Are Arrowverse Crossovers a Gimmick?

Jonathan Domineck
TV The CW Arrowverse

The Arrowverse crossover events garner high ratings every year. Last year’s Invasion! crossover achieved some of The CW’s best ratings ever. Beyond just serving as a ratings grab, The CW has used crossovers as a vehicle for launching spin-off series’ based on characters appearing in the events.

The annual crossover events have proven successful for the network, but from a fan perspective they beg the question: are they worthwhile or just a gimmick?

Character Development

Yearly multi-series story arc events allow fans to see their favorite heroes in the interconnected DC-based TV universe unite to overcome challenges too difficult to handle alone. The showrunners do a remarkable job bringing the characters together with stories that highlight their relationships. The character development of our heroes is one of the strongest aspects of the Arrowverse crossover events, providing us a brief window to better understand how our heroes come to grips with their responsibilities.

The “Flash vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold” crossover event explored how Oliver and Barry helped each other become better heroes. Oliver encouraged Barry to inspire others, while Barry reminded Oliver to embrace his humanity. Barry was later able to share some of his wisdom and experience with Kara in the “Worlds FinestFlash and Supergirl crossover. Fans saw the superheroes evolve through their relationships with each other.

Oliver doesn't play well with others.

The crossover events have shown how human heroes can come to accept and trust meta-human heroes. Life for Team Arrow was fairly normal before they crossed paths with Team Flash. Their world turned upside down when Supergirl — a flying alien who shoots beams from her eyes — appeared. Oliver’s initial reaction to Kara was to keep his distance until he later came to trust and depend on her. Seeing this kind of reaction is the kind of character growth that only a crossover event can show.

There’s No Place Like Home

The abandoned S.T.A.R Labs building used in the Invasion! crossover looks a whole lot like the Justice League's Hall of Justice.

Every team in the Arrowverse has their own unique base of operations. During the Invasion! event, the combined Arrowverse team took up operations in an abandoned S.T.A.R. Labs building that resembled the famed Hall of Justice — the headquarters of fellow DC hero team, Justice League. The nostalgic reference served not only as an exciting Easter egg for fans but it also validated the team’s identity as the television version of the Justice League. It also opened up the world and created a setting for future crossover events.

Cisco and Felicity geeking out aboard the Waverider timeship Arrowverse crossover Invasion
Cisco and Felicity geeking out aboard the Waverider time-ship.

Crossover events give fans the chance to see Arrowverse heroes interacting in settings typically only reserved for the other shows. While seeing the Flash speed through Star City or the Green Arrow adjust to the lighter tone of Central City may not seem like that much of a jump, Cisco and Felicity geeking out on the Waverider time-ship was highly entertaining and one of the best Arrowverse moments ever. The sheer excitement of being aboard the ship prompted the tech-support-wonder-twins to break into a verse inspired by the Ciara song “1, 2 Step.”

All Good Things Must Come to an End… Somehow

Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of Arrowverse crossover events is that the final resolution of the story doesn’t always live up to the hype. Arcs like Invasion! devote a lot of time to character development, but this can come at the expense of developing more complex storylines for the villains. This makes the ultimate resolution of the main conflict fall flat and anticlimactic.

dominators arrowverse invasion crossover
Maybe next time the villains could have a better story, unlike the Dominators in the Invasion! crossover.

Now that Arrowverse is truly united and the “origin” phase of storytelling is over, the showrunners can focus on developing more complex storylines with major villain arcs that require the combined effort of all the superheroes to succeed.

It would be great to see adaptations of major comic book storylines like Crisis on Infinite Earths or Tower of Babel brought to the small screen. Perhaps now that Superman is part of the Arrowverse, we could even see an adaptation of Injustice: Gods Among Us as a future crossover event. But whichever storyline the writers go with, they will need to give enough time for the story so it doesn’t feel rushed.

Giving Fans What They Want

All things considered, Arrowverse crossovers give fans a monumental character team-up event that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the overall story. The stories are laced with action, humor, Easter eggs, and classic comic storylines that leave us clamoring for more. The crossovers also mean that fans need to stay up-to-date in the shared universe so as not to feel like they have missed anything.

Despite the crossover storylines occasionally falling flat, the way the event shows new dimensions to each of the characters makes up for anything lacking.

The 2017 Arrowverse major crossover event is scheduled for November 27 and 28. This year’s full four-episode crossover will be a two-day, two-hour mini-series beginning with Supergirl and Arrow on Monday and concluding with The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow on Tuesday.

Jonathan Domineck
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