The DC Television Universe, also known as the Arrowverse, has developed from a single, grounded story about a vigilante into several shows that include superhumans, aliens, time travel, and parallel worlds. Whilst no one would have seen the creation of such a vast universe as a possibility when Arrow first began, it now feels like one complete, complementary whole.
This year sees Arrow moving into its sixth season, The Flash its fourth, plus Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl coming back for a third season. But with so many shows making up their universe, are things becoming too bloated, or is it just a natural progression?
The introduction of The Flash was possibly the biggest hurdle that the DC Television Universe faced, making the leap from a very grounded and real world setting, to a universe that incorporated superpowers and time travel.
The first season of The Flash was possibly the most dangerous moment for the franchise. If the creators had pushed things too far it could have felt too much of a drastic change from Arrow, or it could even have made people feel like it had even gone on to spoil the parent series.
Luckily, The Flash had the right level of serious drama, humour, and some very, very clever writing to make the first season a success, fitting some universe changing concepts into their world in very natural ways. By the end of the first season The Flash felt like it belonged, and it worked brilliantly alongside Arrow.
Making their third series a combination of characters that had featured in both Arrow and The Flash was a clever choice, and helped to make Legends of Tomorrow a success. Using characters such as Firestorm, the Atom, and White Canary as an entry point to explore the history of their universe, to build upon the concept of time travel, and to introduce new characters made the series a lot easier to digest for new fans.
It was also granted huge freedom to try new things, to have superheroes in the wild west, the distant future, or even tease new developments for the futures of both The Flash and Arrow.
Including Supergirl in the DC Television Universe was a big gamble for the CW, however, as the series originally began on CBS, before being cancelled. Seeing the potential in the series, and thanks to a cheeky cross-network cross-over episode in the first season, the CW made the decision to incorporate it into their multi-verse, to have it be another parallel world within their shows.
Thanks to the second season of The Flash dedicating so much of its time to the concept of parallel worlds this felt like a natural fit, and it also meant that people who were unsure whether to jump into Supergirl going into its second season could ignore it if they wanted to, as it would remain largely separate to the rest of the universe.
Thankfully, for those fans who had been watching all four series, the CW brought them all together for ‘Invasion‘, having the characters from all of the shows teaming up together to save the world from a deadly alien invasion. Whilst the Supergirl episode was mostly a waste, with only the last 30 seconds part of the cross-over, the event was a huge success, boosting the visibility and popularity of the universe. It was so much of a success that a second, larger cross-over event will be happening this year.
Thanks to these successes the DC Television Universe will be expanding again with the introduction of Black Lightning, a series that will be focusing on a much older hero, one that has children on his own, and lives in much more complex world than Barry or Oliver. Whilst we do not yet know how this series will be received, it does look like the CW are trying something different yet again, a gamble that has been successful for them in the past.
Elsewhere in the DC Television Universe there is the small animated series Vixen, that introduced the titular character before her live action appearance. The upcoming animated series The Ray will also be set in another part of their multiverse, allowing for some vastly different stories. The appearance of John Constantine in Arrow also means that the NBC Constantine series has been retconned into the universe too.
Despite so much content being part of the universe, it doesn’t feel too big. This is probably because each series is different, not just in their characters, but their tones, their approach to storytelling, and even their medium. There’s currently no sign that the DC Television Universe is coming to an end, and if they can continue to deliver new, quality content that must surely be a good thing.
What do you think of the DC Television Universe? Is it growing stale or just beginning? Let us know…