Is the Arrowverse Dead?

Crisis on Infinite Earths
Arrow -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four" -- Image Number: AR808B_0399r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Osric Chau as Ryan Choi, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman, Grant Gustin as The Flash, David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz, Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This last week saw the cancelation of Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, after 3 and 7 seasons, respectively. It raises a tough question: Is the Arrowverse dead?

And then there were two…

Let’s look at the facts. The shows that are explicitly part of the Arrowverse include Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and Superman and Lois. Of those, Arrow, Supergirl, and Black Lightning have all ended. Legends and Batwoman were, of course, canceled. That leaves us with The Flash and Superman & Lois. Neither Stargirl nor Swamp Thing (both of which aired/air on the CW) have ever been part of the Arrowverse either, aside from their cameo moments in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Flash stumbles

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

The Flash is heading into Season 9, with at least one of its principal cast–Jesse L. Martin–departing the show as a regular. Another cast member, Candice Patton, still hasn’t been officially confirmed as returning and is reportedly still under negotiations for her return to the show. She even posted on her Instagram story last week, “That’s a wrap on Iris West-Allen.” Notice the lack of “Season 8” on that line.

If Patton doesn’t return, will The Flash continue into its ninth season? It’s hard to imagine it going on without the main character’s spouse, who the show has already taken great pains to confirm is the mother of his frequently-visiting future children. It’s one thing to work around, say, a pregnancy, as the showrunners have done for Caitlin Snow/Frost actress Danielle Panabaker twice now, but another entirely to work around the fact that they don’t have a person to play the main character’s true love.

Superman & Lois flies alone

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Superman & Lois, meanwhile, is still going strong, with a good cast, stronger-than-average writing, and pretty good VFX for a CW show. However, while Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman and Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois are unquestionably a part of the Arrowverse, the show itself has avoided even sewing Easter Eggs into dialogue and background text; as Superman disappeared for a month, only John Irons was able to take over for him despite the fact that an equally powerful Kryptonian is just a few states away. Supergirl’s series might have ended, but the character still exists in the Arrowverse, even if Melissa Benoist is onto other things. Only a cameo from David Ramsey’s John Diggle works as connective tissue within the Superman & Lois series proper.

So we have one show on the rocks, and another working overtime to pretend it isn’t part of the greater universe that spawned it. Meanwhile, the CW is reportedly up for saleLegends‘ and Batwoman‘s cancelations are both likely a direct result of the bean counters at the network trying to clean house to make its current lineup as appealing as possible. That the CW would no longer be owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, the media giant that owns all of DC Comics’ properties, is almost certainly a factor here, too. The only new DC show on the horizon is Gotham Knights, a show centering on the children of Gotham villains, and that show hasn’t officially marked itself as an Arrowverse show at this time.

Life Support

While the scale was completely different, the Arrowverse is as close as anyone we can think of has ever come to replicating what Marvel did with its core cast. While the Warners tried to rush the DCEU by putting out Justice League after giving just two characters–Wonder Woman and Superman–their own movies, the Arrowverse showed the same patience that Marvel Studios did with their projects. Arrow was two seasons in before they surprised us by bringing in Barry Allen, and then Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow joined the fray. This happened over years. Arrow in 2012, Flash in 2014, Supergirl in 2015, Legends of Tomorrow in 2016, Black Lightning in 2018, and Batwoman in 2019. It wasn’t until 2019 and 2020 that all of our heroes came together for Elseworlds and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

After that, though, the COVID pandemic slowed down the momentum of the network significantly, and then problems began, starting with Ruby Rose’s surprise departure after one season of Batwoman, and followed by some of the tumultuous events outlined above. Despite looking like a secondary-network-sized MCU, all signs point to this adventure being one they won’t repeat. DC shows elsewhere, like Titans, Doom Patrol, and Watchmen, have shown no real signs of being connected to each other(one minor crossover episode in Titans notwithstanding).

Is the Arrowverse dead? Technically, no. But its fans should be sitting by its bedside, holding its hand, and remembering all the good times we had together.