The fifth season finale of The Flash is full of a lot of endings, not just for the running storylines, but also for a few major characters.
The last episode left off with Barry firing the mirror gun at Cicada’s dagger just as Ralph came to the realization that it was Eobard Thawne’s master plan to see the dagger destroyed. With no time to react otherwise, Ralph leaps in front of the dagger, blocking the mirror gun’s blast with his body. The dagger bounces off his elastic torso harmlessly, but the mirror gun turns Ralph into a bizarre Cubist nightmare of something that looks only vaguely human. Cicada II takes back her dagger and retreats.
Having failed to exterminate all meta-humans like she wanted, Cicada formulates a new plan to use the Time Sphere to bring the viral plague back to the night of the original S.T.A.R. Labs reactor meltdown, thus killing all the metas at the very moment of their creation.
As the rest of the team are confounded by why Ralph would sacrifice himself, Sherloque pieces together what Ralph already figured out about Thawne’s plan. The dagger is dampening Thawne’s powers and keeping him in prison in 2049. By tricking Team Flash into destroying the dagger in 2019, Thawne will perpetrate a “reverse time hack” to get his speed back. Nora blames herself for being suckered by Thawne. Thinking it over, Barry decides that they still need to destroy the dagger anyway. As much as Barry hates Eobard Thawne, Cicada killing all meta-humans is a bigger threat than Thawne getting free.
Cisco frets about telling his girlfriend Camilla that he’s a meta-human. In the midst of everything else going on, he brings her to Jitters and reveals that he’s Vibe, expecting her to feel betrayed and break up with him. Instead, Camilla is totally cool with it. She’s read enough comic books to understand that superhero secret identities are secret for a reason.
Caitlin has no luck restoring Ralph to his original form, but Sherloque theorizes (based on nothing, really) that a blast from Cisco’s vibe power should make his cells snap back into shape. Sure enough, it works, although Ralph’s speech center is messed up and all his words come out scrambled for a while.
Barry discovers a clue at the CCPD station that helps the team locate Cicada’s cabin in the woods. Nora comes up with a plan to defeat both Cicada and Thawne. If the rest of the team can keep Cicada distracted, Nora will make psychic contact with the villain’s younger self, Grace. If she can convince the girl to take the meta-human cure, that should retroactively prevent her from ever becoming Cicada.
It seems like a solid plan. The team lure Cicada II away from the cabin and portal her directly into the Thawne trap in S.T.A.R. Labs. As she uses her dagger to hack away at the forcefields, Nora enters Grace’s mind and pleads with her to take the cure. Two different versions of Orlin Dwyer (Chris Klein) manifest, the kindly Uncle Orlin and the evil Cicada I, like a good angel and a bad angel on her shoulders. They push and pull at Grace until the girl agrees to take the cure.
Unfortunately, the power of the satellite core shard in her head is stronger than the cure, which has no effect. Grace remains a meta-human. Cicada II escapes her prison and returns to the cabin to kill everybody. As she attacks with the dagger, Cisco sends the mirror gun into Barry’s hand via a breach. Barry shoots and destroys the dagger. Cicada II disintegrates screaming.
Team Flash wins. One villain down.
One to Go
When the dagger is destroyed in the past, it vanishes from Eobard Thawne’s chest in the future. He regains his powers just in the nick of time before he’s executed. Thawne escapes captivity and kills all the prison guards. However, before he can put his yellow Reverse-Flash suit back on, time somehow reverses back a moment. Barry and Nora reset the scene and whisk the guards to safety. Thawne congratulates them for their cleverness, and rants a bit about his master plan to manipulate the timeline.
Thawne leads Barry and Nora on a chase through the city, splitting himself into two as he runs. The two of him get the upper hand over the two of them. After recombining, Thawne gloats that Nora never could have saved her father. Nothing can stop the Flash from disappearing.
As Thawne is about to attack them again, a breach opens and the Time Sphere pops out right in his way, causing Thawne to ram into and bounce off it. Out step most of Team Flash. Working together, Barry, Nora, Cisco, Ralph, and Killer Frost launch a coordinated attack, using their powers to bat Thawne around and weaken him.
