Given the glut of comic book-based shows either on TV or currently in development, it’s fair to say that The CW is firmly at the front of the charge with their excellent pairing of Arrow and The Flash. With Arrow currently on its third season, and with The Flash only in the infancy of a first season, both shows ended their 2014 runs by giving fans some truly explosive, jaw-dropping mid-season finales that threw up plenty of questions as to what lies ahead for the shared universe shows. With both shows returning to US screens this week, and with UK returns to follow in February, we thought we’d take a look at just what we’re looking forward to in the rest of the shows’ respective seasons.
Just as the particle accelerator accident gave Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) superspeed, The Flash has revealed that it wasn’t just Barry who was altered on that fateful night. As each new episode gave introduction to what could’ve easily come across as a new ‘freak of the week’ effort (much like how some of Smallville’s seasons played out), The Flash has managed to make most of its expanding villain roster memorable or at least a threat to the Scarlet Speedster. We’ve had plays on the likes of Weather Wizard, Multiplex, Girder, Rainbow Raider, Plastique, and a brilliant turn from Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, but we now have another hero seemingly on the horizon: Firestorm! Ronnie Raymond, as played by Robbie Amell (cousin of a certain Emerald Archer chap), has been referenced at several points so far during Season 1, with poor Ronnie, fiancé of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), seemingly suffering a hero’s death when things went a little array with S.T.A.R. Labs’ particle accelerator. Having seen Caitlin often struggle to deal with the loss of her ‘one true’, the last few episodes of The Flash’s 2014 run saw Ronnie revealed to be alive. Now all dark and broody, and having likely partaken in his share of hobo fights for spare chips, Ronnie stepped out of the shadows and saved The Flash’s red-suited behind at the climax of the mid-season finale, The Man in the Yellow Suit. And before you could say “Flame on!”, Ronnie flew off into the night, all fire and brimstone. Even though the episode had earlier seen the show’s new hot-head channelling his inner Snake Plissken (apparently there’s no longer Ronnie Raymond… “Call me Firestorm!”), it’d be plain ridiculous of any viewer to not believe there’s still plenty of Ronnie inside the inferno that is Firestorm, with a whole lot more expected to come from him and former fiancé Caitlin. Expect to see inner turmoil, plenty of brooding, brief rekindling of an old romance, and some SFX work that will likely be better than what we’ll be getting in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out for The Flash now that they’ll be introducing a new hero to Central City. Already there’s been speculation of a spin-off show for the character, but it’s far too early for any of that talk to be taken seriously. Either way, expect Firestorm to play a big role as Season 1 of The Flash plays out, especially as Martin Stein, often combining with Ronnie to create Firestorm in the comic book world, is set to debut later this season.
Ever since Arrow debuted, fans have been waiting for the moment that “Dinah” Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) would go on to follow in her comic book self’s footsteps. And by that we mean become Black Canary. The show has stepped in and around the issue at various points, leading fans to both believe that we will and will not see Laurel make the transition to suited-up heroine. Hell, it appears that after a few fleeting mentions in the first season, the whole “Dinah” part of her name has pretty much been ignored, almost as if the show were trying to distance her from the Canary stories. Then came the arrival of Canary in Starling City… only it wasn’t Laurel. Instead we saw believed-dead sister Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) joining The Arrow’s (Stephen Amell) crusade to protect Starling City and the greater good. The thing is, Sara proved to be a badass Canary! After initial uncertainty from fans on the matter, as in why is Sara Lance actually the show’s Black Canary, it was made clear that Sara’s character was Canary not Black Canary. Following the death of Sara (something we’re still struggling with), Laurel is on a crash course to become her own hero. With official shots having been released of Katie Cassidy’s Laurel suited and booted for action, not to mention the regular mentions of Sara Lance’s black jacket, it looks as if we’re finally going to see Black Canary in Arrow. Fans have pointed to the fact that surely only a few weeks’ worth of training from “Wildcat” Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) wouldn’t be enough to have Laurel holding her own against Starling’s meanest and baddest (and soon to be Vinny Jones – don’t you know he was the Juggernaut once, bitch?), and it looks as if the show will be taking the logical route on the transition. As in, Laurel will be getting the shit kicked out of her for a little while whilst she learns her trade and attempts to protect the city in The Arrow’s absence – and that begins with a three-episode Laurel-centric arc for the show as soon as it returns from its mid-season break. The character of Laurel Lance has been the most frustrating character on Arrow, so here’s hoping that the move to Black Canary gets the character on the right track and gives Katie Cassidy more to get her teeth into. And please, no more of the ‘Laurel has one glass of wine and so is automatically deemed an alcoholic’ plot arcs. Please. Pretty please.
