When Arrow originally arrived on our screens all the way back in 2012, nobody expected it to spawn several spin-offs, tie into cinematic versions of some of the most famous DC heroes, and pull off one of the most ambitious crossovers ever seen on TV. And yet fans have been treated to an entire pantheon of incredible heroes who have arguably achieved what many cinematic universes could not.
And while the Arrowverse eventually built up to Crisis on Infinite Earths, it took eight years of storytelling across Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning and Batwoman to establish various ideas and characters to get to that all-important battle to save the multiverse. So which are the most pivotal stories to watch from across the Arrowverse?
Arrow (101) – “Pilot” – 10/10/12
His name is Oliver Queen. He was stranded on Lian Yu with only one goal: survive. After surviving a shipwreck the billionaire playboy was forced to become something else to make it home to rid Starling City of the corruption and organized crime that his father had helped enable.
The pilot swiftly established the format for the series – setting Oliver on a (seemingly) straight-forward path to wiping out organized crime in Sterling/Star City. It’s no surprise fans instantly fell in love with the show thanks to the pilot’s perfect blend of action-packed set pieces alongside compelling drama. Seeing Ollie break the necks of armed kidnappers or firing arrows into goons without hesitation proved that he wasn’t there to mess around.
The episode also introduced us to key characters and mysteries going forward – like the “death” of Sara Lance and the Deathstroke mask. But the most shocking of all was the revelation that Moira Queen ordered Ollie’s abduction to see if her dearly departed husband had revealed any secrets to their son. The show was clearly inspired by Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman mythos, but the pilot masterfully forged the Emerald Archer into the next great vigilante.
Arrow (208) – “The Scientist” – 12/4/13
Fast-forward to 2013 and enter, Barry Allen. Yes that’s right, The Flash himself was introduced in Arrow in the season two episode, ‘The Scientist’. The episode saw the Crime Scene Investigator from Central City travel to Starling City to investigate the superpowered thief who broke into Queen Consolidated’s Applied Science Division. The eighth episode of Arrow season two quickly revealed Barry’s backstory; that his mother was murdered by a blurred figure when he was a child – and his father was framed for her death.
Fans knew that with this simple introduction the Arrowverse had teased the existence of the Reverse Flash, the speed-force, and even time-travel. While Barry didn’t get his speedster abilities until the end of the next episode (Three Ghosts), Grant Gustin’s first appearance in Arrow teased just how wide the scope was about to get for the superhero TV universe.
The Flash (101) – “Pilot” – 10/7/14
Grant Gustin’s cameo role in Arrow quickly earned him his own solo series. Much like Arrow’s pilot, The Flash introduced even bigger ideas that the series would explore – like the existence of the Reverse Flash. But its most important addition was the introduction of fully-fledged metahumans into the universe via the Particle Accelerator explosion.
Much like Oliver’s list of names, the explosion provided a simple backstory for the hordes of villains the Scarlet Speedster would go up against. Throw in a nine-month-long coma for Barry Allen’s powers to manifest and it also delivered S.T.A.R. Laboratories as his base of operations, since they were caring for him after lightning hit Barry in the explosion.
The pilot introduced some mysteries via the supporting characters, like the disappearance of Caitlin Snow’s fiance, Ronnie Raymond (A.K.A. Firestorm) and Eddie Thawne, a red herring to convince fans that the rival for Iris West’s affections was the Reverse Flash. But the real kicker came at the end when The Flash teased Crisis on Infinite Earths with a 2024 newspaper headline: “Flash Missing In Crisis”. Seven years later? Crisis averted. Sort of. Not really. Anyway, moving on.
The Flash (108), Arrow (308) – “Flash vs. Arrow / The Brave and the Bold” – 12/2/14 and 12/3/14
As Arrow moved into its third season, The CW and Warner Bros. were keen to keep crossing it over with The Flash as an extra event each season and the two-part episode of Flash vs. Arrow and The Brave and the Bold pitted the two heroes against one another, as well as introducing even more villains.
