Warning! SPOILERS for The Flash season 5 premiere ahead!
The Flash season 5 premiere just revealed the full impact of the Crisis of 2024 - the future event from which comes the newspaper headline, "Flash Missing, Vanishes in Crisis" - and it's not good.
As far back as season 1, we've known thanks to the future edition of The Central City Citizen stored in Gideon's archive that come April 25th, 2024, The Flash would disappear. Some details have changed with the various timeline shake-ups, but that fact remains the same - during a battle with the Reverse-Flash, Barry disappears. We also know that when they disappear they actually travel back to March 18th, 2000, where the Reverse-Flash attempts to kill a young Barry but instead kills his mother. The Reverse-Flash then tries returning to his own time but can't because he's been disconnected from the Speed Force, and what follows leads to season 1 of the show.
As for The Flash, it's been assumed that after saving his past self, but not his mother, Barry returns to 2024 to face whatever new timeline awaits him. But as we learn in tonight's season 5 premiere, that isn't at all what happens. Nora, Barry's daughter from the future, shares with 2018's Barry a newspaper headline dated April 25th, 2049 which reads: "25 Years Later - Flash Still Missing." So The Flash did not return home after chasing the Reverse-Flash to 2000, and by the time Nora travels to the past to spy on her parents, he has yet to return.
Nora's behavior makes a lot of sense now that we know her father has been missing since she was a toddler. All throughout the premiere, she's spouting off factoids she learned by studying every single one of his adventures, and when it comes time for their first attempt at sending her back to the future, she hugs Barry like she's never going to see him again. Nora has clearly grown up not knowing her father so she's spent a lot of time trying to learn everything she can about him. It's why she travels back in time - to see her dad in action as The Flash. Of course, with traveling back in time comes the risk of changing the future - something Nora may have already done.
But the more distressing news is what happens to The Flash of the future? Why after following the Reverse-Flash to the year 2000 did he not return for at least another 25 years? The Flash season 5 is absolutely going to explore this, possibly even flashing-forward to that future date and showing what really went on - which, according to Iris' original article, should see The Flash teaming up with Green Arrow, The Atom, and Hawkgirl to fight the Reverse-Flash as well as the ominous red skies and the immense destruction of Central City.
What The Flash season 5 may also do is explore how it is the future Flash comes back. We know that he must return because in 2056, a future Barry sends a message to Rip Hunter in 2016 warning him of Savitar. So he isn't gone forever, just a lot longer than we initially thought. Nora's newspaper has Barry gone for 25 years, and that isn't exact but it's very close to how long Barry is gone in the comics after Crisis on Infinite Earths - possibly DC Comics' most famous storyline and in where The Flash sacrifices himself to save the world. He returns 23 years later in Final Crisis, revealing he had been stuck in the Speed Force. The CW's The Flash has already done the whole 'stuck in the Speed Force' thing, so hopefully it won't repeat itself, but it does appear as if they are preparing for The Flash of the future to finally make his return after being gone for a quarter-century.
The Flash season 5 continues next Tuesday with 'Blocked' at 8pm/7c on The CW.