The Arrowverse appears to be reaching its final days as the ninth and final season of The Flash prepares for its premiere, but DC’s once-abounding franchise didn’t die such a sudden and undignified death for no reason. What was once DC’s best adaptation of a shared universe, even compared to the DC Extended Universe, may have been purposefully run into the ground, ending its reign in order to pave the way for a better franchise to come. Audiences hoping to see more from the Arrowverse are sure to be disappointed in the very near future, as DC almost certainly has no plans to continue the franchise for much longer.
After a string of canceled series based on DC comics characters, Arrowfinally made it to television in 2012 with Stephen Amell in the lead role of Oliver Queen. The show’s popularity quickly spawned a spinoff in the form of The Flash, officially igniting what has since become known as the Arrowverse. For several years, the shared universe continued to grow, adding new shows and storylines to its ranks each year until it had achieved an even wider-sprawling world than the DCEU itself. Arrow came to an end with its eighth season in 2020 and, ever since, the other spinoffs within the Arrowverse slowly began to die out as well.
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Black Lightning poses on a poster for his new show
After setting up multiple teams of DC superheroes, the Arrowverse took a very peculiar direction that didn’t lend itself to expanding its universe. DC continually added new shows to its growing pantheon of content airing on The CW but began stripping each new series of its connection to the Arrowverse. The first of these series was Black Lightning, which, despite having a similar tone and style to the other Arrowverse shows, was confirmed by executives to be a part of its own universe. Although Black Lightning’s characters were eventually transferred to Earth-Prime during Crisis on Infinite Earths, this occurred far too late, with the show being canceled shortly thereafter.
This trend only worsened when DC announced a slew of HBO Max shows, many of which had no connection to the Arrowverse. In addition to the DC Universe series Titans and Doom Patrol, DC kept adding to its list of separate universes when it could have easily been adding to the Arrowverse’s catalog of shows. Instead of expanding the Arrowverse, DC grew too focused on building separate franchises. Now, as DC begins consolidating its IP ahead of the DCU’s launch, many of the previously announced shows may never come to fruition, making the confusion regarding their possible relation to the Arrowverse completely unnecessary in the first place.
The final nail in the coffin was the revelation that Superman and Lois wasn’t set on Earth-Prime and was therefore separate from the Arrowverse. This proved especially confusing to fans considering the fact that many Arrowverse characters had appeared in Superman and Lois prior to this reveal, making it seem odd that DC would elect to draw a distinction between the two franchises. This decision seemed quite intentional, removing Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman from the other Arrowverse heroes and making the once sprawling television universe much smaller. Without any new shows to grow the Arrowverse, there was nothing to replace the older shows when they ended, spelling the franchise’s doom.
grant gustin as the arrowverse flash and ezra miller as the dceu’s flash
Despite its rapid and undignified demise, there is a lot that DC could learn from in Arrowverse’s success. Even when the DCEU was struggling to retain viewership, the series’ within the Arrowverse continued to excel, introducing more DC characters than were ever present in the now-defunct film franchise. This is because the franchise was willing to take its time, building up its characters and storylines without rushing major crossovers. Arrow was well into its second season before introducing Barry Allen, and after The Flash’s success, spent the next six years building up its planned crossover, the Crisis on Infinite Earths event that took place from late 2019 to early 2020.
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After years of building up its characters, the Arrowverse introduced its own Justice League at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Despite its limited screentime thereafter and missing several of DC’s most prominent characters, including Batman, the team remains a better rendition of its comic book counterpart than the DCU’s. Each of its characters felt fully formed and unique by the time of the Justice League’s inception, a stark contrast to the DCEU’s version of the team, several characters of which have yet to appear in the franchise since 2017’s Justice League hit theaters. In terms of character development and storytelling, the Arrowverse was vastly superior to the DCEU.
Is The Arrowverse Truly Dead?
Although DC has not officially confirmed that the Arrowverse is dead, the cluttered character cameos in The Flash season 9 certainly hint at the franchise’s untimely end, bringing together the remnants of the Justice League one last time. This seems especially true following the recent conclusion of Supergirl and the shock cancelations of Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman, all of which were expected to last beyond the ending of the Arrowverse’s two main shows. With The Flash reaching its series finale later this year, there will no longer be any series taking place on the Arrowverse’s Earth-Prime, effectively ending the long-running DC franchise from a sheer lack of content.
Moreover, the Arrowverse may have just secretly announced its official end with the return of Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow during The Flash’s final episodes. Bringing back Oliver Queen, the hero who started it all, seems like the perfect way to end the franchise on a high note despite its many recent failures. While Amell’s return announcement didn’t come with an official statement regarding the Arrowverse’s conclusion, the writing is on the wall for the franchise, which appears to be setting itself up for a finale of epic proportions. When The Flash ends later in 2023, audiences should expect to see the entire Arrowverse end with it.
DC’s Movie Future Means The Arrowverse Dying Was Inevitable
James Gunn in front of DC Comics characters.
James Gunn’s recent takeover as the new creative head of DC means that the company’s film projects have a very bright future. However, Gunn’s new DCU always portended the Arrowverse’s doom. Gunn has been rapidly consolidating the franchise’s IP since taking over, canceling many projects that have nothing to do with his plans for the DCU, including high-profile films like Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman 3 and Man of Steel 2. Even Henry Cavill, a fan-favorite Superman actor, did not escape unscathed, leaving the role behind only weeks after his return in Black Adam. Anything outside of Gunn’s vision, including the Arrowverse itself, has to go.
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Unfortunately for fans of the franchise, the Arrowverse has begun to encroach on potential DCU territory, using many of the same characters and storylines that could appear in future films related to Gunn’s cinematic universe. Although James Gunn has confirmed little about the DCU, it seems fair to suggest that his plans may overlap with certain Arrowverse storylines, necessitating that both franchises do not exist simultaneously. And, while this is certainly heartbreaking for those who have followed Arrow and its spinoffs since the beginning, it makes sense that James Gunn would want to consolidate his characters and start anew. In order for the DCU to live, the Arrowverse must die.