The Flash season 5, episode 19, “Snow Pack,” picks up the pace and raises a whole host of questions. The Flash season 5 has been a strange one, carefully attempting to balance multiple overarching plots at once. In theory, the threat of Cicada should be the A-plot; in reality, the more intriguing mystery has always been Nora Allen and her partnership with Eobard Thawne.
The various plots are building to a climax at last. The truth about Nora has finally been revealed, and last week her father decided to take her back to her own time. Given Barry knows he’s destined to disappear, he’s basically told his daughter that he doesn’t ever want to see her again, and that she can never have a relationship with the father she’s always longed for. In “Snow Pack,” the Flash’s actions push Nora straight back to Thawne. It looks as though Barry has played right into Thawne’s hands. Meanwhile, back in the present, Future Cicada is hatching plans of her own – which presumably involve the deaths of a lot of metas.
“Snow Pack” is an odd episode, only because both of these major stories are relegated to secondary status in an episode that focuses in on the relationship between Caitlin and her father. The show uses Caitlin’s tortured family background to hold up a mirror to Barry, and make him realize just what a mess he’s made of his own family. Still, it seems rather an odd decision, in that viewers will be far more invested in the episode’s sub-plots than in the main story.
The Negative Speed Force is lifted straight from the comics, a twisted version of Flash’s Speed Force created to be the yin to the Speed Force’s yang. It’s an extradimensional field of negative energy that eats away at the Speed Force like a cancer. Thawne himself was the source of the Negative Speed Force, which was composed of every negative emotion; his jealousy, his pain, his rage, and his greed. The Flash‘s version of the Negative Speed Force appears to be identical to this in almost every respect; Thawne claims he created it, and Nora accesses it by tapping into all her most painful emotions. It’s clear that a speedster who accesses the Negative Speed Force can use it to do everything a normal speedster does with the Speed Force. Nora is able to use it to travel through time – without her father even being aware she was doing so.
The experience of tapping into the Negative Speed Force appears to have had a profound effect on Nora. When she returns to 2019, her eyes are blazing with a crimson light, and her usual lightning colors have been replaced with deadly red. It’s reminiscent of Geoff Johns’ The Flash: Rebirth, which saw Barry Allen himself corrupted by the Negative Speed Force. He became a host of its energies, and through him the Negative Speed Force attempted to consume all sources of Speed Force energy around him. In The Flash: Rebirth, this was Thawne’s masterplan; to turn Barry into the ultimate weapon against his friends and family, to transform him into the one who killed everyone he loves.
It’s possible that this was Thawne’s plan for Nora all along in The Flash season 5; to manipulate her into a place where she would choose to tap into the Negative Speed Force, and where she would become host to its powers. What more fitting weapon could Thawne find to use against Barry Allen than his own daughter?
Surprisingly, Thawne appeared to actually care about Nora – to the extent that he gave Iris tips that should help Team Flash bring Nora back from the Negative Speed Force. This is certainly an unexpected twist, a reminder that even the Reverse-Flash isn’t completely irredeemable. It does make a strange kind of sense, though; Thawne is on death row, and Nora is one of only two people who’ve visited him in the last 15 years. There’s a sense in which she’s seemed to become almost like a daughter to him, and he really does appear to value the fact she keeps coming back to him for advice. This emotion could potentially compromise all of Thawne’s plans – whatever they may be.
The last episode of The Flash, “Godspeed,” revealed that Nora had always been obsessed with Cicada – the one case her father never solved. Now she’s closer to cracking the case than ever before, but it’s all gone horribly wrong. Future Cicada has traveled back to 2019 and is wreaking havoc. Nora considers herself responsible, and her obsession has led her to believe she’s the only one who can put things right. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that the Negative Speed Force has now given Nora another mission; one of wrath, of rage, and of vengeance upon the father who cast her aside and told her she could never be a part of his life.
