Damien Darhk Zoom Vandal Savage

Do The CW's Superhero Shows Have a Big, Bad Villain Problem?

It’s good to be bad — but what if your Big Bads aren’t quite the best?

This past season, The CW’s trio of comic book series introduced villains meant to be worthy opponents for their respective superheroes. But Arrow‘s Damien Darhk, The Flash‘s Zoom and Legends of Tomorrow‘s Vandal Savage all failed to stick the landing as their arcs came to a close. The first two at least got off to promising starts… before the H.I.V.E. leader’s agenda and the speedster’s identity caused their villainy to lose its evil sheen.

Total destruction and world domination are rarely interesting as a storyline unless a show commits to the grandiose scope of such a dastardly plot. Darhk’s desire to “burn the world in a nuclear fire” never truly felt like a threat, and not just because there would be no show — or spinoffs, for that matter! — after such an event. If Earth is going to be blown to smithereens, you better believe the government is going to be involved, and yet nary an official was to be found during the final episodes. (Arrow‘s POTUS was right to be worried about the fate of humankind resting in “an IT girl, a criminal and two guys in Halloween costumes.” He also should have sent reinforcements.)

And when it comes right down to it, a bad guy with a “I want to take over/destroy the world!” agenda is never going to get what he wants. While Darhk did some scary damage along the way (via Felicity’s accident, Laurel’s death), his Genesis zeal in the finale fell short of suspenseful.

Meanwhile, The Flash‘s raspy-voiced Zoom truly terrified us… until the man in black was revealed to be the team’s new friend, “Jay Garrick.” Points for bringing the threat home, but by Barry & Co.’s own admission, the twist was reminiscent — too much so — of Season 1’s Reverse-Flash unmasking. (It was also so complicated, I’m still not sure I fully understand it.) And to one-up Arrow‘s Darhk, Zoom wasn’t planning to annihilate just a single Earth, but the multi-verse. (Again, so not happening, by decree of The CW’s Superhero Crossovers Department.)

And then there’s Vandal Savage, a mustache-twirler if there ever was one. He just never clicked.

But all hope is hardly lost for the DC shows.

Supernatural has had its share of Big Bad misses (Leviathans, anyone?), yet 11 seasons in, it is still thriving creatively. So what should Arrow and its offshoots do? It’s time to take a different approach, maybe by going the Buffy Season 6 route. There, in a brilliant bait-and-switch, a silly trio of geeks were set up to be Buffy’s new “arch-nemesises…ses” before a tragic set of events sent their witchy friend Willow down a dark path. That kind of intimate twist is also the reason why Arrow succeeded in Season 2: it was personal between Oliver and his foe Slade, their conflict dense with history.

So how about looking within for the not-so-obvious candidate? Launch a (ahem) “civil war” among friends? Maybe Caitlin takes a cue from her Earth-Two doppelgänger, Killer Frost? (Side note: Why have there been no female Big Bads across seven seasons of the three series?) Or, imagine if Oliver and one of his teammates found themselves on aggressively opposing sides, rather than having some outside force come into play? There’s only so many times a monstrous person can arrive in town. After all, Star City, Central City, etc. are not located on the Hellmouth – or are they?

What did you think of CW’s super baddies? And what would you like to see next season?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. The cool thing about DC is that they have a rich comic history for all 4 shows to draw inspiration from. Now if I were in the writers room I would pitch an over all big bad that would impact all 4 shows but have a sub-big bad that would do their bidding. That way you have an excuse to do your major crossover event.

    • peterwdawson says:

      Problem is they can’t draw from certain things thanks to the weird rift between DC films and DC TV in terms of who can use what (it’s supposedly one reason Superman’s as awkwardly never seen as he is in Supergirl, though of course there’s other reasons like possibly distracting too much from the title character). It’s a reason the Suicide Squad was written out and while never confirmed a popular rumor as to why Black Canary was killed off (though even if true I can’t imagine that was the only reason).

      It’s silly really since in theory this is an edge they have over Marvel: while Marvel’s technically combined their live-action TV and films into one universe, they don’t have the rights to anyone X-Men or Fantastic Four related, which immediately picks off, if nothing else, some of their major villains.

      • Dano says:

        Supergirl, since it WAS on CBS, had to pay for the right to use Superman, and as we found out, it was already paying a hefty chunk of change for his cousin. Now that it’s on the CW, we may actually see him (since on the CW, he’d be, legally, free to use).
        But DC does need to stop the film v TV issue. Flash is a major character, and there seem to be no qualms about him being seen in both! So why the “hate” toward the minor characters?

      • Tony says:

        My question is, who has the final day in the decisions being made? I still don’t understand this idea that certain characters can’t be used for TV. The universes aren’t connected. And what exactly are they concerned about? That the audience (in a time when the audience is as sophisticated in these things as it as has ever been) is too stupid to discern between a TV Superman vs a movie.Superman? And why is Gotham, on a non WB network, given the freedom to run wild with certain characters, but the Arrowverse shows, on a WB network, has all the restrictions?

        • peterwdawson says:

          May have to do with licensing fees or something. Gotham is being run outside of WB control so they probably have a basic license that gives them access to most characters. Willa Holland meanwhile just spoke out the other day about the problems getting Suicide Squad people involved. Gotham hasn’t had Harley Quinn pop up yet, has she? And their Joker was a fake-out, right? I’ve been off and on with that show since it does do a solid job with the villains but the overall plots and such have still left a bit to be desired for me, plus I’m frequently mobbed on Monday nights with shows to watch.

    • lechatnoir says:

      I think is a little late for that though. I think most of Marvel’s TV villains are underdeveloped . They basically just rear their head when there is a conflict and and are only there as a potential agent of chaos with a single motivation and zero purpose. I got tired of the villain du jour . There are too many flavors but so little substance in both flash and arrow. Even when their presence is stretched on three or four episodes.Those fidgety villains are bland as hell . The show runners should watch the knicks or hannibal . How to shape a multilayered villain .

      The bearded villain from the DC’s legends of tomorrow , looks like a reject from Galavant or Grease. He is ridiculous.

