The Arrowverse incorporates a lot of cliffhangers to encourage people to watch their programs more often. As you might expect, this makes a lot of the twists and unresolved plot developments feel contrived and uninspired. While the initial setup might be something that sparks a lot of viewer interest, the resulting pay off isn’t nearly as satisfying. The unfortunate aspect of this reality is that Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl are all guilty. They are so concerned with going back to the status quo that they never push forward with the great ideas they have on paper.
This leads to a lot of fans who feel betrayed and underserved as a result. Just look at the poor reception of the first episode for The Flash season four. Moving forward, we would like to see the Arrowverse have cliffhangers of the same gravity carry throughout the rest of the show. There’s potential there, they just need to capitalize on it. These 15 Arrowverse cliffhangers that failed to pay off are proof that the CW needs to change this part of their storytelling. It goes without saying that there are major spoilers ahead for all of the aforementioned shows.
15. BARRY ENTERING THE SPEED FORCE
Season three of The Flash dealt with Barry’s consequences of changing the timeline. This resulted in an imbalance in the Speed Force that could only be resolved by having a speedster serve as its prisoner. Wally and Jay Garrick both spent their time there, but Barry knew that he had to pay his dues.
In the finale of the episode, a storm caused by the Speed Force erupted over Central City. Barry understood that the only way to solve it was to go into the Speed Force and personally serve as its prisoner. The season ended with him saying goodbye to his loved ones. Yet, the show wasted no time pulling him out, as he returned in the pilot episode of the very next season.
14. REX TYLER MEETING THE LEGENDS
The first season of Legends of Tomorrow was rocky at best. The writers were definitely trying to find their footing for the show and didn’t start hitting their stride until the end of the season. The finale was arguably one of the best episodes of the entire season, and it ended with an interesting twist.
The Legends are all together when, suddenly, another Waverider flies right toward them. Out pops Rex Tyler (known as Hourman from the Justice Society) warning the Legends that they were going to die if they went to a certain time period. Sadly, this was immediately resolved at the start of season two, but the biggest travesty was how Hourman was treated later in the show. Things didn’t go well for him.
Another cliffhanger that popped at the end of the season was during season two of The Flash. Barry had just suffered losing his dad at the hands of Zoom and stopped the evil speedster. There was still a hole in his heart and he decided to change the timeline by traveling back and saving his mother from the Reverse Flash (something that he was already warned not to do by himself).
In the present day, everything was different. Both of Barry’s parents were alive, but there were repercussions on the timeline. Yet, they were solved almost instantly, as the world reverted back to the way it was by the end of the first episode. Not a great idea when adapting the popular Flashpoint storyline.
12. OLIVER JOINING THE LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS
After Oliver survived his supposed death at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League wanted the Emerald Archer to become his successor. When circumstances became difficult, Oliver chose to go with the League and train to become the Demon’s Head. Seemingly betraying everyone he knew and loved, Team Arrow suffered a hard situation.
We were then exposed to several scenes of Oliver having to fight against his old team. Despite all of that, though, it was revealed that Ollie was just faking it the whole time and that he could somehow resist the brainwashing of Ra’s. It dampened the serious impact of him having turned on his own friends and even Thea joining the fray to stop him.
11. MON-EL’S DEPARTURE
Supergirl season two saw the inclusion of Mon-El, a member of the Legion of Superheroes. He also became a love interest for Kara, and the two had an on-again/off-again relationship throughout the season. After proclaiming their love for each other, Mon-El eventually decided to leave Earth at the end of the season, leaving Kara broken on Earth.
At the start of season three, she begins as a more beaten down version of herself. She doesn’t stop for autographs and keeps to herself. Yet, this change in her character is quickly glossed over at the end of the first episode, as she’s returned to the bubbly Supergirl we all know and love or hate at this point. These season finale cliffhangers need a lot of work.
10. FLASH’S MESSAGE TO RIP
During the big “four-way” crossover between all of the CW superhero shows, there was an interesting message that the Legends received while all aboard their ship, the Waverider. It was a warning from a future version of Barry Allen, stating that no one is to be trusted, not even himself. This had interesting implications for the future of the crossover as well as what it meant for Barry.
Unfortunately, there was no real pay off for this message. It was heavily glossed over moving forward and practically dropped from Legends of Tomorrow altogether. Even the characters in The Flash didn’t bring it up after that. The message actually did nothing more than just tease the fact that Savitar was actually a future incarnation of Barry.
9. BARRY AND CISCO FINDING SUPERGIRL
One of the biggest misnomers in TV history was the CW advertising that their third superhero crossover was going to be a “four-way” crossover. That was a pretty big lie, as Supergirl‘s episode that week just had a little scene at the very end that showed Barry and Cisco traveling to National City to recruit her for their cause.
What made matters worse was that, despite the fact that the episode ended on that note, it had no reason to include it in the show. The very next episode of the big crossover started with the very same moment where Barry and Cisco go to Supergirl’s Earth and recruit her. It was a fairly big letdown, and while not a huge cliffhanger, still deserves a mention on this list.