In Flash vs. Arrow, Team Arrow travel to Central City to track down a criminal who uses boomerangs (who could that be eh?). The archer goes head-to-head with The Flash when Rainbow Raider (yes really) uses his powers to fill Barry with an unstoppable rage. You won’t like him when he’s angry… Cue, superhero beatdown. Luckily, the Arrow manages to subdue the speedster long enough for Team Flash to whip up some handy tech to return him back to normal. Interestingly Oliver also ran into an old flame during his Central City visit, and after she left the conversation she rang someone saying “Mommy will be home soon”. Now, what could that mean…
In The Brave and the Bold, Barry and Ollie battle over whether or not torture is an acceptable way of fighting crime (the answer is definitely NO, Oliver) before tracking down Captain Boomerang. Oh yes. Years before his debut in Suicide Squad, he first came to life on Arrow. After the Dynamic Duo defeated Digger Harkness (what a name), Barry promised Oliver that he’s inspiring as himself, not just as the Arrow.
The Flash (115) – Out of Time – 3/17/15
Oh this is where The Flash really stepped up its game. Not only did it prove just how villainous the Reverse Flash really could be, but it also pushed the importance of time-travel in the Arrowverse. Ever since the mid-season finale revealed Harrison Wells as the Reverse Flash, fans wondered how this shocking revelation would affect the team.
And as Cisco soon discovered who his boss really is, Wells violently confronted him and revealed his real identity – Eobard Thawne, an evil speedster from the future, trapped in the past. To cover his tracks, Wells/Thawne (Wawne? Thwells?) plunged a vibrating hand into Cisco’s chest, killing him. What a gut punch! Well, chest punch. But while the tragic scene unfolds at S.T.A.R. Labs, a metahuman with the same weather wizardry as the first villain Barry ever faced in the series unleashes a tsunami on Central City.
Typically, the wave is about to crash into the city while Iris confesses her real feelings for Barry… Oh, man. He really doesn’t have the best luck does he? After they shared a quick kiss (cute) the hero sped off into the distance in an attempt to stop the disaster from devastating the city. But as he does so, Barry ran so fast he jumped through time – arriving earlier that day. Obviously, this meant Cisco never died, but Iris never told Barry she loved him either. Ouch.
The Flash (123) – “Fast Enough” – 05/19/15
The season finale of The Flash featured so many time-travel plot points moving back and forth that it made our head spin. Basically – Eobard travelled back to kill Barry as a child, but was stopped by the future version of The Flash, who got kid Barry out of the house before any harm was done to him.
Unfortunately, this meant Thawne changed tactics and murdered Nora Allen (Barry’s mother) to dissuade him from becoming a hero. Ultimately, this didn’t work and the villain was trapped in the past with no way back to the future except to wait it out and manipulate Barry into creating a wormhole he could travel home through. Also, side-note, present Barry got to say goodbye to his dying mother and reassured her that he was safe… So many emotions.
Okay, got all that? Well, back in the present, as Eobard was preparing to leave – Eddie Thawne chose to sacrifice himself to stop his evil descendent from ever being born and shot himself in the chest. Brave! But this ultimately creates a giant paradox since if Eddie died, then Eobard couldn’t be born in the future… And a huge wormhole opens up above Central City. The finale cut to credits with the fate of the universe in the balance…
The Flash (202) – “Flash of Two Worlds” – 10/13/15
Wait WHAT? There’s ANOTHER version of The Flash? Crazy. Welcome to the multiverse, everyone… After the first season dramatically ended with a black hole opening up above Central City, Flash of Two Worlds revealed that a speedster from another universe fell through – Jay Garrick. He spent months trying to figure out what happened after losing his speed. Ultimately he reveals that the evil speedster from his world (establishing it as Earth-2) called Zoom is also trapped in Central City…
But most importantly, eagle-eyed comic fans got to see the cover of The Flash #123 recreated in live-action as both Barry Allen and Jay Garrick sped to save Patty Spivot. Say what you like about the truth behind this version of Garrick, that costume is a brilliant translation from the page to the screen. Sure, it gets redesigned later in the series – but this episode really opened the door to the idea of parallel universes and alternate versions of the most iconic heroes.
Arrow (405) – “Haunted” – 11/4/15
Nevermind time-travel and alternate universes, the fourth season of Arrow proved The CW could revive cancelled characters AND dead ones! Oh yes, John Constantine makes his Arrowverse debut after his solo series in 2014 was cancelled by NBC. Good job too, since it means he was available to help Team Arrow “reclaim” Sara’s spirit. Oh yeah, did we mention that Sara Lance had taken a dip in the Lazarus Pit after being killed by a drugged and confused Thea?
