Jessica Parker Kennedy joins The Flash as Nora West-Allen
It’s a girl Flash fans! No, I’m not talking about Joe and Cecile’s new bundle of joy, but Barry and Iris’s grown up daughter, Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy, Black Sails), from the future. Nora has been lurking around Central City since Barry and Iris’s wedding in Season 4, and revealed herself to the family just after the team defeats the Thinker. It turns out, by helping Barry destroy the S.T.A.R. Labs satellite that threatened to destroy Central City at the end of last season, Nora altered the timeline and in doing so, could not get back to the future. Oops!
This season opener starts with a nice touch: a Nora voiceover, instead of Barry – she is the fastest woman alive; a speedster just like her dad. The episode is full of ‘awww’ moments like this. There are light moments as well, including a drunk Cisco still mourning over his breakup with Gypsy, and Ralph realizing that Barry can time travel and thereby deducing that there could be alternate timelines and a multiverse. It’s nice to see him using his investigative brain to get a clue. And we learn that Cecile still has the ability to read minds, as she hears baby Jenna tell her that she is hungry. Or could it be that the baby has inherited Cecile’s telepathic abilities and is communicating her hunger to the mother? Hmmmm… Either way, the look on Joe’s face is priceless.
But the bulk of the episode is focused on the relationship between Nora and her parents. There is a lot of ‘awkward’ going around as Nora explains that she knows all of them including Uncle Jesse and Auntie Jenna, and tries to establish a connection with her very surprised parents. She even relates that Iris nicknamed her XS because as a child she always did things to excess, getting in way over her head. Barry wants to get Nora back to her own timeline before she “Marty McFly’s herself out of existence,” but Iris is excited to get to know her daughter. It is obvious that in the future, Nora and Iris’s relationship is less than stellar, and that Nora is definitely a daddy’s girl.
(Pet Peeve: I should note that Iris’s response to Barry’s Back to the Future reference was lame. Iris thought he was quoting Terminator 2. Why do writers always portray the women to be clueless about movie or pop cultural references? This should change. Ok, back to the recap.)
And in the meantime, there is work to do. Barry gets his job back as a CSI at CCPD, and has piles of cases to catch up on. And it turns out that Nora has followed in his footsteps having studied forensics, and offers to help. They are interrupted by a police report of a meta attack. Barry doesn’t have a suit because his was destroyed in the battle with the Thinker, but Nora speeds back to the lab and brings him one of his old suits (saying it was a fan favorite.) More awkwardness follows as Barry asks her not to go speeding around and to stay put.
Of course, Nora doesn’t stay put and she shows up in her speedster suit, ready to help dad as he confronts the villain of the week, Gridlock. This meta absorbs kinetic energy to become more powerful with movement, and thanks to Nora’s interruption, lands a punch that knocks Barry up, up and away.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, after this all too brief encounter with Gridlock, Iris sits Barry down for one of their heart-to-heart talks. Iris wants to know why Barry is so intent on getting Nora back to her own timeline. This is one of my favorite scenes in the episode and I have to give kudos to Todd Helbing and Sam Chalsen for writing such a touching scene.
Barry’s explanation expressed a melancholy disappointment with his life. His entire history has been at the mercy of time travel and mixed up timelines – from his mother’s murder by the Reverse Flash, growing up with his dad in prison, to becoming a speedster, the death of his father, and even their wedding interrupted by meta’s from another earth. He just hoped that when it came to having a family, for once, he’d be able to experience something normal. He wanted to experience the whole process of Iris being pregnant, and the birth of their child, and to experience that child’s firsts. With Nora showing up fully grown, it was as if all of that has been taken away. Iris tried to point out that getting to know Nora now would make them better parents, and sees her arrival as a gift; assuring Barry that everything will work out. She points out that Nora has defied physics to spend time with them, leading Barry to wonder why Nora has been so keen to get to know them in the first place.
Barry asks Nora what happens to him in the future, and Nora brings him to the time vault to show him a newspaper with a headline about the Flash vanishing in 2024. After 25 years, he is still missing; it had just been Iris and Nora alone, and that is why she travelled to the past. She wanted to get to know him and she hoped that he could help her become a better speedster – she has the power but no one to show her the way. And it turns out that she hadn’t been stuck in the past; she actually wanted to be there and was wearing a negative tachyon device that made it look like she did not have the speed to go back to her timeline.
Unfortunately, the team still has Gridlock to deal with. Caitlyn has discovered that Gridlock is really William Lang, a known small time crook who uses his power for bigger heists. Cisco tracks Lang’s cell phone and finds him on a plane, realizing that Gridlock’s intent is to crash the plane. Sure enough, Gridlock attempts to rob another passenger using his meta powers and blows the plane’s engines. It is up to Barry to try to stop the plane from crashing into Central City.
Barry’s not sure that he can do it, but Nora tells him that he can phase the plane through the buildings; she knows that he did that in the future. Barry doesn’t think he is strong enough, but with Wally and Nora’s help, the three of them would be able to do it. Nora explains that she has never been able to phase, and Barry says he will talk her through it.
Barry still needs another suit. Nora comes to the rescue again, with a Flash ring that she stole from her time’s Flash Museum. In one of the coolest and most exciting effects I’ve seen on this show in a while, Barry takes the ring and gets a brand new, future tech Flash suit. Cisco asks if he designed that suit and Nora says actually it was Ryan Choi – a name known to DC fans as a future Atom. Cisco opens a breach to get the three speedsters to the plane. They quickly capture Gridlock and now have to deal with the tricky part of landing the plane safely.
The landing the plane scene had me sitting on the edge of my chair feeling all the feels. As Barry talks Nora through how to phase, he channels his speedster mentor, Harrison Wells, aka the Reverse Flash. We get a brief glimpse of Wells, through Barry’s memory, and the sinister Wells whisper explaining how to channel the speed force – advice that Barry repeats to Nora word for word. Barry is saving the day but with this Wellsian take on his advice to Nora, there is such a sense of foreboding, that I am wondering how much of an impact the Reverse Flash will have on this season. More to look forward to, as I consider the Reverse Flash to be the series’ greatest villain.
They safely land the plane and once back at the lab, Barry changes his mind about Nora going back to her own timeline. Knowing that he misses her childhood in the future makes him want to get to know her now. He tells the team that she should stay, and they can ensure that her powers are all working correctly before they send her back. Barry does not tell Iris about the newspaper, which is a big mistake. After so many years he should know that keeping Iris in the dark is a bad idea. I predict that this sin of omission will come back to haunt him in future episodes.
Nora will be staying in a room at the lab that only Joe seems to have known about. As the new parents help her to settle in, Barry gets a sudden hankering for ice cream, and he and Nora go speeding off, leaving Iris behind. More fuel for a future conflict between the couple – I can already hear the argument…“you lied to me and you leave me behind?” This won’t be good for Barry.
The episode ends with the introduction of this season’s big bad, Cicada. Gridlock is being transported to Iron Heights in a truck driven by CCPD. The truck stops and we see Gridlock’s face as he listens to the sound of the police and machine guns being fired. The truck opens up with the silhouette of a lone hooded figure approaching him. Gridlock asks the figure what he wants and the figure answers, “For all of you to die.” Then we cut to a closeup of a lightning bolt dagger in Cicada’s hand.
This villain is going to be dark. I can’t wait!