      • peterwdawson says:

        You said marvel at the beginning there did you mean DC the whole way through?

        • lechatnoir says:

          Peter its this isn’t limited to Marvel though. Gotham is absolutely brilliant.I love how they handled this . From Strange to Peabodie , even Fish Mooney .

      • desz1 says:

        They did better on Daredevil with Kingpin. Their second season villain was a waste of time, but the first season was pretty stunning. I thought Jessica Jones had the best villain with Kilgrave, but in trying to flesh him out, they actually made him less cool or interesting. But he was probably the best Marvel villain to date outside of Loki (who has also gotten a little boring due to single-motivation and over-exposure).

        • James says:

          The best villain in the Marvell universe is Dr Doom, but he is not used to his full potential.

        • Lex says:

          I second Kilgrave being second only to Loki, that magnificent bastard. He terrified me the first half of the season, though I agree he lost some of his shine towards the end.

  2. Corinne says:

    I think it would be really awesome if we had a female big bad on one of these shows.

    • CM says:


    • ktc1986 says:

      I’ve always thought seeing Lady Shiva going up against Oliver would be fantastic.

      • Lex says:

        Ooh, if only Ming-Na weren’t already over on Agents of Shield… Michelle Yeoh? I’m practically salivating at the thought. Bring Sara back to Arrow and make it personal. Something about the League of Assassins so we can have Nyssa back for a few episodes. Even better- give her a personal tie with Malcolm Merlyn. In a perfect world they’d be ex-lovers and we’d get Cassandra Cain out of the deal, giving us an actual reason to have Barrowman around besides the fact that he’s Barrowman.
        Thea’s “I’m off the team” storyline would be about developing a big sister-little sister bond with her but this time she’s the big sister. And Oliver can be a soppy mess because it’s almost like having Tommy back or something…she loves the same music Tommy and Ollie listened to back when they were young, idealistic teenage douchebags, IDK. I just love watching Stephen Amell cry because he’s so sincere no matter how ridiculous the situation is.
        Throw in a link to the future JSA, and serve chilled with a lemon twist.
        And that could be considered a bad pun, now that I think about it.

    • Pann says:

      I wish for a older woman villain instead of those skinny 20 ish girls in skimpy costumes. I like to cosplay but I wouldn’t dare to dress as super girl or bat girl and offend anyone, or look silly. let us older women have some fun too

    • O'hara says:

      If they have the Queen as villain it would be great. She was Ollie’s secret sister that takes the control over Queen industries and Star City(by a contract with the mayor), turning the City into a Police state and Green arrow into a public enemy.

  3. Luis says:

    Part of “Arrow’s” villain problem is the lack of a Flash like “Rogue’s Gallery” to draw upon for inspiration, thus forcing “Arrow” writers to borrow antagonists from other comics, like Deathstroke and R’as Al Ghul. Green Arrow lacks the Flash’s rich history, which “Flash” writers have already substantially mined in the first two seasons. Many of GA’s most memorable stories involve two other heroes – Black Canary (off limits for storyline purposes) and Green Lantern (off limits, thanks to the DCEU.) While “Flash” writers are clearly using “Flashpoint” as the jumping off mark for S3, I would hope “Arrow” writers step back from mining the comics and try to develop more a more organic plot for S5, one that is fitting of the mood and setting of the show,
    As for LOT, I am hopeful that the inclusion of the JSA, and the possibility of cross-dimensional hopping will serve as a foundation for a an exciting season

    • ktc1986 says:

      It’s easy to compare most heroes to The Flash’s rogues gallery and say they’re poor though. There are some top notch Green Arrow villains though, they’ve just used them as smaller threats. Clock King, China White, Komodo and Vertigo have taken smaller “villain of the week” roles when they could orchestrate something larger.

      • tyranthraxus says:

        See one of my favorite Villains from Arrow was the Count. A drug dealer with some style. No powers really.

    • O'hara says:

      The problem is that anytime they used a Green Arrow villain they didn’t use them properly. They had Constantine Drakon on the first season as a one-episode-villain and then killed him. They used two versions of Count Vertigo and both were bad Scarecrow’s rip-off and Brick was Ok on the third season, but his plotline was just a couple of episodes.

  4. peterwdawson says:

    Well Arrow’s kind of had the problem of going through most of Green Arrow’s rogues gallery already. Really two of its four big bads were originally Teen Titan major enemies (Deathstroke and Damien Darhk), and Ra’s Al Ghul is of course best tied into the Batman mythos. Darhk also being turned in a generic doomsday villain was a pretty bland raising of the stakes since Darhk originally was basically a late 90s businessman. They got the casual indifference part down but he was changed into something without a solid lore to draw upon, so we got some lame God of Death worshipper who really had no reason not to have killed everyone already, even if he does it for the lols.

    The Flash runs into the classic problem of having someone who isn’t also fast be a genuine, long-term threat to him. It was probably a mistake to do a Reverse Flash in the first season, even if a solid nod to the time travel and the complexity of the Flash lore, and instead let Captain Cold and his forming band of allies teaming up against him be the big bad before revisiting his mom’s death in more detail in the season finale. Add to that then bringing in Zoom with twists that were milked for so long they became predictable (not to mention way too many episodes of Teddy Sears blanding us to death as the Fake Jay before he got material that was finally at least somewhat interesting), anyone who can’t challenge Flash on a speed level may now end up a questionable threat, forget their goals.

    Finally Vandal Savage, immortal tyrant. This is a guy who could easily be seen as constantly being on the side of the evil empires of history, and for some reason they tied him into this incredibly convoluted plot involving the Hawk family that basically crossed his origin over with other characters who were quite frankly fairly bland as well, feeling more required because the plot said so than interesting (side note: I can see people defending Kendra, but Carter was the worst). He had multiple things going on and none of them seemed all thought out, leaving him as a generic, smug villain who was at least hyper competent.

