A DC TV Universe Timeline Guide: Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow

Wondering how all the DC universe TV spin-offs, crossovers and webseries fit together? We have the answer...

In October 2012, The CW launched the first season of Arrow, after wrapping up no fewer than ten seasons of Superman origin show Smallville a year before. Arrow was a completely new take on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, in a new universe that had nothing to do with Smallville or its version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. The series proved quite the hit for The CW, and a second season renewal inevitably followed.

In season two, we were introduced to forensic scientist Barry Allen, better known to DC Comics readers as The Flash. Arrow got a third season, The Flash got his own TV show with great success, and the live action shared DC Comics universe on TV was born. And with it the question: how does it all fit together?

Warner Bros. TV and DC Comics already had a number of TV shows in the past, but after the success of Arrow other DC Comics-based series emerged in rapid succession on various networks: The Flash on The CW, Constantine on NBC, and Gotham on Fox. Unlike Marvel’s approach to film and TV, these shows were not necessarily set in the same universe and had nothing to do with DC Comics movies such as Man Of Steel. Only The Flash had a clear connection with Arrow. As well as being an Arrow spin-off, the two shows shared first one, then several crossover episodes. After Constantine was cancelled by NBC after just 13 episodes, the first network crossover took place, with John Constantine visiting Arrow in its fourth season on The CW.

Just before that, DC welcomed another addition to the family, this time in animated form with Vixen, a web series from digital platform The CW Seed. A further live action addition came after the second, now annual, crossover between Arrow and The Flash: time travel show Legends Of Tomorrow, featuring characters from both shows. Meanwhile Gotham stayed unconnected at Fox, as did new show Supergirl over at The CW’s big sister network CBS (Warner Bros. and CBS have a 50/50 stake in The CW). At least, until The Flash broke through the walls between networks and payed Supergirl a visit, soon followed with the news Supergirl would move from CBS to The CW for her second season.

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As you can see, it all gets a little difficult to follow. So, how best to watch these shows? There are multiple options.

One and done

While inter-connected, each show can obviously be watched in its own right. If the broodiness of Arrow for example, isn’t your cup of tea, you’re fine sticking with the lighter tone of The Flash. However, there may be a few instances where you might find yourself wondering who they are talking about, who that person is that everyone on the show seems to know, or what event the characters are talking about. To keep up, you just need to add the other shows’ crossover episodes to your chosen series.

Watching by airdate

All the mentioned shows air weekly, so there is no problem in watching two or more shows in airdate order. Last season The Flash aired on Tuesday, Arrow on Wednesday, and Legends Of Tomorrow on Thursday. The only possible problem here might be that you have to go from one story arc to another. So this might not be the ideal viewing order if binge-watching.

The total package

The most complete way to watch all the DC shows (unsurprisingly) is to simply watch all the DC shows. You can do this by airdate, as mentioned above, but also by story arc. Often there are a number of episodes connected to each other in some way, for example by cliff-hanger. This is the logical approach if you want to know what happens next on the show you are watching, instead of getting pulled out of the story flow by having to watch an episode of a different show first. The following list is a suggested and entirely unofficial watch order for the most pleasurable viewing experience. Of course, you can cut out a show at your own choosing.

The watch order

Arrow Season 1 and Arrow Season 2:

Everything here is quite easy to follow, just go with the episode order. There is a sponsored webisode series called Blood Rush, that can be placed early in Season 2, around episode 5. Note that this webisode series has zero influence on the overall narrative, is just an inch away from being a straight-up commercial, and can be skipped.

If you like, you can read the 12 issues (cut to 36 issues digitally) of the Arrow comic that runs alongside Season 1. You can also read the comic Arrow Season 2.5 consisting of 12 issues (cut to 24 issues digitally), which takes place between Seasons 2 and 3. It is important to note that the canon status of these comics are secondary to the TV series itself. 

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Arrow Season 3, The Flash Season 1, Vixen Season 1:

1. The Flash episode 1 “Pilot”

Next to the fact that The Flash airs the day before Arrow, this episode has the first crossover between the two series that works best when this episode is viewed first. That’s why we start here.

2. Arrow episode 1 “The Calm” and episode 2 “Sara”

As The Flash’s first episode was self-contained story-wise, it’s then over to the first episodes of Arrow, that flow into each other. Episode 2 does not flow directly into episode 3, so we go back to The Flash after this.

