It’s the second week of October, and you know what that means everyone!
No, not that Halloween’s only two weeks away.
No, not that American elections are only three weeks away.
No, not that the trees are losing their leaves, that the sun is setting earlier and earlier, that temperatures are dropping below freezing, and that your shorts are going to the back corner of your dresser for nine long, lonely months.
Nope, it means that the Arrowverse is back on our television screens for another exciting season! Yaaaaaaaaay.
But before we get into that, there are a couple housekeeping measures we need to take care of.
First, if all goes as planned, this review will be posted to the Avocado on Sunday afternoon, only a few hours before Supergirl has its season premiere. Technically, that makes Supergirl part of this week’s Arrowverse shows, but since I won’t even be able to watch Supergirl until it goes up online on Monday, reviewing it here is obviously not gonna work.
So, while the title of this feature will continue to be “This Week In The Arrowverse” (unless it starts running late again), I’m going to count the week as ending during the day on Sunday, with Sunday evening being part of next week, so don’t expect a Supergirl review until then.
Second, last season I used this feature to review Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning. However, last season the CW was kind enough to arrange its schedule so there were never more than four of those shows airing new episodes in any given week. By the end of this month, all five CW superhero shows are going to be putting out new episodes weekly, and quite frankly, that’s a little too much for me to handle (I’m not sure what I’ll do if the Batwoman series gets picked up for midseason). And if I have to drop one of these shows . . . well, Black Lightning has never been officially connected to the Arrowverse, so I’m sad to say I no longer plan on covering it here. But if you want to discuss it in the comments section below, feel free to do so.
All that leaves us with just one season premiere to cover this week. It’s . . .
The Flash 5×01: “Nora” (SEASON PREMIERE) review
The Flash has always been a show about family. Strip away the time travel and the superpowers, the Speed Force and the multiverse, the costumes, codenames, and talking gorillas, and it’s the story of Barry Allen, a man who lost his family when he was just a boy. He let his mother’s murder and his father’s incarceration shape him, define him, motivate him to one day undo the wrong that had been done to them.
But, along the way, he found himself building a new family, with Joe, Iris, Cisco, Caitlin, all filling the hole in his life that the loss of his parents had left behind. With their love and their support, he’s learned (slowly, and with many backslides along the way) to not let the tragedy of his youth determine his life, but to find new happiness with the family he’s made for himself.
Still, for all that heartwarming family togetherness, it never forgets to also be a story about just how fun superheroes can be. It takes the corny, goofy, and outright bizarre concepts of Silver Age comic books, and brings them to live-action. Maybe with some tweaks to make them more plausible, and some jokes about how weird this stuff is, but also with a sincere love of the material. The characters in the show, and the people behind the scenes, are aware what they’re doing is silly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be awesome.
It’s the alchemy of those two modes, the mixture of gee-whiz superhero action with warm-hearted stories about people who love and support each other, that makes The Flash, at its best, work so well. And in many ways, Nora the character, and “Nora” the episode, are as clear an expression of this idea as you could ask for.
Nora bursts on the scene and drops the bombshell that she is Nora West-Allen, the newest member of their family. Not just for her parents, Barry and Iris, but for everyone on Team Flash, who are, if not blood-relatives, such a big part of West-Allen history they might as well be.
Selling that connection could be difficult, given Nora hasn’t made anything more than cameo appearances before now. But her sudden appearance is buoyed by the fact that she’s not just part of the Flash family, she’s a Flash fangirl, obsessed with everything related to the Scarlet Speedster. She doesn’t just want to meet her father and his friends while they were young; she wants to be with them as they fight supervillains, save the city, and see a giant shark-man battle a telepathic gorilla. Her boundless excitement at meeting her long-lost father and her favorite superhero, all rolled into one, is so endearing, there’s no way Team Flash couldn’t accept her into the fold and invite her to stay a little longer. Bonding with family and having fun fighting bad guys is what this group is all about.
And building that connection is what this episode was all about. Oh, sure, there are some hints about some darker storylines that will unfold later, because The Flash always does that. And there’s a plot in there about foiling a villain-of-the-week, but the episode doesn’t really expect you to give a damn about Gridlock. He’s just there so we can see Barry and Nora fighting a villain together, so Barry can mentor her as Dr. Wells mentored him, and so they can save the day and cement their bond.
The focus is squarely on establishing Nora as someone both the characters and the audience want to stick around, to be a part of the Team Flash family week-in and week-out. And it succeeds, because family bonding and over-the-top superheroics? That’s what made most of us fall in love with this show in the first place, and with this premiere, The Flash Season 5 makes a great pitch for why that love should continue. Because if every episode’s as full of heart and enthusiasm as this one? We’re in for an awesome ride.
- Fun fact: Jessica Parker Kennedy, who plays Nora, also played the DC Comics villain Plastique on Smallville. That was after I dropped off watching the show, so I can’t comment on her performance there, but given The Flash’s love of casting gags, I wouldn’t be surprised if a reference to their version of Plastique is made at some point this season.
- Speaking of references to other DC TV shows: “schway” is a piece of future slang imported straight from Batman Beyond.
- Season 4 was supposed to be a return to the more light-hearted tone of Season 1 after the grimness of Season 3. That didn’t pan out so well, but here they seem to be giving it a second go, having Nora basically be a gender-swapped version of Season 1 Barry. However, Barry’s impending disappearance in a Crisis bears more than a little resemblance to Season 3’s Save Iris storyline.
- That headline about the Flash vanishing in what’s heavily implied to be the Crisis on Infinite Earths has been part of the show since the pilot, and it’s nice to know the writers haven’t forgotten about it. The date of the Crisis lines up with when a hypothetical 10th Season of The Flash would have its finale. There’s something to be said for a show not overstaying its welcome, but right now I kinda want The Flash to last that long, just to see this Chekhov’s Gun finally go off.
- Caitlin’s father being alive is both a shocking twist and, given all the foreshadowing we’ve gotten, not shocking at all.
- Barry says that negative-tachyons seem “more like science-fiction than actual science”, and I’m just like, “Really, Barry? Four seasons in, and this is the scientific mumbo-jumbo that’s finally a bridge too far for you?”
- For all the references to Legends of Tomorrow this episode, the version of the 2040’s that Nora’s from, with its Flash Museum and tributes to the fallen hero, doesn’t seem to line up with the anti-metahuman, dystopian 2040’s that Zari’s from. Guess the Legends must get around to fixing her future at some point.
- For the time being, this marks Wally’s exit from The Flash and the Arrowverse in general, as Keiynan Lonsdale leaves to pursue other projects. It is sad to see him go, but on the other hand, it’s not like Flash or Legends ever did all that much with him.
- Star Labs has had a lounge this whole time, which Joe never told anyone about because he’s a West; keeping pointless secrets is what they do. That, more than any DNA test, proves that Nora is family.
MVP of the Week: Ralph Dibny.
Nora may have been what this week’s episode was all about, but Ralph stole the show with how he only just now found out that time travel and the multiverse (sorry, manyverse) are a thing. Wonder if anyone’s told him about aliens yet?
Question of the Week: Which version of the Flash costume is your favorite?