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Arrowverse: The Curious Case of the Shifted Backstory

Arrowverse: The Curious Case of the Shifted Backstory

By Amelia Emberwing Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Welcome to the Couch Club, our column devoted to all things #DCTV! This week, Amelia Emberwing discusses how when it comes to familiar characters, the Arrowverse likes to keep things fresh.

Since its inception, the Arrowverse has played with the backstories of its characters. In the first season of Supergirl, we immediately fell in love with Hank Henshaw. Readers of the comics knew that love would burn us sooner or later, understanding that Henshaw was destined to become the dreaded Cyborg Superman. The writers, clever as they were, had something completely different in mind. That creativity would then lead to one of the coolest reveals in the universe’s history by introducing J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, to a world of unsuspecting viewers. Even better, it would be done in a way that wouldn’t rob us of the eventual awesomeness of seeing the aforementioned Cyborg Superman come to life.

We’d see a similar formula play like gangbusters with The Flash and eventually Legends of Tomorrow’s Leonard Snart. The Captain Cold we know from the comics may currently lead the Rogues with an ice-cold fist, but the television series each saw a chance to make him something more. Watching Snart’s evolution from cold-blooded villain to annoyed antihero was one of the first gifts Legends gave us. The very same can be said for his often-frustrating teammate, Mick Rory, even if his progress didn’t come along until his best friend had died to save the team.

Before the show came to a close, we saw Arrow play this trick with fan-favorite John Diggle. Ever since the throwaway line about the Dig of another Earth wearing a power ring was dropped, fans had been clamoring to see OTA’s voice of reason pick up the Green Lantern mantle. It was expected to get a nod in the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, but the crossover came and went without the Lantern Corps (at least on Earth Prime). As it would happen, Arrow had simply been waiting to drop that one final surprise in its finale. Sometimes your brother dies, sometimes the multiverse throws a power ring at you via a meteor. Weird stuff goes down in Star City is all I’m sayin’.

Now that we've met the long hinted at Sue Dearbon (Natalie Dreyfuss), we're seeing this trend continue. Like the other characters across the universe, this shift has worked out well for The Flash. Sue's introduction doesn't just start a new chapter for the intrepid Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer), it breathes new life into a long beloved character.

That’s not to say that The Flash’s Sue is without her roots. We see many parallels to her comic book origins; those parallels just happen to tie directly back to her rather than Ralph. For example, when Ralph first meets the debutante in the comics, it's under the guise that he's there to catch a jewel thief. When we meet her on The Flash, we see something similar. It's just her own origin rather than Ralph's deceit. Or should I say it's her deceit rather than Ralph's? The girl has a talent, and it’s one that Ralph Dibny was never prepared for.

Sue’s penchant for deception ties in nicely with the film noir aspects of Ralph's character so far. Every hardboiled detective has his femme fatale, and watching the Private Investigator meet his match ended up being way more fun than it had any right to be. Even with that in mind, this shift in origin means something incredible for the character. Namely that she’ll be her own woman with her own goals before her inevitable courtship with the Elongated Man.

All of that illustrates an important parallel between all of these newly realized characters. That parallel lies in the fact that each one of them has enough ties back to their original character to be recognizable. There are certain core traits that are allowed to remain, otherwise you may as well just shift to a different character all together. Now, unfortunately Sue Dearbon comes from a time when a lot of female characters’ sole purpose was to be a supporting character in their male counterparts’ heroic tales. Does this mean that it’s a pretty sure thing that we’re going to see Sue and Ralph fall in love? Absolutely. Is that a bad thing? Not at all! At least, so long as they continue her arc as her own person first.

Natalie Dreyfuss and Hartley Sawyer’s chemistry was undeniable from both an on-screen standpoint and a narrative one. Ol’ Sue might be an exceptional liar of the highest order, but you can’t fool Cecile Horton’s gift. Though the feelings there are undeniable, it’ll likely be the Black Hole and their impressive lineup of baddies that will bring Ms. Dearbon back into the lives of Team Flash. Besides, the girl doesn’t really have another five years for Dibny to catch up on her whereabouts.

The Arrowverse has proven time and time again that a little change can be a good thing. Though Arrow is gone, the universe the series created is still going strong. History tells us we’ll see a lot more characters join the fray. Some of them will play it closer to their origins, but some will get the exciting treatment that the likes of J’onn J’onnz, Captain Cold and Sue Dearbon have. And, if trends are to be believed, those new characters will be just as exciting as the ones you already know and love.


The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. Visit our official Flash page for more news, articles and features on Barry Allen and Team Flash.

Amelia Emberwing is a new contributor to the Couch Club. Look for her writing on Birth.Movies.Death., Collider and Slashfilm, and follow her on Twitter at @BrowncoatAuror.