Perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, but the fall TV season seemed to come up awfully fast for me this year. I wasn’t ready to see a recording of The Flash on my DVR this week. The fact that the show’s fourth season was such a huge mess didn’t exactly fill me with anticipation for the new one. Will Season 5 get the series get back up to speed?
The season premiere picks up right where the last finale ended, with the mysterious stranger who stalked Barry and Iris all last season revealing herself to be their daughter from the future. Her name is Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) and she’s a speedster known as “XS” in her timeline. (Her costume is modeled after the one Iris wore when she was briefly a speedster last season.) Nora says that she made a big mistake in helping Barry destroy the satellite that fell toward Central City. For some reason, now she can’t build up enough speed to open another portal through the Speed Force and return to the future. She’s stranded. With no one else to turn to, she revealed herself to ask for help.
Barry is very concerned about Nora interfering with the present timeline and wants to get her home as soon as possible. Iris, on the other hand, is very excited at the prospect of bonding with her future daughter before she’s even born. For her part, Nora is a super-fan of her dad, constantly prattling on about how she’s studied his entire superheroing career (apparently, there’s even a Flash Museum in the future), but acts standoffish toward her mom and makes excuses not to spend time with her.
Nora’s over-eagerness to tag along with her dad when he goes out on what should be a routine meta-human confrontation proves to be a big nuisance for Barry. When a meta with electrical powers robs a bank, Nora immediately recognizes him as a minor villain named Gridlock. She distracts Barry from capturing him, which results in Gridlock winning the fight and getting away. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Caitlin and Cisco outfit Nora with a modified version of the Tachyon Enhancer device to boost her speed, allowing Nora and Barry to link together and open a portal to the future. However, as they try to enter it, they bounce off it like hitting a brick wall. It seems that her blood contains Negative Tachyons, which are slowing her down.
Because they lost their satellite, the team has trouble keeping up with meta-human activity in the city or tracking Gridlock. That doesn’t stop Cisco from figuring out that his meta power involves absorbing kinetic energy. Barry won’t be able to fight him with his traditional speed-punches, which will just make him stronger.
Picking up on clues that she dropped, Barry realizes that Nora grew up without him in her life. That’s why she’s so eager to hang out with him. She only knows him from studying up on him and modeling herself after his legend. It also helps explain her strained relationship with Iris, who had to raise her alone. When he confronts her about this, Nora shows him a newspaper article from the future revealing that the Flash disappeared when she was only a young child and (in her time) has been missing for 25 years. She also admits that she faked being stuck in the past by hiding a Negative Tachyon generator in her suit, and can leave whenever she wants. Because Barry wasn’t around to teach her about her powers or train her, Nora says that she’s not nearly as good as speedster as he is. She can’t even figure out how to phase through objects yet.
Cisco eventually finds a way to track Gridlock and locates him on an airplane that just took off from Central City Airport. Somehow, the team intuit that he’s planning to crash it. On board the plane, we see Gridlock try to steal a briefcase from a fellow passenger, and then use his powers to cause the jet engines to explode.
The plane is on a trajectory to crash right into downtown Central City, potentially killing hundreds or even thousands of people. The only way to avert this is for all three speedsters to work together and phase the entire plane through the buildings before it hits them. They also have to capture Gridlock first. To do that, they’ll have a limited window of just ten seconds while the plane is in freefall and the passenger cabin hits Zero G where Gridlock can’t absorb kinetic energy.
Cisco opens a breach and portals Barry, Wally and Nora onto the plane. Barry grabs Gridlock and handcuffs him to a seat while his powers are weak. Then the three speedsters try to phase the plane. Nora has trouble and Barry has to teach her, channeling lessons that Dr. Wells taught him back in the day (providing the episode’s only flashback cameo from Tom Cavanagh). Just in the nick of time, the plane phases through both a building and a bridge and performs a safe water landing. Everyone survives.
With the crisis du jour averted, Barry has a change of heart and decides that it will be for the best if Nora sticks around for a while after all, but doesn’t tell Iris what he knows about his disappearance.
Gridlock is taken into custody and transported toward Iron Heights prison. En route, the police truck is ambushed by another meta-human who takes out all the cops and opens the truck’s doors. A hooded figure carrying a dagger shaped like a lightning bolt enters. Gridlock assumes he’s being set free, but no, the intruder announces that he’s come to kill him.
- Cecile discovers that she might not have lost her psychic powers after her baby was born after all. Joe finds this troubling.
- Cisco spends most of the episode distraught over breaking up with Gypsy.
- Barry is officially reinstated at his job as a police forensic scientist.
- Wally disappears for a good chunk of the episode when Barry sends him on a side-quest to ask the Legends of Tomorrow for help taking Nora back to the future. Nothing comes of this and Wally returns empty-handed in time to assist at the climax.
- Because Barry’s Flash suit was wrecked in the battle with the Thinker, he wears his original first-season costume for a while. When that likewise gets damaged, Nora provides him with a brand new suit she brought back from the future, which is contained in one of those nifty magic rings that Eobarde Thawne used. Barry thinks the new suit is super-awesome, but it looks kind of hideous.
- Dim bulb Ralph is extremely shocked to learn about the existence of time travel and alternate universes, despite the fact that he’s been exposed to those concepts before. Upon formulating a theory of the “Manyverse,” he’s quite dejected to realize that everybody else already figured it out a long time ago. He also says that, when Harry talked about being from Earth-2, he thought that meant he was “from Earth, also.”
- Unable to assist with anything else this week, Ralph devotes himself to helping Caitlin investigate her past, to figure out how Killer Frost could have been with her since childhood, and where Killer Frost is now. The first thing he discovers is that Caitlin’s father faked his own death and may still be alive.
So far, so good. This is a pretty fun episode. I like the Nora character. (I wonder if anyone will comment on the oddity of Barry and Iris giving their daughter the same name Damien Darkh did?) Yes, we probably already have too many speedsters on this show, but she’s more likeable than annoying thus far.
The time travel logic can be picked apart (by revealing herself at all, Nora has likely already done irreparable damage to the timeline), but that sort of thing has never made any sense on this show. The plotting in general is solid and none of the characters behave like idiots. It’s a curious decision to start the season with such a lightweight story and a minor villain. I take it that the guy at the end is supposed to be a Big Bad. We don’t get to see his face, but if you paid attention to the credits at the beginning you might have noticed the name of a B-List star who doesn’t factor into the episode at all otherwise.
I’d like to believe that this is the start of a second wind for the show, but of course we have a lot of episodes left this season and plenty of time for things to go wrong yet again. I’ll try to stay as optimistic as I can.