Warning: The following article will contain spoilers of recent and upcoming episodes of Arrow and The Flash. If you wish to remain unspoiled, then read at your own risk.
While Arrow has always been a pretty good show, the second season really elevated it to a new level. Not only did it provide a tense, action packed plot from beginning to end with only a couple episodes that felt at all lackluster, it also introduced us to Barry Allen and began the expansion of what has been termed the DCwU. While it may not have been as great as the second season, the third season of Arrow has worked to expand that universe even more, as has the first season of The Flash (which is arguably even better than Arrow's second season). Now we have been introduced to heroes like Black Canary, Firestorm, and Atom, an the pool of villains that the two shows have created and set up for is enormous. With two more shows on the horizon (the unnamed team-up show and Vixen), the future looks bright for this world. However, what form might that future take? Below, I will do a show-by-show breakdown of where I think this world could and should go.
I suppose it only makes sense to begin at the beginning, right? Arrow was the show that started it all, but as such it is further along in its lifespan than any of the other shows. While Flash is just getting through its first season, Arrow will soon be wrapping up its third. What does this advanced age mean for the show? Well, for one it means we have a bit of a clearer vision of where the show might go in the future, but it also might mean that the show will end (chronologically speaking) before any of the others.
Having had almost three whole seasons to build a world and set up future plot points, it's not hard to see where Arrow will probably be heading, at least in a general sense. The producers have already announced that next season will deal with HIVE at long last, and thus will likely heavily feature ARGUS as well. This is something that has been building for a while, and thus was not an entirely unexpected announcement. However, it is interesting to note that by all indications so far, Oliver will be taking up the mantle of Ra's Al Ghul by season's end and keeping it until at least the next season. With HIVE being next season's focus, does that mean Oliver will be getting out of his new role fairly early next season, or will he keep the role and do battle with HIVE using his new found resources? It certainly would be hard for him to return to Starling City barring some kind of time travel erasure of his identity being revealed (more on time travel when we get The Flash).
Another plot thread that was introduced early on and will need explaining in the coming seasons is that of the Russians. Besides Anatoly, how is Oliver connected to them? Is it just because of Anatoly, or will he interact with them in the flashbacks. I mean, at some point he learned Russian, and I doubt he did so without good reason. Therefore, I would guess that he will deal with the Russians in the season four flashbacks, and then season five will deal with him going back to the island. Why does he need to go back? Does he even go back by choice? How does he get there? If he goes by choice, how does he end up stranded again? Will we have to watch him slowly grow out that wild beard he had in the first episode?
This raises another important question: Will the flashbacks continue at a rate of one year per season, and if so, will the show end when it runs out of flashbacks? That would give Arrow a solid five seasons, which I think would be the perfect number for a few reasons. For one, it prevents it from getting too drawn out and will hopefully allow it to leave a good taste in the mouths of its viewers. Second, it will allow the CW to fill its spot with another superhero show. Recently, the CW has been going pretty hard with comic book shows, but there are only so many it can fit into its schedule, especially when they have shows like Vampire Diaries and Supernatural that likely aren't going anywhere any time soon. Unless CW wants to spawn a new network devoted to superhero and comic book shows (which would honestly not be a bad idea at this point given the popularity of them; in fact, it might make sense for a few networks to band together to create a new one where all of their show could exist in the same world, though that's probably a pipe dream), it's going to have to stop spinning off so that it can leave room for other shows. If Arrow ended in a couple years, then, it could open up another spot for a new show to fill (and by then I'm sure there will be plenty of characters who could carry their own show). That's not to say that they characters of Arrow need be taken out of the universe as they could still guest star on other shows or even become recurring characters on one or another, but it seems unlikely that CW will run too many superhero shows at a time.
