Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash finale
The season finale of The Flash brings another chapter in Barry Allen's life to a close in truly heartbreaking fashion. But once fans wipe away the tears, and consider just what The Flash will look like come Season 6, they'll realize... the future has never been less certain.
The season 5 finale saw the death of more than one major player in the Flash family, bringing a few ongoing storylines to a close. Some will be more confusing or harder to justify than others, but the plan is clear: with Crisis on Infinite Earths now coming to the Arrowverse next season, it fell to the writers of The Flash to clear the table in preparation, should Barry Allen truly "vanish" in the event. And boy, did they--in more ways than fans will likely realize.
With a new showrunner taking the helm of The Flash in the coming season, and Arrow's final season leading The CW's DC heroes into their own version of Crisis, change was inevitable. But thanks to the way the finale closes loops, ties up threads, and trims the fat, explaining the ending means teasing the twists that may be coming. And fans may not be ready for them all.
The Death of Nora West-Allen
Fans were likely expecting the close of season 5 to see Nora West-Allen depart the show, whether that meant she would return to her future or give her life to protect it. In the end her death isn't technically given to guarantee the future could continue to exist. Instead, her efforts--with Barry--to stop Cicada from murdering more metahumans has an unpredictable effect on the future. As her final lesson in playing a true superhero trained by the one and only Barry Allen, Nora learned that changing time can lead to unforeseen problems and threats... and that if you're the reason for the change, be prepared to face the consequences.
Nora learns that lesson, sadly, in the last moments of her life. The future created by the Flash father and daughter saving the day and destroying Cicada's dagger had a ripple effect neither could foresee. Cicada disappeared from the future, sure... but that future apparently became one in which Nora didn't exist, either. As she dissolves into blue Speed Force energy like others before her, Barry, Iris, and fans can simply watch as the daughter of the Flash is replaced by... well, that isn't clear just yet. All we know for sure is that Nora brought Flash's disappearance closer to the present day, which means her original birth is now impossible (we think). But she's not the only metahuman hero who fights their last battle in the season 5 finale...
The Death of Vibe (But Not Cisco)
Yes, the season 5 finale sees that metahuman superhero Vibe erased from the present timeline--how else do you describe Cisco Ramon's decision to inject himself with the metahuman 'cure,' thus erasing his vibrational/teleportational/energy blast powers? Fans got time to prepare themselves thanks to early rumors that Carlos Valdes was leaving The Flash, but that won't make his departure any easier to take. Although there are sure to be a lot of viewers who wonder why the specter of Cisco designing the cure for himself wasn't really the meat of his season's storyline.
With a girlfriend who isn't a member of the metahuman community, and with Barry and Iris watching their future fall apart because of the burden of superheroics, Cisco's choice has been looming for some time. In the finale he and Caitlin share one final scene before he accepts the cure, and appears to leave STAR Labs behind him--both as Vibe and Cisco Ramon. The door may still be open for Valdes to return, especially with the Crisis crossover calling all hands on deck. But from what the episode showed, his Vibe powers are no more.
Thawne is Free (Again) in The Future
By now it should come as no surprise to fans to see one of Eobard Thawne's master plans be executed to perfection, even after Barry and Team Flash knew exactly what it required them to do. The Reverse-Flash ended up creating a far more damning dilemma than even he likely predicted, creating a new Cicada whose dagger wouldn't just free him once Flash destroyed it in his past... but would take the lives of hundreds more metahuman innocents if Barry refused. There will certainly be dangling questions for fans--why didn't they breach it into space, or onto a dead Earth, or do the same to Grace?--but Barry and Nora were willing to save lives now, even if it meant freeing Thawne in the future.
The Flash has never been purely logical or even easy to understand when it comes to the time travel past and future of Eobard Thawne, and that remains the case. Whether fans appreciate his plan, or Team Flash playing into it, the biggest change of status quo is that Thawne is once again free to move about the future (or as free as he ever was before being imprisoned). And he needs to be, after all, since Barry Allen can't wage war with him in the Crisis on Infinite Earths if he isn't alive to return.
The Crisis is Coming Now, Not Later
Until the finale, fans were forced to speculate on Gideon's infamous future newspaper, and why its reported "Crisis" of 2024 didn't match with The CW's plans. The leading theory or supposition was that in changing the course of her father's history, Nora West-Allen had inadvertently bumped the date of the Crisis up a whole five years to 2019. Exactly how or why isn't clear, and likely won't be clear until the event comes and goes (if then). For now the Flash finale leaves no doubt about the coming Crisis: Nora is erased, those left behind struggle to regain their bearings... and Gideon updates the archives with some troubling news.
A time anomaly not unlike others seen in the past, but this time keeping the front page of The Central City Citizen intact. The only difference is that it is printed (published online?) in the year 2019, and not in 2024 as was originally planned. The month and day aren't shown, presumably because the dates of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover have yet to be set in stone. But for those wondering why the future only changes now, there is some science behind the timing. Presumably, the future Nora set into motion by traveling back in time could still have been restored in one way or another.
Only when the dagger was destroyed did the dominoes begin to fall, confirming that the Crisis on Infinite Earths would come long before Barry and Iris could have Nora. So with her conception erased, Nora soon dissolved that same instant. So for those desperate to see Barry survive the "Crisis," and start a family with Iris instead of vanishing, there is still reason to hope. The baby just won't be Nora... if there is a baby at all.
The Flash returns in Fall 2019 along with the rest of The CW's Arrowverse premieres.