While the DC Extended Universe continues to grab the headlines for both good and ill, little by little the CW has assembled a shared universe to rival even the massive MCU. On the small screen from the mind and pen of Greg Berlanti a sort of small screen Justice League has been forming for the better part of a decade. Missing some of DC’s bigger name heroes (for the most part) the DCCW has made up for this deficiency with quality writing and exciting plots.
Of course much like the DC Extended Universe up top not everything in this shared universe is created equal. As such I thought it would be a fun exercise to rank from Worst to Best the Seasons of the DCCW.
Notes: Only fully integrated seasons are counted so Black Lightning is excluded as it is basically its own thing - for now. Constantine is also not included as I have not seen it (sorry). Supergirl Season One is included despite airing on CBS as it had a crossover episode. Also this is a subjective subject so lets have fun with the comments in saying how wrong I am but keep it civil.
In recent years Arrow has attracted a less than stellar reputation with fans. This included myself as Arrow for a time seemed to have its own head up its own... this reputation was largely the result of Season Four. While fans online debate the main issues with the season the majority of the focus on two distinct issues.
The first is the Felicity/Oliver relationship which dominated much of the season providing a form of drama that always seemed more suited to the CW’s non-Super series. While personally I feel too much focus among a certain segment of fans is placed on this issue, the amount of time the series spent on it to the detriment of everything else is a valid critique.
The second primary issue was the seasons focus on the supernatural. While the DCCW will use the supernatural to great effect at a later date, its introduction in Arrow was perplexing. While Season Three featured the Lazarus Pits and a hidden mystical assassins guild, Season Four went well beyond what the series could handle. In introducing Damien Dhark a literal magic wielder as the central antagonist, Arrow abandoned what made the series work, its grounding. While Arrow would find its footing later, Season Fours poor writing, tonal dissonance, and abandoning of what made it work remains the lowest point in the franchise.
When we began this latest batch of seasons, I had some expectations of how things were going to go in terms of quality. What I wasn’t expecting was how bad things would get. While Supergirl Season Three did not start strong in my eyes, there were moments of fun and excitement. While the promised villain of the season looked to be servicable. However, as things moved on nagging and annoying issues became more common until the season tanked in its final six episodes. Creating a string of what I believe to be the worst run of episodes in the entire DCCW. Though to be fair, losing a show runner in the last third of a season will do that.
While the season features some series highs such as Carl Lumbly as J’onn’s father. A decision that continues Supergirls amazing DC legacy casting choices, it was not enough to make up for the seasons myriad flaws. Most notable being the poor characterization of Lena Luthor, who the longer she doesn’t know Kara is Supergirl the dumber she looks.
Legends of Tomorrow was a great idea on paper. Take some of the most beloved side characters in the Arrowverse, team them up, and have them jump around time fighting Vandal Savage, one of DC’s most imposing villains. Unfortunately for Legends of Tomorrow everything is execution and they did not execute.
An issue in creating an ensemble cast is one bad element can disrupt the entire production. For Legends, it did not just have one bad seed it had three: Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Rip Hunter. Hawkman’s issues were obvious he was an asshole (likely why he was killed off rather quickly) while Hawkgirl’s was not her character but actress in that she was not to be blunt not great at her job. Rip Hunter’s issues were more complex, he just never fit well with the series - considering he was the character that literally drove the series forward this was a problem.
However, this pales in comparison to its biggest issue: Vandal Savage. In film making one of the golden rules is show don’t tell. The series continually said Vandal Savage was this history destroying threat, except every time her was on screen he continually failed to live up to that hype being a less threatening Bela Lugosi ripoff... For a character so well done in other media he is one of my most profoundly disappointing characters adapted. At the end, Legends of Tomorrow was a series blessed with potential but was unable to bring it out... this time anyways.
The first two seasons of The Flash were great and good respectively. However by Season Three it had become clear the series was in a rut. Fans had become tired of the Speedster of the Season villains, time travel shenanigans, and most of all Barry Allen.
By the mid-point of the season Barry Allen had become so unlikeable fans had taken to saying “Damn it, Barry” at the mere mention of the character. Other issues included: the omnipresent focus on Iris “death” resulting in Barry becoming despondent and depressed for large parts of the seasons. The whole dank mood cast a pale over the whole proceedings that just did not fit with the original tone of The Flash. On top of that, the less spoken about the main villain and its associated twist, the better. Basically, The Flash Season Three was much like Arrow Season Four.
The Flash for its fourth season tried something new, which was great! No more speedster villains! There are enough evil speedsters (and speedsters in general) running around this universe as is. Sadly, whenever a new path is charted there is the potential for danger. While Season Four was much improved to its direct predecessor, it fell pray to what is an increasingly common issue with the DCCW - its villain. The Thinker as a threat just did not work, something the series seemed to know as the character kept changing actors every week at one point.
Thankfully, the season had some highlights such as Ralph “The Elongated Man” Dibny. Who’s introduction as a member of Team Flash embodied the series attempt to return to its more comedic and upbeat roots. While the humour of the season did not always hit the mark it was a welcome change from the far too dour Season Three. All in Season Four was a needed course correction for the show, however it made too many mistakes to be really great.
PS: Flash Time is an awesome concept but god damn is it universe breaking.
Unlike the last few seasons listed which you could actively call “bad” Supergirl Season Two was only somewhat disappointing. The word I would use to describe it: forgettable. While things happened they did not leave much of a mark. Beyond one notable exception to this which was the Superman vs. Supergirl grudge match, I struggle to think of any major events in the entire season.
This can largely be attributed to the inclusion of Mon El a largely unlikeable character on which the entire seasons plot hung. Furthermore, the season started Supergirls drift away from its Season One status quo which I thought worked well.The series needs Kara and Supergirl and this season had noticeably less Kara.