All this flows from Barry’s spontaneous decision to return Nora to her own time, and tell her to stay there. It’s easy to understand his logic; he’s already come to care so much about Nora, only to discover that she’s been working with Thawne the whole time. In the Flash’s view, Nora is primed as a weapon to be used against Barry and his family. He has no idea how to handle this, he believes he’s already been outmaneuvered by Thawne, and the very fact his daughter trusts the man who killed his mother is tearing him apart. In truth, Barry’s decision wasn’t a strategic one; it represented the fact that he was in too much pain, and simply wanted to run away from it.
Iris, meanwhile, is entirely correct when she argues that Barry doesn’t have the right to make unilateral decisions that affect the whole family. The Flash tends to act first and think later, and however heroic his decisions usually are, they don’t allow his loved ones the time to process them and work through them with him. In this case, not only did Barry not consult with Iris, but he didn’t even give her a chance to say goodbye to her own daughter. Iris is fearful of the future, aware that she’s destined to have a strained relationship with Nora, and this could be the one time in their lives when they truly bond. Barry most certainly didn’t have the right to make this decision without talking it through with Iris first, and he showed a blatant disregard for his wife’s emotions.
Meanwhile, Future Cicada is continuing to enact her own plan – and it apparently involves her past self. Cicada has kidnapped the comatose young Grace from hospital, and at this stage it’s impossible to know the reason. Still, this serves as a salutary reminder that Cicada is still a threat, and that she isn’t just stranded in the past; she has a purpose, one that Team Flash need to work out as quickly as possible.
Page 2 of 2: Even More Questions From The Flash Episode “Snow Pack”
Cicada’s purposes for Grace appear to involve a mysterious piece of technology she’s stolen, the Cryo-Atomizer. Again, it’s unclear why; the Cryo-Atomizer appears to be able to create metahumans (of the Killer Frost variety), while Cicada is dedicated to killing all superhumans. Presumably the Cryo-Atomizer has other properties that have yet to be explained.
Disturbingly, in “Snow Pack” Team Flash reach out to all manner of government agencies for help in hunting down Cicada – and nobody is willing to step up. Given Cicada is an active serial killer who has no qualms about murdering anyone who gets in her way, this is pretty startling; it suggests that, in the Arrowverse, the United States Government doesn’t see why it should help metahumans. It’s possible the chaos of the last few years has made the Government hostile to superhumans, and they don’t mind Cicada thinning the herd a little. Indeed, if that hostility remains over the decades, it may well explain why Cicada is able to continue killing even in Nora’s time; because the Government doesn’t care about metahumans being murdered, and consider other deaths to be collateral damage.
The main villain of “Snow Pack” was Icicle, Caitlin’s father, who had long believed to be lost beneath his monstrous alternate personality. In the end, though, when Icicle was about to kill Caitlin it gave Thomas Snow the strength of will to break through in order to save his daughter. It was a beautiful inversion of the Flash/Nora plotline, with a father’s love overcoming the barriers and reuniting the Snow family – even if only for a time.
The tragedy of Thomas Snow’s death at last reunites Caitlin and her mom, but it’s clearly setting up another crisis for the Snow family. Icicle subjected Carla to the power of the Cryo-Atomizer in order to give her a dangerous alternate ice-personality as well. Team Flash believe they interrupted the experiment before it got too far, but the end scenes suggest they were too late. Caitlin conducts tests on her mom, but walks away before the results become visible – indicating Carla Tannhauser is now a meta. This presumably means that Carla will develop an alternate personality as well, and if so she could be a very dangerous opponent for Team Flash further down the line. Icicle was an isolated figure, a rogue scientist who longed to cause chaos; Carla is a world-renowned bio-engineer, and head of a multinational corporation. She has the potential to be a major threat.
One final sub-plot saw Sherloque wrestle with the question of whether he should return to his own dimension. Sherloque still doesn’t truly understand why Team Flash are upset at him over Nora; he doesn’t quite get that the Flash family view his secrecy as a kind of betrayal. But he still does care about Team Flash, and he won’t let them down in their hour of need. It’s that love that ultimately leads him to choose to stay.
More: The Flash Just Gave Nora An Origin Story (& It’s Sort Of Like Barry’s)
The Flash season 5 airs Tuesdays on The CW.