The Flash finale recap: Team Flash finds hope after tragedy
In the emotional season 5 finale, Team Flash rallies to defeat Cicada II and Reverse Flash, and loses one of their own.
For the most part, The Flash’s fifth season has been concerned with two things: family and legacy. Those themes were at the heart of the emotional and hopeful, yet occasionally rushed, season finale, the aptly titled “Legacy,” which sent Nora off into the great beyond while also setting the stage for several things to come in the sixth season.
Written by Lauren Certo, Todd Helbing, and Eric Wallace, the climactic hour picks up immediately where last week’s episode left off — with Ralph Dibny diving in front of the mirror gun blast to stop Barry from destroying Cicada’s dagger. And Ralph succeeds, but it results in him becoming discombobulated after being hit by the gun and Cicada II escapes with the dagger in the confusion.
At first, the rest of the team has no idea why Ralph did what he did, but Sherloque eventually figures out that Ralph solved the greatest mystery: Eobard Thawne’s dastardly plan. As I suspected last week, it turns out that the dagger is currently being used to suppress Thawne’s powers, so he sent Nora back to defeat Cicada because he wanted Team Flash to destroy the dagger in the past, which would then free him in the present. This means that the team now has a choice to make: Save every metahuman by defeating Cicada or stop Thawne.
Everyone is floored by this reveal, but no one more than Nora, who feels incredibly guilty for allowing Thawne to manipulate her. Barry finds his daughter brooding in the speed lab and offers her some advice: Sometimes when you make a mistake, the best and only option is not to try to fix it with a do-over (a.k.a. time travel) but to accept the consequences and move forward. It took Barry so many seasons to learn this lesson, and it’s probably the most important piece of wisdom he could ever impart to Nora about what it means to be a hero.
When given the option to choose between Cicada and Thawne, Barry obviously chooses to defeat Thawne because so many lives are at stake. So while Team Flash makes the final preparations for their next fight with Cicada, Cisco meets Kamilla for coffee and comes clean about everything: creating the cure, working for S.T.A.R. Labs, and of course, his double life as Vibe. He assumes Kamilla will reject him because he’s been lying to her, but this woman has read comics and understands why it took him a long time to open up to her about this stuff. What I loved the most about this scene is how it had a sense of calm. It provided a brief break from all of the plot shenanigans that kept whizzing by. With that handled, Cisco returns to S.T.A.R. Labs and helps Caitlin unfreeze Ralph by blasting him with a vibe, although it’s clear he still has mixed feelings about his powers.
From there, Team Flash takes another stab at capturing Cicada. Flash, XS, Killer Frost, Joe, and Cecile venture out into the woods to find Cicada II’s cabin. In one of many exciting displays of teamwork in tonight’s episode, the foursome successfully breach Cicada II back to S.T.A.R. Labs and trap her in the speed trap they used against Thawne in season 1.
While the rest of the team attempts to keep Cicada II contained, Nora dives into Young Grace’s mind and pleads with her to take the metahuman cure, which would lead to Cicada II’s erasure from the timeline. It takes some effort, but Nora convinces Young Grace to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the cure doesn’t work because the dark matter in the dagger is stronger than the cure. To make matters worse, Cicada II to breaks out her trap, flies back to the cabin, and tries to kill Nora with the dagger. Seeing no other option, Barry asks Cisco to breach the mirror gun to him and he blasts the dagger. Thus, the cure kicks in and Cicada II turns to ash à la Infinity War. Oh, and Thawne is freed.
Thankfully, Flash and Nora waste no time in speeding to 2049 and stop Thawne from killing his guards by reversing time. The ensuing battle is particularly exciting, not only because the VFX is top notch but because Tom Cavanagh goes full villain and it’s glorious. Thawne seems extremely pleased with himself and downright giddy that he gets to fight both speedsters. Of course, Thawne is arrogant and believes he can take Flash and XS on his own, but then the rest of Team Flash shows up and they use the power of teamwork to kick his butt. Watching Team Flash work together to defeat Thawne was one of the best parts of the episode.