Thanks to John Constantine’s magical powers as a warlock, he whisks Oliver and Laurel into “the opposite side’” to “reclaim” Sara’s soul. And after a brief fight with what seems to be Sara’s subconscious (hello, Inception) they manage to restore the warrior back to her former self. And just in case this pivotal episode needed to reintroduce any other heroes, Curtis (A.K.A. Mr. Terrific) only goes and discovers that Ray Palmer is still alive and kicking after that mysterious explosion in season three! Honestly, Haunted deserves more credit than it gets.
Legends of Tomorrow (101-02) – “Pilot” – 1/21/16 – 1/28/16
Hang on, ANOTHER spin-off? 2016 was the year the Arrowverse really spread its wings with Legends of Tomorrow exploring just how far the universe could go. The two-part pilot episode saw Time Master Rip Hunter assemble a group of “legendary” heroes (all of whom have featured within the Arrowverse so far already) to stop an immortal tyrant, Vandal Savage, from reshaping the timeline as we know it. However, Hunter wasn’t quite honest with his eclectic team. The rogue Time Master explained that after Savage murdered his wife and son, Hunter needed a squad of “nobodies” to help him so if they died, the timeline wouldn’t be affected. Ouch.
The second part of the pilot saw the team try to recover a nuclear bomb from Savage’s clutches. Ahh evil masterminds, always hellbent on nuclear destruction. Predictably, the mission doesn’t quite go to plan for the rag-tag band of heroes – and they end up in a desperate scrap with a whole horde of gangsters in a Black Market. Typical. Although they ultimately stopped the bomb from wiping out Norway, a piece of Ray Palmer’s A.T.O.M. suit broke off in the fight. And in true supervillain fashion, Vandal Savage got his hands on the futuristic tech, which allowed him to build advanced weaponry in the 1970s… That little mishap sparked off the team’s next adventure. And down the rabbit/time hole they go!
Supergirl (118) – “World’s Finest” – 3/28/16
It would be easy to criticize The Flash as a literal running MacGuffin if his crossover adventures weren’t so damn brilliant. Rumours swirled in the early months of 2016 that CBS’ Supergirl series could move The CW after World’s Finest paired Barry Allen and Kara Danvers together for a single, exciting episode. It saw Barry accidentally run through a dimensional rift and end up on Earth-38 which is home to Supergirl (and Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman, of course). In exchange for helping the Kryptonian deal with a few metahuman problems of her own, Kara would help Barry get back to his own Earth.
After the World’s Finest Super Friends teamed-up to fight Livewire and Banshee, Supergirl combines her speed with The Flash’s to whip up enough energy to get the speedster home. The episode was a flawless way of introducing Supergirl to the Arrowverse, teeing up the Kryptonian’s future role in later crossovers! And honestly? Seeing Barry and Kara become genuine friends was actually pretty wholesome.
Supergirl (201) – “The Adventures of Supergirl” – 10/10/16
Look up in the sky! It’s a bird… It’s a plane… No! It’s Supergirl AND Superman! After Supergirl’s first season danced around including a full appearance from the Man of Steel, the season two jumped right in and brought Teen Wolf star Tyler Hoechlin onboard as Clark Kent. Does this episode need to be any more pivotal? Well…
When the season one finale saw a mysterious pod (identical to Kara’s) crash to Earth, it was finally revealed in The Adventures of Supergirl who was riding inside. Enter, Mon-El. Although he spent some time in a coma – he later came to in the third episode Welcome to Earth. But most importantly his appearance is important because Supergirl star Melissa Benoist and Mon-El actor Chris Wood ended up getting married in real-life! Benoist also recently gave birth to their son, so there’s your rare dose of good news in 2020.
“Invasion!” Crossover – Flash (308), Arrow (508), Legends of Tomorrow (207) – 11/29-12/1/16
So after four years and spanning across four different shows, the Arrowverse delivered its first crossover miniseries… Invasion! At the time, this was the closest thing fans were getting to a TV Justice League, and it was genuinely a thrilling event. It raised the stakes a little as an alien race known as the Dominators looked to wipe out all the metahumans on Earth.
