Battle of the CW Premieres: Who Had the Best Return?

By patricksmith - October 15, 2016


So far we’ve had premiere episodes for the big four series of the Arrowverse, Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.  While each series is tied to the other, there was a clear winner in regard to the best premiere.

So let’s talk Flashpoint, since it was the first premiere and probably the most important for the entire Arrowverse so far.  Barry goes back in time and stops the murder of Nora Allen at the hands of The Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne.  Due to this change, Barry never becomes the Flash, Cisco is a rich tech mogul, no one knows Caitlin at all, Joe never adopts Barry, Barry and Iris never become close, and finally Wally West is the Flash (Well…Kid Flash.) The reality is unstable though, and Barry is forced to go back in time and stop himself from saving his mother.  But when he does, the world is still not as he left it.  The Flashpoint may be gone, but it was just the start of a larger universe altering dynamic.  A dynamic that has spread in unseen ways across the entire Arrowverse, that will probably be revealed as the seasons go on.

Arrow on the other hand, kept things in house for the most part.  “Legacy” dealt a lot with Oliver’s own loneliness as he resists the changes that must be made to make Team Arrow able to move forward with their mission to protect the city.  Moonlighting as a vigilante by night is much easier though when you aren’t mayor though.  It’s soon revealed to be way too much for Oliver alone, especially when an ambitious new criminal comes to town in the form of Tobias Church.  Oliver pushes himself to the brink, eventually resorting to old habits as he begins killing his opponents once again.  A decision that causes Thea to double down on her retirement from the mantle of Speedy.  Oliver manages to stop Tobias Church, but without help, he only manages to do it by the skin of his teeth.  With no options left to him, Oliver begins vetting the new Team Arrow.

Then there’s the new kid on CW’s weekday superhero block, Supergirl! A solid first season on CBS wasn’t enough to grant the series a sophmore shot, until the CW stepped in that is.  It only makes sense considering the inexplicable visit from Earth one’s Barry Allen to National City on Earth three (the home of Supergirl) in the first season.  Supergirl season two came out swinging though, with the reveal of none other than Superman himself.  This team up was obviously the big draw of the episode, but there was still a focus on Supergirl which gave the premiere a good starting point for the character’s second season.  Dynamics between Superman and other characters were quickly established, and a much bigger and intriguing shared history between him and J’onn and is hinted at.  By the episode’s end, Supergirl standing in Superman’s shadow had been explored, but Supergirl’s autonomy as a character had still been reinforced.

Finally, we have last night’s Legends of Tomorrow premiere “Out of Time.” There were some really fun and really roguish elements to the premiere, but the burden of establishment still hung heavy over the proceedings.  It led to a story that was far too big for a single episode, and as a result it struggled to get a good flow going.  The villain reveal wasn’t a surprise to people who’ve been keeping up with the news coming out about the series’ second season, but based on the context it’ll be interesting to see how the threat formed.  The team is smaller now too, which makes the cast less unwieldy, and the addition of Nate Heywood gives the series a proxy for the audience, so Legends of Tomorrow is on the right track, but this was a rough kickoff to be sure.

Arrow’s “Legacy” probably represented it’s property the most successfully.  This isn’t just due to excitement and danger in the episode, but also a reserved melancholy with both consequences and conclusions.  “Flashpoint” may have had consequences in spades (one’s we’ll be digging up all season, mind you) but the emotional aspect was unfortunately delegated to the back burner.  Emotional explorations were cut short and hard hitting scenes and events suffered from that lack of emotional buildup.  The villain of the week diluted the emotional soup as well, and the episode dedicated a large block of time to a story-line that was ineffectual and flat.  Supergirl hit this aspect on the head though.  The villain was small scale, and the focus stayed on the characters.  This was an especially good idea as there was so much pressure to present a good Superman.  Keeping the focus on the good guys, rather than thinning out the storyline actually did the opposite.  The dilemma of Kara’s choice of vocation acted as a proxy to her internal struggle for her own identity.  So, despite being so small in scale, “The Adventures of Supergirl” was still bursting with conflict, albeit mostly internal.  Legends’ biggest problem was trying to have it all.  I realize that a lot had to be established to get the ball rolling on season two, but it was still too much too soon.  The biggest problem is that most of it wasn’t even necessary.  Rather than the team being unwieldy, “Out of Time” had a story that was.  It all added up in the end, but the vision was unnecessarily complicated.  On a positive note, all that ground is officially covered, and now the season can move on to finding its niche once again.

With the introduction of “Flashpoint” I have a feeling that these series are going to start lining up together a lot more often.  It’s clear that whatever Barry did has created a link between all of them, and that seems to be the catalyst that will bring them all together.  It’s kind of like Vandal Savage was last year between Flash and Arrow, but this time with the inclusion of Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow.  As a fan, I expect these shows to start introducing many more heroes and villains from the DC Universe. I mean, they’ve got an entire episode of Legends dedicated to the Justice Society of America coming up.  How cool is that!?

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