Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Mat Brewster with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are his own.
The Flash has consistently received better ratings than all the other shows in the Arrowverse since it first came on the scene in 2014. It is easy to see why as it easily blends superhero action, real emotional stakes, and comedy while fully embracing the more ridiculous aspects inherent to a comic-book series. It is my favorite show in the Multiverse though it is beginning to slip. When watching this type of series, I tend to talk back to the television whenever characters make completely illogical choices or behave in a manner that only makes sense inside a fictionalized television story. So when the Flash faces an enormous fiery explosion and doesn’t think to bring in Killer Frost to help out, I start yelling at my screen. Or when a character walks off the screen after getting their two cents in the conversation for no other reason than it puts a visual period at the end of that scene's sentence, you’ll find me audibly rolling my eyes. Almost every series has these moments, and it generally doesn’t affect my enjoyment of a show, but there comes a time when those moments begin to increase causing the series to move closer to "Jump the Shark" category. Someone really ought to create a chart so that we can plot out exactly when to give up on a show. The Flash isn’t there yet, but it's getting closer.
At the end of Season Four - and this is as good a time as any to note I will be spoiling large parts of both seasons in this review, including the ending of Season Four though I'll stop short of giving details of the Season Five finale - The Thinker was defeated by finding the good side of him that still existed deep within his subconscious. His nefarious evil plan was stopped and the Flash alongside a new mysterious speedster destroyed the falling satellite, saving Central City.
That mysterious speedster turns out to be Nora, who is Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future. She came to the past ostensibly to stop the Thinker and now says something is wrong and she can no longer return to the future. But we quickly learn she’s lying and really just wants to spend more time with her Dad. Remember back in Season One when the original evil Harrison Wells kept looking at that digital headline in his secret lair that said the Flash disappears in 2024? Turns out that's still a thing and Nora was just a baby when the Flash vanished, leaving her with a yearning to spend time with her old man.
Speaking of those good old days with the original Harrison Wells or should I say the Reverse Flash or should I say Eobard Thawne? He’s back, still locked away in prison but now giving Nora advice because, well, no major villain stays gone forever on this show. And not to be outdone on the Tom Cavanagh front, he once again plays a new Harrison Wells-esque character. This one's from Earth-221 and is called Sherloque Wells and acts as a poorly French-accented Sherlock Holmes type capable of deducting the smallest clues into larger gains.
Oh and that Big Bad, he’s called Cicada (Chris Klein) and he gained his powers from that a satellite fragment that came crashing down when Barry and Nora smashed it. He’s turned the fragment into a dagger that is capable of nullifying any meta’s powers and has decided to kill all the meta’s he can get his hands on. I appreciate that for the second season in a row they have made the Big Bad a non-speedster and this time he’s even sympathetic with a daughter who was hospitalized by the same satellite that gave him his powers and wrecked so much havoc on the city. But they don’t really develop that idea very well and eventually, the daughter gets powers and things get weirder and all sense of a real emotional connection is thrown out for more whiz-bang action.
The Flash’s weakest point has always been when it tries to get emotional. It is still better at it than the rest of the Arrowverse, but when things get teary-eyed, my eyes tend to roll. At its heart, The Flash has always been about family, whether its biology, romance, or the bonds of friendship. And like any family, there are always complications. Arguments are had, characters fall in and out, but in the end their love for one another prevails.
Wally is around for a brief period but he's now spending time with the Legends, or contemplating life in a far off land. With one son gone, a daughter must arise. Nora is a fine character and making her a daughter from the future creates an interesting dynamic, but with her secretly talking to Eobard Thawne and the million other things happening, there isn’t time to really do something special with her. The other characters all get their emotional beats. The best one is Caitlin dealing with the fact that Killer Frost seems to have left her, leaving Caitlin powerless. She's gone full circle from fearing and hating the Killer Frost side of her to needing her and now missing her now that she is gone. Joe has his thing with the new baby and Cecile becomes a bigger character. Cisco deals with heartache, etc. and so on. All of the character strands are more or less handled well but they are mostly the same stuff we’ve seen season after season. It is important that these characters are developed more than just meta humans who fight bad guys, but with a super-stuffed cast and plenty of other things that need to happen, the emotional beats never feel fully formed.
The Flash has always leaned into its rather eclectic cast of villains and Season Five is no different. It includes Gridlock, who absorbs kinetic energy; Goldface, who can turn himself into gold; and a blogger who has a mind-controlling cell phone. Grodd and King Shark return and do battle in an episode that isn’t nearly as fun as that sounds. Most of the one-off metas go as quickly as they come, faster than usual even as here they are mostly cannon odder for Cicada to kill which he does quickly.
Season Five is still a lot of fun and The Flash remains my favorite show in the Arrowverse, but it's definitely showing its age. At five seasons with 20-plus episodes per season, they are reasonably running out of stories to tell. At this point, I’d really prefer it if they either lessened the length of the season or maybe cut them into pieces so that you have two or three mini-seasons within the larger one allowing for multiple Big Bads and less filler. This won’t happen, and I’ll still be along for the ride no matter what, but perhaps with less enthusiasm than before.
Special features on this set include a fairly in-depth feature on the season's villains and slightly more shallow ones covering Killer Frost, the "Elseworlds" crossover, and the 2018 Comic-Con panel. The Arrow and Supergirl episodes of "Elseworlds" is contained within this set, which is nice. I’ll wind up getting it again when the Arrow and Supergirl seasons come out, but I appreciate that they include them all in every set for those who aren’t completists.