Why Things Will Never Be the Same for The CW's Arrowverse
Major changes are afoot in the Arrowverse.
As Arrow, its namesake and flagship show, comes to an end this month, a whole new world has opened up for the remaining shows in the form of one singular universe where all the shows are now set together.
Up until the recent crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, most of the CW’s superhero shows have stayed fairly separate most of the season. Black Lightning and Supergirl both took place on their own earths, and The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow shared an earth but stuck to themselves as much as possible. Now, all that has changed. Supergirl, Black Lightning, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, the upcoming Superman & Lois, and the exiting Arrow all exist on the same Earth-Prime, a world where everybody knows about all of the superheroes, and those heroes have come together to form a sort of super team.
This new world not only makes those crossovers a little easier to explain, but it also gave all the shows a chance to reinvent themselves in a way that none of them have had the chance to do before.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for for quite a while, because I saw it coming in season five when we did Elseworlds,” The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace tells E! News. “We got done at the end of Elseworlds and it became very obvious, and we all kind of looked at each other, all the showrunners, going, wait a minute, are we doing Crisis next? What is going on? We’re not really doing that, right? And then [Greg Berlanti] went, so yeah, and then we’re gonna do Crisis, and we went, oh wow, oh man, everything’s about to change.”
For Arrow, which has just two episodes left in its run, it means yes, the city did get saved. The show has been spending parts of the past two seasons in the year 2040, where Oliver and Felicity’s daughter Mia (Kat McNamara) grew up with neither of her parents and has been working with her own team to sort of follow in her father’s footsteps in a city that’s still riddled with crime and darkness. In the next episode, the first after the crossover, Mia grew up in a very different world, with a perfect life alongside her mother and brother in a city that is no longer so bleak, and is thriving after the sacrifice Oliver (Stephen Amell) made in the crossover.
The episode serves as a backdoor pilot for a spinoff centered around Mia, Dinah (Julia Harkavy), and Laurel (Katie Cassidy), and the events of the crossover actually make the spinoff possible by rebooting Mia’s character and sending her back to her own time with a new life, alongside even some of her friends who had once died, and one supervillain-turned-boyfriend-turned-fiancé.
“In this new, reset reality, in 2040, everything has been perfect,” McNamara told us. “There’s been no crime and hardship for all of Mia’s life, and she’s been raised in a world where she hasn’t really known much sadness or trauma or darkness in any way, other than the fact that her father hasn’t been a part of her life.”
That’s a major change for a character who we met in the middle of a cage fight two seasons ago, and she’s not the only one with a new life in this new world. Series finale photos show the return of Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen, who’s dead, as well as Sea Shinooka as Emiko Queen, who’s also dead as far as we know.
Legends of Tomorrow returned this week with the twist that the previously unknown Legends are now all famous on Earth-Prime, though they quickly got up to their usual wild time shenanigans in the midst of their fame, and on Black Lightning, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) was thrilled to tell his friends that Superman is real, though no one else seemed to have a clue he had even gone anywhere.
Batwoman, which returned on Sunday, brought a new, non-evil version of Kate Kane’s (Ruby Rose) long-lost sister Beth (Rachel Skarsten) into her life, and Supergirl wrestled with way too many versions of Brainy (Jesse Rath) while establishing what, exactly, a DEO run by Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) even looks like.
Supergirl had already showed off some of its biggest changes when we first met Earth-Prime in the fifth hour of the crossover. National City was the first taste we got of Earth-Prime, and the differences were fairly major and alarming.
“It’s a lot the same, but the differences are striking,” executive producer Robert Rovner told E! News. “And it’s a lot for our core group to get used to, especially with Lex being perceived as Earth’s hero in the world we’ve returned to. It’s really turned everything on its head for our characters.”
“For instance,” added executive producer Jessica Queller, “Lillian Luthor wears pale pink and is a philanthropist, so those are the types of details that are a little bit mind-boggling.”
Rovner and Queller say they saw the reset as an opportunity, especially with Lex Luthor being previously dead.
“We thought it would be a great way to bring Lex Luthor back, and especially to make him able to integrate into our world with our characters in a much more present way,” Rovner said. “You know, in the past he’s been a villain and he’s somebody we want to stay away from, but now they have to be in the same office with him and interact with him kind of moment by moment, trying to figure out what he’s really up to, while he pretends to the world that he’s the greatest guy, and we have to then applaud him, and it’s a great, wonderful, delicious dynamic that we get.”
