“My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive. To the outside world, I’m an ordinary forensic scientist. But secretly, with the help of my friends at S.T.A.R. Labs, I fight crime and find other meta-humans like me. But when my daughter came back from the future to help, she changed the present. And now our world is more dangerous than ever, and I’m the only one fast enough to save it. I am the Flash.”
The fifth season begins almost immediately after the crazy reveal that ended the previous run of episodes. A young woman arrives at the West home and identifies herself as Nora (Kennedy) She claims to be the speedster daughter of Barry (Gustin) and Iris (Patton) and has arrived from the future so that she can meet her dad, because in the near future he is destined to disappear and remain missing for 25 years into that future. If all of this sounds a bit confusing to you, you’re starting in the wrong place. Check out our reviews of the previous four years here.
One of the things that I love about this show is that time and time again there is a running theme throughout the series. Actions have consequences, and most superhero shows or films really don’t make that statement. It’s been true here from the rescue of Barry from the speed force to his trying to stop his mother’s murder. Each of these “heroic” acts had severe consequences and costs. The same is true this season. Nora’s arrival was just in time to stop a deadly satellite from turning all of Star City into metas. We saw that mysterious assist as the season ended, and now we know who did it. But that action had a huge cost. It sent black matter shards into the population that not only produced more dangerous meta-humans but this time created meta-tech. Non-organic items like cell phones, a weather vane and most notably a large dagger-like shard of the wreckage. That shard produced the big bad for this season, a meta-human named Cicada (Klein).
Cicada lost his family and blames meta-humans for the loss. His niece is in a coma, and he has been given a new power in conjunction with the dagger. It reveals the presence of meta-humans, much like Frodo’s blade Sting in The Lord Of The Rings reveals that orcs are nearby. He then uses the combined power to take away their power while they are in the proximity of the blade. He goes on a meta-human killing spree. You could say he’s the Dexter of the meta-human crowd. Nora’s future knowledge reveals that Cicada is the only villain that Barry never defeated and that he’s alive and well and killing into the future. Nora also claims to have lost her ability to return to the future, but she isn’t being completely honest with the team about a lot of things, including that she’s working in the future with Barry’s arch-nemesis The Reverse Flash (Cavanagh). These secrets continue to make the situation more and more dire until it comes back to bite the group with the return of the evil speedster. But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.
One of the better aspects of this show is the team and the characters and actors that comprise the team. There is a mixture of good and bad this season, and it all starts with the addition of Nora. I like the idea, but she ends up being much more of an annoying presence than the material is worth. I don’t quite know if I should blame the writers or actress Jessica Parker Kennedy. Whenever she speaks, it’s really like nails on chalkboard. I find myself wishing she would just shut up. And I know it’s a part of the future-speak in the comics themselves, but I swear, if I ever hear the word schway again, I’m going to scream. It means cool, but it’s way not cool. I hope so much that she’s not a part of the next season.
Another unfortunate development has to do with Tom Cavanagh. I love the actor. He’s created some truly memorable moments in the show, and I’m glad he’s back. What’s unfortunate is the show’s desire to make him a different Earth version of the character each season. This year he’s Sherlogue Wells and is hired to help solve the Cicada mystery because he’s caught the villain on over 30 different Earths. But Nora’s arrival has altered this timeline, and he’s not quite the help he has been to other teams. What I dislike is the personality here. He has an awful French accent that is almost annoying as Nora and is definitely not schway. It’s his worst character, and such a shame because Cavanagh is so much better than this. Yeah, he appears to be having a great time, but it’s at our expense. Fortunately, we still have plenty of the future Reverse Flash to remind me how powerful an actor he really is.
Another unfortunate aspect of the cast has to do with Jesse L. Martin. He injured himself early in the season so that his participation is very minimal this season. That’s bad news for everyone. I’ve always said he’s the heart of this show, and I really missed that heart this season. Even when he was there he was kept pretty inactive and used minimally. Here’s hoping that Martin fully recovers and rejoins the family full time this next season. I really missed you, Jesse.
On the good front, we get some wonderful character development out of Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow. She’s lost her ability to be Killer Frost, and it teaches her a lot about herself. She misses it and realizes that Killer Frost is a huge part of who she is. She does get her back, and it gets even better as now that she’s accepted that part of her, she learns how to become Killer Frost at will and communicate with her as Caitlin. Frost is a key part of the battle with Cicada, because she’s not a meta. It turns out she was born with the Ice part of her and is not vulnerable to the dagger. We also get to meet her pops in the form of Homicide: Life On The Streets star Kyle Secor as Icicle. It’s a good season for both Snow and actress Panabaker.
