The Flash season five is speeding its way onto Blu-ray. With the 22-episode season comes several new featurettes, all three episodes of the “Elseworlds” crossover, a gag reel and several deleted scenes. It’s been a few months since the season five finale and this release was also a chance to revisit the season’s storylines, the characters, and all of its highs and lows (mostly lows).
To briefly recap, season five found Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) faced with the unexpected arrival of their daughter from the future, Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy). She’d briefly popped into a few scenes during season four, but made herself known after intervening to help Barry take down Clifford DeVoe’s satellite. The destruction of the satellite then created the metahuman villain, Cicada (Chris Klein) whose niece, Grace (Islie Hirvonen), was badly injured during the Enlightening. The future would reveal her as Cicada II (Sara Carter), who took on her uncle’s moniker to carry on killing metahumans in the name of hatred and misplaced anger. The major twist, of course, is revealed to be Nora’s alliance with Eobard Thawne/Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh), who claims he’s been helping Nora stop Cicada and save Barry from disappearing in 2024.
For all that season four had its issues (like Ralph taking the spotlight as a hero in Barry’s place), season five didn’t do much to fix them and, if anything, actually made them worse. Season five of The Flash suffered from treating Nora too much like the central hero, though she wound up being nothing more than a plot device for Thawne’s plan. Iris and Nora’s relationship proved to be the most fascinating and layered of the season. It gave the show some angst and Iris more of a perspective as a mother, allowing her the space to openly discuss her fears of possibly being a bad mom in the future, sympathy for the reasons behind her actions, and a reconciliation between mother and daughter. And, despite a lot of the missteps along the way, their relationship had more of a distinct journey, even when it could have been given more focus in the aftermaths of reconnecting.
Although Nora favored the father she never knew, Barry’s journey as a father lacked the heart and depth necessary for it to be believable, and relegating most of their meaningful interactions until after Nora’s secret was revealed was a mistake. In fact, the season needed more heart and less spectacle. More of the West-Allen family bonding, spending time together, engaging with one another, so that when the big reveal finally happened, it would have served as more of a gut-wrenching moment. Instead, their familial relationship took a backseat to the relationship between Nora and Thawne.
Following the 100th episode and the reveal that Nora had been working with her father’s enemy, the show lost its footing and never found its way back after a fairly strong start. After Barry tells his daughter that Thawne killed her grandmother, it made absolutely no sense for her to continue working with him, so all the tension that had been building up until that episode flat-lined not long after. It’s sometimes hard to balance tension and characters, but season five allowed the plot to drive the story, often making character decisions feel nonsensical because they had to fit into that box. Their actions were all made to serve a plot that took too long to play out because the writers held everything back until the season’s final moments.
The Flash has had issues with pacing for most of its run—leaving big reveals until the penultimate episode, dragging out its villain arcs, constantly repeating information that’s already been established—but season five was the most egregious. The beloved series often felt like a chore to get through because it decentralized Barry again and, by extension, the show suffered from this shift in focus. The season also took its sweet time with Cicada’s storyline, which was dull and gave him far too much unrealistic power, squandering Team Flash’s efforts at every turn and frankly making them look incompetent while standing around waiting for Cicadas I and II to reclaim their dagger and fly off without gaining even an inch. It was too ridiculous for this show and stopped literally every other story in its tracks instead of naturally allowing the season’s plot to evolve.
The themes of family and forgiveness were all there, too, and played big roles in the premiere and finale especially, but they never truly came together. Additionally, the show largely ignored the elephant in the room: Barry’s disappearance. It was a strange choice to make given that part of the reason Nora came back was to save him. From Barry reiterating that Iris would make the right decisions raising Nora on her own (and therefore removing himself from the picture without discussing how her actions may have, in part, stemmed from his disappearance) to not wanting to become attached to Nora as a father, the show treated his disappearance in the future as a non-factor, which hindered so much of the season’s potential and storytelling avenues.