The reset didn’t just affect the Luthors. Brainy is a new man and he’s on Team Lex after uniting with a few Brainy doppelgangers who found their way in through a Crisis-related wormhole, and Winn (Jeremy Jordan) is making his return, though it seems like it might be the very wrong version of him.
Plus, everyone in National City now lives in a world that also knows about Star City, and Central City, and Gotham, and all the heroes that live in those cities.
“What was different this year is that it’s the first time the crossover really informed the fabric of the storytelling for the second half of the year,” Queller said. “It’s not so much that we refer to the other heroes, the other cities that often, but it’s the first time that the crossover really substantively changed the lives of our main characters in our show.”
“We do reference them more than we have in the past, and we have a very fun nod to them in our second episode back,” Rovner added.
Supergirl is taking these first few episodes back to “settle in with Earth-Prime, but then after its 100th episode airs in a few weeks, things will be sort of back to normal, or “back on the train” as Queller says, for a back half of the season featuring returns, guests, twists, and Tom Lennon as shapeshifting trixster Mxyzptlk. Queller calls him “one of the most delightful things we’ve ever done on this show.”
In the end, it’s still Supergirl, just with a few tweaks.
“That’s been the greatest part of the rebirth of our earth is that we’ve been able to switch things up, maybe correct some mistakes that we made in the past, hopefully, and take advantage of the anomalies in our world, illuminate some of the backstory and drive our story moving forward,” Rovner said.
“The heart of the show is very much intact, and it doesn’t feel like a whole new show. It just feels slightly altered in a surreal way, but it still feels very much like home, and very familiar, and not jarring, really,” said Queller. “I think the fans will be happy.”
And then we have The Flash, which has been leading up to the Crisis that was supposed to make Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) go missing for its entire run. Unlike with Supergirl, Wallace would actually describe The Flash as “two shows: pre-Crisis, and post-Crisis.”
“The first six and a half seasons are one long story, essentially,” he told us. “Because the journey began way back in the pilot when we saw that newspaper [about Barry’s disappearance]. We saw what was coming. We saw at the end of season five when the newspaper changed to 2019, and then we finished that by leading up to season six, and then the Crisis event, and then we’re in a completely different world now, the world of Earth-Prime, and what that means is it’s a whole new show.”
Wallace says he looks at season six as a “transition” because of the new things they tried, but “the real changes begin with episode 6×10, with graphic novel number two, and they just start right out of the gate.”
Those changes include guests from the rest of the Arrowverse, and commentary within the show about how to deal with this new world everybody’s living in.
“The fact that everything they knew isn’t necessarily correct anymore is going to affect Team Flash very personally—very, very personally—immediately in graphic novel number two.”
The Flash has always been the most connected to the multi-verse of all the shows, with a different Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) appearing to join the team nearly every season. Cisco’s powers, when he had them, were also extremely connected to the multi-verse, all of which is something the show has to reckon with in a way that made Wallace laugh hard, almost maniacally.
“Will we not get multiple Wells anymore? One would think that we shouldn’t, right? But boy, boy oh boy, are you gonna like this…I’m not gonna spoil it, but you should watch what’s about to happen, because we just unleashed the crazy.”
Wallace has been thinking for a year and a half about how the changes would look after Crisis.
“That’s why literally, from episode 610 onward, that’s front and center, that’s the plot of 610. Whoa, what world are we in? I don’t recognize it anymore. And Barry Allen is like, well I’m the Flash. I used to have kind of a handle on things. Maybe I don’t have a handle on things anymore. And how’s that gonna affect him? Because he thought he had this hero thing pretty much down, so Crisis came in and shook everything up.”
Wallace says it’s “almost a brand new world” for Barry.
“No spoilers, but I will say the fallout from Crisis is something that not only the audience isn’t going to see coming, but Barry Allen is never going to see coming. And that’s the story of the second half of The Flash. That is Barry Allen’s journey in the second half of the fallout of Crisis and it’s big, and it’s epic, and everything will change. And I mean, everything changes by the end of graphic novel number two. It’s a different show, in the best way.”
We’ll have to wait a couple weeks to find out exactly what that means, but so far, this brave new world has felt like fresh air, and we can only imagine what else it has in store.
Stay tuned for more ahead of the midseason premiere of The Flash, which airs Tuesday, February 4 on The CW.
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