This review contains spoilers.
5.4 News Flash
Although the first three episodes of The Flash season five have been pretty fantastic thus far, each one teased the mystery of Iris and Nora’s relationship to a maddening degree. Fortunately, News Flash swooped in just in time to give us some much-needed answers while simultaneously giving us an even deeper look into the new big bad, Cicada.
The idea of having Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future come in as a character is fantastic, but it’s been somewhat frustrating to only see her bonding with her dad. Sure the show is called The Flash and Iris has only been a speedster once, but we don’t keep a bunch of extra characters around for no good reason. Therefore we want to see them developed and, yes, get a win every now and then. While “News Flash” wasn’t exactly chock full of wins for Iris, it did finally reveal why XS has such a hard time even making eye contact with her mother.
What starts out as Iris’ desperate attempt to make her family breakfast at the beginning of the episode, quickly becomes a showcase for how close Barry and Nora got in their short time together without her. XS takes a turn toward the downright unlikable when she starts openly praising Spencer Young (Spin), a hot-shot blogger that briefly worked with Iris at the newspaper before it became apparent that they had different ideas of what journalism is (how very 2018). Nora also takes this moment to loosely come out to her parents, which becomes clear later on when she gets all flustered while trying to talk to Young. As a fan of LGBTQ representation on TV that doesn’t hang a giant self-congratulatory lantern on itself, I was very into the almost non-reaction Barry and Iris had at learning this about their daughter.
However, it’s also the moment when Nora reveals that the reason she seems so bratty toward her mother has nothing to do with her dad’s disappearance, it’s the fact that she discovered Iris had planted a power dampener on her and didn’t allow her to know that she was a speedster until six months prior. Suddenly Nora’s reckless disregard for the sanctity of the timeline is more understandable. She only learned she was a metahuman less than a year ago, so we can’t fault her too much for not understanding the intricacies of time-travel and the multiverse. Nora may be a flawed character in many ways, but her decision to come back in time suddenly feels less like a selfish speedster’s abuse of power and more like a lottery winner going a bit overboard on a new sports car. That is to say, it’s understandable and you and I might very well do the same.
While all this family drama is coming out, the gang learns that Spin is manipulating people to create high-profile news stories (also known as tragedies) so that she can be first on the reporting. As quipped above, it’s a very rich metaphor for a character’s superpower to be fake news that literally becomes reality. While The Flash is likely best when the politics of the day don’t rear their ugly head, it’s certainly an area that could have used more fleshing out. Perhaps Nora’s crush might make a resurgence at some point? After all, she wasn’t a meta, but the satellite dusted Central City with dark matter, meaning now objects can carry meta properties, meaning the villains of the city were gifted a bunch of new toys just in time for the holidays.
When Spin uses her phone’s power to try to get Nora to kill Barry, Iris steps in and subdues her before she can take him down. Before we get into how that moment resolved the episode’s plot, let’s talk for a second about XS catching up to Flash. In an odd and unaddressed moment, it seemed like Barry stopped and then reversed within the speed force, allowing Nora to catch him and almost murder him. Cicada has been dampening powers with his dagger, but he was nowhere in sight and this seemed like something different. Perhaps it’s foreshadowing for a later date.
In any case, stepping in to harm Nora for her own good made Iris realize that, if she put a dampener on Nora, it’s not to simply control her as she seems to think. Iris tells her daughter that she trusts herself and that she stands by whatever decision she hasn’t made yet. Barry walks in at this moment and, in a particularly sweet moment of partnership between the two, tells Nora that he supports his wife’s decisions – past, present, and future. If I’m being honest, Barry and Iris’ relationship feels a little underwritten at times, so moments like this peppered throughout the series are key.
While we still don’t know what made Iris dampen her daughter’s powers, we do know that it’s all out in the open and they can start rebuilding (or is it just “building”? Time travel is hard) their relationship.
The episode ends with a bit more information about the titillating big bad, Cicada. After Ralph beat his inferiority complex around Sherloque Wells by making a key breakthrough in the case, it’s revealed to the audience that Cicada has serious health issues, particularly in his lungs. However, as his health declines, he himself appears to be getting stronger – much to his own surprise.
Overall, News Flash was a pretty stellar instalment in the season. While not every question has been answered, enough has been revealed to keep fans guessing all the way into next week – when hopefully Cisco will be back on his feet for some much-needed comic relief.