Why The Flash and the entire Arrowverse has been cancelled

barry allen in 'the flash'
Why The Flash and entire Arrowverse was cancelledThe CW

The Flash season 9 spoilers follow.

It's been a long time coming, but The Flash has finally run its course, and its end marks the end of the Arrowverse too. Before you start, no, Superman & Lois doesn't count. Not any more, anyway.

Looking back, 2020's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover was the beginning of the end for the Arrowverse. Following up on this franchise's most ambitious event yet was never going to be an easy task, so it wasn't long until the show that started it all, Arrow, concluded its run later that year. Supergirl and Black Lightning followed the next year and then Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow were also taken from us another year later in 2022.

barry allen in 'the flash'
The CW

Financial factors also played a big role in this culling — more on that later — but whatever the reason, it's a "bittersweet" time to say goodbye, as Grant Gustin himself put it in a now deleted Instagram video from August 2022:

"It’s been an incredible nearly 10 years of playing this character and getting to be a part of this show with an amazing cast and crew," the star said. "And so much love from you guys, the fans, the people who love the show. That's the only reason we've been able to go as long as we have."

So what happened? Why did The Flash end now with so much love still? Grab a Big Belly burger and join us as we reveal everything you need to know about The Flash's cancellation, not to mention the entire Arrowverse's demise.

Why The Flash was cancelled

the flash season 7 trailer
The CW

Nine seasons in, it's safe to say that The Flash was no longer running on all cylinders. Once upon a time, this was the best Arrowverse show of all, but recycled villains and major pacing issues have dragged at The Flash's heels in recent years.

Still, it seems that didn't matter to diehard fans because The Flash's eighth season remained one of the most popular CW shows across 2021-2022, with an average of one million viewers per episode (via The Hollywood Reporter).

As has been the case with all these recent Arrowverse cancellations, network issues behind the scenes undoubtedly impacted The Flash as well. Since Nexstar took over majority control of The CW in 2022, there's been a concerted effort to save money and become more profitable by culling expensive superhero shows that they don't own the streaming rights to anyway.

It was only a matter of time then for The Flash, although a tenth season might have still been possible if not for Grant Gustin's own decision to exit the show before an actual cancellation came through.

Rumours around his departure began circulating when Gustin's contract renewal in February 2022 only signed him up for one more year instead of the usual multi-year deals he'd agreed to before.

Ahead of the final ever episode, Gustin opened up to EW about his decision to leave, saying "It just felt like time."

"A lot of people wanted us to get to 10 seasons," he continued, "but in my mind we did 10 years — it was 2013 when I was cast as Barry Allen, and we finished in 2023. We had done everything we needed to do, the characters were in a good place, and we had reached the conclusion."

Fans might be surprised to learn that this wasn't the first time Gustin had considered quitting:

"Initially when we all signed on, it was a six-year run that got extended to seven. I got married [to physical therapist and trainer Andrea LA Thoma while filming] season five. I had a kid [daughter Juniper Grace Louise] during season seven — so obviously you start thinking about life changes at that point. Plus, Arrow had ended with season 8, so I thought, 'Let's end with season 8.'"

grant gustin
NBC - Getty Images

It was Greg Berlanti, a key Arrowverse figurehead, who convinced Gustin to keep on running just a little bit longer, but a couple of weeks after season eight wrapped, Grant finally made the decision to leave for real after season nine.

At the time, Grant didn't know if The Flash would continue on somehow without him. It is the Arrowverse, after all, so magic, aliens, or even shape-shifters could have all been used to explain away the actor's absence while still keeping Barry Allen in the picture. In the end though, Gustin's decision to leave marked the end of The Flash — and therefore the Arrowverse — as a whole.

"I just knew it was time for me to step away," explains Gustin. "To have more time with my family, and just enter this next chapter of my life. But I think I would've really questioned my decision if they had done a season 10 — if I knew the whole family was still together and I was somewhere else — so I'm glad we all finished at the same time. I'm not really a FOMO person, but I would've for sure had FOMO about that."

So that begs the question...