    It’s a shame we probably can’t elevate someone simple now like the Trap Master, have him run a long con over the season behind the scenes, each plan designed to succeed in some way even if he (or perhaps she, I think there was a female trap master) failed, with the ultimate goal to capture their main enemy, in a prison that satisfies them (even have for a mid-season finale the hero caught and for an episode the Trap Master isn’t sure if their moment has actually come or not, checking and triple checking, perhaps even accidentally letting the hero escape as, during one check, they expose a flaw the hero exploits). This isn’t about nuking the world, this isn’t about conquering it, it’s just about holding up the imprisoned hero and showing the world, “I beat them. They’ve lost. Unless someone else rises up to challenge me, they’re forever mine. And if I beat them… Why can’t I also beat you?”

  5. patrickmaloney33 says:

    I threw up in my mouth when you put the current season of Supernatural above these shows, creatively. That show hasn’t had a creative idea since Kripke left and makes all the pandering to Felicity fans on Arrow seem tolerable!

    • QueenB says:

      Supernatural trumped Arrow and LoT this season without Kripke. Let it go. He’s not that great and the real credit for the success of this series is Jared and Jensen.

      • patrickmaloney33 says:

        No, the show in its first five season took the story of Lucifer and Michael and turned it into a compelling family drama. This current season turned into a Jerry Springer episode between God and his sister, which makes no sense! They didn’t have a giant frigging Ray Palmer punching an equally giant robot’s head off. And Amara was not as fun or interesting as Damien Darhk was!

    • snazzyo says:

      Did you see S11?? It was outstanding.

      Stop drinking the Haterade. Offer positive suggestions.

      • patrickmaloney33 says:

        The only good thing to come out of this season was the finale. It was just soapy and cheesy enough (Sam in danger and Mary’s return) to get me interested in the next season… I just hope Amara and Chuck’s involvement are at a minimal!

        • Jerry says:

          Hey, “Baby” elevated S11 of Supernatural above the past few seasons on its own.

          • patrickmaloney33 says:

            That was terrible, it was legitimately just a gimmick episode and offered nothing of substance…

    • Alana says:

      LOL, you wish.

      • patrickmaloney33 says:

        I am the most vehemently anti-Felicity Arrow fan ever, and I still hate what Supernatural has become more than Felicity.

    • Carrie says:

      That’s simply your opinion. I’ve watched SN since the beginning, and I’ve ‘broken up’ with a lot of shows, but I’ve never even thought about giving up on this show because it’s still creative, clever, quirky and compelling. There are a lot of viewers who feel the same way. That’s why the show is still going strong after more than a decade. And, if it has become so awful, why are you still watching?

      • Jane says:

        Totally agree with what you just said. I have given up on many shows the last few years but have never even considered giving up on Supernatural. Even during seasons where I had problems with the main storyline there were enough wonderful stand alone episodes to keep me interested.

      • Lex says:

        Just to validate you: Variety TV critic Maureen Ryan is also a hardcore SPN fan, often giving a Brokeback Mountain lament: “I wish I knew how to quit Sam and Dean (& Cas)!”

  6. bluji says:

    I felt the big problem for the DC series was definitely setting up Legends of Tomorrow. Arrow and the Flash took way too long to come back from those episodes and only really far into the season managed to rebound. Similarly, LoT suffered from too individual episodes; there should have been more continuity between episodes instead of the format it used for season 1. Hopefully that is something that’ll be fixed for season 2.

    • Vlada Gelman says:

      Legends setup did hamper the shows, butArrow Season 2 had to set up Flash, and that season was great. And what’s Season 3’s excuse then?

      • Jorf says:

        Yes but setting up the Flash was easier because it only involved one character. With LoT it needed to set up what was it, 8 characters? Also Ray Palmer in seasons 3 and 4 in Arrow was always a weak link and never added anything special to the show. Then there was the idea of swapping Canary roles from Lotz to Cassidy and then reviving Lotz.

        • bluji says:

          Also, they didn’t introduce ALL the characters of TF in such a large scale in Arrow as they did with the LoT characters now. Aaaand guess it’s just me, but I don’t think season 3 was that horrible.

        • Michelle says:

          Season 2 of Arrow introduced Barry, Caitlin and Cisco :).

    • Sara’s resurrection story wasn’t just LoT setup. It added some development into the Damian threatening the Lance daughters as well as helped mend the Laurel and Oliver relationship to where it felt real for them to be working together. And it added dimension to the Lance and Oliver relationship. It also led to Lance meeting Donna. And it was what caused Nyssa to take out the Lazarus Pit. All of this was eventually set up for Laurel’s death. The Ray Plamer stuff added some dimension to Felicity and to the Olicity relationship and his main episode had one of the best group action sequences of the season when rescuing him.

      The crossover Hawks and Vandal Savage set up was a nightmare. I wish we could go back and erase it from existence. They are the worse characters to have been regulars/major guest in the Flarrow universe. Imo.

      The second half of season 4 we had Damien Darhk giving the team a reprieve when he should have been increasing his fear mongering and danger growing. That’s what makes a good Villian. We add an episode that took Andy off the Villain table to hide his eventual betrayal & hint at end of the season major Plot point rubicon but within the season, it was a number of episodes where Damian was a non or limited factor. The same thing happened with the Calculator and LOA episodes. And then they ended the Damien arc when his totem was destroyed and Laurel prosecuting him. Though the Damien factor here was second fiddle to Baby Mama drama&Vixen quest turn. I just think the season turned not with a lackluster Villain but a mis​use of one. When he Damien repowered up it and Killed Laurel, it felt off. We needed a new Villain at this point because of the closure we got with Damien.

  7. jj says:

    Part of the problem for all three shows this season was too much of a focus on the big bad villain. It felt like the entire season for all three were the heroes being knocked down by the big bad, building a “oh my god, he’s unbeatable” state and then oops look we beat fairly easily after all. Season 2 of Arrow as you mentioned was the best. In addition to the more personal nature of Oliver’s relationship with Wilson. There were also a secondary big villain in Brother Blood. And better use of additional villains. Oliver’s focus wasn’t on Slade Wilson all the time. I think a better use of secondary villains would be helpful along with better personal arcs for each team member (and that applies to all three shows).

