When The CW’s Arrow started its very first season in 2012, no one could have foreseen what the series and its universe would become five years later. Now, we have three other shows that take place in this very same world with The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. This universe of shows, dubbed the Arrowverse, has a collective 12 seasons of stories, each with over 20 episodes, and it isn’t showing any sign of slowing down, as all shows are soon heading into their respective new seasons.
With so much time devoted to these characters, with new chapters of their stories delivered to us on a weekly basis, this is as close as we can get to getting the serialized format of comic books in the live-action format. With this elongated form of storytelling, we have ample time to attach ourselves to these characters, to see them change and evolve over time. That sort of investment and buildup makes it all the easier for us to become emotionally wrecked when something devastating happens to characters we have come to care for. If you have it within yourself to relive these moments again, join us as we list 15 times when the Arrowverse left us in complete shambles.
15. MERLYN’S SACRIFICE
Malcolm Merlyn has been a part of Arrow since its beginning. The character, and actor John Barrowman, proved so popular with the fans that the Dark Archer went on to appear in each subsequent season of the show, as well as having a guest stint on the second season of Legends of Tomorrow as a member of the Legion of Doom.
Merlyn had a long and very complicated relationship with his estranged daughter Thea Queen, a relationship that he kept testing and pushing to its limits with his unrepentant villainy. But when Thea was in danger in the season five finale of Arrow, Malcolm didn’t even hesitate to lift his foot from the mine he had stepped on, sacrificing himself to give his daughter a chance. At the end of the day, what Malcolm did, he always did for his daughter, who he loved dearly… in his very own Malcolm way.
14. J’ONN J’ONZZ TELLS THE STORY OF MARS
In the early days of Supergirl‘s first season, the revelation that the man posing as Hank Henshaw was in fact J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, in disguise led to many DC fans cheering the beloved character’s introduction to the series. But soon after, J’onn would come to tell the story of what had happened on Mars, and how he had become its last survivor.
Through a series of flashback sequences narrated by J’onn, we saw life, and death, on Mars. We saw the peaceful Green Martians succumb to the tyranny and horrors of the evil White Martians. We saw J’onn being torn away from his wife and daughters, screaming. The Martian Manhunter’s story is absolutely tragic, and seeing it come to life in such a way was nothing short of devastating.
13. BARRY TALKS TO HIS MOTHER ON THE PHONE
In The Flash, Barry Allen is fueled by the loss of his mother, a love and a hurt that makes him the man he is. Having lost her at such a young age, Barry often talks about his mother with a heavy heart, a turmoil of emotions that actor Grant Gustin was always portrayed brilliantly. In the season two-episode “Welcome To Earth-2,” Barry Allen traveled to a parallel Earth where things had happened differently — an Earth where he wasn’t the Flash.
Stepping into the shoes of his double, Barry went to his house, where he saw, on the house phone, that he could call his parents. When his mother answered, when he heard her voice, Barry broke down into a mix of pain and happiness, and the casual conversation the two had destroyed our already fragile hearts.
12. DEATH OF THE CANARIES
The Laurel sisters have had quite the complicated story when it comes to bearing the Canary mantle in Arrow. First, Sara Lance wore the mask, and she fought alongside the Arrow for most of the series’ second season, instantly becoming a fan-favorite. But in the opening chapter of the third season, at a time when all seemed well, the character was shockingly and brutally murdered.
To honor he sister, Laurel Lance picked up the leather jacket and trained to hopefully become half as formidable as her sister. For two seasons, Laurel fought for her city as the Canary, but she would come to fall at the hands of the devious Damian Darhk. The (twice) death of the longtime comic book super-heroine was heartbreaking to watch, as was Laurel’s tearful goodbye to her lost love, Oliver Queen.
11. COMMANDER STEEL MAKES THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
In Legends of Tomorrow‘s second season, we were introduced to the Justice Society of America and their leader Henry Haywood, aka Commander Steel. The grandfather of current Legends member Nate Haywood, Henry was sent through time, to the ’70s, to protect his piece of the Spear of Destiny. It’s there that he came face-to-face with his future grandson, all grown up.