What would The Flash season 10 have looked like?

the flash 5x01, 'nora'
The CW

Before Grant Gustin decided to leave and the cancellation was confirmed, series showrunner Eric Wallace had plans for a longer ninth season, and his team was already looking ahead to season ten as well.

Speaking to The Nerds of Color, Wallace explained how the news forced him to make some big changes for The Flash's final stretch:

"I had originally had a two year plan for the series for seasons nine and ten. And it culminated with this incredible 200th episode, a spectacular, wonderful emotional event that was meant to happen. That was before we got the news that this is going to be our last season. That was going to be a season nine was only I found myself in position going, 'Wow, I have a whole bunch of story for 40 episodes!' that I’m now going to cram into 13.

So it wasn’t a case of what to do. It was what not to do," added Wallace. "There was a mad dash of pruning, and basically, the 200th episode that I had planned, that has become the series finale."

Knowing that this was going to be the last season of any Arrowverse show ever, Wallace and his team made an effort to bring in fan-favourites from other shows like Batwoman's Javicia Leslie and Supergirl's Nicole Maines, but plans for a Legends of Tomorrow crossover were ultimately dashed due to time constraints, ironically enough:

"My original concept was to have at least one — if not a two parter — that wrapped up Legends of Tomorrow. And you know, there will be a little crossover we get them back, we get them out of time jail, all these good things, Booster Gold, etc, etc."

"When we found out we only have 13 episodes, that was no longer possible. We barely have enough time to wrap up things with Barry and Iris' upcoming family let alone who is Danielle Panabaker playing now, so there wasn’t enough time. So unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to wrap up the Legends storyline which I know is very disappointing to the fans. It’s disappointing to me. But we just don’t have the bandwidth."

The Forever War storyline would have kicked off season ten with "a full on crossover with as many characters as possible." This would have taken place in 2049 where Barry Allen, Jay Garrick and other heroes would fight against the Chronarch off-world.

There were also talks around tackling The Blackest Night storyline "that we started hinting at last year with Diggle and the box," but The Flash has already done zombies in previous seasons, so it's not like fans didn't get their undead fix still.

Wallace also told The Nerds of Color that he planned to bring Despero back "with his alien friends and have a full on alien invasion. That would have featured the Justice League at the Hall of Justice coming in and helping Barry."

Unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be, which is a particular shame as the Justice League's formation in Crisis On Infinite Earths had so much potential to move the Arrowverse forward into something new.

Is the Arrowverse gone for good?

supergirl season 5, episode 9 'crisis on infinite earths part one'
The CW

This all doesn't necessarily mean that the Arrowverse is gone forever though. Comic book heroes have a habit of not staying dead, and the same could be said for comic book franchises too.

During a recent chat with EW, The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace chose to clarify that the final episode doesn't mark a definitive ending for this universe:

"I still am hopeful that the Arrowverse is not over. I've approached it as The Flash is over and I want to make the best Flash series finale as possible."

While the franchise's future does remain bleak, Wallace said, "I'm going to have lunch with [Superman & Lois showrunner] Todd [Helbing] in the next couple weeks, and I'm going to tell him, 'If you get a fourth season, you've got to sneak some Arrowverse in there. You are now carrying the torch.'"

That's assuming of course that Superman & Lois can survive long enough to even consider another crossover. As of this time of writing, the show's future doesn't look promising as Nexstar continues to cancel more and more CW originals.

However, Helbing hasn't ruled out some Arrowverse content entirely:

"I will say this, it sure is a lot easier now that the other shows aren't on the air, people's schedules are a lot easier to work around, so… maybe. I would love to bring Grant on, and I think it would be a lot of fun to have Candice, to have Iris with [Elizabeth Tulloch's] Lois Lane. So we'll see."

But if this really is the end of the Arrowverse, it's been a good run, even with all the inevitable highs and lows. Just a decade ago, the idea of an interconnected, fully functioning superhero universe on TV would have seemed impossible. And now, the legacy it leaves behind is infinite.

The Flash airs on The CW in the US. Sky Showcase and NOW air the show in the UK.

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