Maybe time travel was always the bane of Barry Allen’s existence. I remember a lot of time travel stories from the comic books when I was a kid, back when the Flash had to use a treadmill to time travel and Carmine Infantino was the quintessential Flash artist. Maybe some of the stories involved Barry messing up the timeline and then having to fix it, over and over again. Maybe.
But, I don’t think time travel was the central conceit back in those days. It was enough that we had a guy who could run really, really fast. So fast, in fact, that it seemed the rest of the world was standing still. That time seemed to stop.
There it is again, I guess. Speed is always a function of time, isn’t it? Distance divided by time. There’s no escaping it.
I believe time travel became more important in Central City after Barry Allen returned from his long vacation following Crisis on Infinite Earths. Certainly, it has always been important in the CW version of The Flash. It is once again front and center in the premiere episode of Season 5, “Nora.”
During the Season 4 finale, we learned that the mystery girl who kept cropping up throughout the season was Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future. She finally revealed herself to her parents and the rest of Team Flash because she’s become stranded in the past and needs their help to return.
Except that turns out to be a total fabrication. She’s lying about being stuck in the past and she traveled in time just to hang out with her dad because, in her own timeline, she never knew him. In what has become a recurring theme in the series, it seems that the Flash disappears in 2024 and never returns. We’ve seen variations on that newspaper headline (newspapers? in the future? really?) since Season 1. We all know that, in our world, the Barry Allen Flash disappeared for 23 years, about the same amount of time he’s been missing from Nora Allen’s life. I imagine that, if the series is still running in 2024 (not out of the realm of possibility), this will continue to be a Flash trope up to that time. I mean, I would make that crisis the focus of the 2024 season, wouldn’t you?
We’re not going to wait. We’re already talking about it in the fifth season premiere. Or, more precisely, we’re still talking about it.
It bothered me when it was revealed that Nora was lying about being stuck in the past. It opens up the possibility that she’s lying about other things as well, on the one hand. On another hand, Barry knows the dangers of monkeying with the timeline and it makes no sense at all that he doesn’t insist that Nora return to her own future before everything is all cattywampus. Nora has already demonstrated a knack for causing unintended mischief and interfering in events she would have originally played no part in. Plus, if her assisting her dad at the end of Season 4 didn’t result in her being stranded in time, what was the original consequence of the crashing satellite or whatever it was? If the Flash doesn’t disappear until 2024, we know he lived, but what about everyone else? Is this series now operating in a completely new Flashpoint universe?
That’s what I’m talking about. Time travel is always confusing.
So, Barry decides to let Nora stick around for a while, and she’s apparently going to be bunking in a secret lounge in STAR Labs that, until now, only Joe West knew existed (he’s a detective, after all). In spite of the obvious paradox involved, and the time travel confusion, it is nice to inject some new blood into the series. Nora seems to fill a vacuum created by the now-absent Gypsy and soon-to-be-absent-entirely Kid Flash. I just hope they don’t have Cisco fall in love with her, because that’s just creepy and wrong.
Speaking of Cisco and Gypsy . . . Cisco’s opening salvo for a character arc in this season involves his binge drinking to get over his breakup with Gypsy and his sudden onset inability to Vibe (hey, it happens to us all). I hope that Cisco gets a real arc this season, because I like the character and the actor who plays him.
Caitlin Snow has found out that her father faked his own death, so we know that’s going to be a thing for at least part of the season. We found out last season that Killer Frost existed as part of Caitlin even prior to the particle chamber explosion. So, that’s going to be further developed.
Ralph Dibny is just happy to still be alive and is still trying to find his place in Team Flash. At the moment, he seems to be filling a Tom Cavanaugh-sized niche in the series, but I’m hoping for the return of another Harrison Wells.
Joe and Cecile have their new baby, and Cecile’s waxing and waning mental powers to deal with. Not sure if there’s anything with more depth being explored there.
That’s where we stand at the conclusion of the premiere. I still like the tone of the series, and its likeable cast. As my favorite of the DC on CW shows, I’m committed for the long haul here. But, the season doesn’t seem to have the major season arc that I’m looking for yet. The Nora Allen stuff is going to have to develop in major dramatic ways to pull that off. Her presence alone doesn’t seem engaging enough.
There’s material here to work with, though. She’s avoiding Iris like the plague, so far. Why is that? Does Iris become evil after Barry vanishes? Do mother and daughter not get along? Nora’s presence in her parents’ past suggests that there should be a crisis prior to 2024.
I’m certain that a clearer picture of the shape of the season will emerge over the next couple of episodes. The Flash hasn’t let me down yet. For now, I’m idling in wait-and-see mode.