After a daring rescue mission to the moon, the Legends’ ship, the Waverider, was damaged and, upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, someone had to sacrifice him or herself to alleviate the pressure in order to save everyone. In true heroic fashion, Henry was the first to show up. Bidding farewell to his grandson, the hero known as Commander Steel faced the fact that history could never be changed, and he paid the ultimate price to save the Legends of Tomorrow… and his grandson. We’ll just need a moment.
10. BARRY ALLEN GOES INTO THE SPEED FORCE
The superhero road was a long and arduous path for Barry Allen, one paved with good intentions and devastating mistakes. He saved countless people, sure, but he also traveled through time more than once, changing things when he knew he shouldn’t have. He lost his mother, his father and some friends, he let others sacrifice their lives for him and he did exactly what the Speed Force had told him not to.
In the closing moments of The Flash‘s third season, when the crisis was over and the threat of Savitar extinguished, the Speed Force came calling for Barry. It was time for him to pay for his mistakes and, being the good man that he is, he accepted it. Facing death, or the equivalent of it, Barry bade a tearful goodbye to his friends, his family and his fiancée in a cliffhanger that left us scrambling for tissues.
9. SUPERGIRL FORGIVES HER SISTER
The first season of Supergirl was dealt an unforeseen swerve when its main villain, Supergirl’s would-be-tyrant aunt Astra, was killed by Kara’s adoptive sister Alex. Fearing a tear in their bond, J’onn J’onzz took the blame, and the brunt of Kara’s hate for a long while. But when Alex couldn’t bear it anymore, she tearfully told her sister what she had done.
The scene was heavy on emotions, with both sisters crying at the weight of the revelation. But then the two proved the strength of the sisterly bond they had when Kara took Alex in her arms. If we weren’t devastated enough as we watched Alex cry in her sister’s arms, then Kara reaching her hand out to J’onn — asking for forgiveness, and letting him know he was just as much a part of this family — was enough to send us over the edge.
8. OLIVER AND FELICITY TRICK SLADE WILSON
In the early seasons of Arrow, the romance between Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak was not at the forefront, but instead an idea floating in the background. It was something that everyone was wishing for. Little hints and flirtatious moments between the two were all that the audience would get, and it fueled an increasing desire to see this relationship flourish. But it would be given a real push in the season two finale of the show. Or would it?
Gearing towards their final confrontation, Slade Wilson was ahead of Oliver at every turn. That is, until Oliver and Felicity tricked Slade – as well as the audience – into thinking she was the woman he loved. Oliver’s “I love you” was met with cheers, and the realization that this was a ruse, a fake(?) revelation to get the upper hand on the villain, was a whiplash of emotion that left us in shambles.
7. BARRY PROPOSES TO IRIS
It was a very bumpy road for Barry Allen’s comic book-destined romance with Iris West on television. Although he was in love with her for the longest time, he was stuck in a very difficult adoptive-brother-slash-friend zone. Then, he finally told her he was the Flash and they kissed, but he erased that event from the timeline. Then, when things were looking up between the two, Barry went and created another reality entirely.
But as season three progressed, Barry and Iris finally developed a strong and loving relationship, one that was at the heart of the show. And so, in an episode already chock-full of smiles and musical surprises, Barry proposed to Iris West – this time for the right reasons – by singing her an original song, a proposal met with equal parts smiles and tears, from everyone involved — and everyone watching.
6. CAPTAIN COLD’S REDEMPTION
Although he started out as a supervillain on The Flash, Lenoard Snart, aka Captain Cold, quickly grew to become a fan-favorite and he was later added to the roster of the Legends of Tomorrow full time. While he always managed to keep his self-preserving nature, a side of him that was self-serving, working alongside heroes throughout history softened his heart, little by little.
