Over the course of the Couch Club’s existence, I’ve written pretty extensively about time travel. My original assignment was covering just The Flash and I’ve stayed pretty close to this lane ever since. I realize you might be saying, “Ashley, time travel comes with the territory.” You would, of course, be right, dear reader. From the jump we know time travel is going to be a major part of The Flash with the whole “Flash Disappears in Crisis” reveal the show has been circling ever since its premiere.
I never really believed we’d get time travel (or something like it) on Arrow, though.
Arrow isn’t dealing with time travel as literally as The Flash does, but beginning with the seventh season and carrying on to the current final run of the show, the moments of each episode that have previously been devoted to flashbacks have now been assigned to flash forwards. We’re experiencing a narrative travel through time, a shift from the past, through the present, all the way to the future. Interestingly enough, The Flash has also been dealing with future storylines. Last season, this took the form of Nora West-Allen’s journey back from 2049 and her tragic demise. This season, it’s dealing with her father’s tragic demise (or so Barry currently believes).
Looking to the future tells us a couple different things about the shows. The obvious is that it can set up a passing of the torch. Knowing that Arrow is on the brink of wrapping up (only a few more months to get in all the Arrow Couch Club articles we can dream up!), it makes sense to explore the legacies of each of the characters who were so pivotal in crafting the CW’s entire DCTV Universe. Depending on how the William/Mia/Connor Hawke/John Diggle Jr. storyline plays out, Arrow’s future timeline literally holds the legacy of the show in its hands. If this team of characters is able to set Star City to rights, then everything Team Arrow has been working toward was successful. They were the ones who set Star City on the path to betterment, and their successors were the ones who got it across the finish line. If the new team fails, however, then the show’s characters and the audience are left with a greater question about the efficacy of vigilantism and superheroes. Either can be an interesting narrative choice if it’s well executed.
On The Flash, it serves largely the same purpose. Since we know Barry disappears—and now, seemingly dies—during the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earth,” that leaves the whole future and its population to pick up the legacy the Flash threw down. (The problem with this, of course, is that it’s not obvious who could possibly fill Barry’s shoes. Nora’s dead, Jay’s retired and Wally is off doing who knows what.) If Barry figures out a way to stave off his seemingly imminent demise, then the future is up for grabs again. Exactly how it all turns out will let us know, as viewers, just how important Barry Allen’s Flash was to Central City and the world after all.
Both shows are using their flash forward time stamps to engage in discourse about exactly how impactful the founding heroes of the DCTV Universe are. They’re rendering a final judgment on their lead heroes as an era is coming to an end for all of them. Sure, The Flash is sticking around while Arrow is coming to a conclusion, but with a new wave of Arrowverse series either debuting or in the development pipeline, one has to wonder if the finish line is in sight for Barry and Team Flash. It’s clear that the end of an era is upon us and it’s affecting all of space and time as far as the CW shows are concerned.
By reaching so far into the future, narratively, we’re able to get a little more distance from the what’s happening in the main storylines and decide whether or not Teams Flash and Arrow are living up to their full potential.
Thinking about how much is going to change by the end of 2019, it makes complete sense to me that the Arrowverse’s first two shows might want to examine their larger impact. There are things to wrap up and, perhaps, mistakes to be acknowledge and embraced. The results will tell us so much about the current snapshot of the universe these shows are leaving us with…
…and perhaps give us a hint at the likely success of the heroes to come.
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, animation and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to Ink Spots, our corner of the site devoted to Young Adult graphic novels. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.