After Barry Allen assembled all the heroes he could muster, the huge group attempted to dismantle the Dominator threat. But the aliens quickly turned their eyes to The Flash, since his time-travelling abilities threaten the fabric of the universe. Honestly? They’re not wrong. After a huge roof-top battle against hordes of Dominators, Team Flash, Team Arrow, the Legends, and Supergirl fought back the alien threat. But most importantly, Kara was given her own reality hopping-device, so she can return for future crises. Good job really; the Anti-Monitor isn’t that far away…
The Flash (317) – “Duet” – 03/21/17
Is it really a long-running TV show if it doesn’t have a musical episode? When Martian Manhunter and Mon-El come to Earth-1 with a comatose Supergirl, it quickly becomes apparent that Music Meister is after The Flash for some unknown reason. He traps Barry and Kara in a bizarre 1930s dream world where they work out their broken hearts through song, of course.
The heroic duo is faced with a reality where the people they love (Mon-El and Iris West) aren’t interested in them. Ultimately, they have to learn to heal their own broken hearts. Eventually, Cisco vibes into the shared reality so Barry and Iris can reunite and Mon-El can apologize to Supergirl. So why is all this pivotal to the Arrowverse? Well mainly because it ends with Barry proposing to Iris. After watching three seasons of the Scarlet Speedster pining for the intrepid reporter, it’s great to finally see them get a happy ending for once. Besides, a wedding is also a prime opportunity for another crossover…
Arrow (523) – “Lian Yu” – 05/24/17
Is Lian Yu the best episode of Arrow in its entire eight-season-long run? Quite possibly. Yes, bringing in another villain with exactly the same skill set felt a little overdone, but Adrian Chase’s explosive plan was excellently executed, we’ll let it slide. The entire season was about forcing Oliver to confront the years of missteps he’d taken in his vigilante career – including all of the lives he’d taken under the guise of being a “hero”
Oliver travels to the island he was once trapped on to save his son William and his old flame Samantha from Adrian (A.K.A. Prometheus). It’s also the last episode to visit the flashbacks, finally revealing the run-up to how the series began. Throw in the use of some classic villains like Deathstroke and Malcolm Merlyn, and the season five finale was about honouring the past and moving forward.
Adrian’s goal has constantly been to get revenge for Oliver murdering his father, Justin Claybourne, when the vigilante was still using his point-and-shoot lethal crime-fighting methods. So it seemed strange that Adrian constantly goaded Ollie into killing him on the island, until it became clear that the villain wanted to get rid of everyone the hero held dear. Lian Yu was filled with C4, all remotely tied to a dead-man’s switch. The dead man in question? Adrian Chase. So even though Ollie managed to save his son, the villain committed suicide to blow the island to hell in the hopes that the hero’s loved ones burned with it. Brutal. Let’s just say it was a long wait for season six.
Legends of Tomorrow (309) – “Beebo the God of War” – 12/5/17
The Legends have seriously gone on a bizarre journey since the early days of just trying to fight Vandal Savage through time. The unpredictable weirdness of the show makes it one of the most unique entries in the Arrowverse, and Beebo the God of War is no different. When a young Martin Stein was buying a talking Beebo toy for his daughter, he was accidentally displaced in the Nordic age. Typical, nip out to the shops and wind up battling Vikings. 2020, right? Anyway, the Vikings wind up believing the toy is actually the God of War before Damien Darhk crashes through time pretending to be Odin. Obviously, with the Legends around, that charade doesn’t last long.
But the key moments happen after the action. Without Martin Stein around, Jax is no longer able to become Firestorm and chooses to leave the team. And although he tries to sneak out of the Waverider, the team surprise him with an impromptu Christmas party. See? They DO have heart. Although it looks like they need a new member. Say hello, John Constantine! Everyone’s favourite British warlock is back. Bad news? He comes with a warning about the demon Mallus. Pfft. Talk about season’s greetings.
Black Lightning (101) – “The Resurrection” – 1/16/18
Although it took some time for him to meet the rest of the Arrowverse heroes, Black Lightning strived to give the Arrowverse some much-needed diversity in its ranks while also highlighting incredibly important issues like systemic racism, homophobia, and police brutality. Science-fiction is always at its best when it can tell a real human story wrapped up in a fantastical setting, and Black Lightning brings a startling level of realism layered underneath those striking superpowers.
