The CW's Arrowverse Is Obsessed With Mind Control
Get out of our heroes' brains, already!
A major plot point in the Arrowverse “Invasion!” crossover had our heroes fighting each other for almost an entire episode after their minds were taken over by the Dominators. The plot point was just another reminder that the CW is obsessed with mind control in its Arrowverse. It’s a trope used to great excess, even in the MCU, namely in The Avengers and even Age of Ultron.
But after the Flash created Flashpoint to kick off his third season, therefore messing up the timeline royally, the Dominators headed to Earth in an attempt to destroy humanity before their growing number of meta-humans and other supers became a real threat. Viewers were treated to a four-show crossover in which the Dominators controlled the minds of Spartan, Speedy, Supergirl, Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, and Heat Wave, compelling them to face off against the OG superhero bros Green Arrow and the Flash. As soon as the Flash tricked the brainwashed Supergirl into accidentally demolishing the device that projects the mind-control waves, thus freeing everyone, our heavy-hitting superheroine goes all “aw gosh!” and apologizes.
“Hey, you’re not the first superhero to be mind-controlled,” the Flash is quick to say, laughing about his great success. And Supergirl sure as hell isn’t the last. Barry casually shrugs it off while failing to remind her that it happens all the damn time. In addition to the group mind-control from “Invasion!”, here’s eight-plus other times we’ve seen supers and others get mind-controlled in the Arrowverse.
“Flash vs. Arrow” — The Flash (1.8)
The earliest and perhaps best example came when the meta-human Roy Bivolo showed up in Central City around the same time as Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow. Bivolo is a pathokinetic, meaning that he can manipulate people’s emotions, making him capable of sending even Barry flying into a rage. This comes at a time when the already emotionally fragile Barry is crumbling under the crippling weight of seeing his crush constantly getting smooched by a handsome policeman. The timing couldn’t be worse as Eddie (the aforementioned handsome policeman) tries to form an anti-meta-human task force. Barry gets addled by Bivolo and tries to fight both Eddie and Oliver to varying degrees of success. As exciting as it is to see Barry go ape, it’s just as much fun seeing power-less Oliver handle things.
“The Climb” — Arrow (3.09)
This Season 3 mid season finale has the big moment of Ra’s al Ghul impaling Oliver and kicking him right the fuck off a cliff. But in the flashback b-plot of the episode that takes place in 2010, Chien Na Wei uses a drug called Vitura on a man to force him into stealing a vial of the Omega virus. You shouldn’t care much, mainly because it’s a forced link to how this mind-control drug is more importantly used by Malcolm Merlyn as a means to force Thea Queen into killing Sara Lance, all so that he could blackmail Oliver into fighting Ra’s for him. Sara’s death was the big mystery throughout the first half of the season, and the convoluted explanation had everything to do with this bit of medically induced mind control.
“Grodd Lives” — The Flash (1.21)
The presence of a giant, hulkish telepathic gorilla easily capable of mind control seems a bit out-there, even for a show that also features a giant meta-shark and people that can time travel by running real fast. But we still get the classic DC Gorilla Grodd, who controls General Eiling and almost gets control of Barry before our speedster tricks the monkey into getting hit by a train. Grodd returns the following season in “Gorilla Warfare,” when he hopes to go all Planet of the Apes by trying to make more smart gorillas. The gang is eventually able to send Grodd to some sort of gorilla sanctuary on Earth-2, but he’s bound for an epic return in the back-half of Season 3. Along the way, Grodd exerts his telepathic dominance over a number of lesser humans and can somehow evade capture or even being spotted despite … you know … being a giant gorilla that robs chemistry labs.
Arrow Season 4 and the Yellow Pill
Mystical villain Damien Darhk has an army of “Ghosts” to do his bidding within H.I.V.E. throughout Season 4. Many — or perhaps even all — of the Ghosts are subdued by a Yellow Pill (not to be confused with the Red or the Blue Pill). Thea Queen’s romantic interest, Alex, is also among those influenced by such a yellowish drug. Even Thea herself comes under some form of mind control — again from Malcolm — in “Lost in the Flood” (4.22), another bit of trauma that leads her to retire from vigilantism just long enough for her to come out of retirement and get mind-controlled yet again, this time by aliens in the “Invasion!” crossover.
“For the Girl Who Has Everything” — Supergirl (1.13)
Kara’s biological aunt and uncle, ongoing Season 1 villains, once stuck a creepy space parasite onto her called the Black Mercy. Though it incapacitated Kara and put her in a dreamlike hallucination for the duration of the episode (sure, not quite the same brand of mind control, but close enough), it presented her with an idyllic dream not unlike what the non-supers from Arrow went through in the 100th episode of that series. She’s with her entire biological family back on Krypton. Even a young Kal-El is there to hold her hand and look up to her. It’s everything Kara has ever wanted, really, and only with the influence of Alex entering the dream world is she able to be brought out of it.
“Falling” — Supergirl (1.16)
In one of the absolute best episodes from the series to date, Supergirl comes into contact with Red Kryptonite, a substance familiar to any fan of stories about Earth-based Kryptonians. In the Arrowverse canon, Red Kryptonite is accidentally created by Maxwell Lord and has the same effect as classic instances: Kara is stripped of all compassion and inhibition. She becomes cold, shallow, cynical, and starts both dressing and acting with a kind of edge that’s refreshing to see in our oftentimes sheepish and good-natured hero. Sexy, IDGAF Kara is one of the most fun things in all of Season 1. Though hardly “mind control” per se, this intensely altered state of mind for the hero of National City is definitely worth mentioning.
“Myriad” & “Better Angels” — Supergirl (1.19-1.20)
In the two-part Season 1 finale of Supergirl, Myriad takes over the minds of just about everyone in National City, even Superman! It basically becomes many square miles of a hive mind with the intent of dominating the world. Thankfully the Man of Steel merely remains sidelined during the experience — yet somehow Supergirl is immune. Kara winds up having to fight Alex, who not only wields the Kryptonite sword that killed Astra, but also a superpowered exoskeleton. Their battle makes for some fine family drama.
Scythian Torvil on Legends of Tomorrow Season 1
The 22nd century reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu was brainwashed and controlled by Vandal Savage for a good stretch of Legend of Tomorrow’s Season 1. Kendra Saunders was able to free his mind, and after defeating Savage, Torvil went to 2016 to assume the identity of Carter Hall/Hawkman.
With Gorilla Grodd set to return in the back half of Season 3 of The Flash, we’re bound to see some more mind control in the Arrowverse super soon, and we’ll also get more if/when the Dominators make their way to Earth-38 on Supergirl. Regardless, don’t expect any of these heroes to maintain clear heads for an extended period of time.