Despite the fact that The CW’s Arrowverse has two separate superhero series fronted by women, it’s been a rough 2020 for those same female leads on the network.
Supergirl's fifth season promised to finally explore the complicated relationship between Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor. After all, Lena had finally learned the truth of Kara’s secret superhero identity, a revelation that seemed set to change everything between the two women. Yet it was Lena’s supervillain brother Lex who ultimately came to dominate Season 5 instead, pushing both women to the margins of a story that was supposed to be about them.
Elsewhere on the network, Batwoman has responded to the unfortunate (and, to be fair, quite unexpected) departure of series star Ruby Rose in what feels like the worst way possible. The series has decided to completely jettison the iconic character of Kate Kane — and all the associated comics legacy of her story — in favor of a random replacement. New character Ryan Wilder has no connection to the existing canvas of the show and almost nothing in common with Kate, save for the fact that she is also an out lesbian who lives in Gotham City. The switch treats both women as though the most defining aspect of who they are is their sexuality, and vaguely implies that one lesbian in the Batsuit is as good as any other.
For a superhero universe that purports to center the stories of its leading ladies, the Arrowverse isn’t exactly doing what one might call a bang-up job of it at the moment. This is why it’s past time for The CW to just go ahead and greenlight the Green Arrow and the Canaries series that’s been languishing in development limbo for months.
A spin-off of the network’s original superhero hit Arrow, it follows the story of hero Oliver Queen’s adult daughter Mia, who takes up her father’s Green Arrow mantle to continue his fight for justice in a far-flung future version of Star City. She’s joined by two of her parents’ previous crimefighting besties, Dinah Drake and a version of Laurel Lance from Earth-2 who goes by Black Siren. This is all possible thanks to the universe-reshaping events of Crisis on Infinite Earths and the magic of time travel. (Just go with it.)
But Green Arrow and the Canaries isn’t just the Birds of Prey-style team-up series we’ve all been waiting years to see. (Though it is probably the closest we’ll ever get to one, thanks to the Warner Bros. feature film.) The entire concept of this series represents a different kind of storytelling focus for the network — one that somehow feels more necessary now than it ever has.
This universe desperately needs a series that doesn’t just star a woman but is actually about women, one that dedicates itself to telling women’s stories in the same focused way it’s always shown us the adventures of men like Oliver Queen. Yes, there are plenty of women in the Arrowverse, but there is a painful lack of female-focused narratives, even on the shows that purport to center those characters. After all, if a show like Batwoman can treat its lead as though the cowl matters more than the woman who wears it, of course a show like The Flash is probably going to leave Iris West-Allen locked in a mirror universe for six months.
Green Arrow and the Canaries would, out of necessity, touch on many of the same themes as Arrow and its other superhero brethren. But while we may have seen elements of those stories before, they haven’t been presented in precisely the way this show would be able to do so, told through the lens of a specifically female experience.
Because, for once, there will simply be more women heroes onscreen than male ones.
Life in the world of vigilantes and costumed crime-fighting has been shown to be difficult enough for male heroes. How much more challenging must it be for women, who already struggle to be heard and respected in their everyday identities, let alone their secret ones? If Oliver Queen frequently struggled with doubts about his abilities as a hero, even with all the advantages and privileges he himself possessed, how much harder must it be for his daughter, who even in the Star City of 2040 is regularly judged by her fashion choices instead of her mind? In this world that’s largely dominated by male heroes and their legacies, will people take a woman wearing the Green Arrow suit seriously?
Green Arrow and the Canaries also offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore female relationships in the superhero space. Sure, pretty much every Arrowverse team has a token woman or two. But on shows like The Flash or Arrow, they’re rarely allowed to work together or build real friendships on their own terms, outside of the men whose stories they’re supporting. (Remember when Iris’ bachelorette party was full of people she barely knew?) And even though both the Danvers and the Pierce sisters have complex, nuanced relationships with one another on Supergirl and Black Lightning, they’re also siblings, a dynamic which is quite different and comes with a different set of truths and expectations.
This spin-off is a perfect opportunity to explore female friendship in new and completely different ways than the Arrowverse has managed to do in the past. Its titular women are all at very different points in their lives and bring a variety of experiences to their team. Mia is a literal legacy, the daughter of Star City’s greatest hero. Laurel has already been on a redemption journey of her own — Black Siren was a villain when she first arrived on Arrow — and survived the destruction of her home Earth during Crisis. Dinah somehow got a fresh start thanks to whatever multiverse madness dropped her in 2040 and erased her from the series’ previous timeline. And she’s chosen to make the most of it, opening a piano bar and chasing the dreams she never got the chance to live back in 2020.
How will these women connect to one another? What will their relationships look like? In what ways will their friendships differ between and among one another? For all the female characters who exist in this universe, we’ve never really seen a group of them interact in this way before. Those sorts of relationships have never really been a priority for the stories these shows are telling, largely because there simply haven’t been enough women on the canvas in a particular series to do so. Until now. Hopefully.
Green Arrow and Canaries offers The CW a unique opportunity to create a series that’s about female stories as much or more so than it is about superhero ones, and in doing so move the entire franchise forward. And in the Arrowverse, more than ever before, that future is female. Let’s take another step toward getting there.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.