3. The Flash episode 2 “Fastest Man Alive” and episode 3 “Things You Can’t Outrun”

These episodes don’t really flow into each other, but episode 4 needs them to be placed here.

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4. Arrow episode 3 “Corto Maltese” and episode 4 “The Magician”

These episodes flow into each other.

5. The Flash episode 4 “Going Rogue”

Felicity was not in episode 4 of Arrow, this episode explains why.

6. Arrow episode 5 “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”

7. The Flash episode 5 “Plastique”, episode 6 “The Flash is Born” and episode 7 “Power Outage”

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These three episodes are self-contained. However, it’s a good idea to keep the episode numbers as close together as possible, because the big crossover is around the corner, hence them being grouped together.

8. Arrow episode 6 “Guilty” and Arrow episode 7 “Draw Back Your Bow”

These episodes flow into each other, and episode 7 sets up part of the big crossover.

9. The Flash episode 8 “Flash vs. Arrow” and Arrow episode 8 “The Brave and the Bold”

The first big crossover between the two series!

10. The Flash episode 9 “The Man in the Yellow Suit”

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11. Arrow episode 9 “The Climb”

While the following episodes of Arrow are the direct fallout of this one, the passage of time is best shown by going back and forth between Arrow and The Flash for the coming episodes.

12. The Flash episode 10 “Revenge of the Rogues”

13. Arrow episode 10 “Left Behind”

14. The Flash episode 11 “The Sound and the Fury”

15. Arrow episode 11 “Midnight City”

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16. The Flash episode 12 “Crazy for You”

17. Arrow episode 12 “Uprising”

18. The Flash episode 13 “Nuclear Man” and episode 14 “Fallout”

These episodes flow directly into each other.

19. Arrow episode 13 “Canaries” and episode 14 “The Return”

These episodes flow into each other because of the flashback nature of episode 14.

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20. Vixen Season 1

Vixen Season 1 is a series of six webisodes, each about five minutes in length. “Season” might be a bit of an overstatement here, as you might imagine. Vixen is placed here because both The Flash and Arrow guest star. The latter will have a costume change soon, so it cannot be set later.

21. Arrow episode 15 “Nanda Parbat” and episode 16 “The Offer”

The titular offer is made in episode 15 and is elaborated in episode 16.

22. The Flash episode 15 “Out of Time” and episode 16 “Rogue Time”

These episodes flow directly into each other.

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23. The Flash episode 17 “Tricksters”

24. The Flash episode 18 “All Star Team Up”

Ray Palmer and Felicity visit Central City. Because of the event Felicity witnesses in the next episode of Arrow, it is highly unlikely she is up for a city trip after it.

25. Arrow episode 17 “Suicidal Tendencies”, episode 18 “Public Enemy”, episode 19 “Broken Arrow”, and episode 20 “The Fallen”

These episodes all flow into each other.

26. The Flash episode 19 “Who is Harrison Wells?”, episode 20 “The Trap”, and episode 21 “Grodd Lives”

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These episodes flow into each other.

27. Arrow episode 21 “Al Sah-him” and episode 22 “This is Your Sword”

These episodes flow into each other.

28. The Flash episode 22 “Rogue Air”

The Flash gets a request that is directly connected to the next episode of Arrow.

29. Arrow episode 23 “My Name is Oliver Queen”

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The season finale.

30. The Flash episode 23 “Fast Enough”

The season finale.

There is also a 12 issue (cut to 24 issues digitally) tie-in comic book for this season of The Flash called The Flash: Season Zero. However, a good chunk of it has become non-canon, because the TV show had a different origin for a certain fish-headed character in Season 2.

Constantine Season 1

Constantine Season 1 is also its only season. It has thirteen episodes. To be honest, you can watch this show at any point before Arrow Season 4, but it might work best close to his appearance in Arrow.

Constantine does introduce a big bad that probably needs to be addressed at some point by one of the other shows to avoid a huge continuity issue.

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Arrow Season 4, The Flash Season 2, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1, Supergirl Season 1

This is where it gets really tricky, with four shows to navigate between. Supergirl takes place in a parallel universe, or “Earth” if you will, a concept introduced in The Flash’s second season. You might wonder why she is added here, but it will all work out in the end.

