Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Flash 5x04 Review: "News Flash" (The Questions Are Multiplying!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"News Flash"
Original Airdate: October 30, 2018 

Hey, The Flash listened to my plea for more info on the Nora/Future Iris relationship! Of course, upon answering that one question they’ve raised about half a dozen others, but I’d say that’s a good sign for this season’s plot longevity. Did someone on the writing team go to an improv class? Because they’re yes-anding the heck out of the mysteries this season! I only hope they know all the answers to the questions they’re asking, or else this narrative tapestry is doomed to unravel.


“News Flash” starts with a woman filming what I presume is the satellite crash from last season’s finale, except not really because she spends most of the time with the camera pointed at her own face. You know, if you ever wonder whether someone giving you news is a journalist or just an attention hog, always make note of where they’re pointing their camera.

Present day, Iris is making breakfast for her new in-house family, and she’s terrible. I genuinely love this little scene, because I will forever be charmed by Iris’s eagerness to be a good mom to Nora. She’s just so okay with meeting her unborn, not-yet-conceived daughter as an adult woman from the future! She wants to make pancakes in the shape of lightning bolts! She burns literally everything she cooks! I love Iris. Anyway, her plans for a sit-down breakfast fall through when Nora greets her with icy snark.

Later, Barry is participating in a company softball game and, much in the same way his wife is terrible at cooking, Barry is terrible at sports. Like confusingly terrible, considering he has superpowers. And I get that Barry can’t exactly zip around the field, catching fly balls (that’s a thing in softball, right?) in the blink of an eye, but he literally can’t manage to do anything in this softball game without fumbling or tripping over himself. So, it’s kind of a blessing when a purple-eyed, hypnotized member of CCPD shows up with a bomb to interrupt the game. Thankfully, XS — also with purple eyes — tosses the bomb into the air, where it harmlessly explodes high above the field.

The vlogger from the opening is seen at the softball game, and she clearly has something to do with the whole purple eyes, can’t remember what just happened bit that the CCPD officer and Nora just went through. Iris notices that the woman, Spencer, is a blogger writing a lot about metas and seems to have chosen XS as her new star topic. Since Cicada is going after metas, this could put a target on Nora’s back. Iris tries to get her to hit pause on the meta-specific articles until the metahuman serial killer is caught, but Spencer just thinks Iris is a jealous rival in the same blogger field.

After Barry abruptly leaves a burning building to visit Vegas — a trip he has no memory of making — it’s more obvious something meta is going on. The only connection Team Flash is able to make about the blackouts people have been experiencing is to Spencer’s blog, which has an unusually speedy update pattern. Hey, Spencer, you know it’s a lot less suspicious if you just schedule those things to post at a more normal time, right?

Team Flash knows Spencer has something to do with the blackouts, but they don’t know if she’s a meta. Iris enlists Nora’s help in figuring this out, but Nora’s distracted by her crush on Spencer. Nora! No dating people in the past! Jeez, your dad’s made a lot of time travel screw-ups in his life as an idiot speedster, but at least he knew better than to date out of the natural time stream. Between flirty-smiling at Spencer, Nora manages to prove she isn’t a metahuman, but she’s still clearly the villain of the episode. So how?

Before we get an answer to that question, we get an answer to a different one: why is Nora so mad at Iris? Turns out, it’s because Future Iris put a power-suppressing chip in Nora and Nora didn’t even know she had powers until six months ago. Does that timeframe include any time in the future, or was Nora lying about being Central City’s protector as XS? How did Nora get good enough to time travel if she’s new to her powers? How’d she get so fast that even Barry was impressed? How’d she find out about the power suppression chip? Why did Iris want to suppress Nora’s powers — is it dangerous to be a meta in the future, or was Iris afraid of Nora going missing like Barry? Do any of these things have anything to do with the hint we got last week that Nora didn’t travel to the past of her own volition?

Like I said, “News Flash” answering this one question raises many others, but that’s a good thing. They aren’t “this makes no sense” questions; they’re “this opens lots of avenues of exploration” questions, and they allow for more intriguing, character-focused mysteries to pepper the season. I’m always a fan of a good character development/villain development balance. Especially when Iris gets involved.

The big climax of the episode is Spencer attempting to frame XS for the Flash’s murder, and Iris coming to the rescue with a breach device and a dart gun. Iris saving her family! As for the future Iris’s motivations for suppressing Nora’s powers, all we know is that Barry supports his wife in her decisions... which means Nora, hurt by her father taking her mother’s side, is cutting her stay at the West-Allen household rather short.


In the quest to find Cicada, Sherloque Wells and Ralph Dibny are on the case! Sherloque is paying off the debt he owes Team Flash and I think Ralph wants to prove himself as a detective. While not the amusingly clueless version of Ralph the season started off with, he’s also not completely offensive or annoying, so I was okay with this little B-plot (C-plot? Not sure if the Iris/Nora through-line counts as the B-plot). It was a good way to utilize the new Sherloque character, allow the West-Allen family to deal with their own stuff in the main storyline, and piece together what the characters have figured out about Cicada — i.e., he’s a father, he likely works in a factory that requires him to wear the mask that gives him his distinct raspy breathing, and he has a lung injury.

Cleverly, the show erased my doubts about how Nora could possibly affect the identity of Cicada by explaining that Cicada’s powers likely came from the satellite crash. Nora’s arrival on the scene knocked the debris off its standard trajectory, so whatever meta-infected space crap turned David Hersch into Cicada all those other times ended up getting this new guy instead. Oh, show. I love it when you prove my nit-picky whining wrong.

Team Flash also realizes the dagger Cicada uses has its own powers. They question the likelihood of objects being meta, but the mystery of how Spencer was hypnotizing her victims with code and news headlines gives Barry an epiphany moment. He opens Spencer’s confiscated phone and sees weird, glowy veins all over the inside.

Meta-mutated technology! I think this is the first genuinely cool, interesting new development the show’s thrown at us in a while, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Other Things:

  • "I'm gonna make you a banana, it's fine." Iris is the best.
  • Missed Cisco this week, but I get why they would remove him from this episode over other episodes. His breaching powers would logically make it his job to stop Nora from killing Barry in the climax, so I’m glad his absence meant Iris got a chance to shine a bit.
  • I loved Nora thanking Iris for guiding her through putting out that fire. Iris looked so proud and happy!
  • Next week: freaky mask + that herky-jerky horror movie movement = why are you trying to give me nightmares, The Flash?


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