The Future of Catilin Snow and Cisco Ramon
Those familiar with the DC comic book world will have instantly recognised the names of Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin Snow when they debuted in Season 2 of Arrow ahead of becoming stalwarts of The Flash. Much like how Oliver Queen has his ‘Team Arrow’ group of Diggle (David Ramsey), Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), and Roy/Arsenal (Colton Haynes), Barry Allen has his own team assisting him as he strives to protect Central City. In the comic book world, Cisco and Caitlin actually have their own alter-egos. Cisco is the hero Vibe, whilst Caitlin takes a different path and becomes the cold-hearted villainess known as Killer Frost. Whilst the shockwave-powered Vibe is generally a lesser-known member of DC’s roster, Killer Frost is one of DC’s more notable rogues… not least because the moniker is one of many cold-based villains in the DC world, such as Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze, Icicle, Minister Blizzard, and Snowman. Over the years, there have been several different Killer Frosts, although the Caitlin Snow version of the character has close ties to Firestorm and his powers, which could well be something that plays out further down the line in The Flash. The big question is whether Season 1 of the show is too soon to expect Vibe and Killer Frost. We’d say it likely is. Whilst Cisco has shown a love for toys and technology, and Caitlin is clearly tied to Firestorm, it’s likely that the development of these characters may be delivered in a slow-burning way. One only has to look over at sister show Arrow to see how that has taken its time with its character development, particularly when it comes to making the step towards an alter-ego. For example, the transition of Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson to Deathstroke was handled masterfully and gave us arguably the greatest rendering of a DC villain in any live-action format. Expect to see progression for both Cisco and Caitlin, but maybe not full-on Vibe or Killer Frost just yet. If anything, a lot of Caitlin’s arc will be dependent on what direction the show goes with Firestorm.
The Atom to Watch Over Starling City
Brandon Routh. Big, strong, stoic, put together, charismatic, and with a whiff of a hero complex. Surely he’d be the perfect shout to play Superman at some point, right? Oh… Well, in fairness, the faults of Superman Returns cannot be put at his door; there was a whole lot of things wrong with that film, and Routh wasn’t one of them. Having arrived earlier in Season 3, Routh’s Ray Palmer looks like he’s got a huge part to play in the future of Arrow, at least for this current season. Apparently Routh was initially to play Ted Kord, aka Blue Beetle, in the show, but things were changed up and his character was turned into Ray Palmer, aka The Atom. Now with Oliver Queen dead (don’t worry, we’ll get to that), it looks as if things could be taking shape for Palmer to step up and fill the hero void that Starling City will be experiencing. If we were in doubt whether Palmer would merely be a quirky, charming technological genius in the show, that was all thrown out of the window when he gave us (and then Felicity) a first glimpse at the shiny new tech he’s working on – that’d be known as A.T.O.M. Routh himself has stated in interviews how he’s seen the Atom suit, how he’s tried on the Atom suit, how he feels like a badass in the Atom suit… so now we just have to wait for Arrow to pull the trigger and unleash the suit on the show. For those unfamiliar with The Atom, his main power is the ability to manipulate his size (ooh err…) in a way similar to Ant-Man does in the Marvel world. With Starling City now Arrow-less, we’d bet our last slice of bacon (we’re mighty partial to bacon at Moonbase Alpha) that the latter part of Season 3 will see The Atom combining his efforts with Black Canary, Arsenal, Digg, and possibly even Wildcat. And maybe, just maybe, a returning hooded hero…
Mark Freakin’ Hamill!
Say it with us… Mark… freakin’… Hamill. The man is a legend to so many, but forget that Starkiller chap. No, no, no, this is all about another fan-favourite Hamill role of ours: The Trickster. Back in the early 1990s, when CBS gave us the John Wesley Shipp-starring live-action Flash series, Mark Hamill hammed it up as the villainous Trickster; a turn that resulted in the actor then landing the job of voicing The Joker in the legendary Batman: The Animated Series. With Shipp now playing Henry Allen, father of Barry, in this latest Scarlet Speedster show, and Amanda Pays reprising her Tina McGee role for the series, Hamill is another Flash alumni to have signed on for The CW’s Grant Gustin-starrer. And he’ll be picking up the Trickster mantle once more, although this time he’ll be behind bars as an upstart wannabe takes on The Trickster moniker for himself in order to torment Central City. Hamill’s James Jesse is to debut in Episode 17 of the current season and will help Detective West (Jesse L. Martin) and Barry in taking down Devon Graye’s Axel Walker, who is parading as a newer model of The Trickster. Whilst we’re always happy to see Hamill in anything (Body Bags represent, yo!), as well as being a brilliant blast from the Flash past, it’ll be a nice warm-up ahead of Hamill’s return to that other role later in the year.
