Only a few years ago, it was a major event for The CW’s Arrow when Barry Allen showed up for an episode in the second season, setting the scarlet speedster up for his own spin-off show. Now, both Arrow and The Flash have many more seasons under their utility belts, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has joined the fray, Supergirl has flown over from CBS, Black Lightning is set to premiere next year, and there’s even some animated shows with Vixen and the incoming show The Ray.
It seems like there’s no stopping The CW’s DC mastermind Greg Berlanti as he continues to expand the universe. While seeing numerous connected DC shows on the small screen, each with an ever-growing roster of DC heroes outside of their titular character, there are understandable concerns that the Arrowverse is becoming too convoluted. This isn’t a strange occurrence, as DC fans will know, but it always has some sort of similar resolution, likely involving a “Crisis” and a few retcons to get things back on track. Fortunately, the Arrowverse has all the tools it needs to conduct a course correction of this scale, and in fact, reaching even further into The CW’s past could reveal the perfect fulcrum for the Arrowverse to mimic DC comics’ recent Rebirth event with its a fan favorite character: Tom Welling’s Superman.
Tom’s recent revelation that he’d be open to appearing on The Flash opened the door for something much bigger than a simple cameo, should he wish to finally properly don the red cape in a larger capacity. Smallville was one of the most enduring shows on television, lasting for a full ten seasons before it ended in 2011. Across the 218 episodes that made up the show, the writers found ways of including plenty of memorable characters, including a proto-Justice League. But for a Superman that wasn’t even allowed to fly until the last episode, Tom Welling portrayed all the key elements in an iconic – if occasionally wooden – fashion. We’ve already had another televisual version of Supes, as Tyler Hoechlin put on the cape and tights during Supergirl last season, but we’re dealing with the multiverse and a crisis level event here, so two Supermen is a real possibility.
While Hoechlin only showed up for four episodes of Supergirl, fans reacted pretty well to his performance. With Tom Welling’s idea for a Smallville crossover with The Flash, Berlanti and company might as well take advantage of the opportunity and go all out. The Flash is constantly jumping between various alternate realities and manipulating time, Legends of Tomorrow live all over the timestream, Supergirl’s National City lacks a home in the proper Earth-1 of the Arrowverse, and Arrow itself would benefit from having a few character deaths reversed and altering a few other major events that the show has never quite been able to recover from. If The CW introduced Tom Welling as Superman and bring Smallville into continuity while they’re at it, they could use it to start mostly-fresh with DCTV, similar to DC Rebirth.
Quick explainer for those that haven’t read DC Rebirth and how they changed Superman. After Flashpoint rebooted the DC Universe in 2011, readers were given a whole new Clark Kent. And then towards the end of The New 52 in 2016, Clark Kent was killed as we were reintroduced to a pre-Flashpoint Superman who had a son with Lois Lane. DC Rebirth used this pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent as the main Superman from then on, with his son Jon as Superboy. But how does this relate to Smallville and the rest of the DCTV?
It wouldn’t be the most simple of tasks, but in a major crossover (like the one we’re expecting this year), the show could sample from some of the biggest events in DC history, combining elements of the multiverse from Crisis on Infinite Earths, the passing of the Man of Steel from Death of Superman, and older Superman trying to deal with an abundance of young, reckless heroes like in Kingdom Come, and a massive course correction, a new Superman, and the return of some fan-favorite characters from Rebirth.
So, how does The CW pull off something of this scale? It would help to start with a bang, like the death of Superman. If Tyler Hoechlin’s were killed off on Supergirl, it would be a game-changing moment for the guardian of National City. She’d have to expand her heroic duties past her home and start looking out for the rest of her world in the absence of her cousin, forcing her to work through her insecurities as a hero. She’s got loyal friends and family at the DEO, but if a big enough threat arose in Superman’s absence and things get out of hand, she could seek the CW heroes of the alternate Earths, also finding an older version of her cousin in Tom Welling’s Superman, who leads the Arrowverse heroes to victory, but each of their realities would be impacted in the process.
Massive storytelling opportunity aside, just think of the references and easter eggs that they could incorporate into the show because of his arrival. Before Stephen Amell, Justin Hartley was the Green Arrow during Smallville. Tom Welling’s Clark could show this Oliver a few different ways of being a superhero rather than a vigilante. Or telling Barry about his distant relative, Bart Allen, and what he can expect from the future. It opens up a whole world of possibilities regarding different character arcs and potential plotlines.
It’s not that DCTV is a complete mess and the slate needs to be wiped clean – but there are a number of nagging issues with each show that hasn’t been able to be resolved by traditional storytelling means. Sure, a Crisis level event might be a bit heavy-handed, but at least it will look cool while it happens. Besides, why waste the opportunity to have Tom Welling come back to the role of Superman and turn it into a huge plot point that dramatically changes everything?
If we’re living in a world where Flashpoint has had its own TV adaptation and The Flash continues to tease the red skies of a Crisis, surely someone is looking to the bigger comic book events? And whilst Crisis on Earth-X could be a major step up for Arrowverse crossovers, history has shown those punches pulled too many times. The main draw of the crossover will be the radically different Nazi versions of all these heroes that fans love, but since it exists in an alternate reality, it’s doubtful the events of the crossover will reverberate outside the actual Earth-X event and have any impact besides providing the justification needed to put everyone on screen and in-costume at the same time
A soft reboot for the Arrowverse could be exactly what it needs to course correct the beloved characters while ensuring things stay fresh and bold in choosing new storylines. What better way to do that than to use a Superman fans are already familiar with and incorporating Smallville into the Multiverse, giving Oliver Queen a potentially drama free slate in Star City, give Flash some more villains that aren’t a result of the particle accelerator, bring Supergirl properly into Earth-1, and give the Legends a larger multiverse to hop around, and most importantly, Tom Welling will have the chance to be the full-blown version of Superman we never got to see him be. And hey, if he doesn’t want to be involved beyond the crossover, it’s no big deal. Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman can be resurrected and Tom Welling can fly off into the multiverse.
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