The opposite happens to be true for Carlos Valdez as Cisco. Not that it isn’t a good year for him; it is. His character has the opposite viewpoint as Caitlin. When it becomes possible that a meta-human cure might be possible, he embraces the idea and works almost to obsession to find it. He wants to take away the Vibe personality and live as a normal human for a change. It creates some wonderful conflict between these two characters, and Valdez gives us an amazingly emotional year. He makes up in a small way for the absence of Martin, but not really. Still, it’s these nice emotional stories that truly make this the best show of the DCTV Universe.
Finally I’m starting to like the Ralph Dibney character, played by Hartley Sawyer. This is such a hard character to do in live-action. He’s The Elongated Man and has the same powers as Reed Richards in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. Stretching powers are hard to keep from looking too serious outside of a comic book. It’s one of the reasons it’s hard to make a really good Fantastic Four film. They don’t really succeed here either, but they make up for it by grounding the character better. He’s more a part of the team now and is starting to share better chemistry particularly with Cisco. There’s also a nice episode where he and Barry go undercover to obtain a piece of tech from an underworld gang. No powers, so it’s really just the characters and a smart direction for the character.
The trend for these shows is to introduce an even bigger villain in the later part of the show than the one they were fighting all along. That’s true here with a Cicada II that ends up being more of a big bad than the first guy.
The season introduces a few more elements from the comics. The most important is the ring that now holds his costume, and it springs out and gets larger when he presses a button. Another element from the comics is The Flash Museum. It’s huge in the books and is where Nora learns many of the things she knows about Barry. Yeah, it a bit schlock, but it’s a nice touch long-time fans of the show will appreciate. Just as in Arrow this season the 2040’s play a huge role, and all of this is leading to The Crisis On Infinite Earths next season which will close out Arrow and likely change the DCTV Universe going forward.
Some highlights of the season not so connected to the huge story arc are a real-life monster smash-up with King Shark and Gorilla Grodd. There’s a bit of a Groundhog Day episode mixes silly with serious. Like Arrow, there’s an entire episode set in the future. This was likely a chance to keep the season on track while the main cast shot the crossover.
There is a three-part crossover that involves Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl. Once again I applaud the folks at Warner Home Entertainment for including all three episodes in each of the show’s home video releases. That was not always the case, and shows were released out of order of these episodes, making it difficult to see the entire story in order, if at all. They are all included here. This year’s is used to actually set up two future big events for the DC television universe, also known as the Arrowverse. There was a directive from the beginning that all things Batman and Gotham can’t even be mentioned. That restriction had to do with Fox showing the series Gotham. Now that the series has ended, these shows are free to integrate those elements into their shows, and so this season you’ll hear Bruce Wayne and Gotham mentioned often. It’s like the writers are kids finally let loose in the candy store. The crossover introduces us to Ruby Rose and her Batwoman character. She’ll be getting her own series next season. The crossover also sets up an epic one for next year that will take up five hours of television. It’s what Arrow’s seventh season is really all about, and you’ll see it teased here. I won’t tell you anything about that story, because you’ll want to see that for yourself. But we finally see this reality’s version of Gotham City. The event also introduces us to The Monitor, and he’ll be having a big part in the finale of Arrow and next year’s super crossover (pun intended). If you watch nothing else to prepare for the coming season, you must watch the crossover event.
The Flash is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4. Colors are bright in this high-definition image presentation. You’ll find wonderful sharpness and detail. The lightning effects are brilliant and bold. The streaks are always a treat. Contrast truly stands out with the addition of Zoom and his dark nature. Black levels are as good as the broadcasts ever were.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is often a force of its own. Surrounds bring the speed images to life. Dialog is the most important element here. It is well served, to be sure. The score is frantic and helps build atmosphere. Subs even find their place from time to time. Pretty solid stuff.
Deleted Scenes on select episodes.
Gag Reel: (8:00)
The Best Of DCTV Comic-Con Panels At San Diego 2018: (1:00:59) Instead of the usual panels on each release, this is a compilation of all four in one feature.
Inside The Crossover – Elseworlds: (45:01) This feature has two elements. We get a panel with the executive producers of each show, including the upcoming Batwoman series. They talk about how they each work to integrate these crossovers. We also get a nice history of the Elseworlds line of comics. These are very much like Marvel’s What If… line. They take a question where one thing changes and show us how that would change the familiar stories.
Villains – Modes Of Persuasion: (30:04) This feature looks at the psychology of villainy. We get clips from throughout the DC universe including other shows and animated versions. We also get input from a clinical psychologist.
The Evolution Of Killer Frost: (11:31) Get a closer look at the history of the character from the comics.
DC is putting a huge buildup to this coming season’s crossover. They’ve literally had the seasons of these shows serve as a setup. The only problem with that is expectations for this event are going to be through the roof. We’re being promised groundbreaking television here, and I hope they can really pull it off. Having these characters join one last time for something epic spanning the multiverse. “How schway is that?”