  8. Will says:

    I think the idea is to adopt a hybrid of broadcast and “Netflix/British” TV. The 23 episode “Big Bad” is a problem for these shows. They launch well because they start off almost focusing on development and story movement…then around mid season they’re too far developed and need to “pad” the arc with lame episodes and they go in neutral until February sweeps then neutral then ramp up for finale. It’s formulaic and causes us to lose interest. I think what should happen is they start doing “half season” arcs. Start season and go up to last week of November sweeps where big bad is taken down. Then comeback in Jan with fallout from that and setup next “arc”. I think big bad fatigue will be easier. Imagine if Flash had ended Zoom in November only to have “Jay/Hunter” go bad as his own velocity 9 addicted speedster. I think trying to pad 23 episodes with one big bad is the issue.

    • johnhelvete says:

      You have a valid point, 23 episode arc for one villain might be part of the problem. You are giving way too much credit to Netflix by calling it “Netflix/British” TV, when cable networks pioneered the 13 episode (or less) season long before Netflix existed.

      • jj says:

        Cable didn’t pioneer the short seasons. British television shows have been doing it before cable.

        • johnhelvete says:

          True, the 12-13 episode cable series was clearly influenced by British TV. I believe it was also influenced by the idea of let’s just do the first 13 episodes and not the back 9 like network TV is doing. What I do know for sure, Netflix did not come up with the idea of doing 13 episodes per season in 2013 when House of Cards premiered.

          • jj says:

            you’re right, Netflix certainly did not come up with that idea. Netflix’s contribution to television viewing is binge watching

    • bbussey says:

      Excellent observation. In a parallel situation, one major reason the first two or three seasons of The Vampire Diaries were so strong is because they broke up the seasons into three separate 7/8-episode story arcs, with the big bad of the season not coming strongly to the forefront until the last third of the season. The TVD quality tailed off when they got away from that, and the the comic book shows would benefit with that earlier TVD format. The Legends 16-episode arc actually worked better this year than the 23-season Arrow and Flash story arcs, as there was no treading water in the middle of the season and the finale tied together all of the travels that were extended trips during the season (1958, 1975).

  9. snazzyo says:

    IZombie has been particularly good at having villains.

    I wouldn’t commend The Trio from Buffy, but I agree a change-up from world domination megalomaniac is the right answer.

    I’d say plumb the comics and go with a local threat.

  10. GirlvsTV says:

    Vandal Savage is pretty much why I gave up on LOT – and that happened during the Arrow/Flash crossover! I was just not feeling a show with a central story arc revolving around that failure of a villain. He wasn’t the least bit scary and tying him to the awful Hawk people stuff didn’t help. Arrow was really lucky to have NM. He made DD work based off his force of personality for most of Season 4. The writing for his Genesis/World destruction storyline was not at all good, in large part because I don’t think the writers ever gave him a decent motivation for why he wanted to do those things outside of him just being a bad guy. It didn’t help that the storyline was a total retread of season 1’s Undertaking, only that arc was written much better. They gave Malcolm a reason for wanting to destroy The Glades that made sense and it actually made him a much more formidable villain and worthy opponent. DD spent most of his time quipping, constantly not-killing GA though having the opportunity to do so numerous times, and waving his arms around while he did ‘magic’. I love Oliver/Felicity and wish the writers had dumped the garbage fire that was the mid-season Baby Mama Drama so they could spend more time crafting a better villain arc for DD and HIVE.

  11. spindae2 says:

    Why don’t they do a Civil War alike Big Bad? Cause the writers/execs are heavily influenced by the twitter army behind OTA or OTF that they can’t there to do anything. Look how the Dig-Oliver rift from last season was resolved, to quickly and too bland.

    As for why no female Big Bad? Who the F knows? But looking how poorly they are writing for all the girls (except Sara) they better shouldn’t dare to. I am still pissed they killed of E2 Caitlin she would have been a great recurring villain.

    The overall issue is they don’t do seasom long villains well, season 2 of Arrow is the perfect example of how things should go down. The Big bad needs its minions to do the nasty work in the fall and winter part and than go big. DD disappearing for 5 ep was just ridic.

    Overall great article! Thx for pointing out the issues! 👍

  12. johnhelvete says:

    I cant agree reading the comments that part of the problem is the writers not being allowed to use some of the potential villains from the comments because of the TPTB. Darkh and Zoom were quality villains portrayed by good actors, it was the execution by the writers especially at the end of the seasons. The ludicrous Darkh is going to nuke the world endgame and how tiny the world was on Arrow after a nuke actually going off and killing thousands of people. Zoom’s masterplan at the end of the season was dumb as well.

  13. Michael says:

    Probably one of the worst things done to Arrow,Flash,dc’s legends and pretty much all of tv are the spoilers.
    Where the network,showrunners,studios,internet , magazines and the like are always there to tell us who is coming /going what the tempo or theme for the season will be and who the big bad will be.
    They need to stop giving everything away to the point that people can pretty much already know what will take place and unfold throughout the season .
    Then all that is left for that person to do is start tearing the show apart because it had not lived upto expectations.
    Put the mystery and wonder of what will happen from episode to episode back into these shows.
    Also they need to build up the story slowly let the characters and what they are trying to achieve build up ,yeah sure you can have your villain of the week episode but you can also keep working on building up the story and what villains goals are.
    That was done to great effect in Arrow season 1&2 with Slade Wilson.

  14. CM says:

    I just find that the baddies overstay their welcome. In order words the show’s seasons are too long. So much so that by the time you get to the climax you wonder why they couldn’t have done that 8 or 9 episodes ago.

    The past 2 seasons of Arrow have certainly been WAY too long to support the evil doer of the season. The long season kills the pace / momentum of the story / storytelling by adding so much filler material that that any ending is “meh”.

  15. ktc1986 says:

    I disagree that Zoom is on level with Savage and Darhk. He was a great addition and Teddy Sears done a great job. They have an issue on Arrow though, they haven’t had a decent villain since Slade from season 2. And the problem with Savage is that they made him a creepy sexual predator and tied his origin into the Hawks, which was just AWFUL.

  16. Pat says:

    The one thing that they can do,is not have them stick around so long. By far for me, Darkh just seemed to drag on and on. Savage I could understand but they finally killed him. As for Zoom I understood why he was around so long but it was beginning to wear thin with me as to when they were going to get rid of him. So I will have to wait for the Fall season to see who or what their next baddie will be on these shows.

