People go nuts over Marvel's Cinematic Universe. They spend hours celebrating and theorizing about the various ways in which each of Marvel's movies and TV shows are connected. DC Comics, on the other hand, has decided to not only create a self-contained film universe, but also allow its television shows complete autonomy from one another.
Gotham exists independently from Arrow, The Flash will never speed into Titans, and no one is expecting any overlaps between AMC's Preacher and CBS' Supergirl. And that's fine with me. We've already seen the detrimental effect co-dependency can foster, and do we really need the dreariness of Zack Snyder's Justice League films to infect other projects? (Answer: $&%# no.)
This isn't to say I don't appreciate the intricate world-building of a shared universe, which is exactly why I can't wait for the Arrow-Flash spin-off. The potential series - that I refuse to believe is actually called Legends of Tomorrow - seems like a logical expansion of the universe Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim have created on The CW, not just a brand-oriented cash-grab.
As they stand now, Arrow and The Flash have more characters than they know what to do with. Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), in particular, could easily carry an entire show on his own, and The Flash will never have enough time to do Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) or Firestorm (Victor Garber, Robbie Amell) justice (they've got enough on their hands to deal with at the moment). By expanding to a third show, the current side characters in the CW-DC Universe would gain the necessary room to breathe and grow.
It's also a great opportunity to add new, diverse superheroes to the roster. While comic books feature countless LGBTQ heroes, the TV and movie adaptations are far less progressive. That's not the case with Arrow and The Flash. The producers have expertly brought the series into the modern age by weaving in LGBTQ characters whose sexuality isn't even secondary to their characters; it's often a non-issue. And they have no plans on stopping there. As Berlanti revealed to The Advocate in January, he plans to add an openly gay regular character "on the next round of these shows" within the next year. That means there's a chance the spin-off could feature two queer leads, depending on whether Caity Lotz returns as the bisexual Sara Lance.
Berlanti's inclusive attitude is not restricted to LGBTQ representation. Though Arrow and The Flash have each faced their share of whitewashing accusations, they also don't hesitate to racebend in the other direction, casting black actress Candice Patton as Iris West and Maori actor Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson. As it stands now, the Arrow-Flash spin-off includes two lead characters of color, Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl and Franz Drameh as the "mystery hero," Jay Jackson.
The idea of having a third, well-crafted series that features a diverse cast - including a number of kick-ass women - is something I will never turn down. Add to that the opportunity to expand upon a complex, pre-existing universe that can switch between gritty violence and lighthearted slapstick at a moment's notice, and I'm more excited about the Arrow-Flash spin-off than I am about most other DC projects coming up.
And while there are those still hoping for a unified DC Universe, I think the smaller shared universe DC is building on The CW is a much savvier and ultimately satisfactory plan than mimicking the mega-conglomerate MCU. In fact, even Marvel appears to be catching on to the benefits of a smaller shared universe. Daredevil's first season barely featured any of the typical Marvel cross-promotion for its other properties. Instead, the series laid the groundwork for a self-sufficient Netflix universe in which Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist can all do their own things until joining together for The Defenders.
Marvel's apparent Netflix model is exactly what Arrow and The Flash were already doing and to which the spin-off would only add. By narrowing the universe, writers and producers are given the freedom to create the best stories for the characters, rather than get bogged down in bureaucracy or meta winks. Then by expanding the universe to encompass a small number of relevant shows, each with their own shared mythology, viewers still get the pleasures of exploring an intricate, layered world.
That's why, despite the fact pop culture is practically drowning in comic book heroes, I will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Arrow-Flash spin-off. That, and the fact I will never say no to more Ray Palmer.
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