A couple more points before we move on to Arrow. First, we still have a set-up for Solomon Grundy that has yet to be taken advantage of. It probably would not have made sense in this season of Arrow, or in the latter half of last season, but with them bringing in some mystical aspects with the League of Assassins and the Lazarus Pit, next season might be the perfect time for Cyrus Gold to come crawling out of the rubble that he was buried under at the end of Arrow's second midseason finale. Lastly, I'd like to talk about Roy. Recently, Colton Haynes has left the show as a series regular (though he will still make one more appearance this season and probably more down the line), and the producers have said it is to pursue other opportunities. However, what would be awesome (if unlikely) is for him to join the Titans spinoff. Roy has a lot of awesome plot lines that have not been explored in Arrow, but Titans would be the perfect place to do so. Not only that, it would tie Titans to Arrow and The Flash, and would likely boost that show's ratings. Now, maybe Colton really does want to get out of the superhero business and pursue a movie career or something, but maybe that's just a smokescreen that the show runners can hide behind before making an announcement, possibly by having his last appearance on Arrow this season involve him bringing in one or more of the Titans, revealing their actors/actresses in the process. This may be a long shot, but I think we can all agree that it would be awesome.
Flash, of course, is a little harder to predict. Seeing as how it's in its infancy, the direction of the show after the first season is murkier than a show like Arrow that has had more time to build mysteries. However, there are some predictions we can make. For one, we know that Wally West is being considered for the second season, which would make a lot of sense. Fill the hole left in Team Flash by Dr. Wells with a sidekick for Barry. Maybe that will be too much for him to handle when he is still in need of a mentor himself right now, but maybe that makes it even better. While Barry struggles to find his way in the world without the aid of Dr. Wells, he also has to struggle with guiding a younger speedster (I'm thinking high school age, since Barry is barely above college age himself, or so it seems) in how to control his powers. I think this would make for a lot of interesting new dynamics going forward, especially since Wally is also Iris' cousin.
Next, there have obviously been a lot of references to Flashpoint in the show so far, so we will likely have that at some point. However, I don't think it will be as soon as many people seem to think it will be. Speculation for the new spinoff series is that it will be a Flashpoint world (and there is quite a bit of evidence supporting this; though I will get into that when I discuss the series below). However, I can't help but think that more groundwork is necessary before they can launch into Flashpoint. Namely, they need to give us more of the pre-stranded-in-time Eobard Thawne before they can do Flashpoint. The new series is rumored to premiere mid-season next year, and in order for that to be true, all the development we will be given for the "real" Eobard Thawne will have to be squeezed into about nine episodes of the Flash. Instead, I think season two should focus on the real Eobard and Barry's relationship with him so that by the end of the second season they could do Flashpoint. This would give them ample time to develop him, but might make problems for the third season.
You see, if Barry creates the Flashpoint world, one has to wonder if this will affect all the shows on at that time, or just Flash? Perhaps they could set it up so that Barry is in one dimension for a time while the other shows are set in the parent dimension, but that might not satisfy all the fans. After all, when he alters time he affects the world he is in. One timeline ceases to exist while a new one is born, and while this is later reversed, it would be odd to have to original timeline airing alongside the altered one as if nothing has happened. One solution would be to do a Flashpoint miniseries, or perhaps a TV movie, using characters from all the shows and air it between the two seasons at some point. Of course, this means a lot of extra work and a lot less vacation time for everyone involved, but it is possible.
Another problem with Flashpoint is characters. One of the best parts of Flashpoint is Thomas Wayne's Batman, but will the show be able to us him? What about Aquaman and Wonder Woman, two of the most important players in Flashpoint? Either they have to get access to these characters (and find ways to introduce them into original timeline at some point before Flashpoint), or they have to craft an all new story, in which case why bother doing Flashpoint at all? If Supergirl and Titans are connected to Arrow and Flash, this might solve some of the problems (at least then you have the implication of Superman and Batman, if not the characters themselves), but that might in turn present its own new ones (i.e. getting networks to work together).
Regardless, there have definitely been some implications of some sort of Flashpoint-esque storyline on the horizon, so only time will tell, really.
