Bygeekyviolist, writer at Creators.co
Writer, wanna-be musician, all-around pop culture lover @geekyviolist
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What makes a great female character? What makes a particularly bad one? In a continuity like the Arrowverse, there’s a surprising range of answers.

We've created a way of looking at where the four shows in the Arrowverse – Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow – really stand when it comes to the quality of female characters. The genre, after all, doesn’t always have the best history with women. We looked at each character by asking questions of agency, storyline, and female/male relationships, and evaluating the answers.

This is a consideration only of characters who have been the main member of a cast, with the exception of Maggie Sawyer, who felt more like a supporting character than a main on Supergirl, and Dinah Drake, who hasn’t yet officially jointed the main cast of Arrow.

Alex Danvers ('Supergirl')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Nope.

Does she have agency? Yep.

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yep.

Does she have female relationships? Definitely

Alex, like her sister Thea, occupies a very specific space within the framework of the show, which the series often uses to her own benefit. The relationship between the two sisters is the emotional core of the series, and the show has mined great story material for Alex out of the burdens that come when your family adopts an alien orphan. Season 2 also gave her a great coming-out storyline, and a sweet romance with newcomer Maggie Sawyer. Beyond that, her role as an Agent of the DEO consistently positions her as an important player to the series.

Overall assessment: Represents the show’s refreshing dedication to female relationships all around

Amaya Jiwe ('Legends of Tomorrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? By and large, no

Does she have agency? Yep

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yep

Does she have female relationships? For the most part, yes

Amaya had the burden of essentially filling in the role left by Hawkgirl, but fortunately the show and character both rose to the challenge. Her storylines and input on the series tend to revolve around her history with the Justice Society of America, her duty to her people as Vixen, and the future inheritors of her totem. She’s also defined by her compassion and understanding in relationships with people like Mick and Nate – and there’s been a lot of great material in her bonding with Sara.

Overall assessment: A significant improvement over Hawkgirl as someone to better stand alongside White Canary.

Caitlin Snow ('The Flash')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Too often, yes

Does she have agency? Not nearly enough

Does she have character-specific storylines? Until Killer Frost, no

Does she have female relationships? Nope

Caitlin had the misfortune of being bogged down by redundant storylines over the course of The Flash’s first two seasons. They primarily involved whatever boyfriend or fiancé she was romantically paired with, or mourning the death of. What’s more, she tends to interact with other women only during crossover events. Killer Frost has offered her many new avenues, though the show did her a disservice by robbing her of her agency in the matter... and then having her fall in love with yet another guy. Hopefully the state of Killer Frost in the fourth season will give her better material to work with.

Overall assessment: Killer Frost could finally be the jolt that this character desperately deserves.

Cat Grant ('Supergirl')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? She would never allow it

Does she have agency? And how!

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yep

Does she have female relationships? Very much, yes

Cat Grant is a much-needed suave, snarky, and hilarious voice in the otherwise earnest Supergirl. More than anyone else, she represents the show’s unapologetic feminist angle. In her time during the first season, she was part of great material like her growing rapport with Supergirl, trying to manage relationships with her two sons, and the impressive amount that she’s done to accomplish so much success in her career. Her return late in Season 2 instantly injected energy back into the show. And her mentorship with Kara/Supergirl has proven to be a rare example of a mentor/prodigy relationship built around two women.

Overall assessment: The best representation of the show’s feminist bent, and one of the most refreshing characters in all of Arrowverse.

Felicity Smoak ('Arrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? In Seasons 1 and 2, no, but in Seasons 3 and 4, yes

Does she have agency? Usually

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yes

Does she have female relationships? Sometimes

Felicity had a much better go of things in Arrow’s first two seasons, where she was largely defined by her skills as a computer genius, and her strong sense of morality within Team Arrow. Unfortunately the third season dragged her into romance drama that did her few favors. All of her material and actions largely revolved around that romance, effectively defining her relative to her male relationships. The fifth season has been a rebound for the character, so hopefully things will only improve from there.

Overall assessment: The farther away from a romance with Oliver, the better a character she is.

Iris West ('The Flash')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Emphatically yes

Does she have agency? Joe would never allow it

Does she have character-specific storylines? Nope

Does she have female relationships? Nope

In almost every respect, Iris is everything wrong with the classical approach to women in comic book adaptations. None of her storylines couldn’t easily be given to someone else. Things happen to her in order to drive the storylines of Barry and her father, including her romance with Eddie. The show rarely gives her agency; she’s reactive, and rarely for her own sake. Her entire personality basically hinges on how the men in her life feel about her. Here’s hoping that the show finds a way to move her closer to her badass Earth-2 counterpart.

