The finale of the ninth season of The Flash symbolically coincides with the end of the Arrowverse on TV, just as the DC Universe is undergoing the transformation desired by James Gunn in the cinema. What does the television universe leave to posterity on TV? Let’s find out in our special.
with series The Flash which also ended in Italy on August 25 on Infinity+, a television era has also come to an end. The one represented on the one hand by the television universe dedicated to DC Comics, on the other hand from the golden years of the young network The CW, which built a large part of its programming on that universe. All phenomena that are now about to shed their skin, symbolically all together (or almost) at the same time, and therefore it seems important to us to try to rearrange ideas and understand their causes, but above all the consequences and the legacy they leave to the TV to come.
Arrowverse is a stronger name than DC Universe
When Arrow arrived on TV in 2012, the first live action series dedicated to the Green Arrow and interpreted by Stephen Amell, it stood out for its more mature and dark tones compared to what has been seen in the past, despite all the limitations of the younger network (of age and target) who programmed it. No one initially expected a shared universe given that some timid move in this direction, while Marvel had already activated since 2008, DC would have started to do it only in 2013 with The man of Steel. While in recent years in the equivalent on the big screen, as we know, he has made great effort to build a solid and cohesive shared universe that had all charismatic and stand-alone protagonists who are as strong together as they are alone. On the one hand because it wanted to replicate the comic formula of the MCU too badly, on the other because it got stuck in its own more dramatic soul and in the desire to experiment with arthouse films, while it is on the small screen that all this has had much more luck, with the only real flaw of being something almost completely detached from what happened in the cinema.
That’s how in a backdoor pilot (technical term to indicate a special episode that serves to present a new character and then give him his own serial from the following television season) The Flash of Grant Gustinfresh from the success of Glee. Already from that first crossover, the network and the producers understood that it was something that viewers had liked since the dawn of time and superheroes had seen too little. At that point they were able to indulge themselves and Supergirl was born one after the other (2015, initially born on CBS and then continued on the CW from season 2 starring another actress from GleeMelissa Benoist, spawning a crossover musical between the two shows), Legends of Tomorrow (2016), Black Lightning (2018), Batwoman (2019).
The unprecedented success for the network, which since 2011 was experiencing its golden years thanks to the presidency of Mark Pedowitz, therefore gave birth to the so-called Arrowversewhich took its name from the first series from which it was inadvertently born, and which led to something almost-never-seen-on-tv-before, especially not as regards superheroes: the maxi-crossover. So no longer just one series that crossed its path with another, and its titular characters, but many (if not all) shows and their protagonists, generating hours and hours of crossovers with television events that lasted almost a week, managing even involving old protagonists who were technically born outside that universe, such as Matt Ryan of Constantine (2014) or even Tom Welling of Smallville. We’ve had that over the years Heroes Join Forces, Invasion!, Crisis on Earth-X, Elseworlds, Crisis on Infinite Earths e Armageddon therefore also taking inspiration from famous comic strip runs such as the DC Comics Crisis. A dream come true for comic book fans. A ploy to bring dead characters back to life in other guises from one serial to another. A way to also present characters linked to “minorities” – such as black superheroes and LGTBQIA + – who had not had representation in mass entertainment until then.
The Flash 9, the review of the series finale: a nostalgic farewell at the speed of light
The CWVerse and the Future of the Young Network
At that point, finished Arrow and renamed CWverse the remaining shared universe, just as is happening to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in these Phases 4 and 5 post-Endgame, this new television world also began to creak in terms of ratings and following from the public, who began to get tired of too many series to be followed, thanks to the arrival of streaming platforms that had increasingly taken hold in the daily schedule of viewers. Thus it was that, although the first three series – Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl – they had a season thought to be last from the start, the less luck they had Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwomandropped without a real epilogue and without a conclusion carried into what was left on the air, as fans expected. Batwomanthen, it must be said, had production problems since its debut with an important re-casting of the protagonist Ruby Rose starting from the second season (by the will of the same actress, who felt too much pressure on the set and was replaced by Wallis Day in the role of another reincarnation of Batman’s cousin), causing confusion and apprehension among viewers of the CWverse.
Another flaw: this universe could never clearly refer to the most famous DC superheroes such as the Trinity (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman). And above all, he saw other series and other mini-universes created over the years at the same time due to the birth (and soon death) of the DC Universe streaming servicecon Titans e Doom Patrolthe procedural Gotham e Pennyworth on other shores, and so on: all factors that contributed to creating confusion and tiredness in the target audience. Without naming the various spin-offs of Arrow like them Black Canaries attempted several times and never succeeded. In these last years and remnants of life, the CWverse has also generated Superman and Lois (2021, after the introduction of the two titular characters in one of the maxi-crossovers) and Gotham Knights (2023): the second lasted only one season while the first will continue (with a lot of delay due to the double strike in progress) in 2024 but now has a story (and Earth) of its own.
Col The Flash ending (which we told you about here) therefore a television era ended in conjunction with the end of the same network that hosted it. Let’s take a step back: The CW was born in 2006 from the merger of The WB (a generalist young network owned by Warner Bros. that generated cult in the 90s-2000s) and the cable network UPN and had as an adult consideration owned by Warner CBS (this explains the past from one to the other of Supergirl). After the first years of uncertainty and the search for his own editorial plan, with the arrival of Pedowitz and the birth of the Arrowverse he found luck in a certain type of shared programming. After the subsequent agreements with streaming (in the US, above all with Netflix) which made it possible to pool the earnings thanks to the availability the day following the airing of the last episode of the season on the platforms, the collapse arrives, with the relative farewell of Pedowitz . Parallel to the merger of the major with HBO Max and Discovery + which becomes Warner Bros. Discovery and Max. Now The CW looks to the imminent new TV season with programming no longer aimed at a young but adult audience, with reruns, acquisitions and sports instead of original shows.
Merger that coincides with the arrival as DC entertainment managers of James Gunn e Peter Safran. Hence, while in the cinema The Flash acts as a turning point as Flashpoint had been in the comics to generate something else compared to the previous DCEU by making a clean sweep of the past – of which we have still seen some remnants in the films released in the last 12 months – the ending of The Flash on TV marks another “before and after” and reminds us of the power that represented a cohesive and reasoned, solid and aware shared universe on TV, and from which the DC Extended Universe should only have learned. Goodbye Flash, Goodbye Arrowverse, Goodbye CWVerse. Long live DC in the cinema, hoping it finally brings some genuine satisfaction.