‘The Flash vs. Arrow’: Why The CW is succeeding in the superhero genre

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The CW has become one of the best spots to find great superhero dramas on TV, thanks to its surprise hit “Arrow” several seasons ago and its equally successful new spin-off “The Flash.” The CW has turned the DC Comics superheroes into two of its most popular shows and even aired a fun, two-part crossover episode this past week called “Flash vs. Arrow,” with characters from “Arrow” and “Flash” making appearances on each other’s shows. The shows succeed because they tie in well together but manage to have their own voice.

“Arrow” — which airs Wednesdays on The CW — premiered in 2012, featuring playboy-turned-vigilante Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). While the show intrigued me from the first episode, the show kept getting stronger throughout its first season. By season 2, I was completely hooked, and couldn’t miss an episode. The show has found a great mix of action, mystery and fun characters, including fan favorite Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), a feisty IT expert known for her will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry with Oliver.

I was just a little bit skeptical when The CW announced it was launching a spin-off show called “The Flash,” about a DC superhero with super-speed powers. The Flash/Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) had a great cameo appearance in “Arrow” season 2, but fans wondered how well the character would carry over into his own show. However, so far the response has been positive. “The Flash” — airs Tuesdays on The CW — works because while viewers can accept it occurs in the same fictional universe as “Arrow,” it doesn’t try too hard to copy the other show. “The Flash” has a more lighthearted tone than the often gritty “Arrow,” and Grant Gustin has a winning smile and personality as the Flash. The CW also has managed to portray Barry’s powers realistically; Oliver is more of a “Batman” type superhero, who relies on gadgets and training rather than a superhuman power, but Barry’s super abilities don’t come across as too far-fetched within the context of the show.

Overall, I think I like “Arrow” just a little bit better than “The Flash,” because of its slightly darker tone and the strong lead characters. However, I’ve had a lot of fun watching “The Flash” this season, and just like “Arrow,” I think it’s going to keep getting better and better. While it’s not as flashback heavy as “Arrow,” I like that the show runners have worked in an element of mystery with Dr. Wells, a scientist who serves as Barry’s mentor and coach. Although it’s obvious Dr. Wells has a secret agenda and isn’t afraid to commit morally questionable acts to further this agenda, I haven’t been able to figure out whether he’s ultimately scheming to help Barry, use Barry or eliminate Barry. We also have yet to learn if Dr. Wells had any role to play in the mysterious death of Barry’s mother.

Although so far this season,”Arrow” doesn’t have as many “shockers” as last year (aside from a major character death in episode 1), the show continues to throw plenty of personal and professional obstacles in Oliver’s way. One of the challenges show runners face is the continuing will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between Oliver and Felicity. While fans are obviously pushing for a relationship between them, show runners want to delay this as long as possible, to build suspense. While this can be frustrating for fans, it has created some interesting character development opportunities this season. In the past, it seemed like Felicity was the one pining away from afar for Oliver, who didn’t always notice her. Now, Felicity has another suitor, and it’s Oliver who is feeling hurting and forgotten. It’s a new experience for the former playboy who is used to getting whatever he wants.

Both “Arrow” and “The Flash” are worth catching up on if you haven’t seen either of these shows. If you have seen them, which is your favorite? What do you hope to see from these shows in the future?

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6 thoughts on “‘The Flash vs. Arrow’: Why The CW is succeeding in the superhero genre

  1. I’m really enjoying the Flash and had so much fun with the Arrow crossovers. I’m also intrigued with Dr. Wells, I’ve been reading people’s theories on him and can’t wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds. Great article.

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