The end of Arrow this fall means a lot of things for The CW. The network is losing its flagship superhero property, the series that started the entire shared DC comics TV universe that defines such a large piece of its brand. What will the Arrowverse look like when the show that gave it its name isn’t around anymore? And where might this universe go from here?
As the Arrowverse has expanded – from one show to two, from two shows to six – its world has become increasingly more interesting, and more diverse. The Flash provided some much needed light to balance Arrow’s darkness. Supergirl was the first CW series led by a female superhero. Black Lightning centered its story on heroes of color, and questioned how their experiences might look different from Barry Allen’s or Kara Zor-El’s. And Batwoman will be the network’s first superhero property led by an openly LGBT character when it premieres this fall. This universe has moved well beyond its initial premise, which was a story about a rich white dude with trust issues and a lust for revenge. And the shows it adds to its roster in the future need to reflect that as well.
There’s been considerable discussion about what sort of series might take Arrow’s spot in the lineup next season, and even more about what the future of the CW’s DC universe will look like beyond that. For the most part, that future feels wide open, given that the network has done the legwork to set up everything from a Superman series to a Constantine reboot. In a perfect world, we’d get to see all of them at some point. But the most exciting – and, frankly, obvious – idea for the next member of the Arrowverse family is actually the one that The CW has just announced.
The CW has secured Arrow actresses Katherine McNamara, Katie Cassidy and Juliana Harkavy to star in a prospective spinoff series centered on the Canaries, an in-universe group of female vigilantes fighting crime in Star City. The idea of an all-female team-up series based on Arrow’s Canaries, is precisely the sort of Birds of Prey-esque spin-off that fans have been asking about for years. And while The CW may not be able to give viewers the Birds of Prey series they so clearly want (due to the fact that the larger DCEU film universe is busy trying to launch that franchise on the big screen), this proposed Canaries series is both a more-than-acceptable substitute and a continuation of the way this franchise likes to adapt “known” comic concepts for television: taking the bones of a familiar comics tale, and turning it into something entirely new along the way.
In this case, that something still gives us the female-focused action series we’ve all been hoping and waiting for—one with a premise that no other superhero series has done to date, and one which provides a necessary perspective in a world of comic book shows that are so frequently dominated by men and male stories.
In the comics, the original Birds of Prey team consisted of Black Canary, Oracle and Huntress, but the group eventually expanded to include appearances from many other popular female heroes, including Hawkgirl, Katana, Catwoman and more. In the Arrowverse, that line-up obviously needs some tweaking, given the roster of characters that currently exist across the network. But Laurel Lance, Dinah Drake and Mia Smoak are certainly a formidable trio, and their existing connections to both one another and the legacy of Arrow itself makes them all a natural fit for any sort of spinoff.
It’s honestly hard to imagine not immediately embracing a story that focuses Black Siren, Black Canary, and Oliver and Felicity’s butt-kicking daughter taking up her father’s Green Arrow mantle, particularly when these three women are all complex and complicated characters in their own rights.
Furthermore, Arrow itself has already shown how well this all-female team-up concept can work, in ways both large and small. Much of Season 7 focused on (finally) building up meaningful relationships between the series’ women, exploring more female-centric storytelling and just generally treating these characters like real, three-dimensional people instead of afterthoughts in Oliver’s story. Last season even featured a Birds of Prey-themed episode, which reunited Laurel, Dinah and Sara Lance in the present-day plot, even as the future storyline, set in 2040, introduced an entire squad of Canaries dedicated to protecting Star City.
In her time as Arrow showrunner, Beth Schwartz has proven particularly adept at writing female characters, giving them a depth and agency that the series often failed to deliver in the past. For the first time, many of the women of Arrow have legitimate relationships with one and among one another. Some are friendly and others less so, but either way, we’re finally getting the chance to see these female characters drive story in their own right. This potential Canaries series seems like a natural next step for Schwartz, a drama that would play to all her strengths a writer, a producer and a showrunner. And the prospect of an all-female superhero team feels both exciting and timely; especially since the current CW properties that are fronted by women (Supergirl and the upcoming Batwoman) are still solo efforts.
An all-female spinoff offers the network the chance to keep a roster of fan favorite characters – and actors, come to that – in its stable, and to actually tell specifically female-focused stories for once in the process. Arrow itself hasn’t always treated its women well – nor have several of the other shows in the CW’s DC universe, if we’re honest. (Though ensemble series Legends of Tomorrow is clearly the best of the lot in this regard.) But Schwartz’s work has shown us that it’s both possible and necessary to tell comic book stories that allow women to exist as fully realized people, with relationships and stories that have nothing to do with the men who have traditionally been positioned at the center of the tale.
It’s past time The CW gave us a show that doesn’t just star or feature a woman, but that dedicates itself to telling women’s stories in the same focused, layered way it has always told Oliver Queen’s and Barry Allen’s. After all, one has to assume that life in the superhero trade – whether as costumed heroes, vigilantes or something in between – probably looks a great deal different for women, who are so often sidelined or underestimated in their everyday lives. As the Arrowverse enters its second phase, it’s time for the CW universe to take another step forward, one which centers the female characters that have carried these stories all along.
Lacy Baugher is a digital producer by day, but a television enthusiast pretty much all the time. Her writing has been featured in Paste Magazine, Collider, IGN, SyFyWire and elsewhere. Literally always looking for someone to yell about Doctor Who and/or the CW superhero properties with, you can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.