SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s Season 5 finale of The Flash.
On Monday night, the conclusion of the jam-packed Season 7 finale of Arrow was pointed toward one thing: “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the mega-crossover event next fall that will unite most (and maybe all) of the costumed superheroes in the CW’s battalion of DC Comics screen properties. Tonight, on the Season 5 finale The Flash, the fastest man alive quickly followed in the footsteps of his bow-toting compatriot, by further setting the stage for the “Crisis” crossover that, by early indications, may well end with one or both of them dead — or perhaps attending a funeral for a Kryptonian friend in National City.
The CW’s so-called Arrowverse has been keeping a crossover tradition every fall but the scale and impact of the next one sets it apart. The first hint of that came when the name of the event was dramatically revealed way back in January (!) at the end of the Elseworlds crossover that linked-up episodes of Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash and introduced Batwoman (Ruby Rose), who will be getting a series of her own in the fall.
A bit of background on “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” a title that stirs up major nostalgia among Reagan Era readers of DC Comics in the same way the phrase “Who shot J.R.?” opens up a 1980s time-capsule of primetime memories for TV fans of a certain age. The 12-issue limited edition series was published in 1985-1986 and featured the creative team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez (the tandem that also created the most popular Teen Titans line-up) along with, literally, hundreds of DC Comics characters from the venerable publisher’s archives. The goal of the series was to clear away the dense thicket of DC mythology that had, for decades, grown by the month in haphazard fashion. The cosmic story of Crisis on Infinite Earths wiped out alternate realities, magical dimensions, and barely remembered planets and it did so to erase huge chunks of material deemed too convoluted, redundant, contradictory, or corny to keep.
In the 1980s, DC readers were aghast to find that the battle casualties in Crisis on Infinite Earths included two of DC’s major contemporary heroes among the ranks of mostly obscure or outdated crimefighters. Coincidently, the pair who sacrificed themselves to save the comic-book universe three decades ago might get a chance to do so again during the televised rematch next fall. That’s because the fallen heroes were none other than Supergirl (portrayed by Melissa Benoist on the CW) and the Barry Allen version of The Flash (played by Grant Gustin). Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) isn’t out of the woods, either, considering there’s been explicit hints that he will give up the ghost in the “Crisis” event. More than that, Arrow is headed into its final season.
But back to The Flash season finale…
Tonight’s episode included a showdown with Eobard Thawne aka the Reverse Flash (portrayed by Tom Cavanagh), the villain from the future who is closely associated with so many horrors in the life of the Scarlet Speedster. Add another horrific incident to that list. Barry Allen’s future daughter, Nora West Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), has been an endearing addition to the show but she was essentially erased by the time-travel machinations of Thawne. Barry and Iris West (Candice Patton) watched in horror and grief as their daughter disappeared in their arms. She had an option to save herself by accessing the negative Speed Force that Thawne taps but the valiant young heroine refused to invite the dark possibilities that would come with that life-saving bargain.
The ripples of the same time flux that erased Nora made another change, too. Back in the pilot of The Flash, the episode included a glimpse of a future edition of the Central City newspaper, dated April 2024, with a huge headline: “Flash Vanishes, Missing In Crisis.” The time flux in tonight’s episode changed the date of that headline to 2019. In addition to that bit of retroactive Easter egg repair, Thawne also hinted that he will be back for more trouble. Yes, again, by all indications, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is already looming large on the horizon. Oh, and the Supergirl season finale is Sunday…