After an uneven season four, The Flash is back with a balance of heart and humor. It recenters family and also refocuses Barry himself. Both of these essentials had been mi-ssing for a lot of season four, what with the focus turning to Ralph and a lackluster final showdown with DeVoe. The childish humor the writers employed didn’t help. Thankfully, the season five premiere shows a lot of promise for what’s to come this season and is a fun, emotional, and heartbreaking premiere. It turns out Nora West-Allen’s (Jessica Parker Kennedy) presence is the boost of energy The Flash needed all along.
It’s become a bit of a joke that Barry’s only concern since seeing the newspaper from 2024 is the byline. But after this episode, titled “Nora,” perhaps the reason he’s never bothered being worried is because he’s always managed to come back home. After all, he’s woken up from his coma, has come back from the speed force, and from his first trip to Earth-2, etc. But faced with his own mortality and the fact that his happiness is cut short by his future disappearance puts a damper on things and any hopefulness he might have had turns abruptly tragic.
We learn a lot about Nora in the premiere, even though she’s definitely still hiding some things. We learn why she’s eager to spend every waking moment with her dad after learning she doesn’t remember, nor grow up with, him. Barry isn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of her being stuck in the present though because, for once, he just wants his life to be normal. Iris assures him that they can still have their normal even if it’s a bit out of order. Speaking of Iris, she has the opposite reaction to Nora. She’s excited to get to know her daughter and her presence assures Iris that things do turn out ok for her and Barry in the future. After the audience finds out the truth, however, every conversation about the future becomes tinged with a heartache that’s hard to shake off. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to breathe year after year? Barry and Iris both want a family and to live happy lives? They should be allowed to have that without the fear of death hanging over them. It’s the tragic rip-your-heart-out type of angst that makes you want to root for them to get their happy ending even more than usual.
Iris trying to connect with Nora is both amusing and also very sad. The attempt to be a “cool mom” is out in full force and the Jitters scene is emotionally layered. As Iris draws closer, Nora subtly pulls back and Candice Patton and Jessica Parker Kennedy show their range in the scene. Iris is giddy with the chance to learn more, but the happiness on her face transforms and it obviously bothers her that Nora only seems interested in getting to know her dad. It’ll be interesting to see what Nora is keeping from her besides Barry’s permanent disappearance and what may have caused a distance between mother and daughter. It’s obvious Nora still seeks her mother’s approval, so the tension probably does have to do with Nora wanting to use her powers and time travel against Iris’ wishes, but we’ll see.
In another standout performance, Grant Gustin really sells the vault scene. The realization he won’t be around like he thought and won’t come back after disappearing guts him and it’s written all over his face. It isn’t what he expects (even though he could’ve just read another future article, but alas) and it’s so heart-wrenching to watch him process the fact that he will leave his family behind. Barry has always been an emotional, romantic, and family-oriented hero. These are primary characteristic that set him apart from many other superheroes on TV and are also his strengths. It’s one of the many reasons why this scene is so layered, tragic, and full of emotion that resonates throughout the rest of the episode.
Nora is a breath of fresh air. She’s so full of energy and is always doing the most, which seems fair that the Iris of the future took to naming her “XS” because she does everything in excess. How schway. She truly feels like she’s actually Barry and Iris’ daughter, from the chemistry she has with the both of them to her mannerisms and uncanny resemblance. She exhibits a lot of passion for all things Barry-related and, even though she knows the tragic future that lays ahead for her dad, she’s excited to be able to stick around and learn from him. And learn from him she does. In one of the best action sequences and saves in the history of the show, Nora, Barry, and Wally team-up to take down Gridlock and save a plane from crashing into a building. Barry teaches Nora how to phase using the same words the original Wells told him. It’s a pretty powerful scene and exactly the kind of training Barry can excel at when given the proper chance.
The Flash season five premiere provided some genuine laughs. The jokes are actually funny and there isn’t any forced, childish humor. Ralph, for once, isn’t deeply frustrating and this lighter, more supporting character version, is far more preferable than what we got last season. Gridlock is largely forgettable, as are most metahumans on this show, but it’s ok since the character development and interactions are at the center of what makes the episode so solid. Most importantly, The Flash has its heart back and “Nora” is filled with so many emotional and heartbreaking moments. Moments that have been missing for too long. Ultimately, making the West-Allen family the focal point of the season is a smart move and one that re-centers the title character and the most important people in his life. If anything, the premiere proves we’re in for what will hopefully be a season full of the heart, humor, and heroics that made us fall in love with the show to begin with.
- Wally says he’ll be going back to the Legends, but… we know he won’t be on Legends of Tomorrow, so saying that he will is pointless. I wonder how they’ll be explaining this later.
- Joe barely got any screen time, which sucks, but now we know he’s been hanging out in the lounge in STAR Labs. Yes, there’s suddenly a lounge that no one knew existed (except for Joe apparently).
- “What did you think we meant when we said Harry was from Earth-2?” “I thought you meant he was from Earth, too.” I laughed.
- I am currently indifferent to Caitlin’s attachment to Killer Frost and the sudden emergence of a new origin story, but I look forward to seeing what the show has in store for the now undead Thomas Snow and how that plays into everything.
- Drunk Cisco is fun Cisco.
- Iris West, naming Flashes since 2014.