Yesterday, The CW announced that Superman would be joining Supergirl for the show's second season. As if that wasn't big enough news already, people started speculating immediately about what that meant for future crossover potential with the CW's other shows, including The Flash and Arrow.
For years, DC and The CW have worked on building this small-screen universe, where characters from each show make guest appearances throughout the year, building the hype for each series and pandering just so to fans. It's made for an often exciting period of television, as Polygon's Charlie Hall described in his weekly recaps, and has cultivated quite the fanbase within the Tumblr adored universe.
Part of that has to do with the fact that these characters are already beloved in their own right. The Flash, Green Arrow, Supergirl and Superman have been around for decades, especially the last one. But much of the credit should go to executive producer Greg Berlanti, who cultivated a fun, youthful, innocent and, above all else, entertaining world that audiences became almost instantaneously invested in.
What Berlanti did was create the cinematic universe director Zack Snyder has been tasked with molding, but succeeding in every aspect that Snyder has failed at.
But much of the credit should go to executive producer Greg Berlanti
There's multiple reasons why Berlanti's adapted DC universe has already far surpassed what Warner Bros. is trying to do with Snyder, but one of the facets that stick out the most is how Berlanti captures the emotional grievances the characters have to carry without falling into a pit of overplayed dramatics.
Take, for example, the latest plot arc on The Flash. Barry's had more than his fair share of emotional trauma to deal with this year, and while everyone on the writing team does a decent job of making sure every episode has that dramatic hook to keep you entertained, and more importantly, willing to come back the following week, it doesn't feel gross. Grant Gustin's performance is grounded and the overly dramatic moments are leveled off with a string of goofy encounters or corny jokes. It's a fun show to be a part of and it's proof that you don't have to tell an audience they need to care about a character if you let the character evolve and shine in his or her own right.
On the other side of it, Snyder has been trying to force caring for characters that he hasn't had time to develop. He's playing with overly dramatic scenarios to try and manipulate empathy for the characters from the audience, but because of the lack of investment in his new universe, it comes off as boring and desperate. I've talked previously about how a cinematic universe doesn't just work because a studio wills it to. Much like Rome, it can't be built in a day — or, rather, in one movie, as Warner Bros. and DC tried to do with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
A cinematic universe happens over time — just look at Marvel and Fast and the Furious. The reason it works is because there's something interesting happening with the characters that studios allow fans to explore, harness and invest themselves in. It's a slow procedure, but like the turtle and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.
Berlanti understands this better than anyone. He slowly introduced the Flash into The CW world following the success of Arrow. Then they slowly introduced the Legends of Tomorrow heroes, letting fans get a taste of what these new characters could do through a series of crossover episodes. Now, he'll slowly integrate Supergirl and Superman into the fold, undoubtedly aiming to create a week-long series of major crossover events heading into the mid-season break.
It's apparent that the biggest competition DC's film universe is going to have is its television counterpart. The type of universe DC fans were hoping to get on film already exists.
Sure, there are some major thematic differences between the two that can't be ignored. Snyder is going for a darker, more mature aesthetic and storytelling narrative while DC's television universe has more in common with Marvel's teenage-oriented crowd, but the main goal out of any franchise is to make it endearing and fun. On that alone, Berlanti has once again succeeded and Snyder has once again failed.
As it stands, Superman will appear in the first and second episodes of Supergirl's new season when it starts up again this fall. There's already quite a bit of hype surrounding who might play the iconic character and what the relationship will be like between the two after nothing but brief mentions of Superman on the show.
Regardless, people are tremendously excited for the newest addition to The CW family, and if I was DC, that's where I'd be focusing more of my attention. Good show business is giving fans what they want, and what they want is more of this and less of Snyder.