The Suicide Squad’s Return
Arrow has managed to make the Suicide Squad, a team so often made up of B, C, and even D-level villains, an interesting and engaging group. Key to this has been how brilliant a job Michael Rowe has done as villain-cum-anti-hero Deadshot since appearing way back in Season 1 of the show. It’s his inclusion, not to mention Lyla Michaels, which ties the team to long-time Arrow cohort Diggle, giving Task Force X a more personal connection to The Arrow and his team. Barked do-it-or-die orders from Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), the Suicide Squad has featured Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Shrapnel, assistance from Diggle and Michaels, and even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from an unnamed Harley Quinn. Given how the key to the Suicide Squad is that the criminal members have a bomb implanted in them, what better way to show the serious nature of the team than by having one of them go boom? And so Shrapnel never made it out of Season 2. The Suicide Squad has already been confirmed as appearing in the second half of Arrow’s Season 3, but Shrapnel’s demise leaves a vacancy. As Nick Tarabay’s Captain Boomerang, shown to be a former A.R.G.U.S. agent, made his bow during the two-part Arrow and Flash crossover, he’d be a prime candidate to be a part of the Squad when they resurface. There’s also plenty of other names to choose from, such as China White, Clock King, Dollmaker, Count Vertigo, Cupid, KGBeast, and more interestingly Deathstroke, who is set to return to modern-day Starling City during Season 3’s second half. Then there’s villains from The Flash to consider. The fun thing about the Suicide Squad is that there are so many possibilities on just who will make up the team. Regardless, we’re just happy at the prospect of seeing Deadshot once more. Who he brings with him, though, we’ll have to wait and see.
Yes, The Flash has proved to be an ambitious series since its debut. Whereas Arrow has generally stuck with the ‘grounded in reality’ approach so far, The Flash has a bit more of a free reign when it comes to superpowers and things that are a little out of the ordinary. And in that regard, things don’t get much more out of the ordinary than Gorilla Grodd. When the character was teased during the show’s pilot episode, we all thought that surely they haven’t got the balls to do Gorilla Grodd, right? And if they did have the minerals to do so, surely it’d be a disaster, right? Well Grodd’s not appeared in present-day Central City just yet, so we can’t comment on what he’ll be like, but we have seen him, he’s definitely in existence, and will appear again at some point. Whether that is in this current season or a future season of the show remains to be seen. In fairness to The Flash, they have made literally every single character to date work in a way that feels tonally perfect to the show. So the appearance down the line of Gorilla Grodd, something we thought couldn’t possibly work, is not such a worry by this point; The Flash has delivered so well so far that the show has earned our trust. So much so, we’re looking forward to seeing what the show can do with a gorilla with super intellect, amazing physicality, and extreme psionic powers. Again, we don’t know if Grodd’s on the horizon to appear in the second half of The Flash’s first season, but we do know that he’s certainly out there somewhere in Central City, waiting to make his move in what could prove to be a monumental achievement for the show if handled correctly. And by “if handled correctly”, clearly we mean when the show does something special with this truly unique character.
Thea Queen, Murderer?
