While each show of the Arrowverse works toward an overarching plot, at times they take a step sideways in one-off episodes. We’re looking at the best five from the previous season.
Standalone episodes may not be plot-focused, but they are important in that they help us get to know the characters. They provide insight into the dynamics between the cast members and often provide opportunities for character development.
These episodes are often overlooked when we talk about seasons because they don’t relate directly to the season-long plot, but they matter. That’s why we’re looking at our favorite standalone episodes from the 2017-2018 Arrowverse season.
‘Supergirl’ 3×06 ‘Midvale’
Premise: In the wake of Alex’s breakup with Maggie — and Kara’s continued grief over Mon-El’s departure — the Danvers sisters head home to Midvale stay with Eliza. The episode also features flashbacks to the sisters’ childhood when a school friend of theirs was murdered. They help solve the crime and come closer together as sisters.
Why it works: Instead of focusing on Kara’s alter ego, the episode focuses on the emotional core of Supergirl: the sisterly bond between Kara and Alex. Though both Alex and Kara are hurting in the present day, our understanding of their importance to one another is informed by this look at their childhood.
Though we’ve always seen the two close, there was a time when they weren’t. Seeing the events that brought them together and solidified the bond that they share as adults is powerful. Supergirl is at its strongest when it focuses on the bond of these two powerful women, and this episode does that beautifully.
‘Arrow’ 6×19 ‘The Dragon’
Premise: In a villain-centric episode, we follow Ricardo Diaz and Black Siren as Diaz maneuvers his way into the Quadrant, a group of organized crime leaders from across the country. Flashbacks to Diaz’s childhood provide insight into his adult persona while Black Siren becomes increasingly afraid of Diaz’s dangerous, unhinged nature.
Why it works: Up until this point in Arrow season 6, we were told more than shown the danger Diaz presented to Star City and Team Arrow. This episode allows us to get to know Diaz better as a character, gives us insight into his motivations and shows just how dangerous he can be. The closing scene of Diaz lighting his childhood bully on fire as he begs for his life out of revenge is horrifying.
Kirk Acevedo is a charismatic figure, and this episode finally offers him the opportunity to flex his acting muscles. The episode sets up the final episodes of the season in a way that makes viewers concerned about the damage he could do to the heroes. In fact, the episode is so focused on Diaz that Oliver, the series’ titular hero, only appears in a single scene. Acevedo carries the episode beautifully.
‘Supergirl’ 3×14 ‘Schott Through the Heart’
Premise: After Winn’s father dies in prison, his estranged mother returns and attempts to mend fences with her son. As Winn slowly comes to understand why his mother was forced to abandon him, a devotee of Toyman attacks both mother and son.
Why it works: Though Winn was a central figure of Supergirl‘s first season as Kara’s best friend and one her closest allies in fighting crime, seasons 2 and 3 rolled back his involvement in the story. This episode, however, puts Winn front and center again and gives Jeremy Jordan the chance to show off his acting chops as Winn slowly goes from fury and resentment toward his mother — played by Laurie Metcalf — to realization and forgiveness.
The story is also a powerful exploration of manipulation and abuse. Winn comes to realize how the abusive tendencies of his criminal father deeply hurt his mother, both physically and psychologically. She was forced to leave Winn due to threats to his safety, and recognizing this after years of resentment toward his mother is hard for Winn to work through. But it also provides hope as he asks her to stay in National City so they can get to know each other again.
‘Legends of Tomorrow’ 3×11 ‘Here I Go Again’
Premise: Newest Legend Zari finds herself trapped in a time loop that ends with the destruction of the Waverider each time. Gideon eventually reveals that she put Zari in the time loop to force her to get to know her teammates better and bond with them.
Why it works: One of Legends of Tomorrow‘s greatest strengths is its willingness to embrace the silliness. And Zari’s time loop, for much of the episode, really leans into craziness as Zari gets the chance to snoop as much as she wants and interact with her teammates in ways that won’t have consequences. She makes some surprising discoveries about her teammates, like Mick’s penchant for writing romance novels.
But the emotional punch of the episode comes when Zari hits her breaking point and the time loop seems to break. Zari prepares to sacrifice herself to save her teammates. She tearfully gives each Legend a heartfelt message that shows how much she has come to respect them… only for Gideon to reveal it was all a setup. It’s a crazy bait-and-switch that handles the tonal whiplash expertly. Tala Ashe’s performance truly carries the episode.
‘The Flash’ 4×15 ‘Enter Flashtime’
Premise: When a nuclear bomb is activated in Central City, Barry is joined by fellow speedsters Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick in Flashtime as they try to stop the bomb before it detonates.
Why it works: “Enter Flashtime” goes back to the basics that have made The Flash work well in the past. Barry is pushed to his limits despite the numerous ways his abilities have grown over the years. Jesse and Jay are brought in because, as speedsters, they can interact with him while his friends are mostly frozen, and they provide outside ideas about what can or can’t be done.
But more than anything, this episode gives Grant Gustin time to shine. Because most of the cast are frozen for most of the episode, the episode hinges on Gustin’s ability to express Barry’s increasing desperation as well as the stakes of the danger. Gustin, increasingly drenched in sweat as he’s forced to keep up Flashtime for an extended period of time, expertly sells Barry’s struggle and pain.
In the midst of a season that did not live up to its potential, “Enter Flashtime” is a reminder of what The Flash can and should be.
Bonus: ‘Arrow’ 6×05, 6×06 ‘Deathstroke Returns,’ ‘Promises Kept’
Premise: Slade returns after joining forces with Oliver to fight Adrian Chase on Lian Yu. He asks Oliver for help in finding his son. However, the reunion doesn’t go as planned, as Slade’s son turns out to be leading a group of terrorists Slade thought he was investigating as part of Australian secret intelligence.
Why it works: Although not technically a standalone (and thus a bonus on this list), this two-parter explores one of the strongest and most complex relationships Arrow has explored. Slade’s history as an ally of Oliver’s being corrupted by the death of a woman they both loved and Mirakuru informed so much of Oliver’s development.
As a result, having him return to help Oliver at the end of the previous season was powerful — especially considering the poor return he was given when he lost a fight to Thea on Lian Yu. These two episodes both tie into the dynamic of Slade and Oliver as fathers as well as how the choices of the father affect their children. Moreover, they provide an open-ended exit for Slade, as he leaves to find his sons.