This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 5 Episode 18
Well, hello there, Godspeed. This might not have been the way I expected to see perhaps the greatest Flash villain of recent years introduced, but I’m willing to set all my preconceived notions aside in the service of the season. And in this case, “Godspeed” the episode is more important to those than Godspeed the actual villain needs to be at the moment. This was a desperately needed excellent hour of The Flash, and one that I really hope is enough to shake the show completely out of the rather safe rut it has been in for much of the season.
Danielle Panabaker directed this episode, so unsurprisingly, in the few scenes where we actually have Team Flash interacting, everything was right on the money. Despite my misgivings about where they’ve taken Caitlin’s story over the last year or so, Panabaker will always be one of this show’s secret weapons. Letting her take the reins on what, with a little tweaking, could have been a pilot episode for a Nora Allen XS series was a smart move, but it also seems appropriate that so much of this episode was a love letter to broader Flash lore, as well as the show’s specific history, with elements from nearly every season all managing to pop up in one form or another.
Using Nora’s journal as a way to fill in the blanks of future history, from Nora’s “origin story” to how and why she came into contact with Thawne in the first place, “Godspeed” feels much more like an episode of the show I thought we were getting in the early days of season five. Whatever uneven moments it has, and whatever my misgivings about how Godspeed himself was used here, this is hopefully an indicator of how the final five episodes of this season will play. There’s very little excess, plenty of great character work, and genuine tension and menace whenever Eobard Thawne makes an appearance.
Some of us might be getting a little tired of the “tired and sad” Barry and Iris that we’ve gotten a lot of this season, but at least here it pays off. Barry essentially slamming the door on Nora at the end of the episode and its immediate follow-up with his face to face with Thawne were probably Grant Gustin’s finest moments this season. It’s strange to think that he hasn’t had a whole lot to do this year, but if this is where we’re going with him for the final stretch of episodes, it was all worth it. The same goes for Iris, and the contrast between the behavior of “present day” Iris and her future counterpart was really effective.
While Sherloque doesn’t get a lot of screen time this week, Tom Cavanagh uses it incredibly effectively. I was so skeptical of Sherloque at the start of this season, and he has turned into an absolute delight. But I have to appreciate the way that he doubles down on not telling the team about his Nora suspicions, and Barry’s actions at the end of the episode would seem to reinforce why this was the right move. But since we’re talking about Sherloque, well… I feel like I shouldn’t even get into this, because it is admittedly half-baked, but enough fans have put it out there that I can’t get it out of my mind.
It’s the whole “Sherloque is masquerading as Thawne in the future” thing. I don’t know how much (if any) of this theory is true. But Thawne’s particular method of deducing that Nora is a speedster sure feels like Sherlock/Sherloque style deduction, doesn’t it? Is it at least a little bit possible that at some point, Sherloque figured out the bigger picture, found a way to sneak into the future, and temporarily replaced Thawne so that he could manipulate the outcome of these events into one that is a little less harmful for everyone? I admit that my head hurts even thinking about it, but it would be a fun way to fake everyone out, and it would absolutely cement Sherloque in the pantheon of this show’s great Wells. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that the moments with Barry and Thawne at the end of the show are with the real Thawne, so maybe this is all nonsense. I love the casual menace in Thawne’s tone when he refers to Iris as “the little runner” too.
Like “Cause and XS” (which I also thoroughly enjoyed) I don’t know if “Godspeed” will win over the Nora haters of the world. I’ve mostly been a fan of the character throughout the season, and taking an episode to properly focus on her origin story is absolutely the right move, and one that comes at the right time (isn’t it great that we hardly heard a mention of the word “Cicada” at any point?). It’s a neat twist paralleling the “lightning strike” elements of Barry’s origin with Godspeed’s lightning frying the power dampener that Iris had implanted in Nora, and we got a powerful moment between her and Iris out of the deal.
Godspeed himself is nothing short of a brilliant visual. A more perfect translation of his comic book counterpart and its design by Carmine Di Giandomenico I couldn’t have hoped for, and I really hope they do more with this character down the line. It’s kind of a shame that he was used as something of a throwaway villain here, and I really hope this doesn’t mean that they’re going to take him off the table for future seasons. This character is too cool to be a one-and-done, and while it’s admirable that the show has tried to adhere to a “no more speedster villains” policy since the end of season three, if you’re gonna end that drought, you may as well do it with Godspeed. That was BD Wong doing his voice, by the way.
