Over the span of five years, The CW’s Arrowverse (consisting of Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow on Earth-1, plus Supergirl on Earth-38) has introduced countless iconic villains from DC Comics lore. Several were little more than generic “villain of the week” characters, but many have been very memorable and, sometimes, just plain fun. This goes to both the big bads of each season and recurring foes.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite villains in the Arrowverse so far.
[Warning: The Following Contains MAJOR SPOILERS From Recent Episodes of The Flash, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.]
#10 – Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough)
Darhk served as the big bad in Arrow‘s fourth season. As the leader of H.I.V.E., Darhk sought to cleanse Star City and the rest of the Earth by wiping out all but a few. This “Genesis” protocol was ultimately overturned by Green Arrow and his team. While Darhk dies in the end, a past version returns to Legends of Tomorrow as a member of the Legion of Doom. There, he seeks to change his destiny, but ultimately fails. Darhk also kills Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary, making him a particularly hated enemy of both Oliver Queen and Sara Lance.
Darhk proved to be an over-the-top yet formidable foe for our heroes, and his magic abilities created new challenges for Team Arrow. Also, you can tell actor Neal McDonough has a lot of fun with this role. However, Darhk suffers from a rather mediocre motivation on Arrow, as his “destroy the world” plot was not only generic, but it was too big in scale for Arrow, which had always dealt with Oliver saving Star City. Meanwhile, outside of Darhk and Andy Diggle, H.I.V.E. is virtually reduced to mindless goons for Team Arrow to punch.
Outside of a few issues, Damien Darhk was a pretty solid villain for both Green Arrow and the Legends.
#9 – Zoom (Teddy Sears/Tony Todd)
Hunter Zolomon was the main villain in The Flash‘s second season, and boy, did he take the show to dark places. On Earth-2, Zolomon was a convicted serial killer who was given speed powers. He goes to Earth-1, disguised as “Jay Garrick” and an ally to Barry Allen and the team. But Zoom steals Barry’s speed, kills his father, and attempts to destroy the Multiverse. Of course, Zoom was defeated, and the Time Wraiths transformed him into Black Flash, who goes on to become a recurring force on both Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
Zoom was definitely a scarier, more brutal opponent for Barry. Their first battle is still one of the show’s best, resulting in Barry (literally) being broken physically. Zoom’s actions also greatly affected everyone else on the team. However, many story beats in his arc were virtually identical to Reverse-Flash’s in season one. We have a perceived ally/mentor figure to Barry and team, pushing Barry to go faster, but he is secretly an evil speedster who will eventually steal Barry’s speed. Oh, and he kills one of Barry’s biological parents.
While many elements of Zoom’s character aren’t exactly original, I still liked him. Fingers crossed that Black Flash will continue to be a recurring foe next season.
#8 – Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable)
Arrow heavily teased the presence of Ra’s al Ghul in season two, and that paid off in its third season. The Demon’s Head was another powerful adversary, challenging Oliver Queen both physically and mentally. Ra’s sees a potential heir in Oliver, and he stops at nothing to make it happen. He and the League of Assassins destroy the Arrow persona, kill Thea (only to resurrect in the next episode), and nearly destroy the city. Ra’s is finally killed in the season three finale, and his mantle is passed on to Malcolm Merlyn. However, we did see Ra’s in a 1960s-set episode of Legends of Tomorrow, where we also met his daughter Talia.
I may be in the minority here, but I really liked Arrow‘s Ra’s al Ghul. He challenged Oliver and his team in ways that past villains hadn’t done before, and his actions changed the status quo of the entire series; with the Arrow identity dead, Oliver became the Green Arrow. However, Ra’s wasn’t perfect, particularly with his screentime. He only appeared in a couple episodes in the first half of season three, and he didn’t return until Episode 15. In my opinion, the big bad of a season shouldn’t have that little screentime in the season. Also, the Oliver vs. Ra’s conflict only led to more similarities to Batman. While most of the show’s Batman similarities don’t bother me, I can see how other fans may not like it.
All in all, Ra’s al Ghul is a rather underrated member of the Arrowverse rogues gallery.
