk, daughter of Arrow and later Legends villain, Damien Darhk, and Ray Palmer are loosely romantically involved and consequently are leaving the show this season, so I presume a happy ending for them eventually, but maybe Crisis doesn’t work out too well for them in the end...
The Arrowverse newcomer is halfway through its first season, but this is ironically not her first appearance in a crossover as last year’s “Elseworlds” functioned as a pilot-lite for her then upcoming series. This put Batwoman as a series in an unusual position since she was an established hero in Gotham during the crossover, but the series would start with her origin story. This meant that the first few episodes of Batwoman were essentially prequels to “Elseworlds”, but four or five episodes into the season, there’s a time jump and the events of the crossover are vaguely mentioned. This, however, would still put Batwoman approximately a year behind the rest of the Arrowverse as the events thus far have been relatively quick and certainly not the year since “Elseworlds”. So, it is unknown exactly how or even if this will be addressed. There may again be a time shift forward after the events of last week’s series finale which would give the characters time to cope with some of the large ramifications of what happened and significantly change the show’s dynamics while simultaneously getting them caught up to the Arrowverse at large.
Batwoman takes place in a Gotham that has been seemingly abandoned by Batman for around 3 years now. In his absence, an organization called The Crows has risen to replace “The Bat”. While the idea of a security organization for protection beyond what the GCPD can provide is a nice one, in the end, The Crows function as a private security company for the rich while leaving the rest without the protection of someone or something like Batman.
Leading into Crisis, we see Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman) dealing with the fallout of Alice’s grand plan. Alice is her twin sister, formerly Beth, who was presumed dead for years, all the while being alive and held by a psychopath in the middle of nowhere. It is there that she is befriended by the man’s son, who she now calls Mouse, and eventually they go out on their own and plan revenge against her father and stepmother...a stepmother who had false evidence planted to get her father to stop searching for Beth. In the end, she has Mouse, who is a master impersonator, poison her mother and stepsister, Mary, and frame her father. Mary survives due to their being a single dose of antidote, but it came down to a choice between herself and her mother, but her mother refused and instead insisted Mary take the antidote. This will likely lead to some form of “survivor’s guilt” and impact her going into the second half of the season, but will likely not have an impact on the Crisis.
It will, however, impact the Crisis in the sense that Kate is now almost entirely alone. The only person she really has now is Luke Fox, son of the famous Lucious Fox, who is basically her “guy in the chair” while on missions, but she’s lost her stepmother, stepsister, father, and Beth...even Bruce...she has no family around her anymore and I expect to see this impact her appearances during the Crisis, especially considering some of the supporting cast that has been revealed thus far.
Going into Crisis, Batwoman is, appropriately enough, all alone.
I will keep this one brief since Black Lightning as a whole is not involved in the Crisis event, but Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning) does appear to be pulled into the events alone. As such, some context for his state-of-mind going into Crisis...
...he’s angry. Freeland is currently under occupation by the ASA due to the metahuman population due to past experiments on the populace, including Pierce himself. Leading into Crisis, Pierce was finally pushed over the edge from peaceful protest and cooperation into full-fledged rebellion against the ASA.
Given the state of his world when he is pulled out, expect him to be very angry and extremely focused on getting things over with and getting back to his family and friends to protect them.
There are of course other aspects to the Crisis including Smallville, Birds of Prey, and “Kingdom Come”, but this will cover the properties that are currently on the air. I am not familiar with some of the properties personally, but we are also not sure how much these other properties will be involved and if they will be heavily influential on the story.
So, I hope that gives you some idea of the headspace that these different shows are all in leading up to Crisis. It is not comprehensive by any means, but it would be unfeasible to do an entire write-up on this much of a history in such a short time. This should give you some idea of the context for character personalities and outlooks as they come up in Crisis though.