In 2012, the CW struck gold when Arrow became a runaway hit after just one season. The network soon parlayed this into The Flash, marking the first step toward DC’s expanded TV universe. The network hasn’t slowed down since then, having made its way into Season 4 of Arrow and Season 2 of The Flash, with plans for Legends of Tomorrow now in the works. Legends is the boldest expansion yet from the CW, as a show featuring a team of characters new and old: White Canary, Firestorm, Captain Cold, Heatwave, Hawk Girl, Atom, and Rip Hunter.
In preparation for the 2016 debut of Legends, both The Flash and Arrow have been working hard to establish each member of the new team. One by one, we’ve seen them each get an episode devoted to their origin story. Arrow has already covered Firestorm, White Canary, and soon Atom, while The Flash has taken on Firestorm, Hawk Girl, and Rip Hunter (at least in a passing mention). What’s beginning to happen though is exactly what’s plagued the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s the feeling that every episode is merely setting up the next one, which in turn does the same for the next episode after that.
It’s a constant cycle of teasing the next big thing, and after awhile, it gets exhausting. At some point we just want the damn story told, rather than subtle hints at something we might see 3-4 weeks from now that end up hinting at something else another month into the future. It’s something Marvel does to a fault, and we’re seeing DC fall into the same trap on the CW. The most recent seasons of Arrow and The Flash have begun to split their focus, and with every episode it’s becoming more and more of a problem.
Let’s start with Arrow. Season 3 went out of its way to introduce Ray Palmer, the tech genius billionaire who eventually becomes the Atom (think DC’s equivalent to Ant-Man). Palmer “died” in a lab explosion in the season finale, but we know based on the Legends of Tomorrow trailer that he survived when his super-suit shrunk him down to the size of a thimble. Now, we’re seeing blocks of episodes devoted to Felicity receiving odd messages on her phone that everyone and their mother knows are from Palmer. Essentially, we’re staring a curtain we know Ray Palmer is hiding behind, and the CW is telling us that the curtain will be pulled back any day now. In a word, it’s infuriating.
Meanwhile, we’re now on the third episode devoted to the resurrection of Sarah Lance (aka White Canary), as a storyline that’s eaten up far more screen-time than anyone asked for. The fringe benefit is the appearance of Matt Ryan of John Constantine, but not even he can help the feeling that the season’s main arc is merely a backdrop to planning for Legends of Tomorrow. Over on The Flash, we just had an entire hour devoted to the new actor playing Firestorm, while watching as the third episode tried to make Captain Cold’s switch to the good guys seem like anything but a forced plot twist.
We’re at a point in the Flash/Arrow-verse where we’d rather Legends of Tomorrow just premiere already, so that the rest of the CW’s superheroes can move on to their own respective stories. Part of the beauty of a crossover universe is having its characters overlap when it seems natural. Right now, we’re seeing a bunch of stories rushed to completion by the need to have Legends established inside of the next couple months. It’s leading to a whole lot of clutter in comic book universes with enough of that to begin with. The sooner Legends of Tomorrow arrives the better. For now though, we’re stuck with the most drawn-out origin story this side of Gotham.
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