Unfortunately, defeating Thawne doesn’t solve all of their problems because a new timeline starts to set in and Nora starts fading from existence. Thawne just spent the past few minutes gloating about how he’s mastered the timeline, so a desperate Barry grabs him by the neck and begs him to tell them how to save her. Thawne says the Negative Speed Force is the only place Nora will be safe. At first, Barry runs Nora into the Negative Speed Force, but then she changes her mind and exits it because she really listened to her father earlier. At this point, Nora would rather accept the consequences than become part of the hate-fueled Negative Speed Force, and her parents’ tearful begging won’t change her mind. So, Barry and Iris accept her decision and hug her until she fades away in one of the show’s most heart-wrenching moments. Honestly, shoutout to both Candice Patton and Grant Gustin for giving such devastating performances. (Reverse Flash escapes while all this goes down, but not before telling Barry he’ll see him in the next crisis).
It’s here that I was reminded of what separates The Flash from Arrow. In the wake of this tragedy, Team Flash acknowledges their loss but chooses to focus on everything Nora gave them; they find hope in the tragedy and realize that they can all define their own legacies. With that in mind, Cisco decides to take the cure because he wants to be extraordinary for something other than having powers. So, Caitlin gives it to him.
“How do you feel?” she asks.
“Scared, but hopeful,” Cisco replies, which encapsulates what I love about The Flash in one line.
As the episode ends, other characters find varying degrees of closure. Joe becomes the CCPD’s new captain because Singh gets promoted to Chief of Police; Singh also reveals he figured out Barry is the Flash because he’s a good detective, which is a great jab at how little this show cares about secret identities. Sherloque returns to his Earth and is reunited with Irene. Basking in the glow of figuring out Thawne’s plan, Ralph heads back to his office and begins work on a case that involves someone named Deardon (yes, this last name is important). Caitlin and Killer Frost check out the new suit Cisco made for them. Finally, Barry and Iris realize that Nora will be their legacy even though she’s gone and say goodbye to their daughter one more time as they watch the goodbye message they left for her.
Unfortunately, all’s well that ends well doesn’t apply in this case. In the episode’s final moments, the camera returns to the Time Vault and reveals that the date on the future newspaper has changed from 2024 to 2019, which means Barry’s disappearance is coming sooner than expected and timed to a certain crossover event coming later this year.
Overall, I really enjoyed this season finale. Although it rushed through the Cicada II resolution and some of the time travel stuff doesn’t make total sense (like the fact that Cicada’s dagger disappears right as Thawne is about to be executed), it delivered one hell of an emotional ending with the Flash vs. Reverse Flash battle. While I’m sad to see Jessica Parker Kennedy go (her energetic performance was one of the season’s highlights), it feels like the right move to end Nora’s story now because she fulfilled her goal and became the hero she wanted to be thanks to her father’s training (That being said, it doesn’t make complete sense why she was a casualty of the timeline change).
Honestly, I think this was my favorite season since the first one. Sure, the Cicada was a mixed bag and the introduction of a second one didn’t help matters, but I felt like the show nailed all of the more important stuff. The season-long story about legacy and family was steeped in the show’s history, which gave it a weight and meaning that’s been lacking for the past few seasons. Plus, the cast’s performances have never been better; Patton, Kennedy, and Carlos Valdes consistently put numbers on the board all season-long. I’m looking forward to seeing where the show goes in season 6.
Wall of Weird:
- On the one hand, I’m glad Cisco took the cure because the season did a good job of building to this moment and explaining his reasoning. On the other hand, his powers played a crucial role in tonight’s many victories, and it feels like the team will definitely miss them next season.
- Deardon, the name on Ralph’s new case file, is a reference to Sue Deardon, who will eventually become Ralph’s wife in the comics. I’m glad the show is finally heading in this direction because Ralph and Sue’s romance is a big part of DC Comics history.
- During the episode, Thawne reveals that he came up with this entire plan — including creating a Cicada the team could beat — after Barry and Nora visited in the 100th episode.
- “That’s right, I’ve grown fond of her too. In many ways, she showed me what it’s like to have a daughter,” Thawne, to Barry, right before Nora vanishes.
- “No matter what you try, the Flash will always vanish. That is his legacy,” Thawne, to Barry and Nora. This line felt like a reference to the fact that the Flash is usually a major casualty in all of DC Comics’ multiverse-altering crises.