The Flash returns for its sixth season today, on October 8, 2019. This is being written one day after the five year anniversary of the series premiere, when the whole journey began for Barry, Iris and the rest of the group.
A major word used in relation to The Flash is change. Barry Allen’s life changed in the pilot, the villains change every season, even some characters are interchangeable (looking at you, Wells).
From a real-world perspective, there has been much creative change, with a total five showrunners spread out across six seasons. While some worked alongside one another, this is still significant – each writer has their own vision so to see this realised in five different ways over the years is quite remarkable.
While of course The Flash is a superhero drama, there are also many other themes that are more relateable to real life – family, friendship, acceptance.
Of course, the characters have also changed and evolved over the years because they’ve had to. If Barry had decided to not use his speed in the pilot, there would be no show. The younger generation which includes Barry, Iris, Cisco and Caitlin were in their early to mid twenties when the weight of the world (more specifically Central City) fell on their shoulders and as people, they have had to grow up.
No character has changed more than the lead, Barry Allen.
Grant Gustin’s performance has been fantastic to date, even when playing alternate versions of the character. When we first met him, Barry was a curious yet stubborn young man desperate to discover the identity of his mother’s killer in order to free his incarcerated father.
Barry throughout season five almost feels like an entirely different character. He has been through multiple betrayals, traumatic losses of friends and loved ones and became a father himself, in a way, through the arrival of his daughter Nora, who was portrayed by Jessica Parker Kennedy.
The dynamic between Barry and Nora in the fifth season is a shining example of the show’s growth. In the early seasons, Barry looked to his own father, Henry, and later Jay Garrick (both John Wesley Shipp) for advice. Now, he is suddenly the mentor to someone who both idolises him and shares his DNA.
Cisco and Caitlin, much like Barry, have gone through their fair share of tragedy thus far and similarly feel much different to the people we met in the Pilot. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) was depressed and grieving for her fiance, Ronnie, while Cisco was an enthusiastic young techie, extremely excited about any superpowers, with no knowledge that this would become his life for the next half a decade.
Longtime DC Comics fans would be aware that this pair had their own superhero destiny but seeing them reach that place was much more satisfying than starting the show when they already have powers.
Especially in the first season, much of Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe West’s (Jesse L Martin) stories were intrinsically tied to Barry Allen. This makes sense – Joe raised Barry as his own and Iris was the love interest he pined for while she dated Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett).
However, now I feel that while their characters still share a close connection to Barry — obviously, Iris is married to him — they can stand on their own legs as independent characters.
Joe has had a stable relationship with Cecile for the past few seasons and they even have a daughter, Jenna. This is a stark difference from the early seasons, where he was primarily a cop and Barry’s father figure.
As we have heard, Iris’ journalism arc will finally be expanding in season six, so we will get a chance to see the character in her chosen career instead of being fully dedicated to Team Flash.
Overall, as I have said, the show and characters have matured significantly over the past five years. While some viewers may have preferred particular characters in their earlier incarnations, change is good and necessary in a long-running drama as the plot and dynamics are kept fresh and interesting.
Happy Fifth Anniversary to The Flash – may there be many more!