[WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for The Flash/Arrow spinoff and both CW shows]
It was only a matter of time that, following the success of The Flash , The CW would look to add another branch onto its Arrow universe (assuming cross-network plans aren't in place). Yet fans were surprised to find that not only would the next spinoff feature a familiar superhero from the established universe, but several - and some superpowered villains along for the ride as well.
Yet the procuders have remained tight-lipped about exactly what story the series will tell, promising only that it will be another departure from the established structures or mythologies. A point made abundantly clear by reports that Caity Lotz would be joining the series, despite her character being killed in Arrow's third season opener. But with time travellers and reincarnated warriors in the mix, it seems almost anything is possible.
With that in mind, we think it best to run down the roles and characters we know, the comic source material that will likely be drawn from, and of course, our theories on how The CW will resurrect a dead heroine. We can't promise to be on target, but potential SPOILERS may lie ahead.
Heroes need villains to fight, so on the surface, confirmation that Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) would be taking his A.T.O.M. Exosuit onto the spinoff alongside Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) made sense. Although the Rogues may best be associated with The Flash, Barry Allen has more than enough problems to worry about aside from monster-of-the-week antagonists.
Recent episodes of The Flash have shown that while Heat Wave's villainy may be an addiction, Cold simply lives for the adrenaline rush - meaning a non-villainous role isn't entirely out of the question. And if the mysterious DC Comics villain set to appear in the spinoff is evil enough, Cold may feel that continuing his life of crime means fighting the good fight (even if only briefly).
The real mystery is the casting of Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein, better known as one half of the 'Firestorm' Matrix. Yet the other half, Ronnie Raymond (played by Robbie Amell) is nowhere to be seen. The hero is expected to make a return appearance on The Flash before the show's finale, but his absence from the spinoff hasn't been missed by fans.
Executive producers Greg Berlanti confirmed to EW that there is a reason Amell hasn't been announced for the show - implying that Firestorm won't be possible - but that he simply "can't say why." There are only so many explanations that could be given: Ronnie won't survive to see the spinoff (odd, given his Firestorm seemed strong enough to support its own spinoff), Professor Stein will only be present for his scientific knowledge (and theories on time travel), or that The CW has plans for Amell they would prefer to keep quiet.
Amell's career is no doubt on the rise, but his experience with The CW means vacating the role would be a shocking development. If Firestorm's return to The Flash takes the fan community by storm, we'd be less than surprised to see the network announce a plan with Amell at its center - but Garber's involvement in the spinoff would remain a mystery. Especially after The Flash showed that the two can't truly remain apart.
It seems that many, if not most of the lingering questions about the spinoff will be explained by the circumstances that bring Rip Hunter (played by Arthur Darvill) into the CW's shared universe. The first casting descriptions hinted that Rip would be a key player in the spinoff, but as important as he may have become in recent years to DC readers, casual fans may need a brief introduction.
Introduced as a time traveler, it was DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" which kicked off the current incarnation of the character. Shaken loose from his own time and universe, and deemed never to have existed, Rip's attempts to find his way home attracts the attention of a group known as The Linear Men. Tasked with keeping the timestream intact, and earning the title of Time Master, Rip has spent the years since preventing, undoing, or simply predicting universe-changing disasters.
It's safe to assume that with the altering of history and time travel being alluded to on The Flash, Rip will have something to say about both Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne's activities; perhaps the "secret mission" he'll be carrying out in the past (the show's present)? Just how large the problems may become is hard to predict, since "Flashpoint" and the "Crisis" itself have both been teased in the show's universe already. But we also know one character that Rip Hunter may bring along with him down the road: Booster Gold.
DC Entertainment boss Geoff Johns has already confirmed that "chances are good" of seeing Booster in CW's universe, so a spinoff already starring one time traveler seems a likely candidate. And considering how the two are now related in the comics, the pair could bring about their own twists in the future.
Adding a time traveler may get conspiracy theories flying, but adding a certified Justice League hero is something else entirely. The likes of Arrow, The Flash, The Atom, Firestorm, and Black Canary will soon be joined by Hawkgirl herself, played by Ciara Renée. Yet fans should expect a change from the usual origin story. Initially, Kendra Saunders was a troubled young woman who took her own life, opening the door for the soul of her great-aunt, Shiera Saunders, the Golden Age Hawkgirl (herself a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian princess).
Blessed with the same powers - and wings - of her great-aunt but none of her memories, Kendra would become a hero herself before the soul of Shiera moved on into the afterlife. This version of the heroine will be familiar to any fan of DC's animated universe, since Kendra has all but laid sole claim to the title in the past few decades. But she isn't the only version that may have an influence on the spinoff.
When the casting descriptions for the spinoff series showed the producers were seeking a "twentysomething Latina" without any mention of reincarnation, it seemed possible that they were looking to the more recent "Earth 2" comic series - a re-imagining of several iconic DC heroes - including Kendra Munoz-Saunders, a new take on Hawkgirl.
A treasure-hunter who stumbled onto an ancient relic that granted her wings, Kendra Munoz-Saunders soon ran into the alternate versions of The Atom, Flash, and even Green Lantern. It seems most likely that the original Kendra will be the biggest influence, but if Kendra shows a knack for firearms or crossbows, don't be too surprised.