#7 – Gorilla Grodd (David Solobov)
Grodd has been a recurring villain over the course of The Flash‘s entire run. In season one, the telepathic gorilla was used by Reverse-Flash and took on Flash for the first time. In season two, he fought Team Flash again and was sent to Gorilla City on Earth-2. Season three had a two-episode Gorilla City arc, where Grodd manipulates Barry into defeating the leader Solovar, so Grodd can take over. This leads to a gorilla assault on Central City in Earth-1, but ultimately, Grodd is defeated once more. He is now residing in an A.R.G.U.S. cell.
Grodd is definitely one of The Flash‘s most unique villains so far. His brute force and telepathic abilities make him a very powerful enemy, both physically and mentally. And it’s easy to resort to campiness when dealing with a talking ape, but the show took Grodd seriously and made him a force to be reckoned with. Also, Grodd is one of the show’s most impressive visual accomplishments. The CW’s superhero shows have consistently impressed with their CGI, but Grodd looks so perfect, you’d think he would be from a movie. My only complaint with Grodd is that he should be the big bad of an entire season; unlike other recurring or one-off villains, he is fully capable of that. But considering the budgetary constraints, it’s forgivable.
Overall, Gorilla Grodd is still one of The Flash‘s greatest accomplishments to date.
#6 – Savitar (Grant Gustin/Andre Tricoteux/Tobin Bell)
Savitar is the big bad in The Flash‘s third season, and he is probably the most challenging opponent for Barry and team to date. Fueled by the revelation that Savitar will kill Iris in the future, Barry still couldn’t keep up with the villain. Savitar tricks Wally into entering the Speed Force, enlists Killer Frost, and finally reveals himself as a future version of Barry himself. Savitar is killed by Iris (ironic, isn’t it?). He is then erased by a time paradox, which was caused by H.R. taking Iris’s place in death.
By now, all three seasons of The Flash have had a mystery evil speedster as a big bad. However, Savitar’s inclusion still feels fresh thanks to a slew of plot twists over the course of season three. His motivation is different from Reverse-Flash and Zoom, his suit looks completely different, and he is extremely formidable. However, there are still a few nitpicks. Savitar’s suit is, visually, an impressive accomplishment for the show, but it looks like a Decepticon. Additionally, the reveal of Savitar’s identity came late in the season, much to the frustration of viewers.
Overall, despite a couple flaws, Savitar is one of The Flash‘s greatest villains to date.
#5 – Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller)
Leonard Snart started out as a thief on The Flash, gaining a cold gun and fighting the Scarlet Speedster off-and-on. In this conflict. Snart goes on to recruit Heat Wave and his sister, Lisa. However, Snart and Barry are allies on occasion. Snart becomes a main character on Legends of Tomorrow, where he evolves into a
hero legend and sacrifices himself for the team. But in season two, a past version of Snart returns as a member of the Legion of Doom. Additionally, other versions of Snart appeared on Flash‘s third season.
Unlike many of the other members of this list, Snart is a villain who actually became a hero. No doubt inspired by Barry’s goodness, Captain Cold learns to care for his teammates and makes the ultimate sacrifice. While this is a great character arc, seeing him as a villain is just as entertaining. Snart doesn’t have metahuman powers, so to see him hold his own against Flash in a fight is impressive. Meanwhile, making him a member of the Legion of Doom was an awesome move; I just wish they did it earlier in the season.
Overall, Snart is a wonderful inclusion to both Flash and Legends. Fingers crossed they find a way to bring him back next season.
#4 – Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman)
The Arrowverse’s very first big bad, Merlyn was the main antagonist in Arrow season one. He carried out the Undertaking in Starling City, resulting in the deaths of many, including his son Tommy. He also was behind the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit, which led to Robert Queen’s death and Oliver and Sara Lance being stranded on Lian Yu. After faking his death, Merlyn briefly resurfaced in season two, where we learned that Thea is his biological daughter. The Dark Archer went on to be an on-and-off ally and enemy to Oliver Queen and his team for three seasons, he was Ra’s al Ghul for a while, and he too became a member of the Legion of Doom on Legends of Tomorrow. Merlyn’s story came to a close in the Arrow season five finale, where he died on Lian Yu.
Merlyn definitely had one of the most multi-layered arcs in the Arrowverse. In fact, you could argue that he’s not a straight-up villain. He consistently pursues his own agenda; sometimes that aligns him with Oliver, and sometimes against him. To me, that’s the most unique aspect about Merlyn. Like other villains, Merlyn is both a physical and mental opponent to Oliver, but he was the OG. He was this universe’s first big supervillain. I also love how his plan in the season one finale actually succeeded; it takes some guts to have the villain win.
