The Flash Season 5 Episode 1, “Nora,” is not just a great start to the comic book series’ fifth season, it’s a bold, clear statement that the show is serious about getting back to the things we all once loved so much about it.
At its best, the show is bright and colorful, often managing to feel like a comic book panel from scene to scene. It’s funny, and silly and generally a great time to watch. Its villains run the gamut from the ridiculous to the terrifying. And it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
But what has always set the show apart from other genre properties on the air is its focus on the characters at its center.
No matter what was happening on The Flash, no matter how nonsensical the plots got or how overpowered the villains became, the relationships between Barry, Cisco, Caitlin, Iris and the rest of the rotating cast of Team Flash held the series together.
These are the people we keep tuning in to the show for. Not the over the top villains or nonsensical plot twists involving the Speed Force. That stuff’s nice, when it works.
But it’s not why we’re here.
“Nora” proves that when The Flash focuses on the characters and relationships at its core, there’s not a better superhero show on television right now.
And hopefully its existence means that the powers that be behind the scenes realize that too.
Yeah, there’s a villain of the week. But Gridlock is generally forgettable as a character in his own right, and important only in that his presence provides the reason Barry and his daughter-from-the-future Nora to work together.
Oh, and he introduces the mysterious figure that we can all assume will be this season’s Big Bad, Cicada.
But the main focus in the season premiere is squarely where it belongs: on the characters we love.
Nora West-Allen is adorable — effervescent and charmingly awkward, she seems a perfect blend of both of her parents. Her nickname is XS, not because she’s small, but because she’s so extra. Basically, she’s perfect.
And her arrival manages to spark a story that’s grounded completely in the characters we already know and love.
Because irony is dead, Barry’s freaking out about the fact that Nora’s presence could drastically change all their timelines. (Seriously, him lecturing a n y o n e about messing with the time stream is beyond rich.)
Iris, for her part, is eager to get to know her daughter, plus the tiniest bit jealous that Nora has such an obvious and instant preference for Barry.
(See? This is the kind of character work I love. Yes, Iris is jealous, but it’s not a plot point shoved in for story’s sake. It’s just a realistic, extremely human reaction to a difficult situation.)
The fact that there’s a logical, character-driven reason for Nora’s behavior just makes things even better — and more heart-wrenching, in the end.
See, in her future, she never knew her father. Barry disappeared a few years after she was born, and she seems to have spent her entire life trying to live up the legend of this man she never knew.
Nora’s risking destroying her own time line just to spend a day with her father, and if that isn’t just the most Barry thing to do, I don’t know what is.
All this eventually culminates in a final showdown with Gridlock aboard a crashing airplane. The sequence is exciting and looks great, but the best part isn’t Cisco vibe-ing the team aboard a falling jet, or the three speedsters saving the day.
It’s Barry Allen, teaching his daughter to phase using the exact same words — complete with a flashback voiceover! — original recipe Harrison Wells told him.
The heart of this show is — and always has been — the characters at its center, and the family they’ve created for themselves.
And if Season 5’s initial overarching mysteries (Nora, Barry’s disappearance, Caitlin’s resurrected father) are any indication, The Flash seems to have finally realized that that’s a feature, not a bug. Let’s hope so.
Stray Thoughts and Observations
- Drunk!Cisco is too cute.
- Bye again, Wally. I’m glad you at least got to say a proper farewell this time
- It’s a relief that The Flash seems to be making Caitlin’s investigation into her past — and what we have to assume is her quest for her suddenly not-dead father — a priority this season. (But please don’t cram Ralph in there. Those two have next to zero relationship.)
- Did Ralph’s brain fall out over the hiatus? I can kind of handwave him not knowing that Killer Frost is missing, given that he was trapped in The Thinker’s mind or however we’re explaining all that. But, are we honestly expected to believe that he spent an entire season working with a variety of folks from multiple Earths while portals opened everywhere and he just…what? Never noticed? Spare me.
- Please everything let this show give me a Grodd and King Shark fight.
- No one asked for Cecile to still have powers, is all I’m saying. [Total: 0 Average: 0/5]