How to watch DC’s Arrowverse TV shows in order

There's a big world of DC content out there and here's our crash course on where to start.

Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC Comics Arrowverse crossover on The CW)

In 2012, The CW announced a series based on DC’s Green Arrow to serve as a spiritual successor to its recently concluded Smallville – little did fans know it would spawn a huge television universe.

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Less than a decade later, the so-called Arrowverse is comprised of no less than seven television shows, with scope to include much more thanks to the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline.

All things considered, there are hundreds of hours worth of superhero storytelling for fans to dive into, but some confusion over the best order in which to consume them.

While diehard fans have intricately plotted out the timeline of the Arrowverse episode-by-episode, we aim to give newcomers the simplest possible method of immersing themselves in the world of DC Comics heroes.

Read on for our guide to the Arrowverse watch order.

Wave 1: Arrow seasons 1 and 2

Stephen Amell stars in Arrow season one as Oliver Queen (The CW)
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Anybody looking to dip their toe into the deep water of the Arrowverse should start with the first two seasons of the show that started it all.

The opening episodes of Arrow introduce us to Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who returns to his family home in Starling City after five years spent stranded on a hellish island.

He makes it his mission to clean up the crime-ridden city, taking on a vigilante persona and utilising his impressive archery skills to take down dangerous foes.

In its second season, Arrow introduces forensic scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), who goes on to become the scarlet speedster commonly known as The Flash.

Wave 2: Arrow and The Flash

The Flash (Grant Gustin) and Arrow (Stephen Amell) in season 3 of Arrow (The CW)
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Once you’ve finished the first two seasons of Arrow, you’re ready to move to the next level and juggle two Arrowverse television shows at once.

Arrow season three and The Flash season one aired alongside each other on The CW’s lineup, with the scarlet speedster premiering first on 7th October 2014 and the emerald archer following a day later.

As previously mentioned, some purists will argue that alternating between the two shows in broadcast order is not a perfect system in terms of continuity.

However, it’s certainly the simplest strategy and most viewers will find it doesn’t present any major issues; this is the order in which they were originally seen, after all.

The key thing to get right is the order of the first so-called Flarrow crossover, which begins in The Flash 1×08, titled Flash vs Arrow, and concludes in Arrow 3×08, titled The Brave and The Bold.

At this point in time, Matt Ryan’s Constantine series also debuted on television and was not initially classified as part of the Arrowverse, due to its home on another network (NBC).

However, Constantine would eventually join the ranks of DC’s television universe, so those looking for the comprehensive viewing experience should consider binging the cult favourite 13-episode series as an interlude before Wave 3.

Wave 3: Welcome the Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow season one full cast
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Oh boy, now it’s getting complicated.

The Arrowverse hit another growth spurt the following year, with the addition of both an ambitious new team-up series and Kryptonian crimefighter: Supergirl.

Notably, Supergirl didn’t become a card-carrying member of the Arrowverse until her second season, so there’s relatively little overlap to worry about here.

Still, we would recommend following the order in which these episodes aired; alternate between The Flash season two and Arrow season four for the first three episodes only.

At which point, add Supergirl into the mix so your rotation will look something like this: Supergirl, then The Flash, and finally Arrow (and repeat until you reach episode 10 of each).

Ready for a fourth one? Go on then!

Legends of Tomorrow saw the eclectic band of metahumans recruited by time traveller Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) to take down the villainous Vandal Savage (Casper Crump).

The groundwork for the series had been laid throughout Arrow season three and The Flash season one, as well as in the second Flarrow crossover (see: The Flash 2×08 and Arrow 4×08).

Legends was a midseason premiere for The CW, debuting in January, so check out the pilot episode after episode 10 of Arrow and amend your rotation accordingly.

It should now go as follows: Supergirl, followed by The Flash, then Arrow, and finally Legends of Tomorrow.

Wave 4: Invasion!

The Flash season three (Invasion! Arrowverse crossover)
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The CW was merciful enough not to add another show to its DC lineup on this particular year, but there’s still a lot to get through: don’t worry, we can do this together.

Continuing with the logic that watching in broadcast order is the simplest route, start off with the season three premiere of The Flash, followed by the season five premiere of Arrow.

Once those two episodes are out of the way, we can resume our regular rotation, which now looks like this: Supergirl season two, followed by The Flash season three, next Arrow season five and finally, Legends of Tomorrow season two.

The only time you need to break from this cycle is around the big Invasion crossover, which all four shows tie into following Supergirl’s migration to The CW.

The Arrowverse Invasion watch order is as follows: Supergirl 2×08, then The Flash 3×08, next Arrow 5×08 and finally, Legends of Tomorrow 2×07.

Are you still with me? Good, because things are about to get more difficult.

Wave 5: Black Lightning strikes!

Black Lightning (The CW/Netflix) Arrowverse TV show
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Here we go again! Let’s start things off simple by going back to our cosy (and slightly amended) Arrowverse rotation: Supergirl season three, followed by The Flash season four, then Legends season three, and finally Arrow season six.

You’ll have to disrupt that pattern as you reach the Crisis on Earth-X crossover event, which has a slightly different watch order: kicking off in Supergirl 3×08, continuing in Arrow 6×08, escalating in The Flash 4×08 and concluding in Legends 3×08

This year in The CW was notable for the debut of Black Lightning, based on the DC Comics superhero, but his first season actually unravels in a separate continuity with no major crossovers.

Therefore, while you could slot Black Lightning into the broadcast order, there’s no desperate need to and you could binge through season one separately if you so desire.

Wave 6: Elseworlds

Arrow season 7 elseworlds crossover (The CW)
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As the Arrowverse entered its seventh year, The CW’s line-up was packed full of DC content, airing in the following order: The Flash, followed by Black Lightning, then Supergirl, next Arrow, and finally Legends of Tomorrow.

Notably, Black Lightning is still operating on a separate Earth at this time, while Legends did not participate in this season’s main crossover, so both shows can be binged separately in the interest of simplifying your watch list.

The three remaining shows collided in an epic crossover event titled Elseworlds, which saw the introduction of Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, better known by her superhero alter-ego: Batwoman.

The watch order for Arrowverse’s Elseworlds is: The Flash 5×09, then Arrow 7×09, followed by Supergirl 4×09.

Wave 7: Crisis on Infinite Earths

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Congratulations! You’ve made it to the apotheosis of the Arrowverse.

After Stephen Amell decided to end Arrow after eight seasons, there was no way that the writers were going to let him go without a fitting exit.

So, they set to work putting their unique spin on one of DC Comics’ most iconic storylines, utilising it both as a grand send-off and a handy streamlining tool for their own convoluted continuity.

In total, there were six DC Comics shows on The CW’s lineup and juggling them all is both a challenge and a mammoth time commitment, but the most important thing to get right is the Crisis watch order.

The crossover kicks off in Supergirl 5×09, continuing in Batwoman 1×09, then Black Lightning 3×09, next The Flash 6×09, followed by Arrow 8×08 and finally, Legends of Tomorrow 5×08.

The repercussions of Crisis on Infinite Earths continue in Batwoman 1×10, which deals with the fate of a certain universe displaced character.

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Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, visit our TV Guide, or find out about upcoming new TV shows 2020.