So, right now my predictions involve the introduction of Wally West in season two and possibly a Flashpoint event. Also, it was rumored that Cisco might finally become Vibe in season two, and Caitlin might become Killer Frost. The producers have also stated that they would like to start the season with a huge Rogues episode, possibly bringing all the ones we've been introduced to so far into play. With Captain Cold and Heatwave moving over to the spinoff, however, I doubt that the Rogues will be the big bads of the season. At this point, the only real candidate I have is, as I said earlier, young Eobard Thawne. So, here's how my season two looks: We get an awesome Rogues episode with Captain Cold, Heatwave, Golden Glider, Trickster, Weather Wizard, Pied Piper and possibly Captain Boomerang, though I don't know how he would be able to get involved; the main villain, who we encounter more than a few times (in order to properly develop him), is a younger Eobard Thawne, who's plot line culminates into some sort of Flashpoint event (which, either through a miniseries/TV movie or some other method, affects the whole DCwU); along the way we are introduced to more heroes and villains, like Vibe, Killer Frost, maybe Mirror Master and Top, or someone like Rip Hunter (who would then move over to the new show) or Booster Gold, since time travel is involved; and Barry gets a side kick in the form of Wally West. Also, it might be in this season that Iris' relationship with Eddie deteriorates and she moves on to Barry.
Now, speculating even farther ahead, we have season three. Barry and Wally will have a strong mentor/mentee bond by this point, which can be further developed and tested throughout the season. What Team Flash could possibly look like by this point (with Wells gone, Caitlin a supervillain, Cisco now a hero in his own right, and Eddie and Barry not exactly seeing eye to eye) I cannot say, but we may have an entirely new cast of characters helping him out. Now, this season I could see Eddie being the villain. However, the writers would have to reveal that either his middle name is Eddie and his first name is really Malcolm, or that his middle name is Malcolm. It wouldn't be the first time the creators of these shows have done something like that, after all.
For those of you who don't know, Malcolm Thawne is the identity of Cobalt Blue, a villain who can control a blue flame that can siphon Barry's speed. He also happens to be Barry's twin brother (clearly he would have to be fraternal in this world) who was given to a different family (the Thawnes) at birth. While not the biggest Flash villain in the comics, he could provide a lot of interesting drama on this show. For one, Barry will have stolen Iris from him, which will fuel his rage and jealousy and lead him to want to exact revenge, and for another there can be a lot of interesting material for Barry figuring out just who exactly Eddie is and what happened that lead to their separation.
Now, one thing that distinguishes the Flash from Green Arrow in the comics is that Flash has historically been a legacy hero, meaning that multiple heroes have taken on the identity of Flash over the years. Barry Allen was mostly dead for 23 years in the comics. Therefore, I think Barry should die at some point in the show and Wally should take over. Depending on how long the DCwU lasts, he could be revived later on like he was in the comics, but I think it would be interesting to kill him off somewhere down the line. For one, it can give the show a much longer life than Arrow. Arrow would be hard to keep fresh in the long run, but when you can change your main character, essentially shaking the show to its core and completely changing things up, without having to end the show, you can get a lot of material and keep things fresh for a long time.
Now, I see to potential story lines here: 1. Wally stays in the show for season two and season three, then Barry dies and he takes over, or 2. Wally leaves either at the end of season two or midway through season three to join the Titans (if the shows are connected and that show is still around) or to form a team along with Roy and whatever other sidekicks exist at the time (Static Shock, maybe? Supergirl?), and Barry makes it through season four before dying. I doubt that Barry's death will happen in the show the same way it did in the comics (i.e. I doubt they will do Crisis on Infinite Earths, though I suppose it is possible), but however it happens, I think that it should. If the latter approach is taken, that leaves a question of who season four's villain would be (Rogues? Savitar and his speed cult? Gorilla Grodd? It's way to early to speculate on that, I suppose), but season five's would almost certainly be Hunter Zolomon.
