The new season of The Flash is almost here! Next Tuesday, the CW series begins its sixth year, and a countdown to this winter’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. Barry Allen gave his life in the original Marv Wolfman and George Pérez Crisis series, so the stakes are undoubtedly high for the fastest man alive. To prepare you for what’s to come for the heroes of Central City, we’ve put together a primer on who the characters are, what’s been going on in their lives, and what we can expect when the new season begins next week.

Who’s Who on The Flash

(L to R) Grant Gustin, Candace Patton, Hartley Sawyer, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, and Jessica Parker Kennedy

The Flash is Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department. Barry dedicated himself to the cause of justice following the murder of his mother; his father, Henry (John Wesley Shipp) was convicted for the crime, but Barry never believed he was the killer. After being caught in a wave of dark matter caused by the explosion of a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry was simultaneously struck by lightning and doused with electrified chemicals. He spent months in a coma before awakening to find that he had developed superspeed due to a connection with the Speed Force, the source of all speedster’s powers. Using his newfound powers to help other metahumans—and to stop those who would harm others—Barry became The Flash.

Barry is aided in his crimefighting adventures by Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), a pair of scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs who have their own metahuman abilities. Caitlin possesses another distinct personality, named Killer Frost, who can generate and control intense cold. Cisco, as Vibe, has the ability to create ‘breaches’—portals from one place to another, and even from one Earth to another. There’s a multiverse, an apparently infinite number of alternate Earths. That’s important. Recently Team Flash has added a newer metahuman, private investigator Ralph Dibny (Hartley Sawyer), aka Elongated Man, who has the ability to stretch and contort his body in any way imaginable, even disguising himself as other people on occasion.

Initially Team Flash was led by Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), a brilliant scientist and the founder of S.T.A.R. Labs. Unfortunately for our heroes, Wells was actually Eobard Thawne, aka The Reverse-Flash, in disguise. Thawne, it seems, had time-travelled back to when Barry was a boy and murdered Barry’s mother. He’d then become stuck in the past, so he murdered the real Harrison Wells and assumed his identity, using his knowledge of future science to create S.T.A.R. Labs and, ultimately, to cause the particle accelerator explosion that created The Flash in the first place. Following Thawne’s defeat, Team Flash has been regularly assisted in one capacity or another by alternate versions of Harrison Wells from different Earths. Alternate Wellses have included, but are not limited to, a porkpie hat-wearing hipster Wells, and, most recently, a French detective named Sherlóck Welles. After a while you just roll with it.

After Barry’s father was imprisoned, he was adopted by his father’s friend, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), and Joe’s daughter and Barry’s best friend, Iris (Candace Patton). Iris would grow up to become a reporter, first with her own blog dedicated to metahuman activities, then as a writer for Central City Picture News. Currently, in addition to acting as the leader of Team Flash, Iris is the owner and editor of the Central City Citizen. Over time Barry developed romantic feelings for Iris, which went unrequited for a while before eventually being reciprocated by Iris. The two were married back in the middle of season 4 in a joint ceremony with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards).

In addition to Thawne, Barry and Team Flash have faced opponents from other Earths (Zoom, aka Hunter Zolomon) and alternate versions of themselves (Savitar, a ‘time remnant’ of Barry Allen from a possible future). They spend most of their time squaring off against other metahumans who developed powers due to exposure to dark matter energy, or against rogues who use advanced technology to commit crimes.

Previously on The Flash

The fifth season of The Flash featured the arrival of Nora Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), the adult daughter of Barry and Iris, who had come back from the future to meet her father, who had disappeared during a mysterious crisis while Nora was just an infant. Nora had popped in and out of time a few times for big moments in Barry and Iris’s lives, including their aforementioned wedding. Before they even meet, Nora assists Barry in destroying a crashing S.T.A.R. Labs satellite before it can destroy Central City. The resulting debris from the satellite, infused with dark matter energy, results in new metahumans, and new criminals using technology embedded with shards of the satellite.

Chris Klein as Cicada

The most dangerous of these new criminals is Orlin Dwyer, aka Cicada (Chris Klein), who wields a dagger made from a jagged shard of the satellite. Dwyer’s niece, Grace Gibbons, is in a coma after being caught in the crash of the satellite, and Dwyer blames The Flash and everyone like him for his niece’s condition. Cicada is able to drain metahumans of their powers when they’re in proximity with the dagger, an ability he uses in his quest to kill all metahumans in Central City.

Nora recognizes Cicada as the only rogue The Flash was never able to capture, and also that her arrival in the past has caused Cicada to arrive early—he wasn’t supposed to appear for a few more years. Nora joins Team Flash as XS in helping them to take down Cicada; the team is also joined by Sherlóck Welles, the aforementioned French detective version of Harrison Wells from another Earth. It’s Welles who is able to determine just how Nora was able to get back to the past from the future: she did so with the help of Eobard Thawne, on death row in the future and acting as a sort of Hannibal Lecter-esque mentor to Nora. Upon discovering the truth that his daughter has been working with his greatest enemy, Barry returns Nora to the future and tells her never to come back.

Nora asks Thawne for help to get back to the present to help her father, and Thawne shows Nora how to connect to the Negative Speed Force, the source of Thawne’s speed, which is fueled by hatred and darkness. Nora returns to the present and convinces Team Flash to let her help them. As the team sets out to stop Cicada (and, later, Cicada II [Sarah Carter], the grown Grace Gibbons from the future, who comes back from the future, kills her uncle, and take his place, it was a whole thing) the question looms of why Thawne would want to help Nora at all, which Ralph sets out to investigate in secret.

