NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the season finale of The Flash.
Last week, Mordechai Luchins and I posted our last Same Geek Channel review of The Flash finale. Our reactions were mixed and, as someone who lost their father when I was young, I objected to Barry deciding his mother needed to die to apparently preserve his current future or maybe the world. (That wasn’t clear and may not be until next season.)
But it wasn’t until after I gained some distance that I realized the underlying issue with Nora’s death. The writers made a story choice to keep her dead and I understand why, even if I don’t agree.
What I object to is having Nora Allen exist just to be dead.
Just like Iris West exists only for Barry Allen to crush on and reflect his idealism back at her.
Let me explain.
We saw two people die in the finale:
Eddie Thawne, in the spur of the moment, choose to kill himself to erase his descendent and thus preserve save everyone else. It was heroic and sad, especially because I suspect what happened is that by creating a time loop he caused the singularity (the Black Hole) that Barry will have to fix. Poor Eddie–he died and still didn’t fix things.
But at least Eddie chose how and when he died.
Not Nora Allen.
Nora Allen is a blank slate. First, we know nothing about her save that Barry and his father loved her and that she wanted to protect her son. For a show that is so big on flashbacks, it whiffed on using them to flesh out Nora.
Second, Nora is never given a choice in her death. In fact, she gets murdered over and over on the show, as Barry flashes back to it time and time again. Then she’s murdered again in the finale in front of two Barrys.
Heck, at this point, Nora Allen’s death is the most depicted act in geekdom this side of Barbara Gordon being shot by the Joker.
Of the two deaths in the finale, it’s easy to see that Nora got the crap end of the deal. Unlike Eddie, she never had a chance to be heroic. Unlike Joe, we never see her younger personality. Unlike her husband, who is in prison and yet given a personality and wants and needs of his own.
Nora doesn’t even know she’s being sacrificed to save the world.
She’s a tool, a plot point, a MacGuffin without any personality whatsoever. She might as well be a thing that gets broken.
In a world where women are so often devalued, it’s sad that, over and over, The Flash resorts to women as things. All of them, including Caitlin, existing only insofar as they’re important to men. Think not? Caitlin’s whole role in the finale is about a guy. She doesn’t even know what a singularity is. So much for being a genius.
I wish The Flash team would hire more female writers next year or listen to the ones they have but it doesn’t take a woman to write great female characters. It only takes better than the writers have shown thus far. The show is capable of more complex characterization, as it does well with Barry’s relationship with Joe, but it flubs everything when it comes to its women.
It’s a weakness that drags the entire show down.
Years ago, after Barbara Gordon was tossed on the scrap heap after her shooting by the Joker—“Let’s cripple the b—h,” Alan Moore reported being told by DC editorial–the late, great Kim Yale and John Ostrander had Barbara Gordon resurrected and reimagined as Oracle and her character kept alive and popular, a popularity DC is happy to play on in the current Batgirl comic. If not for their efforts, Barbara Gordon may well have faded into obscurity.
The show still has time for Iris; they still have time to fix their mistake.
But Nora Allen will never get a chance to hear her voice heard because the story is clearly not interested in women save for causing men angst or supporting them. This is a pattern with these showrunners, who based two entire seasons of Arrow on the death of a female character to cause everyone angst.
Despite some bright spots, I cannot call The Flash “the best live-action superhero show ever,” as some have, when it ignores, marginalizes, and murders those who make up 51 percent of the population.