The progenitor of the DC Television Universe, Arrow follows the exploits of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who returns from the island of Lian Yu to save his hometown of Starling City as the Hood/Arrow/Green Arrow from many several threats including Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Deathstroke (Manu Bennett), Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable), and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). In this mission he’s joined by John “Spartan” Diggle (David Ramsey), Felicity “Overwatch” Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Black Canary/Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Thea “Speedy” Queen (Willa Holland), and Roy “Arsenal” Harper (Colton Haynes). Likely the key to Arrow‘s longevity is its ability to evolve. In the beginning, Arrow started as a typical representation of the CW network’s dominant content in young attractive people engrossed in multiple relationships akin to soap operas but with the twist of the lead character being a murderer in the name of justice. Over time, the soap opera elements toned down as did the dark tone of the series where its lead character stopped killing most of his enemies (which from a writing standpoint limited much of the storytelling components inherently found in comics, losing the likes of Drakon and Eddie Fyers in this manner). Instead, it keeps re-inventing itself as it introduced superhuman characters (perhaps inspiring the upcoming Suicide Squad film after Arrow developed a following for the characters), laid the groundwork for The Flash forming with it a symbiotic relationship (which grew into the DCTVU), expanded to include elements of magic (filling a hole left by the cancellation of Constantine to a degree), and just generally tried to tell entertaining, compelling stories of fantasy, adventure, and tragedy borrowing deeply from the rich mythos of DC Comics. Arrow is currently in its fourth season and produced several spin-offs in The Flash, Vixen, and Legends of Tomorrow.
The latest offering from the DC Television Universe, Legends of Tomorrow borrows from Arrow and The Flash to tell a story about a group of characters traveling through time to stop a madman from conquering the world in the future. Lead by the rogue Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), the team is composed of the Atom (Brandon Routh), Firestorm (Franz Drameh with Victor Garber as Martin Stein), White Canary (Caity Lotz), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée), Hawkman (Falk Hentschel), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) as they face the nigh-immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). Currently in its first season, the show thus far has seen its characters in the 1970s and 1980s as it teases moving into World War II (with Sgt. Rock and the Justice Society), Wild West (with Jonah Hex played by Johnathon Schaech), and the future (with a version of the character Connor Hawke, Green Arrow’s son in the comics). Despite only being a few episodes into the series thus far, the show has been remarkable. Featuring an eclectic cast of misfits on an amazing adventure it becomes very reminiscent of the film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), undoubtedly one of the most popular films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as well as one of the most entertaining movies in recent history). Legends seems to capture a great deal of Guardians‘ appeal with humor, action, drama, music, sci-fi, and more while playing with the tools established in Arrow and The Flash and expanding the DCTVU brand. Thus far, it’s too early to determine if there will be a second season of Legends but its been rumored should it continue (which may not be likely due to the cost of producing the series’ special effects), it might involve altering the cast each season and feature a different theme. For example, one rumor has suggested an interest to bring back Matt Ryan as Constantine following the buzz he generated on Arrow to headline a second season. If a second season can maintain the quality we’ve seen thus far out of the first, one could certainly hope.
Often referred as the best comic book show on TV today, The Flash is the second series coming out of the DC Television Universe. Spinning out of Arrow, The Flash features Central City forensic scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) who develops the ability to move at super speeds following the explosion of a particle accelerator. This same event granting different, wondrous powers to many others within the city, Allen becomes the Flash to combat the villainous element to arise in its wake. Joined by Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), and reporter Iris West (Candice Patton), the Flash must combat the likes of the Reverse-Flash (portrayed by Tom Cavanagh and Matt Letscher at different points) and Zoom (voiced by Tony Todd). The Flash series from the 1990s was by far one of the best comic book shows ever made (on the previous version of this top 10, I put it in eighth place). If it had one major stumbling block, it was that it didn’t play up effectively enough that the Flash has one of the best rogues’ galleries in comic book history. Only able to offer up three such notable villains in its 22 episode run, the latest series has offered the likes of Gorilla Grodd (voiced by David Sobolov), Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Trickster (Mark Hamill and Devon Graye both carrying the mantle), Weather Wizard (Chad Rook and Liam McIntyre both carrying the mantle), Captain Boomerang (Nick Tarabay), Pied Piper (Andy Mientus), Golden Glider (Peyton List), and the aforementioned Reverse-Flash and Zoom where all save Boomerang and Zoom emerged within the 23 episodes of the first season (and aside from perhaps Mirror Master and Abra Kadabra, adapted the best of the best). Further, Flash introduced Firestorm (Robbie Amell), one of the best post-Silver Age superheroes created who also has one of the best rogues galleries in comics (of which Flash has already tackled five of his best at this point). And if these advents weren’t enough, the series’ second season introduced parallel Earths which will likely be the catalyst to lead into an upcoming crossover of the Flash into the series Supergirl. This also introduces the idea that with the advent of The Flash, a crossover capability came into play where six separate series across three networks interconnect (almost possibly seven series on four networks had The Titans been picked up by TNT). To say this is revolutionary is an understatement. But even beyond its capability to adapt so much of the original content into live action and sustain a universe across the divide of several stations, The Flash is also an amazing show by itself. At its core, it deals with loss and the family that emerges from grief to become a unit as strong as if it were bound by blood. Bad things happened to good people and the hearts of bad people changed because beyond the super powers and super science, the strength of the show and its characters is to be determined to rise above adversity with the bonds of friendship and to seek out hope when all seems lost. The mark of a good story is to present a complication so great, that it challenges the viewer to comprehend a means of triumph. The Flash on an almost weekly basis put hurdles ahead of its characters that seemed insurmountable (as the primary villains in Reverse-Flash and then Zoom seemed invincible) only for Team Flash to come out on top (albeit carrying the scars of those many conflicts and at the cost of some friends along the way). Superheroes are intended to inspire hope and The Flash almost makes that its calling card. The Flash is in its second season and, along with Arrow, produced spin-offs in Vixen and Legends of Tomorrow and it will crossover into Supergirl.