The latest episode of The Flash, "Failure is an Orphan," saw Team Flash confronted with - and effortlessly defeated by - a whole new enemy. After several weeks' worth of filler episodes, the series has finally moved back to its A-plot. The Cure was prepared, tested on King Shark, and at last it was ready to be used on Cicada.
For Barry Allen, this episode of The Flash was a personal challenge; would he be able to persuade Cicada to take the Cure? Would the Flash find the rights words again? He did so by explicitly making the comparison that viewers have been able to see for months; that The Flash has carefully established a parallel between Cicada's love for his niece Grace with Barry's love for his daughter Nora. What followed was a tense, nerve-wracking scene in which the Cure was injected into Cicada's bloodstream. Of course, it was obvious something was going to go wrong. Meanwhile, Reverse-Flash's warning at the beginning of the episode - that a new variable has entered into the timeline - raised the tension.
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Cicada had been a fairly weak villain for The Flash season 5, suffering countless defeats at the hands of Team Flash and often barely escaping. But this episode saw the plot twist in a whole new direction, one that raises a lot of curious questions about the future.
10. What Is The New Variable Creating A New Timeline?
The Flash season 5, episode 16 began with Nora meeting with Thawne in the future. He shocked her with terrifying news; that the timeline was changing, and he didn't know why. Thawne has always been confident in his ability to navigate and interpret the timeline, but a new variable had been added into the mix; the timeline is malleable, and someone else was attempting to shape it too.
By the end of the episode, the "someone" was revealed to be Grace Gibbons. A previous episode, "Memorabilia," had teased that Grace was the future Cicada; XS had entered Grace's mind and learned that she hated Metas every bit as much as her uncle. Disturbingly, when Grace's natural psychic defenses triggered, they initially took the form of Cicada. That defense shifted, taking on the form of a female Cicada, suggesting that Grace shared her uncle's mission. And that same episode saw Grace develop the kind of mental defenses associated with Cicada's powers. "Failure is an Orphan" then dropped a line confirming that Grace is indeed a Meta. It was clear signposting.
But what nobody really expected was for the future Cicada to travel back in time and attack Team Flash at S.T.A.R. Labs, taking her uncle just after he had been stripped of his powers.
9. What Are Grace's Powers?
Like Orlin Dwyer, it looks as though Future Grace has been bonded to the shard of metal from the Thinker's satellite. As a result, now she's in possession of that shard she will be able to nullify the superhuman powers of any Metas in her vicinity. Making matters worse, though, Grace appears to have additional abilities of her own. She's clearly some sort of telekinetic, effortlessly tossing the heroes around, and pinning several of them to walls with a telekinetic grip. That appears to drain people of energy; when the grasp is relaxed, they collapse, unconscious. Grace uses two futuristic weapons, of uncertain origin but possibly other shards from the satellite, with which she can deflect any attack. She has incredible reflexes, and was even able to deflect a lightning bolt from the Flash. Grace is a far more formidable foe than the Cicada of the present day.
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8. How Did Future Grace Travel Back In Time?
But Future Grace's presence here raises a troubling question; just how did she travel back in time? In theory, she'd need to be allied with a super-speedster in order to do this. It's not Thawne; he was shocked at discovering there's a new variable affecting the timeline, and utterly bewildered by it. But at this stage, it's impossible to say who it truly is.
7. Why Did Future Grace Travel Back To This Time?
It's reasonable to assume that, like Nora, Future Grace has traveled back in time in order to get to know someone she loves. Presumably after he had been cured, Orlin Dwyer did indeed go to jail for a long time. Future Grace has missed him, and has taken advantage of the opportunity time travel presents to spend some time with her beloved uncle.
Grace has also probably worked hard to ensure her own personal timeline remains unchanged. Perhaps she couldn't bond with the shard from the Thinker's satellite until Orlin's own connection with it was broken; thus she had to wait until her uncle was cured, and then break him out of S.T.A.R. Labs before he could be taken to jail.
6. Why Did Grace Kill Doctor Ambres?
Curiously, Grace didn't kill any of Team Flash during her attack on S.T.A.R. Labs. It's unclear why - again, it may be a matter of shaping the timeline - but there was one person she did murder; Doctor Ambres. It's probably because she saw Ambres' alliance with Team Flash as an act of betrayal, and blamed him for losing her uncle.