Whilst the title doesn’t evoke quite the same shock as Bruce Wayne, Murderer?, it was still a bit of a jaw-dropper to find out that Thea Queen (Willa Holland) was the one responsible for killing Sara Lance. When Sara was offed at the end of Season 3’s very first episode, it was a huge shock and an event that would lead to a whodunit through the entire first half of the season. After several angles were looked at, such as Komodo (Matt Ward), Malcolm Merlyn, Roy Harper and even Oliver Queen, it was revealed that it was indeed Thea who was the one that fired those fateful arrows into the chest of Sara. With that reveal came the reasoning for Oliver Queen putting himself in line for death at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), deciding to give himself the death sentence rather than sister Thea. In some ways similar to Laurel, Thea is a character who has been very ‘meh’ at stages throughout Arrow’s run. And by very ‘meh’ we mean very, very bland and boring at so many times, seemingly always on the cusp of becoming an interesting character before being returned to being just there. But with the end of Season 2 and her subsequent arc in Season 3, Thea Queen (or is that officially Merlyn by this point?) has actually become, dare we say it, relevant. Plus she’s also become a badass in her own right, having had some League of Assassins-lite training from daddy dearest. Added to that, you can’t help but think that Ra’s al Ghul, such an intelligent man of the world and somebody who isn’t to be taken for a fool, really believes that it was Oliver Queen who killed Sara. Ra’s has been used sparingly but effectively since his debut in the show, but he’s been delivered and portrayed wonderfully well; no wool can be pulled over his eyes, including who really killed Sara Lance. So with that said, how will Ra’s respond to not only the apparent demise of Oliver, but to the fact that it was some someone else who actually killed Sara. Then there is the question of how Thea will deal with Oliver Queen’s disappearance from Starling City, throwing up the idea that she maybe may finally find out just what her brother does with so much of his time. And just how long will Thea march to the beat of Malcolm Merlyn’s drum? Regardless of whether it’s revealed to Thea that she killed Canary, the younger Queen’s story has become infinitely more interesting this season; something which was way, way, way overdue.
The Man in the Yellow Suit
Of course, what we’re most hotly anticipating about The Flash’s return is the whole conundrum that surrounds Reverse-Flash. Who is he? Why did he kill Barry’s mother? Is there more than one Reverse-Flash? And how will time-travel come into play? They are just a few of the questions that instantly spring to mind. Of course, one immediate question that we had from the very first episode of the series was whether the minds behind the show were really going to go ahead and gives us Reverse-Flash in the very first season. Whilst one could’ve been mistaken for thinking that the culprit of Nora Allen's death may have been dragged out and saved for another season, The Flash is most certainly addressing that now in the form of the Man in the Yellow Suit. As the first half of the show’s first season came to a close, Reverse-Flash had arrived on the scene, beat the red off of Barry, slapped Harrison Wells around, given Joe a few stiff shots, sniffed around Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), gone to town on The Flash once more (with Firestorm’s timely arrival saving the day), and then audiences were given a shot of Harrison Wells (the ever-engaging Tom Cavanagh) with a Flash ring and seemingly being revealed to be the Reverse-Flash. Wells? But only 10 minutes prior we were seeing Reverse-Flash giving Wells a smackdown of Stone Cold Steve Austin proportions? The plot thickens, and now there’s a plethora of ways that things could play out from here. Could the real key here be Eddie Thawne? After all, why did the Reverse-Flash pause when he put eyes upon Detective Pretty Boy during the mid-season finale? Given how long-time Flash foe Professor Zoom, who just so happens to be one of the comic book Reverse-Flashes (yes, there are a few), also goes by the name of Eobard Thawne, many presumed that the show’s inclusion of “Eddie” Thawne was going to be The Flash’s adaptation of the Professor Zoom character. Certain logic suggests that the Reverse-Flash that we saw in the mid-season finale was either an ancestor of Eddie’s or possibly even a future version of Eddie who has come back in time to torment Barry. But why would Eddie have a grudge against the loveable Barry Allen, we hear you ask? Quite simply, Iris West (Candice Patton). Comic book couple Barry and Iris may not necessarily end up together in The Flash, but it looks as if the relationship between Eddie and Iris won't stay the course, regardless. As the series headed to its mid-season break, Barry finally revealed his long-time love for Iris, with it pretty obvious that there will be plenty of repercussions to come from this admittance. What if Eddie were to find out that Iris actually had feelings for Barry (she totally does!) or what if he was given a persuasive nudge on the matter by, oh, we don’t know, say Harrison Wells? Surely that’d be enough to put a mighty big chip on one’s shoulder. But would it be enough for you to harbour a grudge until a point in time where you have a badass-looking yellow suit and the ability to travel ridiculously fast through time? Then you could go back and give that Barry Allen fella what for, right? Ruin his life, right?
