And now, the Crisis looms large in The Flash‘s future.
On the whole, The Flash delivered a fairly strong fifth season. Or, at the very least, a much stronger season compared to the previous year. Nonetheless, the show continues to wallow with season-long villains too weak to actually prop up a 22-episode storyline. Like Savitar and the Thinker, Cicada — in both forms — never proved to be a credible threat. This is probably why the character was set aside so often for something more interesting: the ongoing relationship between Nora West-Allen and her parents.
The addition of Jessica Kennedy Parker as Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’s (Candice Patton) daughter from the future brought something fresh to the season. For Barry and Iris, it put them in roles they did not expect to experience for years. And with Nora, we got to see the formation of a hero in a way consistent with The Flash, but with a new dynamic as Barry also tried to mentor her. The storyline also finally put Iris on notice for her occasional habit of overreaching. Her future decision to dampen Nora’s powers proved to be a powerful wedge between Iris and Nora, and, in the end, the show never really gave Iris a noble reason for doing it. Allowing the character a selfish act is a bold and more interesting choice; especially as the consequences fueled some of Nora’s rage toward the end of the season. Also, it made the ending all the more emotional as the West-Allen clan learned to live together just as it became cosmically impossible to do so.
With that in mind, I think the producers of the series should take a closer look at shifting away from season-long villains to more pronounced season-long story beats. Granted, it will be tough to replicate the success of Nora’s story, but it is clearly a better fit than forcing an obscure villain to occupy a space better suited for the Reverse-Flash.
And speaking of Eobard Thawne, Tom Cavanagh did an amazing job this year. He made the character a true menace from the confines of a Iron Heights cell in 2049. He also pulled double duty by introducing another Harrison Wells. As with H.R., Sherloque was a throw-away joke in the beginning; a Holmes pastiche with a shocking “French” accent. But just as H.R. grew to be a valued member of the team, Cavanagh slowly turned the joke into a character of surprising warmth. The transformation was so successful that his seemingly happy ending with the Earth-1 counterpart of his many ex-wives felt earned. Hopefully, the writers and the actors will figure out a way to give Cavanagh another Wells to make us hate then love next season.
Presuming, of course, he doesn’t play Thawne the whole time.
Another season-long journey was Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) decision to take the meta-cure. As a prominent Latinx face in superhero television, I always look at his stories more personally. Growing up, I was very much Cisco, so his transformation from nerdy quipper to hero was one I cherished. I also loved he was able to keep his nerdy side while embracing his powers. With that in mind, I have to say I’m disappointed in his decision — perhaps more so than had Valdes just left the show entirely — but his smile at the end still stands a victory. I just hope the writers do right by him next season by showing a de-powered Cisco as “extraordinary” and, maybe, taking his new relationship seriously. The character has never had good runnings with romantic arcs; inadvertently reinforcing a stereotype about geeks. Perhaps things will change.
And, perhaps, romance will be a theme for next season as the finale teased the arrival of Sue Dearborn, the woman Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) is destined to partner-up with in every way imaginable. If they cast the part right, I could totally see an Elongated Man spinoff replacing The Flash in the years ahead.
Which is something to note about the overall impression of The Flash this year: it wants us to look forward. Sure, it’s final moments hint at “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but it also introduced the notion of legacy. That idea was a big reason why The Flash was one of the first comic books I read consistently in the 1990s — the other being Legion of Superheroes. The Flash legacy presented superheroes as thing spanning generations, blood-ties and friendly bonds. It also suggested an idea like The Flash can continue for a 1000 years beyond Jar Garrick’s decision to put a lightning bolt on his chest. And all of the strongest episodes of the season revolved around that, from Nora learning key lessons about heroism, to the show’s 100th episode look back at Barry’s early days, to Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) resolving issues with her father, to even the Cicada legacy Thawne created for his own ends. Maybe that’s why the season seemed stronger despite a very weak Big Bad. The thematic notion of legacy resonates and makes us consider what the show can be in the future. Hopefully, the writing staff will see that as well and learn, just as Nora did, that stopping the bad guy isn’t the end-all, be-all of this show.
The Flash returns this fall on The CW.