The Flash – Season 5 Episode 18
The Flash delivers Nora’s backstory in the aftermath of the team learning about her connection to Eobard Thawne.
At the beginning of the episode Team Flash are picking up the pieces of the previous episode and trying to find a way to move forward following finding out that Nora hasn’t been honest with them. There’s a decent split in opinion among the team with some looking to understand the situation from Nora’s point of view and Barry blinded by his anger. There’s a lot of emphasis in trying to see Nora’s point of view as backed up by Cecille making a case for her as she doesn’t believe that there is malicious intent to her actions. She can feel how upset Nora is and never felt any malice from her in the months she has been in this time period.
Barry just doesn’t want to hear it. In his mind what Nora did was unforgivable because Eobard Thawne took his mother from him and that’s not something he will ever be able to put behind him no matter how much distance he gets. Eobard Thawne isn’t to be trusted and Nora continuing to associate with him after she learned what he did is equally unforgivable. On an emotional level this makes some sense though it ignores a vast chunk of character development on Barry’s part. By this point he should have learned that motivations are often very complex rather than jumping to a conclusion that he seems unwilling to reconsider. Some allowances can be made for how blind sided he must be by what he has learned but his completely close minded approach to the issue at hand feels out of character. I’ve criticised this show before for characters repeatedly learning and forgetting important lessons to manufacture drama so this seems to be yet another example.
The unilateral decision Barry makes to take Nora back to her own time and leave her there definitely comes across as harsh. Barry can understand Nora going to Thawne in the first place because she didn’t have the full picture of the terrible things he has done but he can’t bring himself to forgive her for continuing to visit him after learning the truth about him. Once again this ignores a vast chunk of character development for Barry while also forgetting that at least Iris deserves to have some say in what to do about Nora
Iris depicted across the two time periods makes for a fascinating contrast to who she is now and what she may become in the future. Present day Iris has a strong relationship with Nora founded on openness and understanding where the Iris of the future is cold, dispassionate and unfairly controlling. The warmth shown in her key scene with Nora when she lets her out of the pipeline against the coldness scene they share in the future helps to define how isolated Nora felt prior to seeking help from Thawne while also showing the path Iris will no longer follow. She is the one willing to see Nora’s point of view because she knows that her future self wasn’t honest with her. As established in an earlier episode she stands by the decision she may one day make but she also understands where Nora is coming from.
The majority of this episode is set in the future time period and details the events leading up to the activation of Nora’s powers as well as what motivated her to seek help from Thawne. As with most stories of this type everything happens very quickly which robs it of much of its depth but it certainly gets the point across and delivers something more than has already been established in dialogue so it justifies its existence because there is more to it than simply visualising what is already known. this is definitely the right approach as the episode ends with the viewer having greater insight into Nora than they had going in.
There are a number of callbacks to Barry’s origin way back in the pilot episode such as Nora being really late to a crime scene and even running into the back of a laundry truck once she gets her powers. Some may see this as lazy and redundant but it helps draw a connection between Nora and Barry as a reminder of how similar they are. It has already been well established that Nora owes a lot of her personality to Barry so callbacks like this serve as a capable reminder of this that draws on the show’s history in positive ways.
Nora’s friendship with Lia (Kathryn Gallagher) made for a nice surprise as this is an element of her past that hasn’t been mentioned before. They don’t share much screen time in the grand scheme of things but it immediately comes across as an enduring lived in friendship based on mutual trust. Nora’s theories on who is behind the robberies aren’t exactly conventional but Lia has her back despite the lack of initial evidence because she trusts that Nora has some idea of what she’s talking about. Her doubts and concerns are voiced but ultimately she supports Nora especially when evidence of a Speedster being at large is found.
