Figuring out the Arrowverse can be a daunting task, especially if you’re discovering it for the first time. What show should you watch first? Why is it called the Arrowverse? If you’ve seen Supergirl, where do you start with The Flash or Arrow? What about the time travelers from Legends of Tomorrow, where do they fit in? As an avid fan of the Arrowverse (I’ve been watching since the Arrow pilot debuted in 2012) I’m here to help you navigate the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of the timeline.
This article will cover the length and breadth of the Arrowverse timeline. The image above gives you a quick guide with where to start. The places where the shows intersect signal a character’s first appearance or a crossover that led to a spin-off. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the details below.
Start with Arrow
The best place to start your journey into the Arrowverse is with Arrow. We only have the Arrowverse because of this show, hence the name the ARROWverse. Arrow premiered on October 10, 2012. The pilot episode featured a bearded Oliver Queen being rescued from a deserted island. Stephen Amell, who plays the title character, opened the episode with his character’s voice over. It was a chilling narrative laid over a dark story of rescue and revenge. The episode set up Oliver’s quest. It introduced “the list.” It showed how Oliver’s father, Robert, died and how Oliver intended to right his father’s wrongs. If it wasn’t for this episode, we wouldn’t have The Flash. We wouldn’t have Supergirl. We wouldn’t have Legends of Tomorrow.
The success of Arrow‘s first season gave it a second, which led to the idea of a spin-off. While the writers and producers of Arrow were crafting their second season, they were also looking into a way of introducing Barry Allen — the titular hero of The Flash comics. Rumors began to swirl that Barry had been cast and that his show would be getting a “backdoor pilot” on Arrow. On the night of December 4, 2013, Grant Gustin (Glee) made his Arrowverse debut in the two-part episode “The Scientist.” Grant’s portrayal of Barry Allen as a lighthearted, optimistic, and clumsy know-it-all was captivating. In the episode and it’s second part, “Three Ghosts,” Barry discovered Oliver’s secret identity as the Hood/Green Arrow and saved his life. Barry made Oliver his mask and became a pseudo part of the Arrow team. When Barry went back home, a lightning bolt hits his room and the screen went black. The groundwork for a superhero origin story was laid perfectly. Then, the success of those episodes green-lit the spin-off and The Flash was a go!
Next, Watch The Flash
By October of 2014, The CW now had two superhero shows on air: Arrow and The Flash. While Arrow was heading into its third season, The Flash was heading into its first. The first episode of The Flash began in a similar way to Arrow, with Barry’s voice over. As if speaking from the clouds, Barry narrated his journey, which started 14 years ago, on the night of his mother’s murder. The show then jumped to the night of Arrow‘s “Three Ghosts,” where Barry got hit by lightning. The episode then flash-forwarded to nine months later, when Barry woke up from a coma. From there, Arrow and The Flash’s timelines ran concurrently and continue to do so even now.
The Flash‘s first season focused on Barry’s quest to solve his mother’s murder. He also learned how to use his powers and became friends with the science team at S.T.A.R. Labs. It’s during The Flash Season 1 that we got our first official Flash/Arrow crossover. The event was promoted as “The Flash vs. Arrow” and was set up as a two-night crossover, with the first episode airing on The Flash and the second episode, “The Brave and the Bold” airing on Arrow. Oliver and Barry were forced to fight each other by the Rainbow Raider, they then teamed-up to take him and Boomerang down. The crossover was a ratings hit and the network started work on replicating the magic with not one, but two new series with crossover potential.
Then Watch Legends of Tomorrow
Here’s where the timeline gets a little crazy. In the Spring of 2015, while Arrow and The Flash were wrapping up their current seasons, The CW ordered a third show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Then, The CW’s sister network, CBS, ordered their own superhero show, Supergirl. The plan was to launch Supergirl‘s first season with Arrow‘s fourth and The Flash‘s second. Since Supergirl was on a different network and filming in Los Angeles and not Vancouver, there were no plans to cross Supergirl over with The CW shows. Legends of Tomorrow, however, was set to get the same treatment as The Flash: get a backdoor pilot during a fall crossover episode. So, if you’ve been keeping track, your watching order should be as follows: Arrow Season 1, then Arrow Season 2, then Arrow Season 3 and The Flash Season 1 at the same time, then, watch Arrow Season 4, The Flash Season 2 and Supergirl Season 1 at the same time.
If you’ve done this (or plan to) you should have already met some of the characters who will be leading Legends of Tomorrow. For instance, Leonard Snart/Captain Cold and Mick Rory/Heat Wave. These characters were introduced in The Flash‘s first season, in the episodes “Going Rogue” and “Revenge of the Rogues.” These two characters join the crew of the Waverider and become main cast members on Legends of Tomorrow. By now you should have also met Professor Martin Stein, one-half of the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. matrix. Stein also makes the transition from The Flash to Legends, along with his partner Jefferson Jackson. Two characters from Arrow also make the jump to Legends — two dead characters. Up to this point in our viewing timeline, both Sara Lance and Ray Palmer are dead. Sara was killed by (redacted) and Ray was killed in an explosion. As you start to watch Arrow Season 4, both of these characters experience a resurrection. I won’t spoil how, but it’s very cool. Both Sara and Ray join the cast of Legends, which only leaves the Hawk family and Rip Hunter.