Yes, the series is vital in the Arrowverse’s continuity since Jefferson Pierce is a Paragon for the impending Crisis – but the masterful storytelling brings the universe back down to a world audiences can recognise. As the series has moved on, it’s great to see the Pierce family embrace their incredible powers as a team. We now just need to see Jennifer and Anissa Pierce team-up with their Dad alongside the likes of The Flash, Superman, Supergirl, and Batwoman.
“Elseworlds” Crossover – The Flash (509), Arrow (709), Supergirl (409) – 12/8/18 – 12/11/18
The fifth annual crossover was the most cinematic event the Arrowverse had ever embarked on (at the time) and it was wild. Thanks to the villainous John Deegan (A.K.A Doctor Destiny!) rewriting reality as he saw fit with the Book of Destiny, Barry and Oliver ended up swapping lives. Sure, watching Stephen Amell don The Flash suit alongside Grant Gustin as the Green Arrow was pretty fun – but the good stuff began once they got to Gotham City.
Would it really be a crossover without new heroes joining the Arrowverse? The team ended up meeting Kate Kane, who became Batwoman in the absence of her cousin, Bruce Wayne. It was Ruby Rose’s introduction to the universe – and what an entrance! It even saw her briefly team-up with Supergirl. And sure, while Deegan was the main villain (and kudos for transforming into a black-suit-wearing Superman, by the way, that costume was perfect!), the most important figure out of all of this was the mysterious Mar Novu.
Known as The Monitor, Novu had manipulated the Elseworlds event from the very beginning to test the heroes to see if they could hold their own against a Crisis that threatens Infinite Earths. Sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it?
Batwoman (101) – “Pilot” – 10/6/19
After her thrilling introduction in Elseworlds, Ruby Rose’s Batwoman took the spotlight in her own solo series focusing on her war against crime in Gotham City. It quickly established that Batman has been missing for three years and the city was tearing itself apart in his absence. Enter, Kate Kane.
Her first foray into crime-fighting saw her simply become a new version of Batman before she realised she needed to become her own hero rather than solely treading in Bruce’s footsteps. By the end of the pilot episode, Kate had figured out how to make the identity her own with a splash of colour and a vibrant red wig. This ultimately sets her up as the Paragon of Courage in the next crossover, which is what the Arrowverse has been leading to for literally years.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” Crossover – Supergirl (509), Batwoman (109), The Flash (609), Arrow (808), Legends of Tomorrow (500) – 12/8/19-1/14/20
Okay, it’s time for the big one. Crisis on Infinite Earths. As the Anti-Monitor begins wiping out the multiverse with waves of anti-matter, Mar Novu gathers heroes from throughout the universe to stand against the threat. The Book of Destiny makes a reappearance after Elseworlds and reveals that Seven Paragons of Hope, Destiny, Love, Courage, Truth, Honor and Humanity are needed to defeat the cosmic villain.
But before they can do so, the planet is assaulted by shadow-demons and Oliver Queen takes one last stand against the forces of evil. He fights to his last breath, and although the Monitor manages to bring him back to Barry and Sara, all that was left was to say goodbye to their fallen friend. Stephen Amell’s exit from the series had long been announced, but that made his death no less heartbreaking. And this is all in the first episode of the crossover.
For those that haven’t seen the full event, it only gets even bigger from there. The cosmic battle reshapes the entire multiverse thanks to Oliver Queen. And while he becomes something nearly unrecognizable from his humble beginnings back in 2012, it’s an incredible ending for the character who ushered in an entirely new era of super-heroics.
Arrow (810) “Fadeout” – 1/28/20
And so, Oliver Queen’s story has come to a close. The final episode of Arrow comes eight years after the show began and honours the character who assembled so many heroes together. And yet, it’s also a beginning. Thanks to a nifty time-travel device, his adult daughter Mia Smoak meets the rest of the team in the present-day once again and is spurred on to continue her father’s work as the next Green Arrow.
The writers, producers, cast, and crew were given an impossible job of wrapping up eight years of storytelling in the eighth season, and by god, they pulled it off. The story reshapes reality, revives dead characters (in true comic book style), and makes a few changes to the continuity in ways only the Arrowverse could. But ultimately, the final episode offers Oliver Queen redemption in a well-deserved happy ending with the love of his life. For a little show that started out following a guy with a bow-and-arrow, that’s pretty impressive.