I have a confession. I was tasked to present you all with an abridged version of the CW DC TV Universe so that you can jump into whichever shows you want this fall and have all the good gay knowledge you need. Superhero TV and movie and comic book continuity can be confusing. And Batwoman is coming, after all! However, I’m a completist. I can’t just skip episodes of a show, or jump into a third season. I can’t do it! I think stories should be consumed the way they were written, for better or worse. In fact, if I was diving into this for the first time, I would watch every episode of every show in the order they aired in real life. Because of who I am as a person.
That said, I know things are terrible in the real world lately so I’m going to loosen my grip on the rules for now so you can get all the joy of Sara Lance doing the salmon ladder while Felicity ogles her and less of the Annoying!Laurel years and still get caught up in time to jump into any show you want this fall.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very green place to start. (Note: I’m going to separate these watch lists by show, but you might need to do a little jumping around for crossovers’ sake!)
I remember really loving the first season of Arrow but as the years went on it became more and more about Oliver pushing people away only to learn he can’t do this on his own, but like over and over again. It’s exhausting. But Felicity is a delight and her and the crossovers are the only reason I watch anymore. But back in the day, things were good, and sometimes even gay.
While the memory of bisexual badass Sara Lance haunts the first season of Arrow, her corporeal self only shows up in flashbacks in the first two episodes, because she is presumed to be dead. And she might look… different than you think she will if you’ve seen screenshots floating around the internet lately. I think probably only these two episodes are totally necessary to get her backstory, and surely if you watch literally any other episodes of this first season you’ll hear Laurel and/or Oliver talk about her. I would argue that she was fridged, but don’t worry, Sara Lance can’t be taken down that easily. I’m also going to recommend episodes that feature The Huntress because I love her, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
102: “Honor Thy Father”
107: “Muse of Fire”
117: “The Huntress Returns”
This is the season of Sara’s triumphant return, and is also the season we meet her ex-girlfriend Nyssa for the first time. She’ll be important later. Honestly you could watch this whole season, but I’ll try to pick the ones I think make the most sense to watch. And I think this is the last season in which the flashbacks actually matter. From Season Three on you can fully skip them.
201: “City of Heroes”
203: “Broken Dolls”
205: “League of Assassins”
206: “Keep Your Enemies Closer”
207: “State v. Queen”
208: “The Scientist”
213: “Heir to the Demon”
214: “Time of Death”
215: “The Promise”
217: “Birds of Prey”
219: “The Man Under the Hood”
220: “Seeing Red”
222: “Streets of Fire”
This season has more Nyssa than Sara but once again she is an ever-present force driving the narrative. Doing all the heavy lifting without even trying, our Blonde Bisexual Bird.
301: “The Calm”
303: “Corto Maltese”
304: “The Magician”
309: “The Climb”
314: “The Return”
315: “Nanda Parbat”
316: “The Offer”
321: “Al Sah-him”
323: “My Name Is Oliver Queen”
This is the season I started to realize how amazing the character of Sara Lance really was, I think because the writers finally realized it, and as the emotional depth and complexity of the character grew, so did Caity Lotz’s acting.
401: “Green Arrow”
402: “The Candidate”
404: “Beyond Redemption”
406: “Lost Souls”
Okay let me break our regularly scheduled program to tell you something very important: a new show is about to be born. In one of the best backdoor-pilot-type-situations I’ve ever seen, Flash and Arrow joined forces to ship off some of its characters to a brand new show in a three-part crossover event. So whether or not you watch The Flash (I’d watch the first few episodes to see if you like it, and if you don’t, just skip to the crossover eps that will come up here) you should watch the following episodes in this order.
Arrow 408: “Legends of Yesterday”
Flash 208: “Legends of Today”
Legends of Tomorrow: 101 & 102 (Pilot)
We’ll talk more about Legends for now, but Nyssa still hangs out on Arrow for a few more episodes of Arrow.
