With four live action shows, plus an animated series and another two on the horizon, the Arrowverse is overflowing with DC characters. The overabundance is never necessarily a bad thing. However, it does mean that some heroes and villains, or regular characters, are often shortchanged in terms of screen time and story quality. As the Arrowverse continues to grow, the issue of characters being sidelined or grossly underutilized persists across each of the four live action shows, specifically. Some such characters were abandoned long ago, and have yet to return in any meaningful capacity. Meanwhile, there are countless others who are regularly present but are unfortunately cast aside, seldom playing a significant role, if any, in their respective series' ongoing plot.
Of course, in several cases, characters remain absent because of an actor’s availability. Within many of these very instances, though, it seems a few characters were not utilized to their full potential when they were actively a part of the stories for which they were present. Taking all of the above into account, the following list will examine 15 characters from Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow that seem to have been wasted in one form or another.
If there were to be a greatest hits list for Arrow’s sophomore season, Deadshot would be owed a well-deserved spot. As one of DC’s deadliest assassins, the character’s introduction was greatly anticipated. Thankfully, actor Michael Rowe delivered with his portrayal of Floyd Lawton. The marksman’s debut placed him on the job, carrying out a series of hits. This small appearance eventually developed into his integral involvement in a Diggle-centric storyline, a highlight of the Arrowverse since it brought about the fleeting, yet beloved, Suicide Squad arc.
Due to Deadshot and the Squad’s big screen arrival, the character was killed off and his absence is still felt. Questions of what could have been certainly persists; Arrow producers did have plans for the Task Force, after all. Having previously seen an Earth-2 version of Deadshot may offer fans hope the character could still have a future in the Arrowverse.
Roulette debuts early in Supergirl’s sophomore season, bringing with her a fascinating new concept to the Arrowverse -- the alien fight club. As a recurring villain-of-the-week type, she represents the cream of the crop for such Arrowverse characters. Running an underground criminal organization makes her unique to Supergirl as well, since a vast majority of the Girl of Steel’s more formidable foes, are either alien or metahuman.
One facet of the villain that is particularly lacking is the absence of exposition in regards to her backstory. How did she first form the fight club? What kind of connections does she have, and how did she gain access to them? In truth, Roulette would make for a compelling season-long villain. Sitting her on the sidelines robs the show of more intricately grounding National City’s alien population and neglects possible narratives fueled by intrigue.
There are a number of issues in relation to Kendra Saunders’ characterization as Hawkgirl, chief amongst them is the entirety of her character progression being contingent on her relationships with men. Beyond that, though, she’s rarely afforded the attention she deserves from a story perspective throughout Legends of Tomorrow’s pilot season. Honestly, this could be extended to both of the Hawks; however, because of Hawkgirl’s casting as one of the show’s regulars at the time, her insignificant use is more readily apparent.
Hawkgirl’s fatal connection to Vandal Savage undoubtedly leads to much of the struggles plaguing her character. As such, exploration of the hero following the Legends’ defeat of Vandal Savage seems like somewhat of a missed opportunity. But after all she’d experienced with the immortal for several millennia, her wanting to lie low is understandable.
12 RA'S AL GHUL
There was trepidation amongst fans and critics about Arrow formally introducing Ra’s al Ghul in season three. After a stellar season two, though, many felt confident that if anyone could do the Demon’s Head justice it was Arrow. Throughout his tenure on the show, the feeling of confidence slowly proved incorrect. The mystique and overwhelming since of preeminence that typically follows each of the character’s incarnations is noticeably absent in the Arrowverse.
His ill-explained fascination with the Arrow and Star City also hinders him from securing a spot in the pantheon of great Arrowverse villains. In fact, his daughters, Talia and Nyssa, are far more effective threats in the narratives in which they’ve heavily featured. Repositioning the character beyond the realm of Batman mythos could have worked well if it didn’t seem as though Arrow was fast-tracking and rushing through a common Batman/Ra’s storyline.
11 LAUREL LANCE
The first three seasons of Arrow is always regarded ambivalently when it comes to Laurel Lance. During that time in the series, she isn’t a particularly bad character, per se, but she certainly isn’t favorably depicted. Much of the contention concerns the portrayal being so disparate from the character’s comic background. Laurel’s characterization in season four evidences change, though.
