Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 21, 2019)
With Season Five of The Flash, we get more speedy adventures. This four-disc set includes 24 episodes, a run that also features crossover programs from other DC series. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
Nora: “After an unexpected guest from the future appears at their home, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candace Patton) must figure out how to get her back to the future without disrupting the timeline.”
At least right out of the gate, Nora offers an exceptionally annoying character. She gets played as so hyper that she quickly becomes an irritant. The episode offers some intriguing plot points, but the issues with the title character damage the show’s impact.
Blocked: “Barry and Team Flash track down a meta that is stealing high-tech weapons, only to cross paths with a new foe named Cicada (Chris Klein), who is hunting the very same meta, with nefarious intent.”
Who knew Chris Klein still worked as an actor? I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything not related to American Pie in years!
Klein actually doesn’t get much to do in “Blocked”, though I assume we’ll see more of him in the future. While Nora continues to annoy, “Blocked” works well on other levels and moves plot points, so it becomes a nice rebound after the spotty season premiere.
The Death of Vibe: “Following Cicada's attack on the Flash, Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) comes up with a plan that puts a member of the team in danger.”
The return of Tom Cavanagh as Sherloque Wells adds a level of fun to the episode. Other aspects mix drama and action to a satisfying degree, and these factors mean “Vibe” continues S5 on a positive note.
News Flash: “Team Flash discovers that Spencer Young (Kiana Madeira) manipulates XS in order to achieve fame for herself. Iris learns why Nora is so cold to her, and Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) has a comeback in the shape of a new lead on Cicada.”
The combination of Sherloque and Ralph adds spark to the episode and gives the show its best moments. Spencer acts as a lackluster villain, however, so this becomes an erratic program.
All Doll’d Up: “Nora lets something slip about the future that devastates Iris. In an attempt to distract his wife, Barry asks Iris to team up to stop a new meta, Rag Doll (Troy James/Phil LaMarr). Meanwhile, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) learns something about her father.”
On the negative side, the whole Iris/Nora dynamic acts as a bore. On the positive side, Rag Doll brings one of the creepiest villains in a while, so at least he compensates for the less appealing parts of the episode.
The Icicle Cometh: “Caitlin, Barry, and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) learn something new about Caitlin's father (Kyle Secor). Iris and Sherloque follow a clue about Cicada.”
Largely because Panabaker can’t act, I’ve never much liked Caitlin, and her prominence here damages “Cometh”. The Ralph/Cecile thread offers some fun, at least.
O Come, All Ye Thankful: “While Nora grapples with unresolved anger over her father's disappearance in the future, Barry and Team Flash must stop powerful new meta Weather Witch (Reina Hardesty) from killing her own father, Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre).”
After being left in the background much of S5, “Come” allows us to get insights into Cicada’s backstory, and those seem useful. The Weather clan fares less well, though, mainly because they offer such an on-the-nose comparison to Iris/Nora.
What’s Past Is Prologue: “Barry and Team Flash come up with a plan to stop Cicada. However, the plan calls for Barry and Nora to travel back in time to gather some key necessities. Meanwhile, Sherloque's suspicions about Nora continue to grow.”
Most time travel stories play the material for laughs and adventure, but “Past” opts for a more dramatic tone. Normally, I’d appreciate that, but the focus on the ever-annoying Nora causes issues. Though this remains a generally good show, it loses some points due to too much Nora.
Elseworlds: “Barry and Oliver (Stephen Amell) wake up to find they've swapped bodies, but Team Flash doesn't believe them, so the two heroes travel to Smallville on Earth-38 to get help from Supergirl (Melissa Benoist).”
The DC TV universe loves its series-spanning stories, and the three-part “Elseworlds” fills that slot for 2018-19. In earlier years, Warner forced fans to own all the Blu-ray releases to see the whole package, a factor that meant you might miss some parts.
It also meant that release date patterns didn’t show the episodes in order. For instance, in 2017, Season Three of Flash brought the first show in the “Invasion” crossover even though I’d already seen the conclusion via Season Two of Legends of Tomorrow.
As was the case with Season Four’s “Crisis on Earth-X, S5 delivers the whole three-part “Elseworlds” saga. Don’t expect the whole thing to make sense if you watch it out of step with the other series, though. For instance, we find ourselves plopped into the middle of Supergirl Season Four, and since I’ve not gotten that set yet, a few scenes don’t make a lot of sense.
Despite these annoyances, “Elseworlds” offers satisfying adventure. The first two parts fare best and become consistently delightful, whereas the third episode gets a little bogged down in the confusing complexities of the plot. Nonetheless, “Elseworlds” adds up to a highly entertaining crossover package.
The Flash & the Furious: “While Nora grapples with the revelation that Thawne (Cavanagh) killed her grandmother, Team Flash must stop the formidable team-up of a newly sprung from jail Weather Witch and Silver Ghost (Gabrielle Walsh), a new meta-tech villain who can control engines and motorized technology. Meanwhile, Caitlin and Cisco discuss creating a meta-human cure.”
You know what I liked best about “Elseworlds”? No Nora! Alas, XS returns here, as “Furious” brings us back to the regular S5 plot arc.