413″ “Sins of the Father”
419: “Canary Cry”
I only have a few episodes of Season Five to recommend. Honestly this isn’t my favorite season. Things are still so dark and broody, Sara’s gone, hardly an episode goes by that passes the Bechdel test. Don’t be alarmed if you see new faces in these episodes I do recommend, I never warned up to them either.
Actually you know what? You can just jump into Arrow Season 5 with that year’s crossover. Just make sure you’re caught up to this point in Legends first.)
Flash 308: Invasion!
Arrow 508: Invasion!
Legends of Tomorrow 207: Invasion!
Then just watch the last two episodes of the season:
523: “Lian Yu”
I’ll be honest with you, I’M not even caught up with all of these episodes yet. It’s… slow. Seeing Katie Cassidy play a version of Laurel from another Earth who is bad to the bone was fun, but overall it’s missing something for me. Too much growling, not enough found family love. So this might be controversial but I think you can start this season with the epic Legends of SuperFlarrow crossover:
Supergirl 308: “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 1”
Arrow 608: “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 2”
Flash 408: “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 3”
Legends of Tomorrow 308: “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 4”
Then watch 616 “The Thanatos Guild” to see Nyssa and skip the 15 agonizing episodes in which we all wondered if she was dead or alive. And the finale, “Life Sentence” because Sara bops back for a bit.
I understand the impulse to skip to the gay stuff, but Legends! Oh, Legends. It’s worth suffering through the douchebaggery of Rip for the first season to watch Sara’s evolution. BUT if you insist, here are the episodes I refuse to let you get away with not seeing.
I’ve mostly included episodes that were a grand ol’ time but also some that I think are important to learn more about who Sara is, the good and the bad. (Mostly the good, she’s never as bad as she thinks she is.)
We’ve already been over that you should watch the two-part pilot after the lead-in Arrow and Flash episodes called “Legends of Yesterday” and “Legends of Today,” but it’s worth repeating here again in case you bee-bopped your way down here first.
Here are other great eps from Season One.
106: “Star City 2046”
108: “Night of the Hawk”
I interrupt this regularly scheduled program to let you know who the guest star in Night of the Hawk was.
109: “Left Behind”
111: “The Magnificent Eight”
114: “River of Time”
Welcome to the golden ages of Captain Sara Lance, when she is finally rightfully put in charge and the world is better for it. Honestly this whole season was pretty great so I’ve just included my favorite episodes for those of you desperate to skip/if you’re at this point in the list and running out of time. (I swear I wrote this before I saw the name of the first episode of the season…)
201: “Out of Time”
202: “The Justice Society of America”
206: “Outlaw Country”
(Here’s where the previously mentioned Invasion! crossover episodes happen, alongside 207)
213: “Land of the Lost”
Here’s where I draw the line. Watch every single one of these episodes. You just gotta. I don’t make the rules. (Oh wait, yes I do!) If you’re not really in it for the action, Season Three will let you get in it for the love.
And now you’re all caught up on the Sara Lance Chronicles.
Well, well, well, look what we have here, a show whose queerness doesn’t rest entirely on the shoulders of an unassailable bisexual and her assassin girlfriend. I’m sure if you’ve been anywhere on the queer internet, you’ve heard of Alex Danvers and all her gay glory, but if you have yet to dive into the world of Supergirl, here’s a good place to start.
Honestly despite being the least gay, I think Season One was this show’s strongest season overall. Seasons Two and Three had some really, really strong episodes, arcs, scenes, etc, but as far as top to bottom quality goes, I think they hit it out of the park on their first try. Perhaps set our expectations a little too high.
102: “Stronger Together”
103: “Fight or Flight”
104: “How Does She Do It? ”
107: “Human for a Day”
113: “For the Girl Who Has Everything”
114: “Truth, Justice and the American Way”
118: “Worlds Finest”
120: “Better Angels”
This was also a great season of Supergirl, especially for Alex, so probably I’m going to recommend more episodes than not. Famed lesbian detective Maggie Sawyer swaggered into town and shook things up, and honestly we needed the gay to distract us from the tangible loss of an important Season One figure. We also meet sexy scientist and subtext superhero Lena Luthor so buckle up, kids.