1. Supergirl episode 1 “Pilot”, episode 2 “Stronger Together” and episode 3 “Fight or Flight”

Supergirl is the new character and airs first every week, so we start off with her introduction.

2. Arrow episode 1 “Green Arrow”

This self-contained episode returns Oliver Queen to Starling, I mean, Star City.

3. The Flash episode 1 “The Man Who Saved Central City”, episode 2 “Flash of Two Worlds”, episode 3 “Family of Rogues”, episode 4 “The Fury of Firestorm” and episode 5 “The Darkness and the Light”

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These episodes all flow into each other.

4. Arrow episode 2 “The Candidate” and episode 3 “Restoration”

These episodes flow into each other.

5. Supergirl episode 4 “How Does She Do It?”

A self-contained episode that fits well in the break between Arrow episodes.

6. Arrow episode 4 “Beyond Redemption”, episode 5 “Haunted” and episode 6 “Lost Souls”

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These episodes all flow into each other.

7. Supergirl episode 5 “Livewire”

Another self-contained episode that fits here well. Also, it’s Thanksgiving, and as Arrow and The Flash will have episodes at Christmas, we need this Supergirl episode to play at some time before those.

8. The Flash episode 6 “Enter Zoom”

9. Arrow episode 7 “Brotherhood”

10. Supergirl episode 6 “Red Faced”, episode 7 “Human for a Day”, episode 8 “Hostile Takeover” and episode 9 “Blood Bonds”

These episodes all flow into each other.

11. The Flash episode 7 “Gorilla Warfare”

While a direct follow-up to episode 6, it is said in the episode that some time has passed since.

12. The Flash episode 8 “Legends of Today” and Arrow episode 8 “Legends of Yesterday”

The second big crossover between The Flash and Arrow! As the episode titles show, this crossover sets up the new show Legends Of Tomorrow.

13. Arrow episode 9 “Dark Waters”, episode 10 “Blood Debts”

These episodes directly flow into each other.

14. Supergirl episode 10 “Childish Things”

Another self-contained episode.

15. The Flash episode 9 “Running to Stand Still”, episode 10 “Potential Energy” and episode 11 “The Reverse-Flash Returns”

Episode 9 is just like Arrow’s episode 9 a Christmas-themed episode, we want to keep those close together. These episodes also flow into each other.

16. Supergirl episode 11 “Strange Visitors From Another Planet”, episode 12 “Bizarro”, episode 13 “For the Girl Who Has Everything” and episode 14 “Truth, Justice and the American Way”

These episodes all flow into each other.

17. Legends of Tomorrow episode 1 “Pilot, Part 1”, episode 2 “Pilot, Part 2” and episode 3 “Blood Ties”

The start of the second new show this season! These episodes all flow into each other, but the “Part 1” and “Part 2” probably made that clear already…

18. Arrow episode 11 “A.W.O.L.”, episode 12 “Unchained” and episode 13 “Sins of the Father”

These episodes can be grouped together.

19. The Flash episode 12 “Fast Lane”, episode 13 “Welcome to Earth-2”, episode 14 “Escape From Earth-2” and episode 15 “King Shark”

These episodes all flow into each other.

20. Legends of Tomorrow episode 4 “White Knights”, episode 5 “Fail-Safe” and episode 6 “Star City 2046”

These episodes all flow into each other.

21. Arrow episode 14 “Code of Silence”, episode 15 “Taken” and episode 16 “Broken Hearts”

22. Legends of Tomorrow episode 7 “Marooned”, episode 8 “Night of the Hawk”, episode 9 “Left Behind” and episode 10 “Progeny”

All these episodes are connected.

23. The Flash episode 16 “Trajectory” and episode 17 “Flash Back”

24. Supergirl episode 15 “Solitude”, episode 16 “Falling” and episode 17 “Manhunter”

These episodes flow into each other. Episode 17 has an open ending, but this one will soon be resolved.

25. Arrow episode 17 “Beacon of Hope”, episode 18 “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” and episode 19 “Canary Cry”

These episodes flow into each other.

26. The Flash: Chronicles of Cisco

A four part web series, consisting of some Cisco shenanigans.

