4 Ways The CW’s Superhero Shows Surprised Us This Season

Fall 2016 is a momentous season for The CW’s superhero universe. It marks the first time that the network has played home to four separate superhero series, all set in the same world within DC Comics’ canon. The final piece of the puzzle came in the form of Supergirl‘s move over from CBS, giving them a fully-formed expanded universe that in many ways has proven itself superior to DC’s movies. For the latest run of season premieres, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl all came with their own unique surprises, both good and bad. Here’s what we saw.

1. The Flash still has its fair share of problems

The Flash - Season 3

The Flash, Season 3 | The CW

It’s been getting increasingly difficult to see Barry Allen as a smart, capable superhero. Over the latter half of Season 2, he made a handful of questionable decisions, and that carried over in a big way to the Season 3 premiere. The most prominent of those bad calls on Barry’s part: The choice to go back in time a second time and save his mother, with no regard for how it could potentially alter the entire course of history. It made it that much more frustrating to see Allen, a character generally regarded as thoughtful and caring, selfishly muck up the entire space-time continuum just because he was feeling sad.

All that being so, the second episode of the season went a long way toward righting the ship, as Barry finally learned that you can’t just time travel away all your mistakes. What we’re left with is a slightly altered version of his original reality, where Caitlin Snow is starting to become Killer Frost, Cisco is reeling over the death of his brother, Iris and Joe aren’t on speaking terms, and Barry has Draco Malfoy as an officemate.

2. Believe it or not, Supergirl has been awesome

Superman on Season 2 of Supergirl

Superman on Season 2 of Supergirl | The CW

Early episodes of Supergirl‘s debut season on CBS weren’t necessarily bad, but they also weren’t even close to on par with what we’ve come to expect from DC’s TV universe. As it went on though, the show got stronger and stronger, culminating in a stellar Season 2 premiere on The CW that introduced Tyler Hoechlin as Superman. The addition of the Man of Steel has done a few things for Supergirl: First off, it’s given our titular Kryptonian an intriguing foil. Second, it’s emphasized the fact that the DC universe doesn’t necessarily have to be all doom and gloom (sorry, Zack Snyder).

More than all that, Melissa Benoist’s star has shined bright as Kara Danvers. She’s managed to balance a measured anger and frustration with a level of glee that we’d expect from anyone first entering the superhero game as an indestructible force of nature. It’s given the tone of Supergirl a lift, while making it an absolute pleasure to watch week-in and week-out, especially when measured up against the grimmer feel of some of its CW counterparts.

3. Arrow has finally returned to its early-season form

Arrow - Season 5

Arrow, Season 5 | The CW

Arrow has been plagued in recent seasons by clutter. The original CW superhero series stacked its cast with too many competing stories, all of which pulled its central hero, Oliver Queen, in too many directions. Season 5 has greatly simplified the show though, scratching the Green Arrow’s entire team of sidekicks in favor of a new cast of characters. The result has been a streamlined story that revolves primarily around Oliver, with the rest of the cast taking a necessary backseat as tertiary players.

All the while, Season 5’s villain, Prometheus, is shrouded in mystery. We know he has it out for the Green Arrow, and is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way, but past that, his origin is being kept a secret (for now at least). For the first time since the early seasons of Arrow, we’re getting the brutal, exhilarating version of the DC hero that made it such a groundbreaking series in the first place.

4. The jury’s still out on Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow - The CW

Legends of Tomorrow | The CW

Legends of Tomorrow has proven itself to be the most problematic of The CW’s superhero shows. Its first season was marred by a story that had no business running upwards of 16 episodes, while it struggled to find its feet in terms of its overall tone. Season 2’s premiere didn’t exactly mend its many issues either. What it did do was give us at least some promise for an improved sophomore season, especially with a reduced 13-episode order from the network.

And even without Wentworth Miller gleefully sneering his way through his performance as Captain Cold, the rest of the cast still has solid chemistry. Meanwhile, gone is the flimsy Vandal Savage and Time Master backstory, replaced by a trek through history to save the timeline from any number of threats. It also doesn’t hurt to have the Justice Society of America added to the mix, but consider us skeptical until we get a solid story arc.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!