Much as Arrow laid the groundwork for an entire world of superhero shows that have run for almost a decade, could the show's future-set spinoff do the same for the next generation of The CW's superheroes?
That's the big question facing the tentatively titled Green Arrow & the Canaries, a spinoff series set to focus on Oliver and Felicity's adult daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara) as she tries to keep the peace in Star City, circa 2040. The creative team behind Arrow has been playing around in Future Star City for a season and a half thanks to flash-forwards, and now the 2040 storyline is set to get top billing with a backdoor pilot on Tuesday, January 21. If that goes well, Mia Queen could be The CW's newest DC hero on the prime-time dial next fall.
Obviously, this isn't the first CW super-show. Far from it. It's not even the first to star a female hero (Supergirl and Batwoman beat Mia to the punch by a few years). But this potential spinoff series is mining an idea no other CW series has really picked at: jumping two decades into the future to explore a far-flung version of the Arrowverse.
Of course, the present-day version of the Arrowverse is showing no signs of slowing down. The Flash remains The CW's highest-rated show six years into its run, Batwoman is second, and Supergirl, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning are going strong. Then there's the network's other upcoming spin-off, which will focus on the versions of Superman and Lois Lane first introduced in Supergirl.
The superhero genre is pretty much carrying the network these days, and that trend is showing no signs of slowing down. If the past several years is any indication, super-shows will remain a stalwart of The CW's line-up for years to come.
But there are only so many stories to mine in this world (and this era) as you keep spinning it further and further out across years and years and shows and shows. Especially when you're talking about 22-episode seasons of a half-dozen shows. You churn through ideas, stories, and settings like kindling. Just look at Arrow, which became wildly inconsistent over its final few seasons (the fantastic final season notwithstanding). It started recycling plot points and character arcs, and even though the story would, occasionally, knowingly wink at its own repetition, it was still frustrating.
Not to say the Arrowverse isn't exactly getting long in the tooth just yet, but it's reaching a critical juncture where some evolution, and revolution, is necessary to keep it relevant.
So how could Green Arrow & the Canaries pave a new way forward?
Jumping ahead to 2040 sets the world free of shows upon shows, and seasons upon seasons, of canon and continuity. A lot can change in two decades, and that's more than enough time to leave things so fuzzy as not to interfere with the latest world-ending baddie or speedster attack happening back in the present day. And if you're worried it'll hurt the stakes of the present day by showing a future exists at all? Then you don't know much about comics, or comic book shows. These worlds were never going to end (at least not for good), and if anything, a story set in the future of that world offers up a fascinating peek at the eventual ending without actually spoiling it. Win-win.
Jumping a corner of the Arrowverse to 2040 opens up a fresh slate for new stories, new characters, new sci-fi MacGuffins, and new adventures we can't even imagine here in lowly 2020. It allows The CW, and fans, to have their cake and eat it too — we get the present-day adventures, and a new generation of heroes, all on the same prime-time schedule. We get to see that the heroism of the heroes we know and love isn't in vain and that once they've retired or moved on years from now, they'll inspire future heroes to take their place.
An easy comparison, funny enough, is to look back at DC's animated series lineup in the late '90s. You had stalwarts like Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series holding down the fort until the studio decided to shake things up with an ambitious original idea: Batman Beyond.
With Batman Beyond, DC and Warner Bros. Animation created a new Batman story from whole cloth with a new Dark Knight, teenager Terry McGinnis, who faced off with a clever and ambitious roster of original rogues in Neo Gotham. The show was a hit in its own right, but more than that has become a cultural touchstone in the decades that followed. The character and his world have since been added into the DC Comics universe proper. It provided a new avenue to tell familiar stories.
A project such as Green Arrow & the Canaries could do much the same.
Arrow is a known commodity for fans, and for The CW. But following Mia under the hood is an opportunity to tell those beloved themes in a new way within a new setting. It also frees the creative team up a bit from the comic canon, allowing them to play into the old stories where it makes sense — and create something new and exciting when it doesn't.
Looking beyond to the eventual next phase of Arrowverse shows, who knows, maybe we could eventually end up with a future-set lineup beyond just Green Arrow & the Canaries? Hey, maybe we'll even stumble upon Terry McGinnis himself out there in some Neo Gotham crossover a few years down the road.
Put simply: The Arrowverse needs a jolt if it's going to remain a juggernaut in the years to come, and telling the story of the 2040 DC Universe could be just the way to do it. Here's to the future.