4 Ways The CW Is Overplaying Its Superhero Hand
Over the last decade, we’ve seen comic book movies go from passing trends to a full-blown epidemic, acting as the tentpoles for just about every major studio. Both Warner/DC and Marvel have their next five years of films planned out, featuring just about every superhero you grew up with. That soon spilled over into the TV universe, with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and DC’s Arrow and Flash netting millions of viewers on a weekly basis.
Now though, DC’s pipeline of shows on The CW may be coming to a head. It all started when Arrow became one of the network’s most-watched shows in just a single season. Then they spun-off The Flash, and continued to see massive success. Naturally, their first reaction to this was to double-down, as all networks and studios do when presented with a well-liked superhero franchise. Plans are in motion now for yet another spin-off show featuring a gigantic superhero team-up starring upwards of seven heros from the Flash and Arrow universe. So when will enough be enough? We’re thinking that time is now for a number of reasons.
1. Eventually the well will dry up
So far, all The CW has seen is success, so naturally they’re not going to quit while they’re ahead. But at some point, they’re going to come up empty and topple the whole pyramid. Slyly introducing Barry Allen pre-Flash felt clever and well-done, and his spin-off felt earned. But introducing yet another spin-off featuring a smattering of various heroes and villains from both shows feels like an attempt to grow for the sake of growth. The Flash felt like a natural progression from a sister show in Arrow that had room to spread its wings elsewhere. Eventually though the bubble will burst and people will start feeling overwhelmed by the assault on their comic book sensibilities.
2. The seams are already starting to burst
Already we can feel the beginning of the end, with Arrow starting to feel more than a little crowded. The show started out as one man’s mission. Now, it features “Team Arrow,” with Oliver Queen’s collection of Arsenal, Black Canary (the second of her name since Caty Loitz’s character was killed off), John Diggle, and the effervescent Felicity Smoak. Brandon Routh’s Atom was also thrown into the equation this season, and now things are starting to feel more forced than organic. This of course is one of the driving forces behind spilling that over into the team-up series that will feature Arrow’s Atom, The Flash‘s Captain Cold, Firestorm, and Heat Wave, and new characters Hawk Girl, Rip Hunter, and an unspecified role played by Caty Loitz (since she’s supposed to be dead in the Arrow-verse).
3. The CW’s TV universe will have no connection to the planned slate of DC movies
Despite the huge popularity of The CW’s carefully constructed universe, Warner has been insistent that it won’t be linked to their five-year movie plan. They’ve even hinted that they’ll recast the Green Arrow and The Flash for their films, further emphasizing that the TV and movie-verses will be completely and utterly separate.
Why they’d do this having seen the hugely successful tie-in between Agents of SHIELD and Marvel Studios seems odd, with Warner leaving an expansive and popular TV franchise on the bench in favor of remaking everything in a new image. This in turn lowers the stakes of The CW’s programming, making it so any major events lack anything that represents wide-reaching weight. When something big happens on Agents of SHIELD, we know we’ll see its ramifications in theaters. Sadly, we won’t see the same from The Flash, Arrow, or anything else The CW throws against the wall.
4. The diversity of characters for the team-up show will present too much of a mixed bag
The one thing that’s carried both Arrow and The Flash has been their unique tone. For the former, we have a dark, broody feel that in many ways is ruthless and unrelenting. The latter juxtaposes against that with a light-hearted, almost comedic tone. Together they represent a sort of symbiotic relationship, as the yin and yang of DC’s TV universe. But where the planned team-up show will fit into this relationship is unclear. With such a large assortment of heroes and villains, it’ll be difficult to lean on a single tone to carry the show. Combine that with the difficulty in focusing a show on multiple hero backstories, and we may very well have a show that overcrowds the universe more than it complements it.
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