THE FLASH [Season 5] / BLACK LIGHTNING [Season 2 Premiere Reviews]: Nora & the Rise of Green Light Babies.
After nearly five months off, The Flash finally returns us to Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and Cecile’s (Danielle Nicolet) living room, where baby Jenna West’s homecoming shower has just been hijacked by last season’s mystery girl, who immediately confirms the popular theory that she is indeed Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’s (Candice Patton) daughter from the future, also known as XS of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Events barrel right along as the ensemble deal with the ramifications of this surprising appearance. Iris pulls the somewhat trademark move of making it about her, by displaying hints of jealousy that their daughter follows more in her father’s footsteps than her mother’s; but there’s a wistfulness, a melancholy in the way that Nora interacts with her mom, whereas with her dad, she seems to be barely holding herself back at all times from speeding over to bear-hug him.
Along with this interesting tension, the opening half might scan as a bit tedious to long-time fans as Nora runs around and causes the kind of timeline disruption that was kind of cute in the first couple of seasons, calamitous in the aftermath of good old Flashpoint, but at this point left at least me hollering at the screen for them to lock down this temporal interloper because we’ve been here before. It’s going to be a long season if we’re constantly running around trying to keep Nora from disrupting the sanctity of the timeline. But then, something really special happens right there in the middle.
Iris sits Barry down and asks him why he’s so intent on sending their daughter on her merry way, and he tells her that he wanted just this one thing in their lives to be normal, linear, and not disrupted by super-speed, which makes perfect sense. But then, returning to his own frame of reference, Barry suddenly realizes what’s actually going on. Nora’s been acting just like a kid who’s been reunited with a lost parent, the exact situation he was rocking in those eight months or however long it was that Flashpoint lasted between Seasons Two and Three. He calls Nora out on it, and they immediately head off to Wells’ secret room for a reprise of the stinger we got all the way back in the pilot episode: On April 25, 2024, right around the time the Season Ten finale should take place, there’s a red-skies crisis and The Flash disappears after a cataclysmic battle with the Reverse-Flash that lays waste to Central City.
We’ve always known that, but Nora’s escalation here is to then show us another Iris West-Allen byline from 2049 revealing that Barry never made it back home. The reason Nora’s here—fibbing about negative tachyons alone the way, it turns out—is because she never had a chance to know her dad. This very nearly destroys Barry, but it does commensurate damage to any long-time DC fan who read Crisis On Infinite Earths thirty years ago, because, along with threading in a bit of groundwork for this December’s crossover introducing Ruby Rose’s Batwoman, the new article goes on to quote none other than Roger Hayden, the Psycho-Pirate so pivotal to the aforementioned event, who drops some dialogue that is as absolutely ruinous as it is recognizable.
The rest of the episode proceeds and resolves in entertaining fashion. Of course Nora isn’t going anywhere, but the narrative thunderpunch of that new article cannot be overstated. Four years ago, Greg Berlanti and company pulled the serial-television equivalent of Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series by announcing, right out of the gate, that barring any permanent flash-forwards (always a possibility), their long game was writing toward a full-on shadow-demon red-skies Crisis. With this premiere, they not only reaffirm their commitment to that bold declaration, they raise the stakes by framing the multiversal action within the show’s overriding themes of family and legacy while promising to race us headlong toward a televisual adaptation of the original crossover event that rocked DC Comics thirty years ago. 5/5 Medusa Masks.
CW seems to not be afraid of pushing certain buttons. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Black Lightning, with one critic calling it “one of the most thought-provoking shows on television, especially as a superhero show” and I would love to be able to downplay that sentiment, but I can’t. While shows like Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow touch on the political climate, BL seems to use that political climate and faces it all head on.
I paraphrase Dr. Dre when I say that the first 30 minutes of Season 2 hits your senses “like a slug to the chest” and whether it’s police brutality, a drug epidemic, what it means to be black or the dropping of the n-bomb on a CW show, the show just brings the realness that comic book shows can lack. And much like with Marvel’s Luke Cage, this show brings an extra sense of rawness that shows just can’t seem to match. To add to that, at the heart of the show is family, a family that loves each other and is looking to protect each other.
The show has a new opening but same amazing cast and still socially relevant. As the young people might say, this show is “woke AF” and good! It should be. I’m excited to see where the showrunners take the rest of the season. While the ratings might not have been the best, ignore that. Not everyone is glued to their television sets like the days of old. I watched my season opener on Hulu and I had to watch The Flash on my CW App. Watch Black Lightning and make sure you give it the love it deserves. 5/5 Electric Bibles.