Warning: SPOILERS for The Flash season 5 premiere ahead!
The Flash season 5 premiere kicks off a new season in a familiar fashion - a speedster has traveled back in time, possibly changing history and altering the future. And it should come as no surprise that the speedster in question is Barry and Iris' daughter, Nora, because if there's one thing the West-Allens are good at, it's mucking with the timeline.
The season 5 premiere, 'Nora' - written by Todd Helbing and Sam Chalsen, directed by David McWhirter - picks up exactly where the season 4 finale left off. Having just revealed herself as Barry and Iris' future offspring, Nora admits to having made a "big mistake" in traveling back in time, and now, she can no longer return to the future. And though Barry is wary of his supposed future daughter, Team Flash agrees to help her return to her time. After all, Team Flash is pretty good at fixing timeline tampering seeing as they've been responsible for a fair bit of it themselves.
As a Flash premiere, 'Nora' hits all the necessary beats: the season arc is established, a future bombshell is dropped, and the West-Allens grow closer as they adjust to meeting the future daughter they didn't even know they would have. There's humor and drama as well as action delivered with the mostly OK effects work we've come to expect of The CW. 'Nora' is a promising start that more or less continues the tone of season 4, focusing even more closely on family dynamics and teasing the futures of the West-Allens.
The villain of this episode, Gridlock, is largely inconsequential in this setting (not to mention visually he's pretty boring). Gridlock is basically just an additional hurdle for Team Flash as they try to work out why Nora can't return to the future (turns out, she's infected with negative tachyons which repel the Speed Force). In this sense, he's a perfectly fine villain of the week and his final capture does involve all three speedsters - Barry, Wally, and Nora - teaming up to phase a plane before it can crash through a building. It's a clever solution to a problem that only speedsters could solve and it's nice to see all three working together in order to do so. Especially Wally, a character who's been criminally under-served and will only continue to be so since he has only a small recurring role this year on both Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
The idea for phasing the plane comes from Nora, who learned about it while reading up on her father's adventures. This in itself is clever because it opens the series up to new possibilities thanks to Nora's future knowledge. Of course, casually discussing future events can be dangerous, so Team Flash tries establishing a firm No Spoilers rule with Nora. But clearly, that doesn't apply to information that can help them save the day, and there's no doubt Nora's knowledge of the future will continue coming into play this season. And in this episode, along with offering a way to thwart Gridlock's plan, Nora's knowledge of the future drops a huge bombshell.
All throughout the premiere, Nora's behavior comes with some telling signs that life in the future isn't all sunshine and rainbows. She's clearly obsessed with her father, but then dismissive when it comes to her mother - much to Iris' disappointment considering she more than Barry is excited to get to know their daughter. Nora admits to having extensively studied her father's superheroics, almost as if she's trying to know him better through those past adventures. And when it comes time for Team Flash's first attempt at sending Nora back to the future, she hugs Barry like she'll never seen him again - and had they been successful, she wouldn't see Barry again, because he isn't in her future.
As Nora eventually reveals to a suspicious Barry, the reason she's traveled to the past is so she can see her father in action as The Flash, sharing that in her time, The Flash is still missing. She then brings up a newspaper from 2049 with a headline that reads: "25 Years Later - Flash Still Missing." It's a reference to the Crisis of 2024, which we already knew resulted in The Flash's disappearance when he and the Reverse-Flash traveled back in time, but what we didn't know is that afterwards, the future Barry doesn't return home. The how and the why of all this is sure to be a big part of season 5's arc, but here it mostly makes Barry realize that this time with his daughter is precious since they may not have any time together in the future.
What has caused the future Flash to stay away for at least 25 years is a mystery for the season to explore, but there will also be the threat of the new season's villain, Cicada. He only appears at the very end where he attacks and kills the captured Gridlock, so it's another case of one meta attacking other metas for some undisclosed reason. Hopefully, The Flash season 5 finds a way to make that interesting seeing as they just did that last season. But then, season 5 already seems to be repeating past Flash arcs, what with a future mystery, a potentially tampered timeline, and now Cicada attacking other metas.
There's no reason to think The Flash season 5 won't combine these plots - as well as the upcoming Elseworlds crossover - into an engaging overall story, but the series has certainly failed at juggling too much plot before. Luckily, characters like Cisco (even drunk Cisco) and Ralph "many-verse" Dibny can turn even the most uneventful episodes into something funny and memorable, and Nora's energetic, bubbly energy seems like it could do the same. Only time will tell, but she may end up saving not just her father, but also The Flash from those mid-season doldrums.
The Flash season 5 continues next Tuesday with 'Blocked' at 8pm/7c on The CW.