  17. GraceM says:

    Arrow has lost a few viewers this season some of them because of the flashbacks. Too many of them and also the show has lost its way.

    • Jimmy says:

      Totally agree. They added value (somewhat) in the first two season but they are increasingly useless to the main plot and only distract; this season being a prime example of how useless they are. I really wish they would drop them.

      • Jbj says:

        The Arrow writers have acknowledged that the flashbacks were problematic this season because they had to tread some water due to the time line. However, they should improve next season, because everyone has been way more interested in how Ollie became Bratva, anyway.

  18. mac says:

    Arrows last problem was its villain, it was its IT girl that was the issue

    • Brenna says:

      Actually Arrow and the 100 were the only CW Shows that had increased their ratings over last season as of episode 16 for Arrow. Then they killed Lexa on the 100, broke up Olicity, and killed black canary, making many people angry. Then the ratings decreased. However Arrow went down overall only slightly less than Flash.

    • anna says:

      Totally agree, the villain in Arrow was not the issue, its the over concentration on the IT woman. I will no longer watch Arrow as it is not about Green Arrow’s development but Felicity and Friends. Darhk could have been great (the actor’s brilliant!), if the writers had focused on developing him and developing his plot properly, not having it as the C plot in the season. Instead, we had Smock drama, some of the worst written hacking ever and nukes being blasted into space, small cities being blown up without any repercussions or character guilt or fall out. The villains the writes for Arrow chose is not the issue, it is the actual writing itself.
      I liked the Flash and am really interested to see what they do next season, LOT is more of a guilty pleasure, and again, I am excited to see where they go and will be watching. Supernatural is Supernatural and it will keep on being Supernatural forever hopefully, I know I don’t really watch it for the villains but because it’s Supernatural!
      Arrow – I don’t care and will not be watching.

  19. Max says:

    I watch the shows for the heroes, not the villains.

  20. I think a lot of the problems with the villains (I don’t watch Arrow so can’t say about that one.) was the actors themselves.

    Vandal Savage was a joke but I don’t think it was his lack of lines or story, it was just bad acting. I mean the kid with the weird name was more menacing than Vandal Savage was and it really was just better acting, IMHO.

    Zoom was terrifying until it was a different actor being Zoom or voice anyway. He was fine as a good guy but just wasn’t able to bring the villain through.

    Look at Captain Cold. He wasn’t written as much of a villain but the actor brought out the interest and character and gave the writers something to work with.

    I say invest in better actors.

  21. emily says:

    why did you write a big write up on darhk and zoom? but couldn’t bother to say anything about savage other than he didn’t click? care to elaborate? i was enjoying reading the thoughts and then i got to that part and… nothing.

  22. The Kaibosh says:

    So what can we derive from all of this? Three shows, three badly executed villains/plots. Conclusion: The villains are bad because they’re badly written. Three bad shows based on the same bad formula.

  23. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I agree completely! I do think it is time for the Arrowverse to have a main female baddie, and not just one that is there for a few episodes! The baddies were definitely lacking this season. I think Zoom was probably the best but the reveal of him being “Jay Garrick” was a little old.

  24. Des says:

    {sigh} There are no female “big bads” because it’s 2016 and the site of an “evil” woman getting pummeled by a “good” guy would be met with shrieks of political correctness. The Flash has had a couple episodes of female villains (who all conveniently died without Barry ever laying a hand on them) as well as Arrow.

    Seriously, think about it. I can’t think of a quicker way of killing off a comic TV show than a woman who is actually treated no differently than a man.

    • Shaun says:

      They could have Talia Al Ghul show up looking to avenge her father.

      • Des says:

        And you’d have Oliver refusing to hit a girl. Seriously, can’t you hear the cries of “misogyny” from our new “safe space” generation? Him punching out a woman the way he has done with all his male opponents? Every time they have a woman on one of these shows, they either bring in a woman to fight her, or go to extremes in the choreography to avoid actual punching.

        Interestingly, it seems okay to shoot them (with bullets or arrows), but hitting…..that would never fly.

        • Shaun says:

          Darkh choke Laurel and then stabbed her,they got pretty close.Also sometimes you see Merlin fight Thea.

          • desz1 says:

            Yes, you had Darhk (a bad guy) attacking a woman who was a hero. That works because you’re supposed to hate him. As I said, there has never been a male hero hitting a woman, no matter how bad she supposedly was. They’ll do things like Flash “bumping” her with his superspeed, but never a punch or kick. Deadpool even mocked that with the two female thugs he attacked / killed in the movie.

            Interestingly, they don’t have a problem shooting a woman, but that’s another argument.

        • Brenna says:

          Oliver had some pretty cool fights with Chynna white and early on with nyssa.

        • bbussey says:

          They did have China White appear during the first few seasons and she did fight Oliver on multiple occasions – punching and kicking. Oliver also fought Nyssa in her first appearance and has fought Huntress on multiple occasions. Flash has fought Bug-Eyed Bandit, Killer Frost and Livewire, and Supergirl has fought numerous female villains.

          • desz1 says:

            Supergirl isn’t a man hitting a woman. The Flash has NEVER punched out a woman villain (if he ever had to “hit” one, it occurred while he was blurring around and you couldn’t actually see it). Arrow’s fights with women were so bloodless that it was painfully obvious how they were choreographing them to avoid you seeing Oliver bruising or cutting a woman.

            If a series had a female as the main villain, eventually the hero would have to beat her down and/or kill her. That will NEVER happen on one of these shows. That was my point.

    • stacy030 says:

      Cool. Can you tell me an example of when the “PC” crowed had an issue with a male hero fighting a female villian? An actually example, with links to articles complaining??

      I’ll wait.

      • desz1 says:

        I’ll give you an answer as soon as you can site it ever happening in the first place.

        I’ll wait.

        • jj says:

          Arrow vs Huntress. Arrow vs. Nyssa. Diggle vs. Isabel. etc.