Arrow Season Three is an odd beast like most of the seasons mired in the middle ranks. It has positive moments as well as negative moments with the negative slightly outweighing the good. Luckily, what the series did well it did quite well. As it was Season Three that expanded the Arrowverse to new frontiers and brought in a useful story telling tool in the League of Assassins.
With this new frontier came much potential such as one Ras al Ghul. Sadly, one of the great villains of DC was underutilized in a major way. Being little more then a tool to transform Ollie into the DCCW’s Batman stand in. Interestingly, Nysia al Ghul the second daughter of Ras and a creation for Arrow easily stood on her own two feet never being a sorry replacement for the more famous Talia. While Season Three planted a lot of the seeds for Arrows disastrous Fourth Season reaping, it managed to hold together just enough by the end.
Arrow Season Six is one of the hardest seasons to place as unlike other seasons it a contrast in extremes. On one hand it managed to build an interesting villain in a single episode (The Dragon) something many franchise seasons had failed to do in their entirety. While on the other hand the Team Arrow Civil War and the Not Laurel story line was at times cringe inducing in how stupid everyone involved was acting. I thought to myself monkeys on a type writer could write better content then this.
Despite the seasons failings it managed to land strong, correcting itself by the end producing a genuinely emotional and compelling climax. For all its mistakes I remember the season fondly enough
Like Arrow Season Three before it, The Flash’s sophomore season started down the path that led it to its disastrous third season. That being said while we know what comes next, the season was largely enjoyable. With a freak of the week setup serving a larger overarching plot and Barry actually being likeable (along with my personal favorite girlfriend of his) The Flash remained an enjoyable ride for its second outing.
Honestly, its biggest flaw was the Barry/Iris dynamic that would continue to be an issue with the show. There was also the production that a large amount of screen time was spent setting up Legends of Tomorrow which included a part of its back door pilot. Considering how poorly received the DCCW’s versions of Hawkgirl and Hawkman by the fans at least their presence was short lived on The Flash.
The worst part of Supergirl Season Three is that it forgot what made Supergirl work so well in Season One. At its core Supergirl is about the split life and tension it creates between Kara Danvers and Supergirl. The series is at its best when it is a more personal story and Season One delivered on that in spades.
Of course there were some painfully bad moments (Red Tornado) and the Superman Issue was hard to ignore, but by and large the season worked to craft an enjoyable experience. When retooling for Season Four a “Back to Basics” Season might be a good idea for this series.
Speaking of Back to Basics, no Arrowverse show did it better then Arrow. Coming off the worst season in the entire franchise Arrow was on seriously thin ice with fans. In response Arrow promised a cut down season that would return the series to its roots and crazy enough it worked.
A compelling and threatening villain, a well structured and relatively believable plot, and changing character dynamics that expanded the cast in an organic matter. Arrow once again worked and it worked well. It is not a stretch to say Arrow Season Five saved the series in the eyes of many. Shame about Malcom though...
PS: Slade Wilson’s return to the Arrowverse was welcome (if short lived) now join me is chanting “We want Slade! We want Slade!”
Much like Iron Man on the big screen the entire DCCW Arrowverse exists because of this series. It is the rock on which this franchise is built and luckily for all of us it was a pretty solid foundation. Going back to rewatch it recently I was impressed by how well the series is constructed, including its use of the flashbacks something which grew old quickly.
The action the key to these series, was to be blunt great and still among the best in the entire Arrowverse. All around Arrow Season One provided a great beginning and still remains a high point for good reasons.
Honestly, the only reason I am placing The Flash Season One above Arrow Season One is that I like lighthearted superheroes more then the grim types. For example I prefer Superman to Batman and Captain America to Iron Man. As such the light hearted and eminently entertaining initial season to The Flash is my favorite of the freshmen seasons.
It also helps it features arguably the best villain of the franchise - who manages to stick around despite dying multiple times. One of the easiest to like cast and crisp writing that kept the series moving along at a fast pace. It is no wonder the next two seasons tried to copy the playbook.
I will be honest here I cannot for the life of me put one season over the other. I love them both so much. The reason is simple, after a disastrous opening season the series writers embraced the inherent insanity of its premise and struck television gold. In a television landscape filled to the brim with death, destruction, and just general misery Legends of Tomorrow bucks convention and embraces everything that makes comics entertaining.
It is stupid, it is self aware, referential, all the while managing to be amazingly touching . It also has a sensitive finger on the pulse of its fans and is not afraid to give them what they want. Last season featured a gigantic Tickle Me Elmo ripoff called Beebo fighting an inter-dimensional time demon voiced by John Nobel; it was literally the most fun I have had watching television all year. Legends of Tomorrow is leagues better then its counterparts in the DCCW at the moment and all I can say is give me more.
The only reason I consider The Reverse Flash the best villain in the DCCW is because Slade Wilson no longer wears the mask of a villain. However, when he did he powered the single best season of the Arrowverse. More or less a direct continuation of Arrow Season One all the promise of the first season was realized in Arrow’s second at bat.
Blisteringly fast, with a tight tense plot, and real stakes punctuated by real loss Arrow nailed gritty superhero action. Its only “flaw” is one in a meta sense as the season was so good there was almost no way anything it did afterwards could live up to it. Season Five was even marketed to fans as a return to form and it is no surprise the best moments of that season borrowed heavily from this. All around I would consider Arrow’s second season a triumph and worth watching even if you are not a fan of the genre.
Well that is it and a couple thousand words later I was not actually realizing what an undertaking this would be. As fifteen seasons is admittedly difficult to keep track of. However, I stand by my views. Let me know what you think in the comments and what you’re looking forward to when they return in October.
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