To viewers of The Flash, the last few stories have felt like they were setting up the departure of star Candice Patton and her character, Iris West-Allen. But it seems the lightning rod will return for the program’s ninth season.
TVLine reports Patton has signed a deal to return next season, joining original cast members Grant Gustin and (according to the site, anyway) Danielle Panabaker as the only remaining players to stay the course through all nine seasons. It should be noted, though, that Gustin’s tour of duty in Season 9 is reportedly just for ten episodes. It is still unclear if the season will be shorter per his contract or if the program will accommodate his absence by promoting one of the other speedsters to the lead for the other half of the season.
In terms of story, Patton’s return will delay one of the final Flash stories left for the series to tell — Iris’s apparent death. Back in the pre-Crisis DC Comics of the late 70s and 80s, Iris and Barry’s relationship ended and the character was apparently killed. Following Barry’s trial for the murder of Eobard Thawne (long story), he discovered Iris was alive and well in the 30th Century. There, they rekindled their relationship and eventually had children, the Tornado Twins Dawn and Don Allen. But as the Crisis loomed across all of space, time and possibility, Barry died, inspiring Wally West to take his place in the 20th Century while Don and Dawn became part-time heroes 1000 years later. Their respective children, Jenni Ognatz and Bart Allen, became the inspiration for Barry and Iris’s children on the television series.
And, seemingly, Iris’s “time sickeness” throughout the current season appeared to be setting up a way for her to seemingly die, but find a new life 1000 years in the future, where she and Barry could raise their kids without the looming threat of the Reverse-Flash. Indeed, the fictional sickness kept Patton off the show for much of the year and raised questions about the actor’s continuing presence in the next season. Outside of The Flash, Patton has been a vocal advocate for women of color in genre television and has become increasingly honest about how her role has often been sidelined on the series; a criticism we have to agree with considering how often Barry (Gustin) either calls her his lightning rod or says they are, collectively, The Flash. The idea is rarely backed up in action.
Meanwhile, it is still unclear if the ninth season, set to debut in 2023, will be the program’s last. The final episode of Season 8 airs tomorrow on The CW.