Overall assessment: Candice Patton deserves so much better than this.

Kara Danvers ('Supergirl')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Not even a little bit

Does she have agency? Tons

Does she have character-specific storylines? Without a doubt

Does she have female relationships? Hell yeah

It helps being the lead of your own show, but that doesn’t lessen how great she is all around. Kara is defined by her family relationships, her lost memories of Krypton, and her innate desire to do good for the people around her. Even when there’s romance involved, it often takes a backseat to more important relationships such as those with Alex and Cat. Kara is proactive, assertive, dorky, intelligent, good-natured, and all around one of the best-defined female superheroes we could hope for.

Overall assessment: At this point in the game, who doesn’t love Supergirl?

Kendra Saunders ('Legends of Tomorrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? To a large degree, yes

Does she have agency? Not really

Does she have character-specific storylines? Kind of

Does she have female relationships? Sometimes

Going in, Kendra looked like she could’ve been an interesting character. Though her introduction on The Flash portended much of what was to come as her emergence as Hawkgirl was framed primarily through the perspective of how events affected Cisco. Thus followed a season of Kendra fretting about whether or not she could ever be anything other than Chay-ara, having a romance with Ray primarily within the context of that question, and then ultimately not getting to have a say in how her own life turned out. Not only did she wind up defined by her relationships with Ray and Carter, but she flew off with Hawkman at the end, cementing her as one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

Overall assessment: Could’ve been something great, but ended up as a lot of wasted potential.

Laurel Lance ('Arrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Somewhat in the first season; afterwards, no

Does she have agency? Definitely

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yep

Does she have female relationships? Definitely

Laurel showed her strength even at the start of Arrow as she pushed back, hard, at anyone who tried to restrict her agency, and usually encountered trouble due to her own actions rather than to drive the plot for one of the male characters. From the second season onward she got even better, as the show explored her grief and alcoholism, and her emergence as Black Canary, all the while re-framing her relationship with her sister as her most important. Though her death was cruel and unnecessary, there were still a lot of positive notes along the way that generally made for a great, well-rounded character.

Overall assessment: Her death was a waste, but she was still a hell of a Black Canary.

Moira Queen ('Arrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Definitely not

Does she have agency? Tons

Does she have character-specific storylines? Yep

Does she have female relationships? Oh yes

Moira wins extra points for being just about the most interesting woman to ever occupy the space of the “mother/aunt” role in a comic book story. In Arrow season one, we saw her rise to challenge of contesting with Malcolm Merlyn, learning just how far she’d go to compromise her own values, morals, and ethics in order to do what she thought was best. The series always had a strong emotional investment in her actions, her personal storylines, and relationships with her children. Shrewd, cunning, and immensely complex, few in the Arrowverse have risen to her level, even years after her untimely death.

Overall assessment: You don’t have to be a superhero to be one of the greatest characters in all of comics.

Sara Lance ('Arrow' and 'Legends of Tomorrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Not even a little bit

Does she have agency? Tons

Does she have character-specific storylines? All the time

Does she have female relationships? Without a doubt

Early in second season of Arrow, Sara benefited from being essentially the female counterpart to Oliver. She came with her own history, her own tragedies, her own motivations, and her own capabilities. From there, things just keep getting better. Her two most important relationships are with women, Laurel and Nyssa. There’s been a great deal of material from her history with the League of Assassins, her own personal demons, and rising to become the new captain of the Waverider. White Canary is a benchmark of quality that very few in Arrowverse – female or male – can compete with.

Overall assessment: With all that in mind, who wouldn't want to be Sara Lance?

Thea Queen ('Arrow')

[Source: The CW]
[Source: The CW]

Is she defined by her male relationships? Nope

Does she have agency? Yep

Does she have character-specific storylines? Oh yes

Does she have female relationships? Definitely

Like her mother, Thea plays an interesting role in that she could easily be defined by her proximity to the show’s lead, yet the series always goes out of its way to offer more for Thea. Even when she's used to drive a storyline for Oliver (like Malcolm Merlyn having her kill Sara; or Ra’s al Ghul effectively killing her to get Oliver to join the League) the show still takes time to explore that material within Thea's own context and for her own sake. She had a long romance with Roy, yet both people served as equal support in the relationship, without either of them being purely defined by it. Her relationships with the likes of Moira and Laurel have been hugely important to the character. She’s consistently proven to be a capable and badass addition to the team.

Overall assessment: Just about one of the coolest sisters you could ask for on a series with a male lead.

Who are your favorite women in Arrowverse? Please share in the comments below.

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