Keeping Up with the Crossovers
As I mentioned above, the plan was to give Legends of Tomorrow a backdoor pilot during the annual Flash/Arrow crossover. Enter Kendra Saunders AKA Hawkgirl. In The Flash Season 2 episode “The Darkness and the Light,” Cisco falls for a barista who works at Jitters named Kendra. Kendra’s storyline brings together the second Flarrow crossover, which took place in the Fall of 2015. The crossover kicked off on The Flash, during the episode “Legends of Today.” When a knife-wielding baddie named Vandal Savage tried to kill Kendra, Team Flash called upon Team Arrow to help keep her safe. The crossover resumed in the Arrow episode “Legends of Yesterday,” where Kendra got her Hawk memories back and reunited with the love of her life, Carter Hall/Hawkman. The team successfully defeated Vandal Savage at the end of the crossover, unfortunately Savage’s ashes were saved so he could be brought back for the first season of Legends.
So, you’re watching Arrow Season 4. You’re watching The Flash Season 2. You’re watching these crossovers and then the mid-season finales. When both shows returned in the Spring of 2016 for the rest of their respective seasons, Legends of Tomorrow kicked off. During Legends Season 1, a time traveler named Rip Hunter recruited Sara Lance, Ray Palmer, Captain Cold, Heatwave, Jefferson Jackson, Martin Stein, and the Hawk people to track Vandal Savage down throughout time and kill him. Legends Season 1 wrapped the same time as Arrow Season 4 and The Flash Season 2.
Time to Fly with Supergirl
While you are (or were) watching those seasons of shows, you can also watch Supergirl‘s first season. While it technically takes place at the same time as the other shows, it takes place in a different dimension. This was explained in the one crossover episode Supergirl DID have with a character from The CW shows in the Season 1 Supergirl episode “World’s Finest.” In the episode, Barry accidentally ran into Kara’s dimension. They ate lots of ice cream and had crazy fun while taking down both Live Wire and Banshee. Then Barry returned to his Earth, Earth-1, and that was it for crossovers on Supergirl. At least, that was supposed to be it. Flashfoward to the summer of 2016. Arrow Season 4 had ended, The Flash Season 2 had ended, Legends and Supergirl had both wrapped their first seasons. No new shows were being planned and all was quiet on the superhero front. That was, until CBS decided to move Supergirl to The CW and move production to Vancouver. The one thing that was standing in the way of making Supergirl a part of the crossover family moved out of the way. Huzzah!
The Crossovers Continue!
That brings us to last season, Fall of 2016 and the Spring of 2017. If you’re keeping track, you would now be watching Supergirl Season 2, Legends of Tomorrow Season 2, The Flash Season 3, and Arrow Season 5. Two crossovers were staged during this season. First, a three-night crossover was announced between Arrow, Flash, and Legends. The crossover would not happen ON Supergirl, but Supergirl herself would be able to join the festivities. This three-night crossover was called “Invasion!” and aired on The Flash, then Arrow, then Legends in a perfect three-night crossover. Kara was able to fly over from her Earth through a breach and she helped fight off the invading Dominator aliens.
Another multi-show crossover was staged on The Flash, in the Season 3 episode titled “Duet.” This was a special, one-night musical events. The music and lyrics were written by the Academy Award winning La La Land duo, composer Blake Neely, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator Rachel Bloom. The episode featured Barry, Kara, Cisco, Winn, Iris, Mon-El, Malcolm Merlyn and Martin Stein. The cast sang and danced beautifully. It was truly an episode to remember.
Where Are We Now?
That brings us to the current timeline. If you’re all caught up, or plan to follow this guide this fall, this is where we’re at: Arrow is about to begin its sixth season. The Flash is about to begin its fourth season. Legends of Tomorrow is about to begin its third season. Supergirl is also going into its third season. This year a crossover is being planned between all four shows. It will air over two nights, on Monday, November 27 and Tuesday, November 28. It is called “Crisis on Earth-X” and will feature key characters on all four shows. Check out the poster art below:
In addition to all of the official crossover episodes and season, there are also a great deal of single-character crossover episodes. Like when Sara visits Laurel in a different time, or when Felicity travels to Central City to get help from Team Flash. All of those episodes, including some of the animated Vixen crossover episodes can be found here.
Here’s that handy timeline image one more time. Save it to your phone, to your computer, to you tablet — wherever it will help you keep track of your progress during your journey through the Arrowverse.
Supergirl airs on The CW Monday, October 9 at 8/7C.
The Flash airs on The CW Tuesday, October 10 at 8/7C.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on The CW Tuesday, October 10 at 9/8C.
Arrow airs on The CW Thursday, October 12 at 9/8C.