Thing is, if the Reverse-Flash we saw in present-day Central City was a future Eddie Thawne or an ancestor of Eddie’s, then just who is Harrison Wells? A new character created for the show, Wells certainly has a darker side to him, as shown by his effortless killing of folk who may be looking to get in the way of Barry Allen’s ascension to full-on superhero. Taking things into consideration, you could make a certain argument to suggest that Harrison Wells will end up being a play on the comic book character of Hunter Zoloman, himself a Reverse-Flash known as Zoom (not to be confused with Professor Zoom). Despite Zoloman generally being viewed as an antagonist of the Wally West version of The Flash, Wells definitely shares some of Zoloman’s personality… not least his hunger to push The Flash to becoming a better hero. But what of the other speedster that was present at the death of Nora Allen? The sensible money is that this is a future version of Barry Allen (hence the “future” headlines of The Flash being missing), but the other option is that there is another Flash. The option of another Scarlet Speedster seems too farfetched at this stage, but Grant Gustin has gone on record as saying that how the second half of Season 1 plays out took even him by surprise. It’s far more likely that, much like in the Flashpoint comic book arc, the future Barry Allen went back in time to try and save his mother. Either way, the issue of the Man in the Yellow Suit, not to mention the possibly love triangle between Barry, Iris and Eddie, has us chomping at the bit for The Flash’s return and to see just how things play out for the Sultan of Speed and Co.
The Death and Return of Oliver Queen
We’d really like to think that if you’re reading this, especially if you’ve made it this far, then you’re fully aware that Oliver Queen is no more. Apparently. We say apparently purely because, you know, the whole ‘comic book character death’ thing was made pretty much redundant by a certain Man of Steel back in the early ‘90s. Thanks for that, Supes. So yeah, let’s throw it out there right now: Oliver Queen will be back, make no mistake about it. The big questions are how and when, though. With Ra’s al Ghul now a part of Arrow and The Flash’s shared universe, as well as being responsible for the death of The Arrow, Ra’s’ inclusion in the show also opens up the possibility of a Lazarus Pit. Those not familiar with the DC comic book world, Ra’s Lazarus Pits are famous (or is that infamous?) for bringing certain characters back from the dead. Hell, Ra’s himself even regularly uses them to stop the whole aging process. Certainly beats Botox, face-lifts and boob jobs if you ask us. And so most people’s first thoughts were that Oliver Queen would be brought back to life courtesy of taking a dip in one of Ra’s luxury pits of rejuvenation. But this will not be the case. Star Stephen Amell has gone on record recently to say that Oliver will not be involved in any Lazarus Pit-type shenanigans. Hmmm, that certainly makes things interesting.
It may not be until the latter moments of Season 3, but The Arrow will return to prowl the streets of Starling City. With a Lazarus Pit session now out of the question, could we maybe see some sort of Lazarus-like serum used to bring the Emerald Archer back to life? That’s certainly one option; maybe something with extracts of Mirakuru in. Another possible reasoning behind Oliver’s return from the grave is that maybe, just maybe, he didn’t actually die after all. Yes, we saw him schooled by Ra’s al Ghul, run through with a sword, his life seemingly flash before him, then booted off a cliff top in a moment reminiscent of 300… but we never actually saw Oliver Queen die. Regardless of whether the Grim Reaper did or didn’t come for Ollie, he’s in a bad way. A very bad way. Promotional videos for Arrow’s return have shown someone looking for the body of the fallen Queen, but who? The logical options would suggest Malcolm Merlyn or Karl Rune’s Maseo Yamashiro, but Rila Fukushima’s Tatsu Yamashiro could be an outside bet. After all, we’ve yet to see Tatsu in the modern-day setting of Arrow, and in the comic book world she is also known as the heroine Katana. Despite how Katana saving the day would be rather cool, it’s most likely that it will be Malcolm Merlyn rescuing the Master Bowman, not least because his fight with Ra’s is still raging on, meaning that The Arrow being in the equation makes day-to-day living in Starling City a whole lot more safe for the father of Thea Queen/Merlyn (*delete as applicable). Make no mistake about it, the modern-day world of Arrow won’t be seeing Oliver Queen alive and kicking for at least a little while. Instead, we’ll see those closest to Oliver/The Arrow struggling to cope with their loss whilst the likes of Arsenal, Black Canary and The Atom do their utmost to protect Starling City from a whole number of threats, both familiar and new. Given how Arrow gave us arguably the strongest season of genre TV of the last few years with the wonderful Season 2, plus how Season 3 has continued to reach the previous season’s high standards, we’re expecting a lot from the show. As ever, though, whenever you wonder if Arrow will deliver, it always does. Here’s hoping that the rest of Season 3 follows suit.
With all of that taken on board, what are you looking forward to or hoping to see from the return of these excellent shows?
Whilst both shows return to US screens this week, The Flash returns to Sky1 on February 10th, with Arrow following on February 12th.
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