Even without the irritating Nora, “Furious” seems pretty lackluster. Perhaps a dip in quality was inevitable after the exciting “Elseworlds”, but “Furious” disappoints nonetheless.
Seeing Red: “During a battle with Cicada, Nora is severely injured. Due to Cicada's dampening powers, Nora's speed healing isn't working.”
Though Cicada’s threat has acted as an overall arc, we haven’t really seen that much of the character. “Red” allows the role to expand, a factor that makes the show reasonably good, even if it sticks us with too much Nora-based melodrama.
Memorabilia: “When Sherloque wants to use a memory machine on Barry and Nora to help gain access to Grace's memories, Nora panics, fearing her parents will find out the secrets she's been keeping from them.”
With “Memorabilia”, S5 pursues an Inception vibe, with some Nightmare on Elm Street throw in as well. These elements can become convoluted but they add intrigue to the season’s overall arc and generally entertain.
Goldfaced: “Barry and Ralph must go undercover as criminals in an illegal black market to purchase a device that could help them stop Cicada. Once inside, Barry and Ralph find their morality tested as they slip deeper into the criminal world, eventually having to choose between committing a crime, or losing the means to defeat one of their greatest foes.”
While “Goldfaced” advances the season’s overall narrative, it lacks a lot of oomph as it goes. It feels somewhat like a placeholder episode, one that achieves basic goals but not one that offers great entertainment.
Cause and XS: “After Iris lands in serious danger, Nora races to save her mother. Barry puts the finishing touches on the metahuman cure, leaving Cisco with a rare night off so he decides to take Kamilla (Victoria Park) on a date.”
“Cause” brings a time travel episode of sorts, as XS repeatedly goes back into the recent past to fix mistakes. The focus on Nora damages the show some, but I like the exploration of the various scenarios, so the program usually works.
King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd: “When Gorilla Grodd (David Sobolov) attacks Central City, Barry and friends find themselves teaming up with King Shark (David Hayter). When they hit a snag, they bring in Dr. Tanya Lamden (Zibby Allen) to try to reach the man behind the shark.”
It’s hard to dislike an episode in which a humanoid shark fights a giant gorilla, but “Grodd” feels less than exciting. It offers less excitement than “Cause” and just doesn’t become especially engaging, even though it helps move along the overall narrative.
Failure Is An Orphan: “With the meta-cure ready to use, Barry and the team figure out a way to convince Cicada to take it. Killer Frost steps in to help with the plan. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) eases back into work.”
Expect something of a placeholder episode here, as “Failure” focuses more on interpersonal relationships than action or the overall arc. We still get some of those elements, but in general, the show feels a bit sluggish.
Time Bomb: “Team Flash finds out that suburban mom Vickie Bolen (Catherine Lough Haggquist) is in danger, and they race to save her. They discover she's a metahuman who is hiding her abilities from her family.”
Via the new meta and a plot twist related to Cicada, “Bomb” manages more excitement than usual. Throw in some useful interpersonal moments and this turns into an above-average episode.
Godspeed: “After discovering that Nora is working with Thawne, Barry and Iris disagree about how to handle their daughter in the wake of this shocking news. Team Flash isn't sure they can trust Nora, so they go through her journal to find out exactly how she came to work alongside their greatest nemesis.”
This essentially acts as a flashback show, though because Nora comes from the future, it turns into more of a flash-forward. Some good information emerges here, but I can’t get past my continued dislike for Nora. While valuable in terms of the arc, her dominance makes the episode tough to swallow.
Snow Pack: “Caitlin must resolve her relationship with her mother when Icicle returns to enact the next phase of his devious plan. Iris takes matters into her own hands after Barry makes a decision about their family without consulting her.”
While I still don’t like Caitlin/Frost – largely due to Panabaker’s weak acting – that side of things actually works pretty well here. “Pack” becomes a reasonably exciting tale that adds to the narrative.
Gone Rogue: “Barry continues to struggle with his feelings over Nora's betrayal. Brie Larvan (Emily Kinney), Joss Mardon and Peter Merkel (Troy James) return to Central City. Cisco makes a bold decision.”
Perhaps because she plays the “bad girl” here, Nora seems less annoying than usual, and a mix of plot points work quite nicely. “Rogue” develops matters in a lively and satisfying manner.
The Girl with the Red Lightning: “Team Flash is on high alert after Cicada II (Sarah Carter) threatens to unleash a dangerous virus that would put all meta-humans at risk.”
With little time left in S5, I feel excitement, as this potentially means No More Nora! Though I admit she’s been a little less annoying of late – I won’t miss her if she goes, but she doesn’t bug me as much here as in the past.
Whether or not “Girl” leads to Nora’s swansong, it becomes a good table-setter for the season finale. It preps us for a big climax and creates drama.
Legacy: “Barry faces off with his oldest, and most formidable nemesis, Reverse Flash.”
My only disappointment here comes from Reverse Flash, as this feels like the series “going to the well” too much. I’d like to see the old villains left in the past and get newer roles at the forefront.
Nonetheless, S5 as a whole proves satisfying, and “Legacy” ends it on a good note. S4 was a bit of a disappointment, so I’m happy to see S5 bounce back and give us a largely good collection of shows. Even with the annoying Nora, this turns into a positive season.