They quickly track down the Speedster villain Godspeed (voiced by B.D. Wong); altered from his comic book origins to be powered by Velocity-9 and motivated by tracking down the correct ingredients to make his powers permanent. I’ve personally read some comics that Godspeed appears in and I can’t imagine fans of this character being anything other than disappointed by his depiction here. In the comics he appoints himself Judge, Jury and Executioner of the criminals of Central City after gaining his powers. He has something of a God complex -hence the name- and causes a number of problems for Barry as a result of his less than conventional methods. This version apparently still has the God complex based on him introducing himself as the God of Speed but there’s nothing else to the character. In this particular episode he acts as little more than an adversary for Nora to best in her first outing with her powers and the episode spends no time developing him beyond that. What makes him feel that he’s the God of Speed is unclear as is everything else about him. This is a character that could have been introduced later with actual effort put into making a worthy adaptation. For the purposes of Nora’s first villain the writers could have created a Rival type character that would offer a challenge without the weight of expectations. The alteration would be forgivable if it were any good but that sadly wasn’t the case.
Nora’s first encounter with Godspeed has her struck by his lightning which breaks the power damping chip and activates her powers. At first she believes that the lightning gave her Speedster abilities until Lia shows her that the device in her shoulder was designed to take away the powers she already had. This worsens the already strained relationship between Nora and Iris as she now has to deal with the fact that everyone in her life that loves her has been lying to her since the day she was born. It’s a strong realisation that isn’t quite given the time it needs to sink in but is enhanced by everything we have seen this season around this detail of her past. The scene where she confronts Iris about it is really well done and adds texture to the earlier episodes where Nora resented the present day version of Iris for her future self keeping so much from her.
Things become more complicated when Lia is killed by Godspeed. Once again this isn’t given the necessary time to truly sink in but it’s a well executed emotional moment nonetheless. The episode does more than enough to set this up as a friendship with depth to give the loss weight and meaning. It’s an important turning point for Nora as she realises that there is nobody else she can turn to who can support her. Other people in her life are mentioned but there’s no sign of any of Team Flash beyond Iris. This is most likely to keep the fates of the other characters a mystery rather than tethering them to a certain future that the show is clearly working towards albeit with some changes that will already have taken hold thanks to Nora’s interference. It is odd that she wouldn’t at least mention Cisco, Caitlin or any other member of the team though it’s possible that she sees them as deceivers who can’t be trusted since they went along with what Iris did to her.
With nowhere else to turn it’s easy to see why she would go to Thawne because there is nobody else that can help her understand how her powers work and how best to make use of them to bring down Godspeed. Thawne is as deliciously manipulative as ever and exploits Nora’s missing sense of identity by teasing what he knows about her father in order to get her to trust him. Basically he’s exploiting her in her emotionally vulnerable state which parallels what he did with Barry back in the first season. The scene where he gives her the same passionate speech he gave to Barry when teaching him how to phase is chilling and draws that direct connection. Expectations are subverted by Nora not having the confidence to attempt it. Thawne’s influence is cemented through Barry using that same speech to teach Nora how to phase earlier this season which makes for an excellent connection between Thawne and Barry Allen’s family.
It’s unclear what Thawne is trying to achieve with this. He is on a countdown to his execution so it likely has a lot to do with preventing that from happening. Something of a plan can be extrapolated from what we know so far. He manages to get Nora to trust him by feeding her small amounts of the truth in order to make him seem like a better option to put her trust in than her own mother. This in turn leads him to encourage Nora to head back in time so that she can spend some time with her father and solve the one crime he never could which connects him to the Cicada plot through appearing to support Nora in achieving that goal. The mechanics of what he’s planning are still mysterious but I can see it resulting in his release in some way by manufacturing problems that force shifts in the well thought out plan. For instance, the arrival of the new Cicada is seen as a complication that Thawne didn’t account for which leads him to advise Nora to come clean with Barry. The fallout from that was Nora being exiled to her own time by an enraged Barry who then confronts Thawne about once again meddling with his family. Barry is consumed with anger at this point and is letting his hatred get the better of him which probably means that this is exactly what Thawne wanted and he will make use of Barry’s weakness to gain his freedom. It would be perfectly in keeping with his established character and makes for an intricate plan if that is indeed what this is building to.
