The Flash left viewers last season with one heck of a cliffhanger. After the defeat of season four’s “big bad” the Thinker, all of the the main cast was gathered at the Flash’s foster dad Joe West’s home to celebrate the birth of his daughter, when an unexpected visitor showed up the door. It was a young woman, one whom we have seen pop up in the background of the previous season, claiming to be Nora West-Allen, the as-yet unborn daughter of Barry Allen and Iris West. And surprise! It seems that she has inherited dad’s super powers and is a speedster herself.The fifth season of the CW series premiere picks up right were we left off, as Nora explains how she got stuck in this time period after secretly helping out Flash defeat the Thinker. As it turns out, Nora (named for Barry’s long dead mother) goes by the superhero name XS some 30 years from now. Fans of DC Comics will recognize XS as the speedster descendant of Barry Allen from the future, although in the comics, she’s actually his granddaughter and not his daughter. In another Easter egg for DC fans, Nora constantly uses the term “schway” as a way of saying something is cool, a slang term used by teenagers in the future world of Batman Beyond. Nice touch there, team Flash.Nora, played byÂ Jessica Parker Kennedy, is effervescent and instantly likable, even if everyone is a little weirded out by her presenceâ€”none more so than Barry (Grant Gustin). After all, Barry has seen enough people claim to be one thing and then turn out to be the complete opposite, and usually evil to boot. Her mother Iris West, played by Candice Patton, is a tad too comfortable with Nora’s sudden appearance, maybe because she sees her as confirmation that she and Barry live happily ever after. The sense I got from this episode was that the writers are trying to let us know that Nora’s identity isn’t the big mystery of the season. In other words, something else is.Of course, Nora’s presence in the present is just one aspect of another mysterious plot, and while I won’t spoil what that plot is, I will say it does tie into something we’ve known about the Flash since season one, and longtime fans of the show will be happy this plot point is finally being addressed. Despite the presence of this new/old mystery carrying some heavy weight, the season five opener was nevertheless much lighter in tone than much of the last two seasons, and it serves to reminds viewers that the reason people fell in love with this series in the first place is because it’s simply so much fun.Aside from the arrival of XS, the episode delivered the goods in a few other ways as well. For starters, we got yet another new Flash costume, and it’s maybe the most comics-accurate version of the suit yet. (Flash’s original costume from season one puts in an appearance as well). We also get a fairly spectacular plane crash rescue from Team Flash, which reminds you just how good this show is at doing epic on a television budget. The villain who causes the crash is forgettable, but that fact doesn’t really hurt the episode.It should be noted this episode also marks the last regular appearance for Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Wally West/Kid Flash. While the way he was written out was a little bit lacking, it is nice to see they bothered to give him a farewell rather than simply trying to explain why he’s not around in some lame fashion. With XS now a recurring member of the cast, for this season at least, maybe three speedsters was one too many. Another storyline begun in this episode deals with a mystery surrounding Caitlin Snow’s father, but with so much focus on XS, it felt a bit under serviced.If anything, the season five premiere serves to remind fans that we love The Flash because we like these characters and the family they have created for themselves, and family is at the heart of this show possibly more than any of the otherÂ Arrowverse series. And becauseÂ The Flash is chiefly a show about family, it’s a smart move by the series showrunners to make this season’s overarching mysteries about all about family secrets. This first episode certainly has us intrigued to find out more.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5
The season five premiere of the Flash will air on The CW onÂ Tuesday, October 9Â atÂ 8/7c.