(UPDATED 1/12/17 TO INCLUDE ARROW S5, THE FLASH S3, SUPERGIRL S2, & LEGENDS OF TOMORROW S2 THROUGH MIDSEASON HIATUS)
“Do I have to watch Arrow before I can watch The Flash?”
“What order should I watch The Flash and Arrow?”
“Can I watch Legends of Tomorrow without watching Flash or Arrow?”
“When does Vixen take place?”
“Do I need to watch Arrow and The Flash to understand Constantine or Supergirl?”
For longtime Arrowverse fans, the answers to those questions may seem obvious. But to a lot of new viewers, catching up is a daunting proposition. The shows all share a universe and crossovers happen frequently, so which order should the shows be watched?
Keep in mind that you don’t strictly have to watch Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow in order to enjoy each show on its own (we’ll get to Supergirl and the other shows in a bit).
Looking at the ratings, it’s clear there are plenty of fans who choose to only watch The Flash or even Legends of Tomorrow without bothering with Arrow each week; the opposite is likely true, as well.
With that said, there are frequent crossovers between The Flash and Arrow, even if some of them are just slight mentions here and there. And Legends of Tomorrow brings together so many disparate characters and plotlines from both shows that to even discuss its premise without having seen Arrow or The Flash constitutes a gigantic pile of spoilers.
So if you are interested in going back and watching all of the shows, what order should you choose?
Well, there are several schools of thought on the subject.
Arrow Before The Flash
On the question of whether to watch Arrow before you watch The Flash, it’s better to start with another question: do you plan to watch Arrow regardless or are you only interested in The Flash? If you intend to watch Arrow anyway, then you owe it to yourself to watch the first two seasons before starting on The Flash.
Sure, you could start The Flash and be mostly fine and pick up the Arrow pieces later, but you’ll get so much more out of it if you watch the setup that takes place on Arrow first.
In Order by Airdate
All right, now that we’ve established that you intend to watch all three shows, and you’ll begin with the first two seasons of Arrow, what do you do next? Season 3 of Arrow and Season 1 of The Flash aired concurrently, so what order should you watch them in?
The easiest answer is simply to watch them in the order they aired. The Flash airs on Tuesdays followed by Arrow on Wednesdays, so simply alternate back and forth, starting with The Flash premiere.
“But…” you say. “When I’m binge-watching on Netflix it’s a royal pain to have to switch every other episode!”
You’re right, it is — especially with Netflix’s useful auto-play feature that begins the next episode whether you like it or not. To avoid confusion, you’re going to have to switch back-and-forth at least a little, but there are stretches where the two shows avoid referencing one another, and you can burn through a few in a row.