Who runs the world? Girls!
The CW has officially taken a gigantic leap by giving their first female cast member a chance to step behind the lens and direct an episode of Arrowverse TV.
Lucky for Flash Fanatics, OG member of Team Flash Danielle Panabaker aka Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost got the opportunity.
Both critics and fans alike have been highly anticipating Panabaker's directorial debut, itching to see what she can do. The expectations were high, the pressure was on, and Panabaker couldn’t have delivered a more solid episode if she tried.
The Superhero world is officially not a boys club, anymore.
Panabaker smashed the glass ceiling with The Flash Season 5 Episode 18, delivering a fast-paced, beautifully executed hour of television that was filled to the brim with nostalgia and edge of your seat storytelling.
Credit can’t solely go to Panabaker, of course; Judalina Neira and Kelly Wheeler also brought quite the ambitious script to the table -- one that shouldn’t have fit into a single episode, but still somehow managed to do so flawlessly.
Nora and Thawne’s backstory is something viewers have been waiting quite some time to see. As the season progressed, I grew increasingly perplexed on how the show would choose to execute their history, or if they would end up showing it at all.
Thankfully, the writers veered away from the easy route of simple exposition -- something that tends to be heavy handed on a series like The Flash. Instead, they pulled off their most creative methods of storytelling to date.
Watching the contents of Nora's diary acted out as Team Flash reads it was a brilliant maneuver and a purely organic way to showcase Nora and Thawne’s relationship origins. It also gave viewers a sneak peek into everyday life for Nora West Allen in 2049.
The framing of Nora discovering her powers elevated the episode even further. “Godspeed,” in many ways, became a sort of pilot for Nora’s story; a pilot that paralleled Barry’s in more way's than one.
Panabaker made sure she paid homage to earlier seasons of The Flash any way she could. Little scenes like Nora falling into a laundry truck and Lady Gaga playing on the radio invoked a ton of feel-good nostalgia, and I quickly realized there were probably 100 other easter eggs I wasn't quick enough to catch.
You know you’ve got a good episode of TV when you go back for a re-watch multiple times. Not because you didn’t understand the context, but because you want to make sure you pick up on every little bit of panache the show threw your way.
The real emotional gravitas, however, came in the form of darker parallels.
Thawne’s dynamic with Nora was eerily reminiscent of the one he once shared with Barry. 2049 Thawne's depiction might be a little more "Silence of The Lambs," but Nora’s ignorance and naivety is a copycat of who Barry once was.
Her unquestioning belief in someone like Eobard is picturesque to how Barry himself use to function.
Of course, Barry has had five seasons to learn from his mistakes -- Nora is still just beginning. “Godspeed’ did an excellent job of reminding it’s audience of that fact.
Creating flawed characters is essential to good writing, but it’s important not to write your heroes so flawed, your audience has no choice but to turn on them completely.
With all of Nora’s recent mistakes and lies, it was becoming increasingly easier to resent her. Flashing back (or forward, depending on how you look at it) highlighted the struggles that brought Nora to Team Flash in the first place.
Nora grew up without a father. She felt betrayed by her mother and everyone who loved her. She watched as her best friend got killed in cold blood. She figured out she was a meta on a whim. Nora West Allen has had a hard life, and she just wanted to meet the one man who could give her some answers.
“Godspeed” doesn’t take away Nora’s impulsiveness or reckless nature, but it does give the audience more than enough reason to empathize with her. It provides not just her character, but her story, the layers it so desperately needed.
The Flash Season 5 needed the opportunity to explain from Nora's point of view.
It isn’t just about Nora though, and the episode never forgets that. In showcasing her layers, the story also remembers Barry’s character and attempts to shade him in a new light, as well.
It’s easy to understand why Barry wouldn’t trust Nora; it’s lost on him why she would continuously go back to Thawne. At the same time, Barry himself was glamoured by Thawne’s mentorship at one point.
Except that mentorship got destroyed in a deeply rooted betrayal Barry has never quite gotten past. Reverse Flash isn't just The Flash’s arch nemesis -- he’s Barry Allen’s, too. It’s a two for one gut punch and Barry’s face-to-face reunion with Thawne -- plus his unsettling excitement to watch Thawne die -- is a solid reminder of that.
So where does Barry’s level of understanding for Nora’s actions begin and end? And can he forgive her like he forgave himself?
The complexities between the two are bountiful, and it has added a richness to the story that feels reminiscent of earlier seasons.
That kind of richness allows the actors to elevate themselves during their performances, and the payoff in “Godspeed” is significant. Both Grant and Kennedy soar in this episode, delivering a multitude of heartbreakingly emotional scenes. It's a gutwrenching, yet an awe-inspiring thing to watch.
It’s a shame it took eighteen episodes to get here.
It's doubtful Barry's impetuous decision to bring Nora back to the future won't go unchallenged. I look forward to furthering the story depth by adding Iris' conflicting emotions into the equation. The West-Allens are the heart of The Flash.
Beyond the Barry/Nora dichotomy and they're paralleled dynamic with Thawne, the episode found plenty of other ways to shine.
The introduction (and conclusion, RIP) of best friend Lia was a far too short-lived delight. Her quick wit and dry sense of humor made for the best female version of Cisco one could want. It’s always a pleasure to see more women of STEM on screen.
The Flash isn’t exactly known for its display of strong female friendships. I’m not sure it's ever given two women space to blossom during its five-year stint on air. “Godspeed” delivered in full, however, with Parker and Gallaghers natural chemistry lighting up the screen.
The way Lia and Nora interact was as natural as it was electric. Let this be a lesson about the importance of women having a stronger presence in the director's chairs and writers rooms. With Wheeler and Neira crafting the organic dynamic, and Panabaker helping to bring it to life, the girl's relationship was a breath of fresh air.
Now, if the writers could have implemented a bit of romance in a Nora centric episode, giving the Flash universe a little more representation, this episode really would have been a home run.
I hear they're making a staffing change for The Flash Season 6. Let's hope to see more queers and women of color in the writers' room next year.
If there is any critique worth mentioning, it would be the lackluster use of Godspeed as a meta of the week.
The hesitation to heavily focus on yet another speedster villain is understandable, but Godspeeds comic story is an intriguing one. He isn’t just a villain, but a fascinating anti-hero as well. He's someone who could have been a much bigger player for the show.
Perhaps he will show his face again in the future (no pun intended).
- Iris might be 60 in the future, but she is still all kinds of beautiful!
- When Thawne was telling Nora to phase through concrete, I was getting heated. Barry taught her that! I was pleased she bailed last second, and they kept up with continuity.
- Eobard was the first one to say "run, Nora, run!" The parallels are endless.
- I picked up how the show didn't reveal who Nora's "loved ones" were, keeping it hidden who survives until 2049.
- I didn't realize Nora wasn't aware her father was The Flash until right before she traveled back in time. I must have missed that piece of information from earlier episodes.
- I was amped to see Iris go off on Sherloque. Well deserved.
Alright Flash Fanatics, it's your turn! Did you love this episode?
Were you satisfied with the Nora/Thawne backstory reveal?
Do you agree with Barry's decision?
What were your thoughts about Danielle Panabaker's directional debut?!
Let me know in the comments, and remember you can always watch The Flash online, right here at TV Fanatic!
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.