Outside of this, Nora gaining powers defines her in a really big way and allows her to see her obsession with The Flash Museum in a new light. She’s connected to it now and in a way everything in there belongs to her so she has no problem exploring the hidden depths of what was once S.T.A.R. Labs. She finds her way into the Time Vault and talks to Gideon who tells her that she is the daughter of the Flash. Jessica Parker Kennedy plays this reaction perfectly with a mixture of disbelief and being overwhelmed by that knowledge. She sees a message from Barry just before his disappearance; it’s a very short message but dripping in emotion. It’s a really good tease for the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event as it shows a desperate situation where Barry seems to be fully aware of the fate that awaits him. He is saying goodbye to Nora knowing that he will never get to see her grow up so even though not much is said Grant Gustin conveys the gravity of the moment wonderfully. It’s also clearly gratifying in a way for Nora to see that her father died a hero.
This episode teases the setup of the future in other ways but doesn’t go into enough detail. With this being only a few years after the future currently depicted in Arrow having something at least be mentioned that connects this time period to that one would have been appreciated as it would add to the overall scope of the future being depicted. It is mentioned that all recorded Speedsters are gone and Metahumans are alluded to though it’s unclear if they are actually a problem. I do applaud the writers for keeping the focus on Nora and her emotional revelations but there was a real opportunity to tie up the various future time periods depicted on the other shows and have them intrinsically linked.
A solid episode that misses a lot of obvious opportunities but delivers a strong emotional story for Nora. The aftermath of her secret being revealed is handled well in some respects as it divides the team in terms of how best to approach it though Barry’s reaction forgets a vast chunk of character development and him making a unilateral decision to banish Nora to the future ignores what everyone else may think. At the very least Iris should have a say in this decision. Barry’s reaction makes some kind of sense as it’s clear that he will never be able to move past what Thawne did to his family and Nora’s betrayal is an extension of that because he can’t understand why she would continue going to him after learning the truth. It still doesn’t make sense to ignore the team dynamic or the lessons that should have been learned but there is grounding for Barry’s actions and that does count for something. The contrast created by depicting two different versions of Iris divided in how they approach their relationship with Nora is really interesting. The present day Iris is warm and compassionate which is the opposite of her cold and dispassionate future portrayal. This helps ground Nora’s motivation for seeking Thawne’s assistance as well as serving as a reminder of the steps Iris took to stop herself becoming like that. Nora learning that everyone she loves has lied to her for her entire life as well as learning the truth about her father makes for some strong scenes especially the one where she watches Barry’s final message to her.
Most of the episode focuses on Nora’s powers being activated and the events leading her to seek Thawne’s help. Her friendship with Lia is briefly featured but feels natural and lived in which makes her death resonate as the weight of loss is felt from Nora’s reaction. There isn’t enough time to let this truly sink i but it’s a valiant effort for a character introduced in a single episode. Godspeed is a below average villain with overly simplistic motivations that completely fails to live up to what the comic book version represents. Making changes is fine but this is a wasted opportunity in a role that could have been filled with a newly created one shot Speedster. Nora and Thawne’s dynamic is really compelling as it’s clear that Thawne is engineering the situation to suit his own purposes and taking advantage of her fragile emotional state to further his own agenda. A clear progression in his plan is starting to form even if it’s unclear what he hopes to achieve. The future time period is poorly developed with background details taking a back seat. Much of this is likely to leave the future ambiguous but connecting it to the future seen in Arrow would have made everything feel more connected.
- Nora’s origin story bringing more than has been revealed in dialogue
- a quickly developed yet natural and lived in friendship
- Nora’s reaction to finding out the truth about Barry
- a strong contrast developed between the depiction of Iris in both time periods
- Thawne’s manipulation of Nora and the clear progression of his plan
- Barry’s unilateral decision failing to account for what the Team -and specifically Iris- think
- Godspeed being nothing more than a standard villain of the week
- the shallow development of the future time period
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