First off, I know damn well why this is becoming a trend: it’s a ridiculously useful plot device. How does this superhero get the costume? Who made it? Who fixes it when it gets damaged? If the hero uses gadgets then where do those come from? How does the hero gather information on villains and find their weaknesses? How does she or he know when and where something bad is going down? All of these can easily be explained away with what I’m officially calling the superhero IT team.
That sounds like a terribly reductive way of putting it, but I don’t know how else to describe this phenomena. Three of DC/Warner’s premier superhero dramas – Arrow, Flash and Supergirl – have it to some extent. Green Arrow/Oliver Queen has Felicity Smoak. The Flash/Barry Allen has Caitlin, Cisco and Dr. Wells (evil imposter or otherwise). Supergirl/Kara Danvers has a sister at a top secret government organization, photographer/Superman pal James Olsen and Winn Schott, who is an actual IT guy. All three shows milk this trend it for all its worth.
I get it, to an extent. There are a lot of superhero stories out there and people are getting less patient with origins and minutiae. We want to jump right into the action and the superhero IT team is an excellent way to brush aside small world-building stuff that not everyone cares about. While I like most of Supergirl’s not-super friends and Flash’s S.T.A.R. Labs crew have acquitted themselves admirably over the course of a season and a half, I can’t help but to feel that this trend is becoming far too convenient of a crutch and it’s giving these shows a “samey” feel.
I’m not going to call the hardworking professional TV writers behind these shows lazy (like I can talk; I barely post anything on the Starship these days), but this plot device definitely encourages laziness. It can also lead to some pretty massive unforeseen problems, such as the one Flash has. At this point, there are so many people who aware that Barry Allen is the Flash that it is downright insulting for him to not tell his love interests when half of Central City already knows. Sheesh.
If I had to put my thumb down on where this all started (at least in regards to TV/film superheroes, who are usually a decade or more behind their source material) I would pick the perennially uderappreciated Superman: The Animated Series, whose Superman would occasionally seek assistance from that show’s own version of S.T.A.R. Labs. The expanded role of Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight trilogy, in which he was basically the Q to Batman’s Bond, probably has a lot to with the IT trend, too.
The superhero IT team was a novel idea that has now become a minor annoyance. I don’t think it diminishes Flash or Supergirl, both of which are fine shows despite their occasional hiccups. The good news is that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the latest entry of the Arrowverse, is already breaking this mold by being a team-based show that features STEM-savy heroes who can do the technical and science stuff in the field on their own. I don’t want this trend to go away; it would just be nice if it got less trendy.