Arrow’s fourth outing sees Laurel finally coming into her own as hero. She appears more confident in the field as Black Canary, continuously offers sound advice to Oliver and takes on the title of Assistant District Attorney to begin affecting change in the local justice system. Just when she’s ready to hang up vigilantism and focus entirely on helping Team Arrow from the courtroom, Laurel is prematurely killed. Especially unfortunate is her never receiving a story arc to rival Diggle’s trials and tribulations with Deadshot or Arsenal’s battle with Mirakuru.
Helena Bertinelli as the Huntress is one of the more compelling aspects of Arrow’s sophomore effort. She often struggles between being villainous and displaying traits of a flawed hero. Usually, Helena picks the side that most faithfully aligns with villainy, but it is fair to argue she’s an anti-hero. Either way, her role on the show consistently brought about quality storytelling, as the arc revolving around her father and deceased fiancé allowed Arrow to explore Starling City’s mob scene.
Huntress’ story ends rather strongly; her father’s death at the hand of another and her subsequent imprisonment couldn’t have been managed any better. That said, it’s still unfortunate that we haven’t heard from her more. After Oliver's tireless work to help restore Slade’s humanity, a similar redemption arc for Helena would be a perfect final send off for another season two staple.
Waiting on Superman to appear in the Arrowverse is like being a kid and waiting on Santa Claus to arrive. Tyler Hoechlin’s debut early in Supergirl’s second season was met with unending praise; since then, all anyone has wanted is for him to return in a larger capacity. In the season two finale, the audience’s dreams were finally realized, but the hero spent the bulk of his third official appearance on the series fighting Supergirl instead of working alongside her. Their match was awesome, for sure, but Hoechlin’s take on classic Superman heroism is what gets everyone talking.
Whenever a massive threat hits National City, fans are left speculating on the Man of Steel’s whereabouts. There is probably a logistical reason as to why he can’t feature in the Arrowverse more often; whatever the reasoning may be, we can only hope the limitations won’t be in place for very long.
8 LILLIAN LUTHOR
Lillian Luthor is undoubtedly one of Supergirl’s better big bads. Thanks to the performance of Brenda Strong, the character is compelling whenever she takes to the screen. Lillian’s devotion to her son Lex, commitment to ridding the world of aliens through Cadmus and the tumultuous relationship with her daughter Lena are but a few ways in which she excels. Sadly, the Cadmus plot line doesn’t quite live up to the rest of season two’s strengths. Interestingly, the fault rest primarily on the story’s conclusion, which isn’t very fulfilling.
Some of the smaller arcs leading up to the Cadmus conclusion are weak, too -- Cyborg Superman is the most notable. But whenever Lillian sits at the center of attention, she soars. A pragmatist and intellectual tactician, Lillian warrants a narrative that allows her terror to reign without relying on petty deception (i.e., the treachery on display in season two’s finale).
7 JESSE QUICK
The Flash admittedly has a Speedster problem when it comes to those who aren’t either Barry Allen, or villainous in nature. The show makes expert use of Earth-3 Flash/Jay Garrick, sure, but when will the likes of Jessie Quick and Kid Flash be similarly honored with interesting story arcs? It’s hard to say.
Jessie Quick specifically gets the short end of the stick. After artificially attaining her powers in season two, Jesse spends a brief period of time working alongside The Flash. Eventually, she returns to Earth-2, and audiences later learn she’s assembled a team of heroes. At the very least, hopes were high that we would see what a Jessie Quick-led team looks like. Considering Jessie Quick herself, Violett Beane, is busy elsewhere, such a reveal seems unlikely for the time being.
6 CYBORG SUPERMAN
Audiences waited with bated breath for a Cyborg Superman reveal in Supergirl’s first outing. Once doubts concerning the death of Dean Cain’s character, Jeremiah Danvers, began to emerge, the fuse of anticipation was further ignited. Sadly, that is not the route that was taken. Upon the real Hank Henshaw’s return, Cyborg Superman was finally, disappointingly, given life. What’s especially strange is that there’s never been a reason given as to why he even adopts the moniker.
