The flagship DC series on CW, Arrow, ends its run next year. Meaning, the Flash is now the center of that shared universe. It’s a position he’s arguably occupied as long as there has been a shared universe on the network. Still, Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow is the de facto leader of this group of Super Friends. His was the first series, and the Flash spun off its second season. When Arrow goes away, Flash will be the senior god in the pantheon. So, this year’s Flash season finale closed a story line all about the Flash growing up. It’s the pay-off to a long-running story arc for Barry Allen. Despite his moments of brilliance, he’s still learning how to be a hero and a leader. This past season, he also had to learn how to be a father. Flash’s crisis-training is personal.
Unlike Arrow, the Flash season finale didn’t do much to set up the next crossover: Crisis on Infinite Earths. Since the inception of the show, we’ve seen a newspaper headline from 2024 (ten years after the first season) declaring that the Flash vanished in a “Crisis.” The character of Nora, Barry’s daughter from the future, revealed that he never returns from that crisis. (Despite sending the Legends of Tomorrow a message from 2040 a few seasons back.) Nora grew up without a father, lost in his prime to some superhero shenanigans. So, a speedster herself, she travels back in time to meet her father. This ultimately turns out to be a nefarious plan orchestrated by a horrible villain. Yet, in this case, the real treasure is the friends, and family, we made along the way. Spoilers for everything below.
Who Died in the Flash Season Finale?
Like most shows with large ensemble casts, part of the deal is that one or two get picked-off by season’s end. The Arrowverse is known for killing its characters, such as both halves of the first Firestorm. (Of course, they also come back sometimes, like the Lance sisters.) Still, the Flash season finale saw the end of two major characters, one which hearkens back to a rumor last winter. A report circulated that Carlos Valdes, who plays Cisco, planned to leave the show next season. And in the final act of the finale, he decides to take “a cure” he developed that removes metahuman powers. (More on this later.) Yet, while the reality-warping Vibe is “dead,” Cisco remains very much alive. So, this means the character could still appear, just not in every episode. And, remember, Cisco didn’t have powers for most of the first two seasons.
Throughout these past years, we’ve seen a lot of different versions of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash. We get a new version of this character, played by Tom Cavanaugh, who orchestrates Nora’s trip to the past. He ends up running free by the end of the episode, and because of his machinations, Nora’s timeline ceased to exist. She disintegrates in the arms of her two parents, brave in the face of her certain doom. As XS, the character was the first speedster on the side of the angels whose story worked well. The show sometimes doesn’t know what to do with junior speedsters, but they finally hit their stride with Nora. It seems likely we will meet a version of this character again, probably played by the same actress.
The Life and Times of Nora West-Allen, the New Kid Flash
The introduction of Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future, is a bold move but one that works. The character also introduced an interesting dynamic on the show. The relationship she built with her parents worked in spite of all the actors being around the same age. We have no idea how old Nora is supposed to be on the show. Jessica Parker Kennedy who plays the character is in her 30s. The character is likely supposed to be in her 20s or even maybe her very-late-teens? Either way, Nora regresses a little when she’s in the past, meaning Barry and Iris have to “parent” her. (Also, Grant Gustin and Candice Patton are both younger than the actress playing their daughter!) This whole dynamic should not work, but they pull it off nicely.
Adding a baby to a show is often a terrible idea. They are these little ticking time-bombs of responsibility that get in your characters’ way. Yet, the experience of becoming a parent is a defining part of anyone’s life, usually marking the moment they truly feel they’ve grown up. So, by using speedforce magic to allow a slightly younger Nora to return to the past, this problem is avoided. In fact, because Nora is a somewhat fully-formed adult when they meet her, it allows the characters to embrace “being a parent” more slowly. Also, this is arguably a more interesting and unique take on that narrative. The death is even more brutal, because Barry and Iris have no idea if Nora exists in the new timeline they created. Though, the smart money is on the character returning in one alternate form or another.
What The Season Finale Means for Team Flash
Even though there is every chance that Nora still exists in the future that lies ahead of them, Nora and Barry have to mourn the girl they got to know. In the Flash season finale, Barry and Iris fail in the most obvious way for parents to fail: they don’t protect their child’s life. Of course, they’re “saved,” such as it is, because Nora was a hero. Not only was she more willing to die than go to the dark side of the speedforce, she recognized it was a possibility. She left a recording for her parents to find in the “time vault” at Star Labs, a truly moving send-off for the character. However, her speech wasn’t just about getting Kevin Smith to cry. This scene also serves to let them off-the-hook for that failure.
While Arrow’s season finale was all about failure, the Flash season finale is about Barry (and the rest of Team Flash) reaching their full potential. Presumably, Barry will not die in this year’s crossover (at least, for long anyway). Going forward he will be the new leader of the Arrowverse, a role he’s actually kind of occupied since Invasion. Barry is who every other hero looks to, and he often defers to Oliver’s expertise. Now that Barry has loved and lost an adult child, he’s changed. Were it Oliver’s child, we’d expect him to get very dark and very murderous. Barry, on the other hand, will find someway to channel his grief into hope. That’s the role these characters were born to play, and this most recent season got the Flash where he needed to be to stave off the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
What’s the Crisis on Infinite Earths?
Look for a forthcoming deep dive on the history of this story, but in short it changed the DC continuity forever. By the 1980s, the DC continuity was a mess. There were imaginary stories, different versions of the same characters, and no way to make sense of it. Marv Wolfman and George Perez came up with an idea that took the DC Comics multi-verse, condensing it into a single DC timeline. It rebooted many of the comics, and killed many characters including Barry Allen and Supergirl. Since these are the two marquee Arrowverse stars not ending their shows next year, it’s safe to assume there are going to be changes. However, in calling it “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the storytellers are making a statement that things will fundamentally change.
The story itself and how it will play out on-screen is probably not even written yet. Still, the Flash season finale teased that the timetable on the crisis moved up. The reasons why is because this will be their last chance to do it with the Green Arrow, but how they will justify the timeline change remains to be see. The prevailing fan theory is that all of the many Earths in this shared universe will coalesce into one. Yet, with shows like Black Lighting that seem to have no desire to crossover at all, it may be something less drastic. Either way, after this crossover event the CW shared DC universe will not be the same.
The Flash Season Finale Wraps Up a Bad Villain
This year’s “big bad” is Cicada, a character who is hell-bent on killing all metahumans in Central City. Chris Klein spends most of the season playing the character, chewing up all the scenery he can get his hands on. His portrayal was a definite choice, but it never played scary. It only played funny. While this is okay for the Flash, the very tense scenes this year were hurt by the overly sinister growl Klein used to deliver his lines. The second Cicada, his niece who time-traveled to the past to also murder all metahumans, played a little better. Still, if she’d had a mustache, she’d have twirled it. Though, the portrayals would have worked better if the storytellers could better use the villains.
At least a half-dozen times this season, Cicada should have been easily dispatched by our heroes’ many plans to take him out. Yet, inexplicably, they would stand around yammering while he recovered and got away. The idea that his mere presence robbed them of their powers worked for a while, but then he became too powerful. The storytellers never found the right balance to strike, nor were they ever able to deliver on the promise that Cicada was the baddest villain Flash ever faced. Especially when Wells/Thawne came back into the narrative. Everything about this season that wasn’t a Cicada caper was a delight. Though, after this season? Fans will be begging for a good old-fashioned speedster villain to tackles in season six.
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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.