Ever since Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future Nora showed up on The Flash, she’s had a very frosty relationship with her mother, for reasons that have mostly been left to linger in the background. That is, until “News Flash” finally brought it to the forefront.
“News Flash” is primarily a paper-thin commentary on the current topics of social media and media distrust addling our brains, in the form of Spencer Young—a young metahuman/blogger who has been causing havoc using her abilities to project orders to people from her phone. She does this through headlines she can write about and scoop Iris—who remembered in between getting married and corralling Team Flash that she also used to be a journalist last season—while getting traffic for her rival metahuman news blog. Finally, a plotline that I, a blogger, can relate to! Oh, and Spencer’s using her abilities to make people commit violent and dangerous acts, so that’s obviously more important to stop than any concern over Iris’ pageviews. But only just.
Spencer’s extreme lack of journalistic ethics (and also like, the whole villainy thing) at least serves as the catalyst to bring Nora and Iris’ relationship in the distant future—which may or may not be related to a certain Crisis, on certain Earths that are possibly Infinite in number—crashing into the present of the show. After Barry and Iris task Nora with staking out Spencer to see if she really is a meta and not just a shady blogger, the two start flirting (between Nora and William on Arrow, it’s apparent that the future of the DC/CW-verse is very gay, and we’re here for it), much to Iris’ chagrin. That leads to an argument between her and Nora that eventually lets slip just why Nora is so cold with her mother: In the future, Iris put a power dampener on Nora’s speedster abilities. Iris, horrified, thinks that there must have been a reason for such a thing, to keep Nora out of danger—but to Nora, Iris being protective over her in the moment leads to years of stress bubbling back up.
It doesn’t help that, when Spencer uses her—sigh—fake news powers to brainwash Nora into trying to kill Barry later on in the episode, that Iris is forced to actually use an ability-nullifying dart on Nora to take her out of action. It immediately gives Iris proof that she’s capable of something she thought unfathomable, even if it was the objectively the right thing to do to save Nora and Barry. And it’s devastating to both Iris and Nora, especially when, in the aftermath of the incident, Barry supports Iris’s decision. Candice Patton (who plays Iris) and Jessica Parker Kennedy (Nora) get a ton of great little moments in “News Flash” thanks to this subplot, but few moments in Flash’s recent memory have come close, emotionally speaking, to the heartbreak in seeing the pained expression fall over Nora’s face, as she feels betrayed by her father for taking Iris’ side.
When this season started out, I was a little concerned that The Flash was going to be falling back into old habits when it came to drama in the West-Allen family—specifically, time-travel-speedforce-bullshit-induced drama. But beneath its strained attempt to be relevant to the political moment, “News Flash” proved that the show is capable of leveraging that kind of drama in a unique and interesting way—a way that feels personal and earned rather than contrived because of time travel as plot device. It was well done, and anchored in some truly heart-wrenching performances from Patton and Parker Kennedy, which made the reveals land here in a way the Savitar/Evil Future Barry stuff in season three never did.
We’ll have to wait and see if Iris and Nora’s roller-coaster relationship will continue to offer such dramatic treats, but there’s plenty there to work with—hopefully the show will continue to mine it for all it’s worth in a healthy manner, as it did here.