27. Supergirl episode 18 “Worlds Finest” and The Flash episode 18 “Versus Zoom”

A case of overlap between these episodes. In The Flash’s “Versus Zoom” we see The Flash break the barrier between Earths. This is a quick event that is not mentioned in the episode, only shown. However, this breach has to be The Flash’s visit to Supergirl’s Earth, because of his costume modification. After this each episode flows into the next on of their own show.

28. Supergirl episode 19 “Myriad” and episode 20 “Better Angels”

The first show to finish its season. It finishes open-ended, but that’s for next season…

29. The Flash episode 19 “Back to Normal”

Follow-up to episode 18. However, there might have been more time between these episodes than between Supergirl’s, so it is placed here.

30. Arrow episode 20 “Genesis”, episode 21 “Monument Point”, episode “Lost in the Flood” and episode 23 “Schism”

The second show to finish its season. These episodes all flow into each other.

31. Legends of Tomorrow episode 11 “The Magnificent Eight”, episode 12 “Last Refuge”, episode 13 “Leviathan”, episode 14 “River of Time”, episode 15 “Destiny” and episode 16 “Legendary”

The third show to finish its season. This bunch of episodes all flow into each other, with an open ending for next season. Episode 16 “Legendary” has a moment during Arrow’s final episodes, however it also has a moment after these final episodes of Arrow, so these episodes of Legends of Tomorrow are placed here.

32. The Flash episode 20 “Rupture”, episode 21 “The Runaway Dinosaur”, episode 22 “Invincible” and episode 23 “The Race of His Life”

The fourth and final show to finish its season. These episodes all flow into each other, and because of the ramifications of the finale, these episodes are placed last.

Note that Vixen’s Season 2 will probably take place somewhere in this period, but as it has not yet been released, there is no telling where it will fit in. Furthermore, there are multiple tie-in comics. Arrow has a Malcolm Merlyn comic chronicling his life, called Arrow: The Dark Archer. Written by Merlyn himself John Barrowman and his sister Carole Barrowman. Supergirl also has a tie-in comic, Adventures Of Supergirl, written by Sterling Gates, who also wrote the regular Supergirl comic between 2008 and 2011.

What about the other shows: Gotham, iZombie, Lucifer…

You might be wondering where this leaves a number of other DC Comics TV shows, like Gotham. Gotham stands alone and doesn’t seem to have any connection with the other shows. However, early in season 1 of that show a building with a neon green “Q” logo was spotted. While the makers of the show said that it meant nothing, it might just be a Queen Consolidated office building. Next to the fact that Gotham can be set in just about any modern time period, it might be set in Arrow’s past.

There are also a lot of hints towards Batman in Arrow and The Flash, like Harley Quinn’s cameo and the mention of Wayne Tech and showing of Ace Chemicals. And in Legends of Tomorrow we are introduced to Nyssa’s older sister Talia Al Ghul. However, Nyssa liked to introduce herself as “Heir to the Demon,” prompting the question of Talia being disinherited and why. Maybe because she got pregnant with the child of a man from Gotham who left the League of Assassins? Having said all that, in The Flash’s The Chronicles of Cisco, Cisco directly mentions Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. So is Batman a real superhero in the world of Arrow and The Flash? Answers on a postcard please.

Some of you might also be wondering why The CW’s iZombie is not included. This is quite simple, it’s based upon a Vertigo comic, a DC Comics imprint, and it has nothing to do with the DC Comics shows. Another Vertigo adaption is Lucifer. This show is also standalone, but in this case, who knows? The Lucifer comic did spin off from Hellblazer, the comic starring John Constantine. There are also a number of older DC Comics shows, like Human Target. It’s safe to say that the only old DC Comics show that might be connected to the current shared universe on TV, might be The Flash show from 1991, especially as we saw a glimpse of it when the current The Flash TV show travelled between parallel universes.

The future

Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl will all return imminently, and will all be involved with the annual big crossover. Another addition to this universe will be Freedom Fighters: The Ray. An animated series for The CW Seed akin to Vixen. Furthermore, FOX has ordered a Pilot episode for Black Lightning from Greg Berlanti who famously produces the previously mentioned shows. It is unclear if this new series will be set in the same universe, though.

What we do know is that NBC’s upcoming DC Comics comedy series Powerless will almost certainly be unconnected to any other show. Its trailer mentioned prominent superheroes like Wonder Woman, and we have heard nothing about her on the other shows. But who knows? Maybe in the end, it’s all connected…