The CW reshaped the status quo of its comic book–based programming on Thursday by releasing a bevy of information during its annual Upfront presentation to advertisers. Besides trailers for the upcoming Batwoman and Katy Keene series, it also unveiled a new fall schedule obscuring the prevalence of superheroes on the network and teased the coming of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the annual fall Arrowverse crossover which will prove to be the most epic yet devised.
So let’s take a look at what The CW’s comic book future will look like in the 2019-2020 season.
Starting with the saddest bit of news — no, not the imminent end of Arrow — the network has postponed DC’s Legends of Tomorrow until mid-season. We’re big fans of the scrappy, goofy, time-traveling series. Despite the roughest of starts for any of the CW superhero shows, it found its voice in humor and the wilder aspects of the DC Comics library – from the most unlikely band of heroes to recurring spots for characters like John Constantine (Matt Ryan), and the demon Neron.
Then again, those qualities make it much more a CW mid-season series than a headliner like The Flash or Riverdale. Consider off-beat series like My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and iZombie and the placement makes much more sense. While it proved to be a nice change of pace from the dour Arrow this season, it also doesn’t need the connection to the main Arrowverse series like it once did. Perhaps the series will flourish in iZombie’s place.
Alternatively, we may soon be sad to discover Legends will take another cue from iZombie and plan for its fifth season to be its last.
In one of the bigger surprises, Batwoman will arrive on The CW in the fall. The series seemed destined to replace Arrow on the schedule, but giving it a big fall debut signals the network has a certain confidence in the program.
The series stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin. Three years after Batman disappeared from Gotham City, crime has once again run rampant, and Kate’s father Jacob (Dougray Scott) attempts to hold back the tide as the head of Crows Private Security. But with the Alice in Wonderland gang kidnapping his own officers, Kate returns to town only to discover Alice’s latest victim is her ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy). Tired of this state of affairs, Kate learns the truth about Bruce and takes up the cape and cowl as her own – even if her father despises masked vigilantes. Also, it is entirely possible Kate has a closer tie to Alice (Rachel Skarsten) than she realizes.
The premise continues a certain progression within the Arrowverse as it gets closer to the main DC superheroes. Also, Batwoman is a pretty great character in her own right thanks to a complex inner life and mythology devised by Greg Ruka, J.H. Williams III, and W. Haden Blackman. From the trailer released by The CW on Thursday, some of these elements are already on display; like Kate’s dishonorable discharge from military school and Alice herself. Sadly, some of the elements we love from the comic book – Jacob as Kate’s version of Alfred and a ongoing relationship with Maggie Sawyer – will not be part of the series, but knowing the love these programs have for the source material, we expect those things will be honored in some way.
The series will be paired with Supergirl on Sundays, a move which seemed fated from the moment word of a potential Batwoman series first made the rounds last summer. This seemed like such an obvious pairing, we were shocked to learn in last year’s “Elseworlds” crossover that Kate lives on Earth-1 and not Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) Earth-38. But with the coming Crisis, their pan-dimensional addresses may change.
(Photo by JSquared Photography/The CW)
Though The CW has a bevy of superhero shows (and two more shows based on comic books), it makes an attempt not to be known as the comic book network. One of the tactics they employ to obscure its superhero reliance is doubling the shows up on two key nights. In fall 2019, Tuesday will once again serves as the anchor night for this scheme as Arrow spends its final days as The Flash’s lead-out.
And based on the way season 7 ended, it seems the eighth and final year will see Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) on one last mission to not only save his city, but the entire Multiverse. In a way, it seems mind-boggling that a show once so grounded as Arrow would end with its lead character saving all of creation. Then again, it also seems like something Oliver would take upon himself even if he hadn’t made that deal with The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) during last Fall’s “Elseworlds” crossover. Presumably, this last mission will take place within the Arrow context — that is to say, a grounded story without super-powered shenanigans — before the Crisis takes Ollie to the cosmos.