In order to stop Cicada, the group deduces they need to destroy the dagger that powers her. They realize the only way to do that will be to use a modified mirror gun (which is, in the Arrowverse, unrelated to the Mirror Master), which has been built from pieces of the destroyed S.T.A.R. Labs satellite and has the ability to destroy whatever it’s fired at down to an atomic level. A plan is enacted in which Joe West and the CCPD open their doors to any metahumans wishing to seek protection from Cicada. This draws her out into the open, giving the team an opportunity to use the mirror gun on the dagger. Before it can be destroyed, though, Elongated Man prevents the mirror beam from hitting its target.

Tom Cavanagh as Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash

Ralph has determined that destroying Cicada’s dagger is the key to Thawne’s manipulation of Nora, as it’s the only thing keeping Thawne’s powers at bay. Thawne tricked Nora into travelling to the past so she could inadvertantly create Cicada too early in the timeline, and create a version of Cicada that could be defeated by Team Flash. If they destroy the dagger in the present, it’ll disappear from the future and Thawne will be able to escape.

Nora believes that they can stop Cicada without destroying the dagger, if she can appeal to the young version of Grace Gibbons telepathically (they had earlier in the season developed a rapport when Nora, with the help of Joe West’s wife, Cecile Horton [Danielle Nicolet], went into Grace’s mind to try to find a way to stop her uncle). The team again draws out Cicada and is able to trap her while Nora attempts to get young Grace to take a metahuman cure that Cisco has developed, which would effectively erase adult Grace. Young Grace agrees and is administered the cure, which doesn’t work due to the shard of dark matter-infused satellite lodged in her head. Adult Grace escapes and moves to kill Nora with the dagger. With no other option to stop Cicada and save his daughter, Barry uses the mirror gun to destroy the dagger, and the adult version of Grace is erased from the timeline.

In the future, as Thawne is about to be executed, the dagger which has been strapped to his chest for decades disappears and his powers return. He’s greeted by Barry and Nora, who immediately engage him in a superspeed battle. With the help of the rest of Team Flash, who have breached in and literally throw a time bubble at Thawne, Barry and Nora get the upper-hand on Thawne…but then Nora starts to disappear. Destroying Cicada’s dagger has rewritten time more than expected, including the erasure of Barry and Iris’s daughter. Thawne promises Barry he’ll see him “at the next crisis” and escapes, and Barry attempts to run Nora into the Negative Speed Force where her status as a temporal anomaly might stabilize, but she refuses, saying she’d rather be erased than be overtaken by hate. Barry and Iris embrace Nora as she disappears from the timeline.

Back in the present, Cisco, who has been struggling with wanting to have a normal life outside of being Vibe, decides to take the metahuman cure, which Caitlin administers for him. Joe, Barry, and Cecile are called to the CCPD, where Captain Singh announces his promotion to chief of police, and that Joe will become the new captain of the CCPD. Singh also reveals that he’s known Barry is The Flash for some time. At S.T.A.R. Labs Caitlin admires a new Killer Frost costume that Cisco has made for her, while back in his P.I. offices Ralph looks over a new case he’s taken on, marked with the name ‘Dearbon.’

The final scene of the season takes place in the empty time vault, a secret room at S.T.A.R. Labs that Thawne had used as a headquarters while posing as Wells. A digitally-projected newspaper is displayed—and has been since the end of the very first episode of the series—with the headline “Flash Missing, Vanishes in Crisis.” The date on the newspaper reads April 25, 2024…or it did, as the rewritten timeline causes the date on the newspaper to count down. While the exact date is not shown, the year is set to 2019.

What to Expect from The Flash Season 6

As revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, the new season of The Flash will be split into two parts. The first half of the season will feature Team Flash facing off against Dr. Ramsey Rosso, aka Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a villain who is out to destroy death itself. Barry and Iris will still be reeling from the loss of their daughter, and things will get even more complicated when The Monitor appears to tell Barry that he will have to die in order to save the universe. The team, including a newly depowered Cisco who is adjusting to being back to his old self again, will have to find a way to stop Bloodwork while also preparing for the Crisis they now know is coming.

A new version of Harrison Wells will also be introduced, as will a Wells who ends up being Pariah, the character from Wolfman and Pérez’s Crisis series who unwittingly freed the Anti-Monitor and set the whole story in motion. Iris’s brother, Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), will also be returning to the series for an arc of episodes during the first half of the season. It seems likely that Wally will play a role in Crisis as well.

A newer trailer, seen above, features Jay Garrick (Shipp)’s iconic Mercury helmet allowing Barry to peer across the multiverse, so it’s a safe bet the Flash of Earth-3 will be back this season as well. The trailer also features a brief voiceover and appearance by the character Chester P. Runk, aka Chunk, who was a friend of the Wally West Flash in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. In the comics, Chunk developed a matter-transmitting device that was absorbed into his body after exploding on its trial run, causing Chunk to become essentially a living portal to another dimension. Will he serve a similar purpose when it comes to accessing parallel earths on The Flash?

The midpoint for the season will be the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. Details on what’s to come following that storyline have not yet been revealed. Mysterious!

That’s everything you need to know—and probably some things you don’t—about The Flash ahead of the show’s return. We’ll be recapping the coming season, along with all the other CW DC shows, right here on The Beat, so keep an eye out for that to begin when the season 6 premiere of The Flash debuts on The CW next Tuesday, October 8th.

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