In summary, Malcolm Merlyn is the first big villain in the Arrowverse, and he is still one of its best.
#3 – Prometheus (Josh Segarra)
Prometheus is the main villain in Arrow‘s fifth season, but his inception was caused by events in season one. As the Hood, Oliver killed a lot of people, including a criminal named Justin Claybourne. This results in his son, Simon Morrison, spending the next four years planning his revenge. He learns everything about Oliver and his loved ones, and he even infiltrates his administration, assuming the identity of Adrian Chase. Chase proves to be Oliver’s most personal threat to date, as he knows exactly how to get under his skin. In the finale, Chase committed suicide, setting off hundreds of bombs on Lian Yu while Oliver’s team is there. (I’m sure most of them survived, but still.)
Prometheus is without a doubt one of Arrow‘s best villains ever. Actor Josh Segarra’s performance is great and even terrifying. He corners and breaks Oliver in ways that he’s never been before, both physically and mentally. By now, Oliver’s been through a lot, so if you can find new ways to break him, that’s impressive. Chase has also stayed several steps ahead to the very end. He constantly tries to prove that, deep down, Oliver has always been a murderer. But in the end, he was wrong.
I can go on all day about how great Prometheus is, but bottom line: Good luck topping him for next season.
#2 – Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh/Matt Letscher)
Barry Allen’s greatest nemesis, Eobard Thawne was the main antagonist in The Flash‘s first season. Most of the time, he was disguised as Harrison Wells. Thawne is responsible for the death of Barry’s mother, among many other things. At the end of season one, Thawne was seemingly erased from existence when his ancestor, Eddie, committed suicide. Later on, however, a version of Thawne was restored to the timeline, and he went on to form the Legion of Doom on Legends of Tomorrow. With the Legion, Thawne sought to use the Spear of Destiny to solidify his role in the timeline (due to Eddie’s suicide, Eobard is now a time aberration). Thawne was killed by Black Flash in the Legends finale, and it’s safe to assume that he is gone for good.
Reverse-Flash is without a doubt one of the Arrowverse’s greatest villains so far. Both Tom Cavanagh and Matt Letscher’s portrayals of the character are compelling and ruthless. Thawne is virtually responsible for the creation of The Flash in this timeline, but at the same time, he stops at nothing to hurt him in any way he can. He truly is his reverse. The big twist of Harrison Wells actually being Thawne was a gamechanger for The Flash. Meanwhile, seeing him on Legends was a lot of fun, as he got to interact with the likes of Malcolm Merlyn and Captain Cold.
When all is said and done, Reverse-Flash is not only one of the best Arrowverse villains, he’s one of the best comic book media villains period. If his death on Legends is permanent, then he will surely be missed.
#1 – Deathstroke (Manu Bennett)
And finally, we have our favorite Arrowverse villain of all time. Originally an ally and trainer to Oliver on Lian Yu, Slade Wilson was injected with the mirakuru drug, which gave him superhuman strength and drove him insane. He turns against Oliver after the death of his beloved, Shado. After seemingly dying on the island, Slade (now Deathstroke) resurfaced in present day Starling, and boy did he leave an impact on everyone. He kills Oliver’s mother, orchestrates Oliver’s removal from his company, and leads a mirakuru army in the city. Slade was eventually cured of the mirakuru, and he was imprisoned on Lian Yu. After a brief role in season three, he finally made a proper comeback in the season five finale, aiding Oliver and his team against Prometheus.
I think we can all agree that Arrow‘s take on Deathstroke is just fantastic. Manu Bennett’s portrayal is absolute perfection, as he elevates the show in every single scene he’s in. He has this presence that’s matched only by a few characters in the entire series’ run; in fact, many fans were turned off by the show after the character’s exit. Slade was a very real threat to Oliver in season two, while seeing their friendship fall apart on Lian Yu was just heartbreaking.
I can go on and on, but overall, Deathstroke is one of the best Arrowverse’s greatest characters, hero or villain. Assuming he survives the destruction of Lian Yu in the Arrow finale, here’s hoping we’ll continue to see much more of him in the future.
Honorable Mentions: Vandal Savage, Astra, Deadshot, Rhea, Tobias Church
Who is your favorite Arrowverse villain so far?