Though directly connected to The Flash season four, there's no need to revisit that slog of a season in order to catch up with the show when it returns to the CW from the mid-season hiatus on Tuesday, January 15th. We have everything you need to bring you up to speed (pun intended) with the series's fifth season, which is shaping up to be the best season since its first.
This season begins immediately where the fourth season ended. Barry and Iris's speedster daughter Nora has come from the future and helped her father destroy The Thinker's satellite in the season four finale, preventing The Enlightenment. However, Nora's interference has created a problem: the timeline has changed and she "can't" get back to the future: she needs Team Flash's help.
Barry bristles at having Nora around at first, knowing that every minute she spends in the past is a minute the timeline is in danger. However, he relents when Nora reveals that she can go back any time she wants – but doesn't want to because she's never met her father before. Barry still disappears in the red skies event in 2024 (which may be moved up to fall 2019?) and she's lived her whole life with Iris raising her.
Iris had hoped to get to know Nora, but Nora doesn't want anything to do with her mother. It is revealed that sometime in the future, Iris implants a power dampener in her daughter – hiding a part of Nora's identity and connection to her father. Nora's only known/had her powers for the past six months — which seems off since we first met her at Barry and Iris's wedding in 2017's Crisis on Earth-X crossover, but let's chalk up the disparity to timey-wimey-nesss and not think too hard about it.
Nora thinks of her mother as controlling and incapable of giving Nora advice on how to be a speedster specifically or a hero in general. That changes when Barry backs whatever parenting decision Iris makes in the post-crisis future and Nora sees Iris being a hero with her own eyes.
Nora's life without her father serves as the primary motivator for everything she does – has done – and is doing (cue ominous music). At one point, she begs Barry to give up being The Flash so that she doesn't lose him in the future – but Barry can't do that. If he is gone from Nora and Iris's life in the future, it's because that was the only way he could possibly save them.
The "Big Bad" — Or Is He?
This season's primary villain seems to be Cicada. When The Thinker's satellite was destroyed, Orlin Dwyer was struck by a piece of shrapnel, injuring his lung. His niece Grace – who Orlin is raising because his sister was killed in a meta-human incident – was knocked out by the blast and is in a coma. Orlin uses the shrapnel as a dagger that dampens the dark matter-created meta-humans he encounters, allowing him to kill them.
Orlin didn't start out on a meta-human killing crusade, the idea not coming to him until it was mentioned by Dr. Ambers – the physician attending to Grace. Ambers knows that Orlin is Cicada and that he is trying to rid the city of meta-humans – because its Ambers who puts Orlin back togther after his battles.
Based on what we've seen thus far, smart money says that Dr. Ambers is keeping Grace in a medically-induced coma while she manipulates Cicada into killing the meta-humans in Central City. We'll have to watch and see how their relationship plays out the rest of the season.
The Rest of the Team
While not trying to figure out how to defeat Cicada, the rest of the team has been working to help Caitlin find her not-dead father and reconnect with her Killer Frost persona – which she does in time to assist the team in their fight with Cicada. Ralph has been goofy ol' Ralph. Cisco was injured fighting Cicada and even faked his own death in order to recover. For a time, Cisco questioned his role on the team without his powers, but now seems fully capable of vibing without suffering from seizures.
This season's version of Wells is the French detective Sherloque Wells, who Nora brought in to help the team stop Cicada. Sherloque has dropped a few teases toward piecing together the mid-season finale's big reveal (more on that in a moment). He questions whether Nora decided to get involved in stopping the satellite, or whether she was urged to get involved by someone else. He informs the team that this version of Cicada is not the version he has helped apprehend on 36 other earths. Also, the timeline is changing: this Cicada is acting earlier than in the unaltered timeline and selecting different victims than before. Wells is also intrigued by Nora's code for writing and storing notes for the future that will remain unchanged even if/as the timeline changes.
"The Timeline is Malleable"
The mid-season finale also served as the series's 100th episode. In the episode, Nora suggests that the team has encountered everything they need to dampen the effects of Cicada's power-dampening dagger. All they need to do is collect those pieces and create their own dampening-dagger-dampener-device (alliteration for the win!) and store it at the hospital where Orlin visits Grace.
This sets up a fun trip through past seasons for Barry, Nora, and fan of the series. After a mishap destroys one of the pieces of tech, Nora suggests that they ask Reverse-Flash Eobard Thawne (masquerading as Wells) to fix it. It is during this excursion that Nora finds out that it was Thawne who killed her grandmother and namesake. Nora seems unusually and foreshadowingly interested in all things Thawne. Like Sherloque, Thawne thinks there's something not quite right with Nora…like she's hiding something…
With the device created and stashed at the hospital in the past, the team confronts Cicada and uses the device to disable his dagger and vibe it into space. Cicada's connection to the dagger is greater than their ability to dampen it, and he calls the dagger back to himself. The team loses their abilities and appear beaten – except for Killer Frost, whose powers came from her father's serum testing and not from dark matter. Cicada curses the meddling fools and runs away to fight another day.
Nora chronicles what happened in her shifting timeline proof code and uploads it to Gideon. From there, she goes to the future to visit Thawne in his jail cell at Iron Heights – where she confronts him over killing Barry's mother, Nora.
If I were a betting man, I'd wager that Thawne used Nora's longing for her father to convince her to go back to the past and "fix" things so that Barry never disappears. For Nora to only have her abilities for six months yet be able to zip back and forth to the future and the past means that she likely had someone training her for such a feat.
Who better than the man who trained Barry?
What does Thawne want?
To create a timeline in which he defeats Barry and returns to his own timeline victorious, of course!