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

Damien Darhk Zoom Vandal Savage

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?