Nora unmasks Thawne and positions herself to strike him with a phasing hand. Barry and Iris scream at her to stop, not to kill him. They needn’t bother, because Nora’s hand stops phasing on its own and turns sparkly colors. She’s frightened.
Thawne is delighted. He claims that a new timeline is setting in, and tells Barry that the only way he can save Nora is to race her into the Negative Speed Force right away. Barry debates this for a second, but then grabs his daughter and runs, giving Thawne an opportunity to escape.
As they’re about to enter the Negative Speed Force, Nora stops and returns to the rest of the team. She won’t go back in, because she won’t be able to resist the negative energy again. She doesn’t want to become like Thawne. Resigned to her fate, Nora says, “Sometimes all you can do is live with the consequences,” echoing a fatherly talk Barry gave her earlier.
Barry and Iris hug their daughter and cry as Nora’s body disintegrates into a cloud of ashes that drift away in the wind.
Back to the Present
The team return to 2019. Everybody is sad. The mission to defeat Cicada over, Sherloque announces that he’s returning home to his own Earth, leaving Ralph to take over as master detective here.
Barry, Joe, and Cecile are called to the CCPD, where Capt. Singh informs them that he’s been promoted to Chief of Police. He names Joe to be his successor as Captain. (Doesn’t he have to pass an exam or something?) Before leaving, Singh also reveals that he knows Barry is the Flash, and has for a while.
Cisco tells Caitlin that he doesn’t want to be Vibe anymore and asks her to give him the meta-human cure. He seems happy with his decision. After she administers it and he loses his powers, Cisco tells Caitlin that he’s left her a present in his lab.
Iris finds Nora’s journal, which is written in a special time language that makes it immune to changes in the timeline. Inside is a chip. Iris and Barry take it to the Time Vault and play a “If you’re watching this, I must be dead” final message from Nora. This is played over a montage in which we see Cisco on a date with Camilla, Joe moving into his new office, Sherloque on Earth-221 waiting for his girlfriend Renee, Caitlin discovering that Cisco left her a new Killer Frost uniform (we don’t get to see it), and Ralph back in his P.I. office.
Nora’s message concludes with her telling Barry and Iris that she loves them, that she wouldn’t change a thing about their time together, and thanking them for being such great parents.
Some time later, in the empty Time Vault room, the computer comes to life with an alert of an “incoming time flux.” The newspaper headline from the future announcing the Flash’s disappearance pops up as a hologram. We watch as the headline date changes, moving the event up to 2019.
I’ll be honest that I’m a little surprised at Nora being written off the show like this. I don’t fully understand or buy the explanation about a new timeline setting in (what new timeline?), but questioning the show’s narrative logic when it comes to time travel issues is always a losing battle. What’s important is that she’s given a very emotional and satisfying farewell.
(Are Barry and Iris still going to have a daughter now? How weird will that be, raising a kid you’ve already met as an adult, and knowing exactly how and when she’ll die young. Perhaps the point is that they don’t have a daughter after this, and that’s the new timeline setting in?)
I also don’t really buy Cisco’s rationale for not wanting to be Vibe anymore, even if it was hinted earlier in the season. The decision still feels contrived. Is Carlos Valdes leaving the show? Although there should be no reason he’d have to leave the team, Cisco’s last scene with Caitlin sure feels like a goodbye. Considering Valdes’ erratic absences throughout the season, I wonder if something is going on behind the scenes and the writers are leaving the actor an out if he doesn’t come back next season.
This is presumably also the end of Sherloque, but I fully expect Tom Cavanagh to return next season as the Reverse-Flash (if Matt Letscher doesn’t take over that role again) and/or yet another alternate version of Harrison Wells.
This was a very uneven season and I often found myself frustrated with the show. That said, in general I think it’s an improvement over the mess of Season 4, and the finale wraps things up satisfactorily. The conclusion to the Cicada storyline works well enough, and Eobard Thawne should be more fun outside of prison and allowed to embrace his villainy, than he was trapped in it pretending to be a nice guy.
I guess I just have to resign myself to the fact that The Flash is always going to be an uneven show. So long as the balance of good parts outweigh the bad, I’ll stick with it. But if the scales tip too far in the wrong direction, at some point I’ll have to evaluate whether it’s still entertaining enough to be worth my time.