The Flash returned last night, bringing with it plenty of new things—a new suit for Barry, a new villainous threat, and a whole new major character in the form of Barry and Iris’ future daughter, Nora. But in revealing just why Nora’s come back to the past, it’s also revealed a big concern.
Much of “Nora” is delightful, and that’s mainly down to Jessica Parker Kennedy’s titular character slipping into the world of The Flash like absurdly good-looking 20-something actors and actresses slip into mountains of comics-inspired pleather every fall at the start of a new wave of CW/DC Comics superhero shows. Although there is a metahuman-of-the-week villain plot to deal with—so inconsequential that I had to go look up that it was meant to be a tack on comics villain Gridlock, with a mask right out of the general aesthetic of the rebooted Deus Ex games—much of the episode revolves around establishing Nora’s bond with her past-parents, in their present. Ugh, time travel, very annoying to write about!
And it does so in some really fun ways—even if it comes at the expense of neglecting the show’s ever-growing supporting cast, like Ralph and Caitlin, who are set up for some Killer Frost shenanigans, or poor Wally West, who is once again reminded by everything around him that no one really has any idea what to do with him. Even if she hadn’t dramatically announced herself as such during the climax of the last season, Nora is absolutely the daughter of Barry and Iris, charmingly goofy like her father while still being headstrong and free-thinking like her mother, and as we get to see her bond with her father (something she does exceptionally quickly) and bristle with her mother, there’s a lot of interesting set up for where this young West-Allen will go.
But it’s in this delightful chemistry that we also learn of a potentially major problem for this season of Flash...and frustratingly, it’s a problem the show has run headfirst into in its previous seasons. Despite Team Flash trying to set up a “No Talking About the Future” ground rule for Nora when she announces her origins (haha, as if this show could resist going there!), she reveals to Barry and the audience just why she’s so pally with her dad, and yet so distant with her mother. It turns out, despite all of The Flash’s previous multiversal time-travel bullshit, the mysterious “Crisis” heralded by that newspaper clipping all the way back in season one is still in play in Nora’s timeline. Barry vanishes for over two decades, leading to her never really knowing her father and having a very testy relationship with her mother.
Naturally, now that Barry knows this, he wants to try and prevent it all over again and hasn’t told Iris...and, god, I am so tired of this show doing this plot over and over. Did we not literally go through all this with season three’s Flashpoint arc? Did we not remember that it was really, really bad? I’d say maybe a lesson has been learned this time, but of all the CW/DC shows, The Flash is one that definitely loves proving that no lessons have been learned, as it ceaselessly goes through the same beats and story arcs over and over again, like some sort of superheroic Sisyphean torture. As fun as it is to see Nora bounce off her parents, I am already dreading the baggage she potentially brings to season five‘s main arc, a rehash of a plot The Flash has already fumbled with multiple times before.
It’s still early days, so we’ll have to wait and see if my concerns play out. Although we barely get to see him in this episode, there is setup for new season-long villain Cicada in “Nora” that could pull toward the character being the threat that acts as season five’s main focus rather than the impending capital-C-Crisis that leads to Barry’s future disappearance. Even if so far Cicada sort of feels like a mishmash of a bunch of Arrow and Flash villains blitzed up and reheated right now (oh, he’s got a personal vendetta against our hero, quelle surprise!), I’d take that over the show trying to do another take on Barry and Team Flash fighting against a future fates and time-travel nonsense again.
At the end of last season, I was confident in joking I wouldn’t have to break out my season three classic “God Dammit Barry Allen” post tag again...but now season five’s begun, I’m a little less confident in that being just a joke.