Of course, considering the rate at which the CW universe is expanding, it's hard to say with any real certainty what shape Flash will take over the years. However, given what we know right now, this seems most likely to me (although, you could potentially swap seasons two and three, with Flashpoint occurring at the end of that and possibly being what results in Barry's death; that would give them more time to develop both Eobard Thawne and other necessary characters).
Speculation about the new spinoff tends to focus on one of two things: Flashpoint or some sort of Justice League. I will present evidence and counter evidence for each theory below.
Flashpoint: The first piece of evidence for this is the rather strange casting announcements. Martin Stein, but no Ronnie Raymond. Captain Cold and Heatwave are apparently working with the heroes. Caity Lotz will be appearing, though her Arrow character is dead. All of these things could make sense if this were a different timeline, one in which Sara never died, Ronnie never fused with Stein, and Cold and Heatwave became heroes instead of villains. In fact, in the Flashpoint story line in the comics, Cold was a hero operating under the name Citizen Cold. He was Central City's main hero, and many of his enemies were the same as Flash's. Also, the show is rumored to be premiering mid-season next year, which means it could be an interlude in which the story of Flashpoint plays out so that by the time Arrow and Flash return in the spring, they are back in the original timeline. The evidence against the theory, however, is, as I mentioned above, the timing of it (young Eobard etc,) the fact that, right now at least, Grant Gustin isn't even involved, which he would be if it were Flashpoint, and lastly that announcing that it was a Flashpoint series would instantly spoil the mid-season finale of Flash season 2.
Justice League: While it may not call itself Justice League since it doesn't feature the notable faces, it may well grab the name of some important team from the comics (Justice Society, maybe, or Justice League of America, since that features a bit of a different lineup). The counter evidence for Flashpoint is, of course, supporting evidence for this theory, but then we also need to account for the evidence that Flashpoint does have. We'll go one character at a time. Sara: there is no indication as of yet that Lotz will even be playing Sara, or that if she is that it will be in present day. Plus, with the introduction of Lazarus Pits, it's possible that she is brought back either through them or in some other way. Firestorm: speculation here tends to be that Ronnie will die at the end of Flash season one, and the Firestorm Matrix will thus consist of Stein and Jason Rusch, who would be the last "uncast" hero for the show. The reason they wouldn't have announced that the character has already been cast, of course, would be that it would spoil things for Flash. Other evidence is that interviews with cast and creators have hinted at tragedy for Caitlin in the near future. Cold and Heatwave: I don't think it has been announced that these guys will necessarily be heroes in the series, and if they are it may not be for the right reasons.
Alternative Theory: There were rumors a little while back of a Suicide Squad spinoff. Although they seemed to be scaling back on the SS in Arrow (perhaps because of the movie) they could be doing so just to throw us off the scent. Suicide Squad would explain why heroes and villains are working together, and though SS has traditionally been a group composed mostly of villains, it wouldn't be too outside the realm of possibility that the Waller of this universe would recruit heroes, whether they wanted to work for her or not. I could see Atom and Firestorm both signing up in an effort to do good in the world, and maybe Rip Hunter needs to be there to help mend time in some way, and then the other three might be more forcefully recruited by Waller. As for Caity Lotz, I'm not sure who should be playing or how should would be involved, but this is a third possibility, I suppose.
Lastly, there are rumors that a character that was introduced in one of the other two shows would be bouncing around between all three series, and while that seems likely to be Felicity due to her skills and relationships with Ray, Oliver, and Barry, it could also be someone like Cisco, who also skills that would be useful on all three shows.
I'm not sure where Vixen will fit into the world aside from the fact that Barry and Oliver will guest star on her show and she will appear on one of theirs, but it could be a way to do some of the characters that would be too hard to do in live action at this point in time, or to introduce other lesser known characters to the world that could later go on to have live action appearances.
All in all, the future of the DCwU is looking pretty bright. Feel free to post any thoughts in the comments section below.