‘The Flash’ 5×04 Review: A Make-or-Break Episode

Since the beginning of the season, one question has hovered over the show like a dark cloud. Why is Nora so cold towards Iris? Her attitude towards her mother was so pronounced, it was impossible to ignore. As such, the answer to that question could make or break the season. If the writers provided a good reason for her animosity, the season would only get better. If the answer provided was insufficient – or even downright dumb – it would take the knees out from under a show that seemed to be finally getting back on the right foot.

In “News Flash,” we finally get an answer to that question. Was it a good one? A better question might be whether there’s more to the story. I suspect there is, but let’s get into it.

A Reliable Narrator?

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Nora explained her resentment towards Iris, but the question is whether that’s the end of the story. She revealed that in the future, Iris will implant a chip in her shoulder that suppressed her powers. For her entire life, she felt different from everyone else but didn’t know why. One can assume Iris did this to keep her safe, perhaps because she was afraid of losing her daughter after having already lost her husband.

However, this raises the question of whether Nora is a reliable narrator. Now, to be fair, I don’t think Nora is actively lying. Her emotional response was too genuine to be a lie on her part. But we are only getting her side of the story. And that raises some serious questions.

How did Nora find out about the chip? If she’s being manipulated, who is pulling the strings? Was that the person who told her about the chip – and its origin? If so, Nora could be acting on a lie she’s been fed. Her hot-headedness and resentment towards Iris makes it unlikely she went to her mother for answers after finding the chip, so she might never have gotten Iris’s point of view at all.

If Iris did have the chip implanted, why did she do so? Several times in “News Flash,” it was suggested that there is more to the story. Iris has lost Barry before, and yet she still couldn’t understand why she would do such a thing. Barry also reiterated his faith that she would only do so with good reason. Both suggest that the audience does not yet know the entire truth, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

If Iris put the chip inside of Nora because she’d lost Barry to the speedforce and was afraid she’d lose her daughter to the same, I understand and sympathize with her motivations. However that doesn’t mean I think she was right. Much as I sympathize with Barry and will never bash him for creating Flashpoint. However, was it the right thing to do? Probably not. In this case, even if hiding Nora’s powers from her when she was a child could be justified, Nora deserved to know the truth when she became an adult.

But that is, again, assuming we can take Nora’s words at face value. If there is indeed more going on, then that could change the comparative right-or-wrong of Iris’s actions. Personally, I’m reserving final judgment until we know more. And I’m looking forward to getting those questions answered. 

Mothers and Fathers

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the disparity in how fathers and mothers are treated in this show. I think the writers tried to make both characters sympathetic in “News Flash.” To get the audience to see both future Iris and Nora’s point of view. For anyone who didn’t have a vendetta against Iris going in, I think they did a fine job.

However, even if we can take Nora’s words at face value, there is still a disparity in how mothers and fathers are written in this show. If Iris put a chip in Nora to suppress her powers in the future, it’s not that different from Joe lying to Iris about Francine. Yes, Iris was upset about his lie. For about thirty seconds. Then she forgave him without a second thought or further need for justification. (It took her far longer to forgive Francine.)

The situations aren’t entirely the same, but they aren’t that different. And Nora’s attitude towards Iris couldn’t be further from Iris’s attitude towards Joe. On the one hand, I of course understand her resentment. Yes, her anger towards an Iris who hasn’t made that decision yet is misplaced. However, emotions are rather inconveniently illogical sometimes.

But it’s still yet another example that fathers can do no wrong in this show and mothers can do no right. I believe and hope that there is more to the story, but I also hope that the writers take more care with how they handle mother/child relationships in future.

Other Points of Interest in “News Flash”

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Okay, I absolutely hated Ralph last season, but thanks mostly to the actor, he’s growing on me this season. A little. (Hartley just seems like the sweetest guy ever.) When he suggested they investigate the mask and Sherloque shot him down, I wanted to fight him on Ralph’s behalf. Once or twice, I even wanted to scream that he should listen to Ralph. I don’t know what this show has done to me. I was even – dare I say it – happy when Sherloque recognized that Ralph had been right, in the end.

Also, the Westallen moments we got in “News Flash” were amazing. Iris was trying so hard with breakfast, and it all went so wrong. Barry really is the worst softball player ever. And Barry having Iris’s back, trusting her judgment? My heart!

Overall Impression

The fifth season of The Flash has been strong overall, and this kept that trend going. I think there’s a lot more to the story than we got in “News Flash.” However, the show’s fast pace was one of the best parts of the first season. The fifth season seems to have picked up that pace again. For too many years, the show tried to hide the ball until the very end of the season, long past the point at which the audience cared. It’s refreshing to get answers throughout the season, even if those answers are incomplete.

If every episode of the season is this good, it will be one of the best seasons of the show yet.

(New) Questions for the Hour

  • Is someone manipulating this whole situation with Nora? It seems even more plausible this week. If so, who was pulling the strings?
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  • Is Iris responsible for putting the chip in Nora’s shoulder, or is that just what she’s been led to believe?
  • Will we travel to the future at some point this season to get Iris’s point of view and allow her a chance to explain why she did what she did – if indeed she did do it?
  • Nora’s scar is in the same place as Cicada’s wound. Coincidence or something else?
  • Why is Barry so incredibly bad at softball?

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

Jade

Law geek, actual geek, and fanfic writer. Maybe a novel writer one day, if I could only pull myself away from fandom long enough. I have been entirely too involved in fandom for my own sanity since at least my Smallville days. I love many comic book love stories, but Clark Kent and Lois Lane will always own my heart. Currently obsessed with The Flash.