8. FELICITY GETS SHOT
Season four of Arrow didn’t pull any punches when it began with Damien Darhk. That said, it changed in all the wrong ways after that. Perhaps one of the worst examples of this is during the midseason finale. Oliver, running for mayor, has just proposed to Felicity and the two are engaged. After leaving, they are gunned down by some of Darhk’s men. Ollie gets out unharmed, but the same can’t be said for Felicity.
She spent some time in the hospital before getting out in a wheelchair. However, that didn’t last long, as Curtis “Terrific” Holt developed a spinal implant that gave her the ability to walk again. We get that they were trying to avoid similarities to Oracle, but it feels like a plot development just there to increase ratings and get people talking. It didn’t have any lasting implications.
7. RIP HUNTER LEAVING THE WAVERIDER
Sara and her team spent much of season two of Legends searching for the lost Captain Rip Hunter. They eventually found and returned him to the Waverider, where he became a member of the team once again. That said, he chose not to stay at the end of the season and to embark on his own journey to replace the corrupt Time Masters.
Fast forward to the first episode of season three, and we already figure out what Rip did in all that spare time. He suddenly appears with a myriad of agents behind him. Labeling themselves the Time Bureau, Rip reveals that he spent five years putting together the organization. The problem here is that we didn’t see any of it. There was no growth and Rip just looked like a huge jerk.
6. JAY GARRICK KILLING…HIMSELF?
The Flash was rock solid in its first season, so the writers tried to keep that momentum going by bringing in Jay Garrick for season two. After developing connections with the rest of Team Flash, he ended up being killed by the evil speedster, Zoom and sucked into an interdimensional portal. What complicated things was that Zoom also took off his mask on camera to reveal that he was also Jay Garrick. What gives?
It was later revealed that Jay Garrick actually used a speed mirage of himself to create two versions. As it turns out, he was secretly evil the whole time and joined up with Team Flash only to weaken them. This twist didn’t make a lot of sense and was too narratively similar to the Wells betrayal during season one.
5. THE DEATH OF BILLY MALONE
Arrow season five was an impressive return to form for the show. Featuring a villain who could easily win the title of the Arrowverse’s best, Oliver Queen was challenged, unlike anything he’d ever witnessed before and it made for interesting and compelling television. Yet, there were still some agitating plot lines, like Felicity and her new boyfriend, Billy Malone.
One episode saw Prometheus trick Oliver into killing Billy just to prove the point that he was a murderer. This had a serious impact on Oliver’s character arc but, because he had little to do with the story, Billy’s death proved inconsequential. Yes, Felicity had a change in behavior, but there were no lasting consequences for this moment. It was all to serve Oliver’s character and nothing else.
4. THE LEGENDS BREAKING TIME
The season finale for Legends in season two was exciting and everything that a time travel show should be. After seeing the result of a horrifying future, the Legends traveled back in time to team up with a younger version of themselves to fight the Legion of Doom and stop them from using the Spear of Destiny.
They saved the day and celebrated by going to Aruba. Unfortunately, there were some problems along the way, and they ended up in an American city that was bustling with massive dinosaurs. Their actions in the finale “broke” time itself. Yet, the big issue was solved in the start of the very next season, as the writers were ready to put the Legends back in their status quo.
3. OLIVER GETTING STABBED
In season three of Arrow, the first half was excellent. As the League of Assassins and Ra’s al Ghul were introduced as the primary antagonists, there was a lot of excitement as to what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, the season peaked during the midseason finale, where Ra’s and Oliver had a duel to the death. Our hero was stabbed and thrust off of a mountain.
Clearly, we all knew that Oliver was going to come back, but the way the scene was done was so excellent. Going forward, the show never gave us a great pay off to Oliver dying. He returned to Star City, but it didn’t feel as triumphant as it should have. It was all mismanaged to the point where everything fell flat.
2. CAITLIN LEAVING TEAM FLASH
Caitlin Snow has been a member of Team Flash since the beginning. It became all the more heartbreaking, then, when she started to turn into the evil Killer Frost and betray her friends and loved ones. She gained control of her powers by the end of season three but, even then, she chose to leave the team and do some self-discovery all on her own.
By the time the fourth season premiered, not only did the writers immediately pull Barry out of the Speed Force, but they brought Caitlin back from her journey. What did she discover when she left? We’ll never know because it was completely glossed over in favor of bringing the team back together after they hadn’t been apart for even a single episode.
1. LIAN YU EXPLOSION
The season finale of Arrow season five was one of the best episodes of the entire show. Period. It ended in an insanely climactic way, with Adrian Chase shooting himself in the head to set off a series of bombs on Lian Yu. Keep in mind that everyone he ever loved was there and on the cutting board for being dead by the time the next season came into view.
It’s sad that the writers didn’t deliver on this cliffhanger as much as they could have. Samantha Clayton was dead, putting William into Oliver’s care, but she never meant much to the show. Thea was put into a coma, but she’s still not dead, so there’s a maybe there. Everyone else was fine and well. It feels a little disappointing coming off of one of the show’s greatest highs.
Which of these cliffhangers was the worst? Let us know in the comments!
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