As a lackey of Lillian Luthor, which is also odd since he was once the director of the DEO, Henshaw’s brief stint on the show remains unfavorable. Even actor David Harewood isn’t too fond of the direction taken with Cyborg Superman, but the possibility of the villain being salvaged into something worthy of his namesake is relatively high. He hasn’t been seen of late, but he’s bound to return at some point.
5 CHINA WHITE
Chien Na Wei, aka China White, debuted in Arrow’s first season as a secondary villain of sorts. A member of the Chinese Triad, China ensures the Hood’s first year as Starling City’s vigilante is difficult. China’s determination, business acumen and combat prowess make her one of the fiercest foes Oliver faces. It’s a shame she appeared so infrequently throughout her time on the series.
Most disappointing is her return in season five, where she hijacks a prison bus during a transport. China then works alongside Cupid and Liza Warner to steal a stash of money from Tobias Church. Honestly, she’s too good for her cohorts, but, in true China White fashion, she makes the best of what she’s given. The character is ultimately shot by Mayor Queen’s Anti-Crime Unit and returned to jail, leaving the door open for yet another comeback that is hopefully worthy of her eminence.
4 NYSSA AL GHUL
Katrina Law can’t always make an appearance in the Arrowverse. Yet, whenever she does have the opportunity to reprise her role, the Nyssa al Ghul actor never disappoints. As a Spartacus alum, Law’s debut in Arrow season two was instantly met with an abundance of excitement. She’s always fun to watch, embodying the grace and fearsome qualities an al Ghul heir should proudly proclaim. Of additional interest is her depiction as Sara Lance’s “beloved,” which has unfortunately only ever been cursorily explored.
Ties to the League of Assassins aside, Nyssa’s greatest contribution to the Arrowverse is her combat prowess, especially since she trained Sara. It’s fitting that in the wake of a battle with Prometheus in season five, Nyssa is one of Oliver’s first contacts. Maybe someday she can feature as more than a back up combatant.
Metallo is usually a good asset to any Superman story in which he features. The same can arguably said of his inclusion in Supergirl’s second season. John Corben’s one of the better villain-of-the-week types the Arrowverse has in its repertoire, sadly that means he’s yet to rise above that particular station. Why he didn’t play a more active role in the Cadmus plot, and why he was seemingly killed off, remains an unsolved mystery.
Also disappointing with regards to Metallo's role is his being left to act as Lillian Luthor’s lap dog. Furthermore, nothing of value is offered about his origins independent of nefarious deeds. This is odd considering how shows like Superman: The Animated Series and Smallville delve deeply into Corben’s humanity post-Metallo transition. Fortunately, given the nature of the character, he’s bound to return in some capacity.
2 MAGGIE SAWYER
Maggie Sawyer is one of those characters who’s recently been subject to being absent because of actor availability, but was rarely utilized to her full potential when she did feature. Interestingly, this is a problem that pervades all of the detective’s cross media appearances, and, to an extent, the comics as well. Early in Supergirl’s second season, it seemed as though the Arrowverse would buck the trend. Sadly, Maggie was only ever meant as a love interest for Alex and it showed frequently.
The few times she was allowed to reinforce her prowess as an officer she did so excellently. Maggie’s emotional journey in seasons two and three also warrants acknowledgement, especially given Floriana Lima’s acclaimed performances. Should the detective ever return, here’s to hoping she can play a role in the overarching plot; surely NCPD’s Science Division and the DEO cross paths more than audiences are led to believe.
1 KID FLASH
Wally West/Kid Flash is inarguably the most underutilized character in the Arrowverse. He’s so inconsistently given an opportunity to shine that even he himself calls Team Flash out on their having no need for him. Truthfully, this simply seems to be a case of The Flash not requiring two Speedsters at present. Therefore, Wally’s strengths as a hero would likely better fit elsewhere -- Legends of Tomorrow.
In the season three premiere of Legends, Kid Flash cameos in a scene alongside Nate Heywood/Steel who spends his time away from the Waverider fighting crime in Central City. Naturally, fans were given a taste of the possibilities and are begging for more Wally and Legends team-ups. If The Flash can’t find a worthwhile place for the young Speedster, perhaps Legends, a show which is now down a few key members, could put his unique skill set to use.