The season started off on a promising note, with the stories taking the characters outside of STAR Labs, including Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes), who are tragically and constantly stuck in the basement more than everyone else. In attempting to give them their own storylines, The Flash mishandled both arcs. For Caitlin, the series once again attempted to revitalize her Killer Frost storyline to abysmal results. The story about finding her missing father and the family dynamics of the Snow family that came with it were some of the most uninteresting and disjointed aspects of the season. The series spent too long searching for Thomas Snow who, surprise, was also a villain. However, after spending an inordinate amount of time for him, he disappears without a trace for the remainder of the season. Caitlin then spends the down time reconnecting with Killer Frost, who’s now a being she can talk to while she’s inside her head instead of someone she exchanges sticky notes with. It’s ridiculous no matter how you look at it. When Thomas does return at the end of the season, he’s killed off in one of the most laughable death scenes the show’s ever done.
Cisco didn’t fare much better. The Flash had the opportunity to turn his storyline into a multidimensional exploration of why he no longer felt fulfilled being Vibe. Instead, we got a bizarre subplot involving a “metahuman cure” that would allow metas to be free of their powers if they chose to do so. There were a couple of episodes that presented very muddled ethics surrounding the making and administering of this cure, with Cisco, Caitlin, and even Barry at one point using it to their advantage whenever they saw fit. But to call it a cure maintains the idea that being a metahuman is a bad thing — a disease someone needs to be cured from. Maybe Cisco was tired of going out into the field or maybe he did see his powers as a curse and a roadblock to him having a normal life, but these reasons were never properly explored. They were half-formed ideas, much like the rest of the season’s storylines and the show suffered because of it.
Though the season had far more blunders than maybe any other of the series so far, there were also quite a few highlights. One being the adjustment of Ralph’s role in the series. He went from being a frustrating, childish, and sexist character whose lessons had to be repeated several times over to a helpful and thoughtful friend and superhero in season five. The change was such a complete turnaround from season four that it almost felt like whiplash. Still, it was a much-needed effort to revitalize Ralph and scale him back to being more of a well-rounded supporting character.
And while Barry and Iris’ relationship tragically took a backseat in the second half of the season, which had them focus on being parents to Nora, showcasing the show’s inability to balance roles, Iris had some great content as well. She was able to found the Central City Citizen and bought her own office space, hiring Cisco’s girlfriend, Kamilla Hwang (Victoria Park), as a photographer. In the early seasons of The Flash, Iris was often relegated to reacting to others’ feelings instead of exploring her own, but seasons four and five have given her the space to open up and share her point of view, her fears, frustration, and sadness among other emotions. Her continued development is definitely a win in a season that felt so off-balance and scattered.
In terms of the extra features, The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray release offers a few featurettes, including a discussion about the makings of “Elseworlds” that features the Arrowverse showrunners, though it doesn’t offer much in the way of new information, and the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel. One interesting featurette called “Villains: Modes of Persuasion” explores the villains of DC Comics and what makes them so fascinating and is the best of the bunch. And, of course, there’s the gag reel, which is a bit subdued and slightly less entertaining than season four’s, but remains a source of joy. Sprinkled throughout the disks are deleted scenes from various episodes, but with a few exceptions, they’re largely underwhelming.
The ones that are worth noting—such as Nora coming to see her mother in 5×18 and Iris opening up to her about Joe lying about Francine (a frustrating plot point from season two that remains a sour point to this day), Cecile telling Barry to focus on Iris and take her on a date in 5×05, and Barry and Iris sharing a nice moment in the hallway in 5×11—all lend themselves as relevant to their respective episodes, or, at the very least, worth the watch. The funniest deleted scene, however, has to be the “Elseworlds” intro, with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) running in Barry’s place. He’s so out of place that you can’t help but laugh. Ultimately, it might come off as a good sign that The Flash has fairly mediocre deleted content, but the lackluster nature of the scenes speak to the overall lack of creativity and excitement which plagued the entire season and which the show never truly recovered from.
The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season is now available on Blu-ray.