          • desz1 says:

            Show me any time Oliver punched either in the face? As I said, lots of fancy cutaways and choreography so you don’t actually see a man hit a woman.

            Oddly they don’t have a problem with shooting that woman, which I can’t honestly explain.

        • Nick says:

          Angel vs Darla
          Angel vs Drusilla
          Angel vs Faith
          Tons of female villains on vampire diaries, Buffy, Angel, supernatural, agents of shield, on and on get punched by make heroes

          • desz1 says:

            Angel was a conflicted vampire, and by his own admission not supposed to be more than an anti-hero. Even then, they were bloodless (and bruise-less) fights that showed cutaways from so far away you couldn’t tell if the stunt people involved were even women.

        • bbussey says:

          Oliver definitely hit Helena in the face when they first fought, which is how her helmet dislodged and he learned her identity. He’s kicked China White on numerous occasions, and she has done likewise. He’s fought a number of female villains with strong force. He doesn’t punch too many male villains in the face either. I don’t recall wave of complaints after any of those fights.

  25. patrickmaloney33 says:

    Right now, I think Legends of Tomorrow has the best chance of a richer big bad with the introductions of the Thargarians. Now it’s been confirmed that they won’t be the big bad, but they could lead to other groups being introduced, like the Lansinarians (who I think will be the big bad of the season)!

  26. stacy030 says:

    I agree with everything here. The season long villain does not need to be in every episode of a 23 hour season. I was sick to death of Zoom about 6 episodes before the finale. So, instead of being excited for the final battle, I was just happy we could finally move on from Zoom.

    I also like the idea of Flash doing something similar to Buffy season 6, with the Rogues acting as the distraction before the actual big bag is introduced.

    • patrickmaloney33 says:

      I would say Hive and Damien Darhk was more played out than Zoom by the time the finales came around. But that could be because they were introduced all the way in season three of Arrow’s final episodes!

  27. Gina says:

    Or they could just go with Cupid, stupid!

  28. Luke Stacey says:

    i thought vandal savage was played great by the guy but the writing held him back. The way he acted out his scenes made me want to travel thru time to wipe that arrogant smug look off his face forever.

  29. Paige says:

    I really had a hard time watching Arrow and the Flash this season because the villians weren’t up to snuff.

    I knew before I watched Arrow’s finale that Darhk would die, the nukes would be stopped, and all would be well-ish. If Darhk had 1 nuke, then I might have bought the end, but 15000 was overkill. I think that what made Darhk so evil in the beginning is that he was a real person who had an unknown agenda but liked to kill and torture. Once his agenda was revealed, he became the mustache-twirling comic villian who would have been better on the Batman series staring Adam West.

    The Flash started with a great premise but just killed it with lackluster villiany. Now that Barry has changed the future by saving his mother, I hope that this means that season 3 will be watchable the whole season. If it turns out to be another fake-out at the end, I will not be happy.

    As for Vandal Savage, his greatest problem was that he was tied to the hawks, who did not work on screen. Savage is supposed to be a badass but he wasn’t enough of one. By the time we learn why he’s allowed to take the world over, all I could think was who cares? I cared more about the team (minus the hawks).

    Having just finished watched the entire series of Spartacus, I think the writers of all three shows should do the same. It’s a great tutorial of plotting, scheming, and how to be truly bad. Just omit most of the blood. Not to mention that women can be fantastic plotters. Lucretia? Ilythia?

  30. Does everyone bitch because there is no female lead, a black cast member, a gay person aren’t in it. Can’t we make shows like the comics used to be and what made them so great.

  31. Mary says:

    As much as I found the second half of Agents of Shield to be mostly meh, at least their threat did seem more threatening for much of the finale than Darhk’s. I did think it was possible that at least maybe one of the parallel Earths might be destroyed before Barry could shut down Zoom’s device, but that didn’t happen.

  32. Sorry, Supernatural stumbles a lot with their villains too. How many big bads are waiting in the wings to destroy the world? That happens year after year for the past 6 years at least. The writers have gotten lazy. They’re just phoning those stories in.

    That show was better when it concentrated just on the two brothers, the urban legends they hunted and the people they helped. The writing has become stale and tiresome. And the sad thing is SPN just doesn’t have the CGI budget to pull off something spectacular and scary, ironically enough because Flash, LoT, Arrow, and now Supergirl have the lion’s share of the CW’s special effects budget. Most episodes SPN is lucky to be able to afford weird contact lenses and fake looking fangs and teeth. They might have a demon smoke effect or two, but nothing like King Shark or Grodd on The Flash. It’s sad when a so-called horror or fantasy show can’t even deliver the goods visually.

    Hopefully S12 is the last year. I imagine the CW will have sucked out every last bit of profit of SPN by then.

  33. ChrisGa says:

    Damien Darkh was by far the worst Arrow big bad yet, primarily because I couldn’t take that character seriously with NM’s smug, cheesy mugging all the time. BIG fail in my book.

    Zoom was menacing…until they revealed that it was actually pretty boy Sears. Also couldn’t take seriously.

    Vandal Savage was, for me, one of the few good things about LoT outside of Routh and Lotz. Granted, the writing wasn’t really there consistently but I thought the actor was great.

    • Jerry says:

      Darkh was great, until they destroyed his totem and got rid of his magic – and then let him get it back because they kept the totem in a glass case in the Arrowcave and kept the missing piece nearby as well. WHAT. Talk about contrived writing. Either don’t have the totem destroyed at all, OR leave that for the finale. That was terrible. They should have trashed that thing and thrown it out.

      • Mary says:

        Yeah, that was bad. Taking away his power so early only to let him get it all back to kill Laurel and set up the finale.
        The whole foreshadowing to someone dying might have started off a good idea, but that also didn’t go so well since it was spoiled well before the actual episode was aired.

      • JC1 says:

        That has got to be in the running for stupidest thing to happen all year. Seriously, they brought in Vixen to destroy the thing, and then someone said, oh no, wait, we still need him to get his powers back. So they dropped in the idea that Team Arrow for some idiotic reason lost their minds and reassembled the thing. Minus one piece because of course. I mean, wow. Wow.

