It’s hard to believe, but we are officially at the end of The Flash’s fifth season. It seems like it was just last year that we watched Barry and Iris take their wedding vows, and now they’re dealing with a grown daughter.
Wait a minute…that was last year! But there’s no shame in being confused, because the arrival of Nora West-Allen has thrown everyone for a loop, even her two parents. With the Flash season finale airing tonight, I can’t help but look back at how Nora has changed everyone this year. The theme of this season seemed to be parenthood, and it was interesting to see how it affected all of our friends from S.T.A.R. Labs and beyond.
Barry and Iris have never been a traditional couple, so it stands to reason their parenthood journey would be just as unique as their unusual courtship. How many people can claim their grown daughter attended their wedding ceremony? Okay, but how many can claim she attended it before she was even born? That’s what I thought.
The beginning of Barry and Iris’s marriage was rough, thanks to the Thinker framing Barry for murder. But then the two newlyweds became parents well before their first anniversary. While they got to skip all the dirty diapers and toddler tantrums, Barry and Iris were forced to take a crash course in parenting with even bigger challenges. How do you deal with a daughter that has superpowers? It’s hard enough to discipline your child, but the pressure is even greater when her actions can affect the entire timeline. This isn’t typical parenting stuff, and our favorite Central City couple had to learn fast.
Parenting can cause conflict for even the most harmonious families. Remember the episode “Godspeed” when Barry sent Nora back to her future without consulting Iris? I’d argue that was the most serious fight the couple has ever had. Barry and Iris had to learn more than parenting, they had to learn co-parenting. Those are two very different things, and both challenging in their own way. However, with most parents, the disagreements are about signing their child up for sports or summer camp. For Barry and Iris, they’re about sending their time-displaced daughter back to the future because she lied about working with the super-villain who killed Barry’s mother. Honestly, if you can get through that, you can probably get through most anything, so let’s hope the West-Allens have gotten their worst challenge out of the way right at the start.
Of course, Iris and Barry’s success as parents should come as no surprise, since they have one of the best role models around in Joe West. For years we’ve seen expert parenting from one of the greatest television dads, and this season he had more to deal with than ever. In addition to Barry and Iris, Joe had to deal with his newborn baby Jenna, a time displaced granddaughter, and he still took time out his busy life to travel with his son Wally. That’s some super parenting right there! Although Joe’s trip with Wally happened offscreen, it still speaks volumes about his character. Joe wasn’t there for Wally growing up, but he’s making sure he’s there for him now.
I think we need to devote some time to talking about one of the most under-appreciated characters from The Flash, Cecille Horton. During Joe West’s hiatus this season, Cecille really picked up the slack as a guiding parental figure for the characters. She was an emotional anchor for Barry and Iris, in addition to helping Nora mediate the conflict with her mother. And she did all this while nursing her own newborn baby. Psychic powers or not, that’s pretty impressive. While I missed Joe during his absence, it really gave Cecille time to shine and grow as a character. Nobody ever said it was easy to be a step-grandmother to a grown speedster from the future. Maybe Ralph can write a book for that.
But there’s one more “parent” we need to focus on here—Eobard Thawne.
Before you start throwing stuff at me, consider the relationship between Thawne and Nora this season. Maybe I’m completely misreading the situation, but is his behavior towards her nurturing or manipulation. Could it possibly be both? We’ve now learned what he’s hiding regarding Cicada, and it’s entirely possible the season finale might prove my theory wrong, but I think Thawne’s time in prison has resulted in him developing some parental feelings for Nora.
Don’t get me wrong, Thawne will always be bad news, and not all parental guidance can be considered good (just ask Thea Queen from Arrow). Plus, it’s hard to argue that manipulating the daughter of Barry Allen wouldn’t be the ultimate revenge for the Reverse-Flash. Still, whatever his motivations are, I get the sense that Thawne legitimately cares about Nora and wants to help her. Feel free to lock me up in one of those S.T.A.R. Labs prison cells, but it’s possible the Reverse-Flash has also done some growing this year.
Nora’s arrival has really had an interesting effect on the Flash cast, but I’m curious about the role she’ll play in the show going forward. She can’t stick around forever. If she stays in the present, she’ll eventually jeopardize her own existence. Iris has to get pregnant sometime, and it would probably be super problematic (or at least super weird) for Nora to witness her own birth and to play a role in her own childhood upbringing. Barry and Iris have faced some of the biggest trials and tribulations of parenthood, but unfortunately, I think the hardest one is ahead of them: saying goodbye. No parent ever wants to send their kid away, but it must be done for the good of the timeline eventually. And here’s a particularly dark thought for you—there are other ways that Barry and Iris could have to say goodbye to Nora. As you can see in the photo from the finale above, it’s clear Iris is really devastated about something…
Could Nora die? Could the Reverse-Flash be responsible for the death of Barry’s mother and daughter?
The Flash has been known for it’s surprises, so it’s possible Nora’s journey may have a different ending we didn’t foresee. I hope all of you will watch tonight so we can react to tonight’s finale on Twitter together. It’s been a thrilling run this season for Barry. Let’s see where we all end up.
The Flash season 5 finale, "Legacy," airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. For the latest Flash news, features and conversation, click here.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.