In our midseason report card for Arrow last week, we highlighted Ray Palmer as one of the season’s best additions. The CW’s execution of Palmer, who will (hopefully) become the Atom, has been near-flawless thus far. He’s likable, charismatic, and more than able to carry any scene he walks into.
That’s why he deserves his own spinoff series.
At this point, it’s fair to say that Ray Palmer has outgrown the incubator that Arrow has provided him. Palmer's developed and nuanced enough to be his own star, and not just some supporting player. As entertaining as it is to see his romantic banter with Felicity Smoak unfold, giving Arrow its romantic tension (this is The CW, after all) Palmer has the potential to do so much more on his own.
As recent episodes of Arrow have shown, Palmer is more than just a pretty face and a bottomless bank account. He’s also a brilliant scientist, driven by the death of a loved one to save Starling City and anyone else who needs his help. Palmer proved that he’s a layered character, and not just some cheeky goofball. Underneath all the boardroom antics and staged eccentricity lies a wounded man. The death of his loved one, who was killed during Deathstroke’s assault on Starling, gives him a serious edge that only those closest to him can see.
While those attributes alone qualify Palmer for his own series, they only represent half of the equation. You can’t have an Atom show without the Atom, after all. And as Ray displayed during recent episodes of Arrow, here ready to put his altruistic desires into more colorful action as The Atom, DC’s resident super-scientist. To be a successful superhero adventure series, all the Atom would have to do is follow in the Flash’s footsteps--which is to say, have fun. The idea of a man who can shrink to a subatomic size will only sell if the series can wear its heart on its sleeve. The Atom could go even further into geek mode than the Flash does with his strange science adventures. Ray could visit far-out places like the Micro-Verse, discover microscopic cities and civilizations, and delve into the rich world of comics pseudo-science. And as long he does it with a smile on his face, and maybe a line or two that sorta-kinda explains the science behind everything, viewers will eat it up.
Then there’s actor Brandon Routh, who’s long overdue for his second shot at wearing a blue and red costume. Much of Palmer’s success stems from Routh’s energetic portrayal of Ray. Routh has delivered everything that the script has asked of him and more so far, switching between the debonair playboy routine and chiseled warrior with aplomb. It’s clear that he much more comfortable playing devil-may-care, high-fiving characters than stoic messiah figures. He has the acting chops to lure new viewers in, and the recognizability to tempt the comics faithful, giving the CW some serious marketing muscle that they never had when launching then-unknowns Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin in their respective superhero series.
If done correctly, an Atom series could be the perfect hybrid between a Flash and proper Batman series. The CW’s Ray Palmer and Atom has the same structure as the Caped Crusader, minus the cave fixation and bats. He’s a billionaire CEO. He’s a mortal who relies on his brain, training, and steel will to get the job done. He wears a public mask to hide the real man who lurks underneath. Whereas Oliver Queen borrows all of Batman’s dour and depressing traits, Ray takes all of Bruce’s fun ones. That’s where the Flash’s direction would come in. Ray could take that fun-loving face he uses in public, and crank it another notch as a superhero. That fun and cocky—yet wise—attitude would make for a personality that superhero television still hasn’t seen. The more Ray enjoys himself during missions, the better. Of course, he can still mourn his lover’s death and provide the appropriate motivating drama later on, but his Atom missions would need to be hinged on a desire to explore and discover.
While The Atom still has another half a season of Arrow to look forward to, it’s time for him to forsake his name and go big with a headlining series. Alongside Arrow and The Flash, The Atom could be The CW’s third pillar for their very own trinity.