  34. Ronnie says:

    This may be slightly off-topic, but I think it may be time to do away with the Malcolm Merlin character. I think John Barrowman is amazing in everything he does, but his scenes this season really seemed shoehorned in when they weren’t necessary. Either get rid of the character, reduce him to just a couple significant episodes per year, or give him a major storyline!

  35. JC1 says:

    Vandal Savage – the problem was two things. First, a huge huge HUGE casting fail in Casper Crump. He made this super Big Bad come across more as some sort of sleezy creeper. He was super creepy but never actually intimidating. And secondly, the whole “chasing him across time” scenario ended up getting very old and ended up making the team look like idiots. It did have a strong finale though, something I cannot say for the other two shows.
    Zoom was amazing and really scary, until we found out it was “Jay”. Then it just kind of seemed like a repeat of last year, with 100% more damseled Caitlin. Did they ever explain that whole darkness in his eyes thing? And the less said about the whole “time remnants” nonsense the better.
    Damien Darhk – Neal McDonough was a huge improvement over Matt Nable’s Ra’s al Ghul. And for the first few episodes I was really excited about him. But then they stalled everything to drag it out, and they threw in the whole subplot with Malcolm and Thea (I was so hoping Thea would kill Malcolm – I am so tired of him), and then the ending turned out to be a total disappointment.

  36. ScottJ says:

    I’d like to see Arrow in particular drop the whole “big bad” idea. Mix it up a bit with a few short (3 or 4 or 5 episode) threats and villains. The character is way too under-powered to cope with villains like Darhk. That’s why even the original Justice League comics had problems using Green Arrow at times.

    Its also the insistence on a series long villain that does not work. That lets the villain dictate the plot, while it should be the plot dictating the villain. Legends should have ended Savage in the 13th episode as would have been originally planned. But the late addition of 3 more episodes forced the storyline to suddenly be stretched out. I don’t see why a new villain couldn’t have come in instead even if they did have to continue across the series boundary for a few episodes.

  37. silverpetticoatreview says:

    Part of the problem is they’re trying too hard to create a big bad. While I love the Buffy style of storytelling, there are different ways to tell a story. Look at season 1 of new Doctor Who. While the Daleks were technically the big bad, the most important story arc/reveal wasn’t the “big bad,” it was Rose as Bad Wolf. It was about her journey rather than a villain. Or how about Being Human? Look at season 3. The “big bad” was more about inner demons and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe they need to start looking at classic storytelling and find alternate ways of creating a story arc for a season. I mean, if they’re just going to try to keep one-upping the big bad villain each season, all 3 shows will get stale fast. Maybe the shows should add in a little more mythology or even a new conspiracy. Certainly, Arrow needs to have some more fun thrown in and less angst and brooding.

  38. The DCwU’s villain problem is the CW frankly. They’re so intent on the soap elements over there that actual characterization goes out the window. Darhk is a case in point. He was tethered to Olicity and waiting out the Hawk/LoT Prep melodrama for so long that there wasn’t enough time to do anything else with him. I mean he and Ra’s were set up to be Magneto on steroids and even more Magneto on steroids. Are Matt N and Neal M given scenes together? no. Neal McD wanted to keep his wedding ring on so they gave Darhk a wife. Do they develop the wife and kid? No. Will we ever find out who got custody of the kid after their BOTH killed? No. Is Ruve Talia as an adult? We may find out on Legends but I’m not holding my breath. It’s sad.

  39. Steveo says:

    There have been no female big bads because we have all male leads, and watching male heroes brutally beat up female villains is disturbing.

    • desz1 says:

      Thank you! I said that hours ago and people thought I was hallucinating. Can you imagine Barry beating the snot out of a woman they way he did to Jay (with blood coming from her mouth and nose)? It would be the apocalypse (and not in a non-effective way like Arrow does it).

      • Steveo says:


        I personally thought the two fights towards the end of SUPERGIRL that put the Martian Manhunter against Indigo were fairly difficult to watch.

  40. Dennis says:

    The Vandel Savage character would have been better if they had more famous characters in the ship’s time travels. A Dolf Hitler, Napoleon, Genghis Khan and many more would have made the story better. Having all those characters in a 45 minute show each week for one season does not leave much time for character developement. A lot more exposition would have made it more understandable. Time travel or flashbacks are both confusing to where you are in a story but one following the other is guaranteed confusion.W hen he was killed three times in the final show he went too easily but in the other shows he fought several of the same hero’s with bad results for them. Did he get weak or forget how to fight

  41. Jared says:

    Arrow has literally had the same finale since S1(give or take some characters and plot points). Honestly felt like the finales of Arrow and The Flash were probably some of the weakest episodes of the season. LoT was just bad but that had more to do with Savage character than the actual “legends”.

  42. Brenna says:

    It’s nice to see a legitimate article and interesting comments that are not trashing characters or these shows. None of the shows are perfect but they are entertaining and I really love the casts of both Arrow and Flash.

  43. ndixit says:

    Personally, I think Zoom was a solid villain. Both before and after the reveal. not RF level but RF was a very high standard. Darkh was initially amusing until it became apparent that he was completely incompatible with Arrow as a show. They just dragged him on and on. Savage was just massively miscast.

  44. Bill says:

    Great analysis. To offer another example, Xmen Apocalypse. “Big bad guy blowing up earth to start anew” has literally been done 1,526,882 times. Get more creative!

  45. Dj says:

    The problem with DC bad guys is the writers are over thinking them. Arrow should not have plots about bad guys wanting to end the world. Thats not what Arrow should be about. Also the big bad doesnt have to destroy a chunk of the city every year, because every villain isnt motivated by death and destruction.

  46. Nick says:

    Do ‘Arrow,’ ‘Flash,’ and ‘Legends,’ have a villain problem? Yes, however I disagree with your assessment Vlada. From my perspective the reason there is a villain problem is because they lacked a history or adequate development. More often than not, these shows introduce a villain without giving us enough about them and when they do they tell us rather than show us.