In the series’ first season finale, the Legends took the fight directly to the Timemasters and attempted to destroy the Vanishing Point. The only problem was that someone had to stay behind to make sure the base would explode. Cold’s best friend and partner Heatwave was first to volunteer, but Snart knocked him out to take his place. After a kiss from Sara Lance, Cold declared there were no strings on him and, as the base exploded, this villain had finally, truly, become a hero.
5. OLIVER QUEEN “DIES”
Going into the third season of Arrow, we had seen Oliver Queen go through some trying hardships. We had seen him lose fights against the most brutal of opponents, and we had seen him lose people close to him. But none of those failures or losses would come close to the time Oliver Queen paid the near-ultimate price.
In order to protect his sister, Oliver Queen took part in a trial-by-combat against Ra’s Al Ghul, a skilled swordsman and fighter that the Arrow knew to be nigh-unbeatable. Still he faced him, and it didn’t make watching his defeat any easier. While we were certain there would be a way out for Oliver in this fight, to watch him get impaled by a sword and thrown down a cliff was nothing short of shocking, as we were left wondering how he could ever come back from something like this.
4. SUPERGIRL AND MON-EL SAY GOODBYE
In her second season, Kara Zor-El had a tumultuous but ultimately epic love story with Mon-El, an alien from the planet Daxam. While they had their share of ups and downs throughout the season, their love story built up until their final moments together, when Mon-El was forced to leave the Earth forever as its atmosphere was now poisoned with lead, a fail-safe weapon activated to repel Earth’s Daxamite invaders.
With only a few moments left together, Supergirl and Mon-El told everything they could to each other, how they had affected one another and how much they loved each other. It was a heartbreaking, tear-filled goodbye that tugged at the heartstrings. No matter how you felt about the couple, it’s impossible to deny that their separation was tragic, a goodbye that left some in the stages of ugly-crying.
3. SLADE WILSON MAKES OLIVER CHOOSE
Oliver Queen had already lost one woman he loved, Shado, back on the island. He had lost his father, and he had lost his best friend Tommy. But when he was fighting a losing battle against Slade Wilson, everything just got a whole lot worse for Oliver. His losses would keep stacking when Slade recreated a fateful night Oliver had on the island, but with his mother and sister instead of Shado and Sara Lance.
The simple prospect of the situation was absolutely heart-wrenching. The impossible choice that Oliver faced was only made more devastating when Moira Queen decided to offer up her own life to save her daughter’s. Choosing to honor her wish, Slade killed Moira with a swing of his sword, and Oliver was left emotionally wrecked — just like all of us watching.
2. BARRY ALLEN LETS HIS MOTHER DIE
The season long quest of the first season of The Flash was not only to stop the Man in Yellow, the Reverse-Flash, from terrorizing Barry Allen, it was also to somehow find a way for Barry to go back in time and save his mother’s life. And after emerging victorious from his battle with Eobard Thawne, that’s exactly what Barry tried to do.
Traveling back to his home on the night of his mother’s murder, Barry waited for the Reverse-Flash to appear, but he was stopped by another version of himself, a version of himself that convinced him to stay back. Wrestling with the worst of emotions, Barry had to carve his own heart out (metaphorically) as he let his mother get stabbed by his nemesis. Then, his tearful goodbye to his mother, as he explained who he was, made us inconsolable for days to come.
1. OLIVER APOLOGIZES TO HIS PARENTS
When Oliver Queen was trapped inside the Dominators’ perfect reality dream-state in Arrow‘s landmark 100th episode, the aliens gave him everything he ever wanted to try and entice him to stay locked in this place forever. They gave him a blushing bride in Laurel Lance, his company and his mansion, but most importantly of all, his parents were alive and well.
While Oliver quickly came to realize that this place wasn’t his own reality, it didn’t make rejecting it any easier. Oliver had to tell his parents that he couldn’t stay. Giving each a final hug, he told them he was sorry — a heartbreaking apology for everything that had happened to them. Seeing Oliver hug his parents one last time before leaving this fake reality ranks not only as one of Stephen Amell’s best acting moments but the most heartbreaking of the series.
What Arrowverse moment left you reaching for the tissue box? Let us know in the comments!
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