201: “The Adventures of Supergirl”
203: “Welcome to Earth”
207: “The Darkest Place”
209: “Supergirl Lives”
211: “The Martian Chronicles”
213: “Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk”
216: “Star-Crossed” (This is a cross-over that leads into Flash 317: Duet which I recommend watching because Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin are so talented and have a lot of friendship chemistry but the overall plot was…problematic.)
217: “Distant Sun”
219: “Alex” (maybe my favorite episode of Supergirl ever)
222: “Nevertheless, She Persisted”
Here’s the thing. In Season Two, while Alex was discovering who she was by way of falling in love, Kara was losing herself for the same reasons. So Season Three has its strengths but the Kara we knew disappeared. So these recommendations are mostly the strong Alex/Maggie episodes at the beginning of the season. And then the Season Three finale, which rekindled my dwindling hope and made me cautiously optimistic about Season Four.
301: “Girl of Steel”
303: “Far From the Tree”
304: “The Faithful”
Then you can jump into the Crisis on Earth-X crossover mentioned above.
And then… honestly… maybe just skip the rest of the season? There are some good Lena Luthor moments, but overall it’s just not the show I loved. Kara is a shell of herself, Alex becomes a glorified babysitter. It’s just all…ugh. Watch the finale (323: “Battles Lost and Won”) because it sets up the next season and then tell me if you share the same hopes for Season Four that I have.
And now it’s time for the newest kid on the block, brought to you by the other half of my CW crime-writing duo, Carmen Phillips!
Hey-yo! I’m quickly stopping by this post to ask, are you ready for a black lesbian superhero?!? Black Lightning stars Anissa Pierce, eldest daughter of the show’s titular character. Anissa also goes by Thunder. She’s got super strength, the ability to literally shake ground and pound through walls, and oh did I MENTION THAT SHE IS FREAKING BULLET PROOF????? One of my absolute favorite things is that in a time when queer women were just being killed off left and right on television (perhaps most famously on The CW), and in a real life political climate where black people become hashtags after falling victim to police and state violence, Anissa Pierce is purposefully bulletproof. She’s also social justice oriented, kicks ass, protects her family, and wants to use her powers to protect the black residents of Freeland. She’s absolutely everything I could have dreamed for in a superhero and I can’t wait for you to fall in love with her!
Black Lightning is a family drama, Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) is a retired superhero who’s forced back into that caped crusader life after his two daughters, Anissa (Thunder) and Jennifer are in danger. The central plot revolves around those three fairly evenly. The show is not set in what’s known as “The Arrowverse.” Instead, Black Lightning has created its own world and stands on its own footing (that also means it’s easier for you to catch up and follow along!). It weaves grounded portrayals of black pain and histories of race in America with DC comics lore and sci-fi spectacle. The result is like no other superhero show airing right now! This is a cut above, and if you’re anything like the rest of the Autostraddle staff — you’ll become quickly addicted.
The first four episodes, introduce the major characters – enjoy all the major gay!
101 “The Resurrection”
102 “The Book of Hope”
103 “The Book of Burial”
104 “Black Jesus
106 “Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder”
111 “Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion”
112: “The Resurrection and The Light”
113: “Shadow of Death”
It’s Valerie Anne again! I hope you enjoyed this collection of suggestions and find it a helpful jumping off point.
If you don’t actually want to watch anything and only want to read about these shows until they come back on air, I wrote some Superhero Roundup Recaps, which were mini-recaps of feministy goings-on during Arrow Season Five, Flash Season Three, Legends of Tomorrow Season Two, and Supergirl Season 2TwoUNTIL Maggie Sawyer swaggered into town. After that, I started full and proper Supergirl recaps while of course keeping up with Legends of Tomorrow in various ways.
Then this year, the year of our goddess(es) 20Gayteen, gave us aforementioned black lesbian superhero on Black Lightning and Carmen gave us some glorious recaps.
Okay, you have until October to catch up, so go forth and kick ass, my vigilante-loving friends!