As an added bonus, this episode was packed to the rafters with Flash lore, certainly moreso than any other episode this season, and it felt like a throwback to seasons one through three at times! Let’s dig into that…
– Godspeed first appeared in The Flash Rebirth special before properly appearing in the Rebirth era Flash #3 in 2016. He was created by Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico, and kicked off Williamson’s now three year strong tenure as writer of The Flash. The initial Godspeed story is a genuine modern classic, and since then, Williamson has landed himself a place in the pantheon of all time great Flash writers. If you’re not reading the current series, you can either start with Rebirth, or wait a few weeks until The Flash: Year One kicks off, which should be an excellent place for new fans to start.
It seems somewhat unlikely that they’ll bring Godspeed back for an arc of his own, unless it turns out that the August Heart we meet here (who has a completely different origin story than the Godspeed of the comics) is a descendant of the “real” August Heart. Please, show, tell me you didn’t just burn Godspeed for a one-off like this! That’s BD Wong doing his voice by the way, which is pretty cool.
– There are almost too many parallels to the very first Flash episode to outline here, from Nora’s “introduction” as a CSI in 2049, to her obsession with the one case Flash couldn’t solve, to her awakening in the hospital bed while Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” plays, and more. But my favorite might be that when Nora runs into the laundry truck because she can’t control her powers yet, it’s a “Gambi and Sons” truck, a nice little shoutout to Black Lightning. Although that does raise one issue…
…we get several mentions of next season’s big crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths in this episode. Whether it’s the fact that there are no speedsters running around in its aftermath (any time there’s a Crisis in DC Comics, you can bet your running shoes it’s bad news for at least one speedster) or the red skies clearly visible in Barry’s video message to Nora, Crisis looms large here. But since Black Lightning doesn’t currently take place within the confines of the main Arrowverse, could this be a signal that as part of the aftermath of Crisis, the Earth of Black Lightning will merge with the Earth of Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow? I figure Supergirl is definitely going to happen, but Black Lightning has managed to be the best of all of these shows without having to go anywhere near the larger, more comic book-y concerns of its peers.
– Detective Frankie Curtis is a gender-swapped version of Detective Frank Curtis, who worked with Barry Allen in the 1970s and early ’80s Flash comics. She and Nora keep mentioning Captain Frye, that’s Captain Daryl Frye, who was a major player in the Flash comics of that era, as well as some more recent ones. I was really hoping we’d see him on this show eventually, but I guess he’s a little too far off in the future for that to ever happen. Still, pretty cool that these bits of Flash history got namedrops!
– Speaking of voices, how did I miss that it’s Robert Picardo as the voice of Flash Museum curator Dexter Myles?!? This is some perfect casting.
– I can’t remember if this is the first DCW mention of Dayton Labs or not, but that has factored into some Teen Titans comics in the past.
– Iris was busy in Coast City for much of the episode. Just the latest in an endless string of Green Lantern teases in the Arrowverse.
– It’s interesting that Nora quotes the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland about being “late for an important date.” Is she going to lead Barry astray? Or is her obsession with speedsters her own personal “white rabbit?”
– For some additional deep cuts, we visit Ollins Laboratory and Dr. Bruce Bonwit, both of whom figured into the origin of exceedingly minor Firestorm villain Goldenrod.
– There’s even a Legion of Superheroes reference in this episode! On Nora’s board of unsolved crimes, you can see the name “Floyd Belkin.” That would be (I shit you not, kids) Arm-Fall-Off Boy of the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
– Speaking of the Legion, a building has been named after Tracy Brand. Was it ever established whether she was an ancestor of Legion benefactor RJ Brande?
– Nora’s partner Lia makes a “Super Friends” crack.
– We get a callback to Mercury Labs, of classic ’90s Flash TV series Tina McGee fame.
I think that’s everything? But if it’s not, please do feel free to hit me up on Twitter!