We pick the top 25 episodes from The CW’s massive superhero TV universe, from Arrow to The Flash to Supergirl to Legends of Tomorrow!
The Arrowverse has enjoyed some amazing growth over the past six years. What started as one series about a hooded vigilante has ballooned into a massive shared universe that touches on nearly every corner of DC Comics lore. Between Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, the Arrowverse is now several hundred episodes deep and still going strong.
Let’s take a look back and spotlight the very best of the best with our breakdown of the 25 greatest episodes from those four shows. Did your favorites make the cut? Read on!
“Falling” (Supergirl S1E16)
One of the hallmarks of the Superman franchise is that both Clark and his cousin tend to have bad reactions when exposed to the many colored variations of Kryptonite. That was the basis of this Season 1 episode, as exposure to red Kryptonite brought out Kara’s dark side. It’s a lot of fun seeing Melissa Benoist take such an evil turn, but this episode mined its premise for drama as well as laughs. For a series that routinely struggled to find itself during its first year, this episode served as a welcome sign of what was possible.
“Enter Zoom” (The Flash S2E6)
The Flash’s second season had a tall order to fill when it came to introducing a villain as compelling and frightening as Reverse-Flash. Fortunately, Zoom had no trouble making an impression in his first major battle with Team Flash. By the end, viewers are left to wonder how Barry Allen can possibly hope to outrun this twisted, demonic-voiced speedster from another world. Fortunately, that darkness is balanced out by an entertaining storyline involving Linda Park being groomed to take the place of her evil Earth-2 counterpart.
“Moonshot” (Legends of Tomorrow S2E14)
Legends of Tomorrow truly came into its own in Season 2, perfecting a blend of goofball charm and dramatic superhero storytelling. This episode showcases that balance as well as any other in Season 2. It’s uproariously entertaining, particularly when Victor Garber’s Professor Stein begins belting out an impromptu musical number in NASA mission control. But the character drama also flows hot and heavy here, whether it’s the focus on Eobard Thawne’s villainous motivations or Nate Heywood’s struggle with meeting his own grandfather in his prime.
“Going Rogue” (The Flash S1E4)
Like pretty much every new series, The Flash took a few weeks to find its footing in Season 1. Early on, the show struggled a great deal with introducing villains worthy of Barry Allen himself. That changed in the fourth episode, as Wentworth Miller made his debut as Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold. Miller’s intense performance immediately made Snart stand out from the crowd, while this episode also forced Cisco to wrestle with the knowledge that one of his inventions was being perverted. Snart may not have spent long as an actual villain in the Arrowverse, but he did enjoy a strange, compelling journey that wouldn’t have been possible without the groundwork established in this episode.
“The Climb” (Arrow S3E9)
Arrow’s third season ultimately failed to meet the standard set by its predecessors, but things were still looking pretty rosy in the midseason finale. “The Climb” pitted Oliver Queen against Ra’s al Ghul in a shirtless battle to the death (is there any other kind on this show?). This episode does a fantastic job of slowly building to that climactic showdown, before delivering one of the more tense and dramatic fight scenes in the show’s long history. Considering that this episode ends with a giant cliff-side battle, perhaps it’s fitting that Season 3 was all downhill from this point.
“Invasion!” (Arrow S5E8)
It might seem strange to single out one part of 2016’s enjoyable “Invasion!” crossover, but this chapter also has the distinction of being Arrow’s 100th episode. Somehow, the series found a way to celebrate that milestone while still furthering the conflict between Earth’s heroes and the Dominators. An extended dream sequence allowed Oliver Queen to reconnect with his dead friends and family, and for the entirety of Team Arrow to do battle with some of their worst enemies. In many ways, this episode works as a better adaptation of the classic Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything” than Supergirl’s official adaptation.
“The Runaway Dinosaur” (The Flash S2E21)
Filmmaker Kevin Smith has found a new calling as a recurring director on The Flash and Supergirl, and his Flash debut remains his strongest effort to date. This episode plays out as a sequel of sorts to the Season 1 finale, “Fast Enough,” once again banking on Barry’s guilt over his mother’s death. At the same time, this episode also highlights the unusual nature of the Speed Force and its connection to Barry. Season 2 didn’t end as well as it should, making “The Runaway Dinosaur” the last truly great installment of that year.
“The Brave and the Bold” (Arrow S3E8)
Back when there were just two Arrowverse shows on the air, the annual crossovers were a little smaller in scope. That didn’t hinder “The Brave and the Bold” one bit, however. This episode makes great use of the culture clash that comes when Team Flash heads to Starling City and butts heads with Team Arrow. From Cisco geeking out about the “Arrow Cave” to Diggle’s awkward reaction to metahuman powers, this crossover gave Arrow a much-needed injection of fun. “The Brave and the Bold” also makes particularly strong use of Nick Tarabay’s Captain Boomerang as the villain.
“Exodus” (Supergirl S2E15)
Supergirl’s second season focused a great deal on the tension between humanity and Earth’s extraterrestrial immigrants, using that conflict as an X-Men-worthy metaphor for the immigration debate. Nowhere was that topic handled better than this episode, as Kara’s role as defender of the common man became ever more important. Two key scenes really elevate this episode. First, the emotionally charged reunion between Alex and her long-lost father, Jeremiah. Second, Kara’s heroic near-sacrifice in the climax, giving the Danvers sisters a moment straight out of The Wrath of Khan.
“Destiny” (Legends of Tomorrow S1E15)
Legends of Tomorrow went through a lot of growing pains in its first season, but when the show was on, it was on. The first season peaked in its penultimate episode, one that culminates in the heroic death of Leonard Snart. That tragic moment caps off years of growth for the character, as Snart evolved from selfish thief and antagonist to Team Flash to a willing hero and defender of the timestream. His death in this episode is an emotional moment, to be sure, but also one that’s continued to impact the series in numerous ways going forward. Plus, the fall of Captain Cold merely paved the way for the rise of Heat Wave.
“Tricksters” (The Flash S1E17)
The Arrowverse has been great about paying tribute to past DC Comics shows and movies and giving familiar actors new roles to play. Or in the case of Mark Hamill’s Trickster, the same role all over again. This episode marked the first of several times Hamill returned to play this kooky villain, resulting in a lot of great meta humor and even a moment where Hamill utters that iconic line “I am your father!” But even with all the fun involved in seeing two generations of trickster join forces, this episode managed to further the ongoing Reverse-Flash conflict and showcase the truth behind the most terrible night of Barry Allen’s life.
“Unchained” (Arrow S4E12)
Arrow’s fourth season is regarded by many fans as the show’s worst, but even it had its moments. “Unchained” stands out for two reasons. For one, it features the the return of several fan-favorite characters, including Celina Jade’s Shado and Colton Haynes’ Roy Harper. With the latter, “Unchained” was able to deliver a much more fitting sendoff than Roy was allowed in Season 3. This episode also stands out for having some of the strongest action sequences in the show’s history. It proves that choreography is one area where the series manages to keep raising the bar even when it may struggle in other ways.