The Arrowverse now totals 30 seasons of television, if you include the on-going shows and the Legends of Tomorrow season starting in early 2020. It can be tough to know where to start if you haven’t been paying attention. It might be too late to catch up before Crisis on Infinite Earths begins, but the shows are all still out there and worth catching up on if you’re looking to wade into television’s biggest superhero universe.
Arrowverse Timeline Years 1 – 4: Arrowverse Begins
Broad spoilers follow for the entire Arrowverse timeline. The Arrowverse began way back in 2012 with Arrow (duh). In the second season, a CSI officer from the next city over visited Star City, and his name was Barry Allen. He wasn’t yet, but would soon be the fastest man alive. The combined foundation of Arrow and the quick success of The Flash combined to launch a whole slew of shows. This is also about when Arrow started struggling as it mishandled Ra’s Al Ghul.
This was also the year of the first Arrowverse crossover, titled “The Brave and the Bold”, which featured The Flash and Arrow, and had the two casts visiting each others’ shows in a fairly straightforward crossover.
Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl started the next year, but both had rocky starts. Supergirl launched on CBS where it floundered on its own. A one-episode crossover with The Flash gave us a hint of what was to come, though. Before Legends began, we had the “Heroes Join Forces” crossover, which was so forgettable that I forgot to even mention it in the first draft of this piece (Thanks to our Twitter followers for catching my mistake!). It brought together characters from The Flash, Arrow and the yet-unaired Legends of Tomorrow show to battle Vandal Savage.
Legends of Tomorrow, which began airing in the first quarter of 2016, was absolutely miserable in its first season. Arrow had shifted from struggling with Ra’s Al Ghul to struggling with Damien Darhk. Matt Ryan appeared on an episode of Arrow titled ‘Haunted’ as a one-shot guest appearance.
Legends of Tomorrow, despite its struggles, was a sort of crossover of its own, as it pulled The Atom and Canary from Arrow and Captain Cold, Heatwave, Firestorm, and Hawkgirl from The Flash.
Arrowverse Timeline Year 5: Supergirl flies to the CW
The next year kept the slate of shows steady but brought Supergirl over to The CW for its second season, rescuing it mercifully from cancellation. Arrow was getting back to basics with Prometheus, bringing the show’s flashbacks to a close. The Flash was dealing with its third speedster villain in a row – this time in the form of Savitar, an evil version of Barry Allen from an alternate future.
This year also saw Legends of Tomorrow turn into a genuinely fun show as the Legends fought the Legion of Doom – Damien Darhk, Reverse-Flash, and Malcolm Merlyn. We had our first true crossover in “Invasion!” The three-episode event brought together characters from all four shows to fight mind-controlling aliens.
Arrow continued to struggle in 2017 as Ricardo Diaz became the main villain. The Flash finally moved on from speedsters to give us The Thinker. Legends of Tomorrow continued to be absolutely bonkers, and Matt Ryan’s John Constantine became a recurring character. Team Arrow continued to expand as Black Lightning joined The CW’s slate of shows. Black Lightning was excluded from the Arrowverse, however, thanks at least in part to the fact that it’s filmed in Georgia while the rest of the shows are filmed ~2,500 miles away in Vancouver, British Columbia (which is neither British nor Columbian).
Arrowverse Timeline Year 6: The first ‘Crisis’
The crossover that year, 2017, was even bigger than ‘Invasion!,’ though. ‘Crisis on Earth-X’ was a proper four-episode crossover that had the characters of Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow fighting against evil Nazi versions of themselves (and yet another appearance from my favorite villain, Reverse-Flash).
This crossover debuted The Ray, a hero who has only appeared in a standalone animated series otherwise and featured the death of Victor Garber’s character, Martin Stein. Legends of Tomorrow finished off its third season by having the team combine into a giant version of Beebo, a stuffed toy from earlier in the show’s fiction, to battle a time demon called Mallus, which is so much better than it sounds. This season of Legends also featured an episode called ‘No Country for Old Dads.’
Arrowverse Timeline Year 7: Freaky Flashday
In 2018, we saw Arrow start to wrap things up with Felicity’s departure, though we also saw Katie Cassidy’s second incarnation of Laurel Lance become a more significant part of the show as well. Flash forwards began as we started to explore the world of Star City in 2040. Supergirl had its best season yet, including the debut of Lex Luthor.
The crossover for this year scaled back in size but exploded with ambition. ‘Elseworlds’ brought in The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl, but left out the Legends (who definitely made jokes about not being involved in the crossover). ‘Elseworlds’ saw Barry and Oliver switching places as a being called the Monitor tested Earth-1 as a potential holdout against a universe-devouring force. The crossover debuted Batwoman and added Gotham City to the Arrowverse.
Arrowverse Timeline Year 8: Crisis on Infinite Earths
That brings us up to the present. Arrow is coming to a close with what might be its best and weirdest season. The Flash is getting gross. Supergirl is struggling, and Batwoman is finding its footing. Black Lightning is electric, pun definitely intended. The pieces are in place for the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths,’ set to begin next week and conclude just after the new year, which will also kick of Legends of Tomorrow‘s fifth season.
Are you ready for Crisis on Infinite Earths?