Showrunner Todd Helbing teases how the season 5 finale sets up season 6 and the 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' crossover

By Chancellor Agard
May 13, 2019 at 05:49 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/The CW
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According to Candice Patton, who plays Iris West-Allen on The Flash, shooting the superhero drama’s season 5 finale was exhausting — “but the payoff will be worth it.”

Why is Patton so confident about the season ender? Because of Reverse Flash, a.k.a Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh). “I though it was great having the Reverse Flash be part of our season this year. We kind of deal with that in a big way in the finale. I just knew this was something the fans would love,” says Patton. “It’s an emotional one for sure.”

At the end of last week’s episode, Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) tried to stop Team Flash from vaporizing Cicada’s dagger with the mirror gun because he realized that’s exactly what Thawne wanted. By destroying the dagger in the present, the team would erase it from the future, specifically the year 2049, when it’s being used to suppress Thawne’s powers.

In the finale, Team Flash will not only have to defeat Cicada II (Sarah Carter) but also the Reverse Flash. However, Barry’s latest emotional battle against the villainous yellow blur won’t be like their past tussles, especially given the father-daughter dynamic between Barry’s actual daughter, Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and Thawne, who manipulated her all season long.

“In season 1, episode 22, it was Firestorm, Green Arrow, and Flash that stopped Reverse Flash. Now, the only people that can kind of do it, initially at least, are Barry and Nora,” says showrunner Todd Helbing, who is stepping down at the end of the season. “I think there’s a cool thing we do involving everyone, so it’s bigger in that way. But there’s also this massive emotional component. It’s not just Barry and his issues against Thawne; it’s now Nora and her issues against Thawne.”

“In the finale, you’ll see that Reverse Flash is still very much who he has always been, that they’ve all been kind of duped by him,” Patton says. “That layer of him caring about Nora to some degree is very confusing and complex and, again, just ties into this whole overarching theme we’ve had on the show about family and legacy. It’s very interesting the dynamic between Reverse Flash and Nora.”

Below, EW chats further with Helbing about the finale, a potential “Crisis on Infinite Earths” tease, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Family has been one of the season’s main themes. How does the finale bring that theme to a climax and wrap it up?
TODD HELBING: There have been a lot of bumps along the road, and we wanted to run Barry and Iris through a truncated, fast-forward version of parenthood. We wanted to run them through as many issues and problems and put as many hurdles in front of them as we could. So in the finale, they’ve gone through quite a bit and their bonds have never been tighter. With Barry and Iris as parents, it’s also [a question of] how do you help your child when you know they’ve made a lot of mistakes and get them to react in a positive way? Then you sort of see the repercussions of that. There’s a lot of themes that we hit in the finale, but family and legacy, and the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be parents and a child in the heightened scenario.

Is that idea of “How do you help your child when they’ve made a mistake?” sort of like the final lesson about parenting that Barry and Iris will have to learn?
Clearly Nora is going to feel responsible for trusting Thawne. It’s been fun in our show, when you’re season 5 you have this massive library to draw from, and a lot of times in the season you’ve heard Barry give advice that he’s gotten himself in the past. We sort of do that one final time here, and it’s nice to see how Nora responds to the advice that she’s given.

Jack Rowand/The CW

How does figuring out Thawne’s plan — destroy the dagger in the present so he regains his powers in the future — complicate matters for Team Flash in the finale?
Now it’s the question that they all have: They figure out what Adult Grace/Cicada II is going to do, and the only way to stop her is by destroying that dagger. If they do that, they know that Thawne is going to get released from prison. So that’s the dilemma: What do we do? Then you have to see how Team Flash responds.

There’s clearly a father-daughter dynamic between Nora and Thawne. How does she handle having to fight Thawne?
It’s a tricky thing. She’s been warned about this. She witnessed evil Thawne in episode 508. I think it’s been sort of swirling around her head. Barry has that conversation with her about that even Thawne might be able to be redeemed. So I think there’s all these questions swirling around in her head. When she ultimately feels betrayed, this guy taught her so much. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of complicated emotions going on in her [head], but she also has this whole other thing that she has to deal with now with the Negative Speed Force and being exposed to that and how it affects her emotions. So yeah, there’s a lot that she’s dealing with.

A colleague and I keep going back and forth about whether or not Nora will make it out of the season. I think she will, but he doesn’t. Should fans be prepared for the worst?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I think there’s a lot of unexpected turns in the finale.

All season long, Cisco [Carlos Valdes] has been going back and forth on the idea of being Vibe. What can you tease about how that story line wraps up here?
Since the end of season 1 before he had his powers, or as they were manifesting, Cisco had a lot of reservations about [them]. I don’t think Cisco has ever fully felt comfortable as a superhero. I think where he is most comfortable is when he’s just using his brain. So there’s a big choice that he has in front of him. You’ll just have to see what he decides to do ultimately.

Can we expect the finale to offer a hint about next season’s big bad?
I will say that we’ve been dropping a lot of hints about next season and a lot of different key components of next season. So, I think we hit all of those again in the finale. I would just keep your ears open.

Does the finale do anything to set up the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover?
Yeah, we set that up. One hundred percent.

Is the setup big or small?
I guess it depends on who is watching it. If it’s my mother, it’s probably not as big as somebody that knows exactly what it is.

What is the state of Barry and Iris’ marriage and family when the season ends?
I’ll just say that what occurs brings the family as close as you’re probably going to ever get.

This is your last season finale as showrunner. How do you feel about the finale?
It’s like when you graduate from high school or college. You have these intense circumstances sometimes and relationships, and being on set, people really become your family, so it’s weird to just not be a part of it anymore. I love the Flash and I love the show and I love everybody involved, and I’m certainly going to miss everybody. But I do think going into season 6, it’s nice to get some new blood in there, so I think it’ll be great. [New showrunner Eric Wallace] is going to kill it.

Is there anything else you want to add about season 5 as a whole?
It’s weird, because it’s my last season. Just the idea of it’s a season 5 show and we’ve been dealing with a lot of themes, but the one that you’ll hear in the finale quite a bit is legacy. A lot of that had to do with when we broke the season — hitting the 100th episode and what does that mean for a show and our characters? You know, you’re finally at the point when you can look back and see the episodes as a whole and start to draw from them, especially for a show where there’s time travel. I don’t know. It’s been a lot of fun this season to hit a lot of the emotional components that are similar to season 1 and draw from a lot of stuff we did that season. It was a lot of fun.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

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