You know, I’ve often wondered why The Flash has emerged as the most popular show in the Arrowverse. Though I admittedly prefer Arrow above all others, I do love both series. In my view, The Flash probably began outshining its progenitor by blending action, mystery, science fiction, comedy and drama so well that it’s captivated even casual fans of the superhero genre. Seriously, I’m sometimes surprised to learn which people tune in regularly.
But to be quite honest, that perfect blend just laid out mostly applied to the first two seasons, which this critic will forever regard as some of the best comic book TV ever created. And while season 3 did get its share of flack for going darker than expected, I thought it to be nearly as good. Season 4, however, was downright farcical more often than not.
To my delight, season 5 recaptured the magic enjoyed by the show’s earlier years, as it once again restored all of those elements to their proper percentages. In other words, the show can still be funny, but you’re not going to cringe when a joke is made at the wrong time. Likewise, a character like Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer) who was previous a walking punchline is now a master detective worthy of his comic book counterpart, and capable of imparting great wisdom whenever his friends need him most.
As for the overall story itself, this particular season sees Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) joined by Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy), their daughter from the future. Like her father, she’s also a speedster, only she goes by the moniker of XS when it comes time to fight crime.
And also like dear old dad, Nora has a knack for screwing with the timeline. In fact, her alteration of events is quite central to the unfolding story, as a conspiracy that threatens to unravel the young woman’s relationship with her family looms over her head throughout. For the benefit of those yet to catch up, I’m not going to spoil any twists. But what I will say is that I’ll applaud the writers for intricately plotting out the 22 episodes we received. Once you view the final two installments, you’ll likely agree with me.
One major change XS unwittingly made to the present was the creation of the big bad, Cicada (Chris Klein). In what would’ve been the intended timeline, a more comic book accurate version of this villain would’ve emerged, but she set into motion the genesis of a different serial killer altogether. Yes, Nora makes too many slip-ups to count, yet I can’t help forgiving her each time because she’s so adorable.
Getting back to Cicada himself, I must confess that I find him to be the weakest main villain this series has ever produced. It’s an odd thing to say when I’m praising the season as a whole, sure, but I’d liken it to how season 4 was absolutely awful, yet boasted a terrific villain in the form of the Thinker.
I think Cicada failed on multiple levels because he just wasn’t written as being very formidable, first of all. Though he’s capable of dominating metahumans, Team Flash handily defeats him pretty much every time they cross paths – only for him to retreat shortly thereafter. Furthermore, battles are even more decisive when Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) is there to hand him his ass.
The other reason Cicada flops is because, well, Klein just isn’t going to be winning an Emmy for his performances. I’m not wanting to sound overly cruel here, but he really overdoes it. His villainous voice works when he’s wearing a mask, yet it most certainly does not when he’s just plain Orlin Dwyer. A nuanced Eobard Thawne he is not.
Speaking of which, Tom Cavanagh amazes yet again as both the Reverse-Flash and the latest iteration of Harrison Wells to be introduced: Sherloque Wells. In short, he’s a detective from a parallel Earth here to assist the STAR Labs crew in catching Cicada. He wound up being one of my favorite Wells to date, so I can only hope Cavanagh does just as well with the next guy.
Of course, there’s much else to enjoy in between, such as Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) finding new love and chasing a metahuman cure, not to mention a huge CGI smackdown involving King Shark and Gorilla Grodd. Oh yeah, there’s also this little thing called “Elseworlds” that’s there for your viewing pleasure.
On that note, I can’t stress enough how important it is to buy this set on Blu-ray. I mean, not only is HD the only way you should watch The Flash – period – but that’s the only way you’re going to get all three episodes that introduced Batwoman to the Arrowverse. If you opt for DVD, my friend, then you’ll get only The Flash‘s chapter of the crossover.
Moving on to bonus features, it should be brought in the open that aside from deleted scenes and a gag reel, the only supplemental content exclusive to this release is “The Evolution of Killer Frost.” As awesome as “Inside the Crossover: Elseworlds,” “Villains: Modes of Persuasion,” and “Best of DC TV Comic-Con Panels San Diego 2018” are on their own, they can also be found on various other DC home video releases dropping this summer. If you buy them all, you may find yourself frustrated by lack of original content. But if you go for just one, then you’re in for a treat.
Having nearly said it outright earlier, I’ll reiterate here that The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season is the best the series has been since the first two years comprising the Scarlet Speedster’s journey. Let’s just hope that momentum carries over to future installments. For now, though, don’t hesitate in adding this to your shelf.