We’re also going to presume Legends will take Arrow’s Tuesday night slot in 2020. Black Lightning, which has held the Tuesday 9 p.m. slot since it debuted, is moving to Monday’s following All American in the Fall.
With Riverdale seemingly heading toward an endgame — at least, its season finale heavily suggested a series-ending twist for next year — its world will finally expand with Katy Keene, a series based on the Archie Comics character set for a mid-season debut. The network previously developed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as a Riverdale expansion before it quickly found a new home at Netflix. Compared to that show, it is easy to see why Katy Keene is a better fit for the network.
Starring Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Jonny Beachamp, and Julia Chan as four up-and-comers in a New York as magical and timeless as Riverdale is murky and corrupt, the series was initially pitched as a musical dramedy, but that terminology has disappeared from all official descriptions of the series. Music will still be a big part of the series as Murray imports her Riverdale character Josie McCoy to Katy Keene. In fact, supporting characters from the Josie and the Pussycats comics like the Alexander and Alexandra Cabot will feature regularly on the series in the forms of actors Lucien Laviscount and Camille Hyde. The series will also feature Zane Holtz as Katy’s longtime boyfriend KO Kelly – another Archie Comics import – and Katherine LaNasa as Katy’s “demanding” boss Gloria.
While seemingly light as air, the show hints at a dark edge with Chan’s Pepper Smith described as a mysterious player in town with dubious connections and even more dubious wealth. Considering the series was developed by Riverdale and Sabrina executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the show is almost guaranteed to have a dark heart beating under that veneer of glamour.
In the meantime, though, it looks like a near-perfect intersection of The CW’s most successful programs. It would just need a member of the Gossip Girl cast to show up as a speedster to be really perfect.
Riverdale, meanwhile, will remain its Wednesday 8 p.m. time slot. We would not be surprised to see Katy Keene become its lead-out come winter.
(Photo by The CW)
But there was one key happening the network was excited to tease during its presentation: the 2019 Arrowverse crossover, “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The title is borrowed from the historic 1985 miniseries published by DC Comics, in which the company celebrated 50 years of its rich history while also ending the DC Universe as it existed up to that point. As the marketing at the time stated, “Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same.”
In calling the 2019 crossover “Crisis,” we expect it will have similar ramifications. As it happens, Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El famously died in that story – and in rare display of fortitude in comics, both stayed dead for quite awhile – a possible ending for their TV counterparts hinted at during “Elseworlds.” But more importantly, the story ended with several DC Comics Earths merging into one new Earth. Considering this was one of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths’ lasting legacies for nearly two decades, we would not be surprised to see Kara become a permanent resident of the same reality as Barry Allen. This may be why Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) was so quick to give up his powers. In 10 months’ time, there will no longer be a Multiverse to vibe into.
As a television event, “Crisis” will span for three episodes prior to the customary CW winter hiatus, then resume with two more episodes in January 2020. But considering the way the Arrowverse programs will be doubled-up on Sundays and Tuesdays, it is unclear how each of the five parts will air. The previous crossover were stripped across three-to-four days, so that will like be the case again, with Black Lightning switching nights with one of the other shows or taking part itself – though the network has made no suggestion the show will finally become part of the Arrowverse. In fact, its story lines are so tightly paced, we have no idea how it could pause to help Barry (Grant Gustin) save all of time and space. Nonetheless, we’d still love to see the Pierces standing alongside the heroes of Earth-1 and Earth-38 when they face off against the single greatest existential threat to ever laugh at the DC superheroes.
For those of us watching all of these shows – and keeping an eye on the new additions – the 2019-2020 season will be the busiest yet. Between the arrival of Batwoman and the coming of the Crisis, we expect to be looking for clues to that event as soon as the Arrowverse shows return in October. We also expect to see Riverdale give some indication of Josie’s whereabouts prior to Katy Keene’s debut — the latter is set a number of years after Riverdale‘s next season. In the meantime, though, we’re going to try to relax during the summer (if the streaming platforms allow for it), because once the fall season arrives, The CW will once again dominate comic book TV.