    Damien Darhk was poorly developed; we saw he had magic and was a part of H.I.V.E. and that was mostly it. So he was an evil wizard, and part of an evil organization, a pretty generic villain. We were told he was a former member of the League of Assassins, yet outside of the finale, we never saw him use any of those skills. He wasn’t a deep character so viewers couldn’t resonate with him as a character, Darhk’s family felt like an afterthought they didn’t add enough to his character to make us like or fear him.

    Merlyn is a good villain because we saw him as a father, widower and murderer all within the first season. His scenes with Moira, and Tommy added complexity which contrasted well with his role as the Dark Archer and his reasoning for the Undertaking. Slade worked as a villain not because his goals where simple and achievable, but because we had all of Season 1 to get to know the character, and the ethos of who he was as a man. Similarly, Eobard Thawne was given an episode for us to get to know him, and his motivations. It didn’t matter that his motivation was to get home, and kill Barry while he was at it. The cumulative value of the Thawne scenes throughout season 1 of the Flash made him a good villain.

    Zoom, if you exclude “Jay” his time remnant (since the friend to enemy twist was already done in Flash and Arrow) was a fine villain, because he put the Hero in a bad place. He made Barry (a time remnant copy) commit suicide to save the world and hurt Barry so badly that Barry decided changed history. Zoom won, he destroyed Barry emotionally and made him destroy the timeline, While that’s a smaller than the Multiverse that’s still kind of a win for Zoom in the end.

    Vandal Savage failed as a villain because he was defined by the Hawks and Rip. His characterization was a trope rather than anything complex or layered. Frankly, it’s a disservice to his comic book counterpart who is multifaceted. An immortal like him would be a complex character, look at Ashildr from Dr Who, Savage should have been at least as compelling but instead we got a character who stayed pretty much the same for four thousand years, that kind of character doesn’t resonate with an audience because it lacks complexity and isn’t realistic.

    Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow’s villain problem is a history and character development problem. How do you fix it? By giving us villains that matter and have impact. Tell us and show us why these people are villains and why they will be hard to overcome why beating them will require not only sacrifice but cunning. Well built villains with a history and logical and well reasoned motivations are always good and that’s what these shows need to give us.

    For example, Season 5 of Arrow will have to have Oliver become a Captain in the Bratva, that history might have a negative effect on his role as Mayor of Star City. Imagine what would happen if Anatoly showed up in Star City with intention of expanding the Bratva’s influence, that would leave the friends of opposite sides, making Anatoly the kind of villain the Green Arrow has to stop but doesn’t want to kill. If you add in a mid-season reveal that Anatoly is being controlled by Queen Bee of H.I.V.E.(with a characterization similar to that of the Young Justice version) it would add the depth and history that we need. Queen Bee would want revenge against Oliver dead for killing a Member of her H.I.V.E. (Darhk) and she could use his friends and loved ones to do it. It’s not hard to fix the villain problem these shows have but it takes the right story. Hopefully, Arrow and Legends do better next season, and Flash doesn’t mess things up too badly.

  47. I can’t say anything about Damien and Vandal because I don’t watch Arrow and LOT but I disagree when it comes to Zoom. He was a great villain, from start to finish.
    One, I haven’t been this terrified by a villain in a minute. I love the way he used to pop up and just WRECK shop. Kept me on edge and it was stressful, in the best possible way. Instead of dancing around the hero, like too many villains do, he grabbed him by his hair and dragged him through the city before breaking his back. Vicious.
    Even when he lost, he won. Barry messed with the whole timeline because Zoom managed to break his head before he was carted off to parts unknown by the wraiths. What Barry did was so incredibly selfish it made him something of a villain, which is exactly what Zoom wanted him to become. Another win for Hunter.
    His voice actor alone (Zoom’s)? Iconic. And Teddy Sears had a great physical presence and truly disturbing facial expressions that really fit the irreparably damaged psycho narrative of Zoom. I also love the way Zoom infiltrated the team. I liked the reveal, and I enjoyed Zoom so thoroughly once he unmasked that I had to keep myself from rooting for him several times. He’s horrible, but Teddy made me LOVE Zoom. Not sure if Teddy will be back as the Black Flash. Would love to see again. Pity we won’t be able to see his face anymore and those crazy expressions, considering the condition of Black Flash’s face.

  48. Bobby Paulson says:

    The main issue is that these shows basically show someone’s face and says, “this is the guy you’re supposed to hate.”, but then we see very little pieces of why they are bad….yet they have no issues with sidelines galore that mean nothing to the story….and there’s also the aspect of not being able to destroy the world because we also see Legends of Tomorrow in the 2100’s….on the same planet that’s still alive and kicking.

  49. Dano says:

    I think the error is in having a central big bad with an over-arching story line for the whole season. This is the same fatigue the comic book industry is having, that you have to buy 12 $4 books for one story (yeah, that’s $48 for ONE story, and that’s the cheap end; some comic book stories are running 24 issues-$96. When was the last time you paid $96 for a novel?). Arrow is suffering from this concept the most. And those flashback scenes are not helping; here’s hoping those are gone.
    So, stop having the one-season “big bad.” Spread the love. Tell small, intimate stories that people remember.
    Use the villains! I have not seen seasons one and two of Arrow, but I’ve been told it wasted a lot of Arrow villains by making them something else (Vertigo was a drug, instead of a Count). You could still have County Vertigo though. He’d be a great foil for Oliver. Causing chaos with diplomatic immunity.
    Have someone reread the Flash books. He has more than speedster villains, and he doesn’t need to be fighting so many Firestorm villains, which at first was kind of cool, but then as it’s kept continuing…..not so much.
    Stop killing off the villains!!! The Turtle, the way he was used, was a let down. There’s a big bad, an intellectual villain; well, he could have been. The master-stroke genius behind….but not now; he dead. And so are others.
    Maybe it’s the shows showing their creative age. Find some new creative blood. Don’t be in a rush to use a character just because you can, or because it fills a “need” in a story line. Give us NEW bad guys! They don’t all have to be from the books.

    • James Wilson says:

      I basically agree with you, especially about the flashbacks of the Island. It is getting to be boring.

  50. Maryann says:

    I disagree with your premise. I felt all three “big bads” you mention were very good, and very much up to the task. Not sure what you wanted instead, but these certainly MORE than worked for me.