There's been no announcement about Carlos Valdes leaving the show. I assume he'll be back as Cisco. Season 5 of THE FLASH was very strange and oddly deficient. I wonder why. It's odd to chart THE FLASH's creative decline from Seasons 3 - 5, much like SLIDERS.
Season 3 crashed hard. Season 3 was attempting to continue the same successes of Seasons 1 - 2: a new turn on the Flash mythology with the Flashpoint timeline, another villain from the Flash's future -- but the episodes were not written well enough to capitalize on Savitar being a time remnant of Barry or how Flashpoint had warped the lives of Barry's friends. Despite spending all of Season 3 piling guilt on Barry, the main villain of Season 3 had nothing to do with any decision Barry had ever made onscreen; Savitar was a time remnant from some future event that we'd never seen.
There was the sense that the showrunners had gone from running ARROW to running ARROW and THE FLASH and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW and SUPERGIRL. Every year, there was one show that seemed to receive the least attention and suffer the most as a result: LEGENDS' first season was clumsy and formulaic; ARROW's fourth season drifted too far from street-level heroics; SUPERGIRL's first season featured two mutually exclusive takes on Kara as either a college student or a late 30s reporter. And THE FLASH's third season was painfully undercooked. Eventually, there was some internal rearranging and each show had its own dedicated showrunner.
Season 4 of THE FLASH stepped up: there was a shift to more comedy (that rubbed some the wrong way), a return to familiarity by making Harry Wells a regular, and in a clever turn of plotting, Season 4 had the Flash facing a villain whose intellect made Barry's speed useless and irrelevant. Season 4 progressively upped the situation as Barry seemed hopelessly outmatched by the Thinker, an antagonist who could match Team Flash's brainpower, who would later augment intelligence with Sylar-esque levels of power. And then came the finale where... the Thinker is abruptly unplugged and the story switched to punching a big rock falling out of the sky. It was an adequate end to Season 4, but something seemed to go off track.
Then we come to Season 5 where we are back to undercooked stories. The show seemed unable to capitalize on Barry and Nora's father-daughter relationship except in very overt, obvious, clumsy terms with the characters blatantly stating their emotions.
The big dilemmas of major episodes boiled down to Barry, Nora and Joe finding the right words to talk Cicada out of a killing spree or to rally the troops, a strangely small-scale insecurity. Season 5 scripted the 34-year-old Jessica Parker Kennedy to play Nora with the maturity of a teenaged girl and the visual disconnect was bizarre.
It wasn't all bad. Tom Cavanagh as Sherloque was a delight as Cavanagh and the scripts found an actual character to go with one of Cavanagh's comedy accents. Ralph Dibney was a joy as a more competent detective this year. Iris and Barry were a lot of fun as astonished parents. Caitlin had some great episodes this year. The Nora/Thawne dynamic was earnest and disturbing in how utterly sincere Thawne was in his love for Nora even as he manipulated her into erasing herself from existence.
However, in terms of plotting, Season 5 revolved around Team Flash inexplicably unable to take on Cicada, a thug with a magic knife whose superpower was to stretch out short sentences to unbearable length with extremely slow line deliveries, a gift he apparently passed on to the second Cicada.
I watched Season 5, Episode 21 yesterday and I honestly can't remember most of what happened. It made nearly no impression on me as poor Sarah Carter took half a minute to deliver 10 seconds' worth of dialogue. THE FLASH, a show about superspeed, seem to be going so slow that time felt like it was ticking backwards. Only when Thawne got free and Nora and Barry had to race against him did the episode finally come alive. Only then was there suddenly speed and motion and pacing and stakes and energy and danger -- at which point I realized that THE FLASH had spent 21 episodes -- TWENTY ONE EPISODES -- with speedsters circling awkwardly around a villain whose great threat was an unwieldy looking knife.
Looking back, I think there was maybe 10 episodes of story here. Nora and Thawne working together should have been exposed to the audience by the second episode, the discovery should have come in the fifth episode, Cicada should have been dispatched by the sixth and Thawne breaking free and Nora being erased should have been the mid-season finale. There simply wasn't enough content here for an entire season of THE FLASH.
What on Earth made the writers stretch out half a season of material to a whole year? My painful suspicion is that known sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg brought a certain magic to THE FLASH and took it away with him when he was fired off THE FLASH during the middle of Season 4. Infamous sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg had a specific approach during Seasons 1 - 3 that terrified his workers. Not only did he grope and grab and hump his writers, reputed sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg insisted on putting multiple ideas into individual episodes that, on any other show, would have sustained entire seasons.
Most shows would have held back revealing Harrison Wells as a villain, the Flash's future in the Crisis and the exposure of the Reverse Flash and distributed one reveal for each season finale. Accused sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg put all of that in the first half of Season 1. Most writers would have revealed how Thawne stole Harrison Wells' life across a season finale and a subsequent season. The despised sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg revealed all in one episodes. Most showrunners would have spread out alternate universes, Jay Garrick and creating Flashpoint across three seasons. The now unhirable sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg put it all in Season 2.
Somewhat overstretched sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg seemed to take his eye off THE FLASH for Season 3, but blackballed sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg gave THE FLASH his full attention for Season 4. Halfway into Season 4, industry punchline and sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg was fired off every single one of his shows.
It's interesting to look at Season 5's plotting and compare it to Season 1. There are some very good and strong concepts for a season of TV, but the big tentpole moments are extremely few when stretched across 21 episodes and padded out with empty supervillain procedurals. In contrast to Seasons 1 - 2 having Barry constantly learn new speed flourishes, Season 5 had next to no discoveries and made little to no use of Nora picking up Barry's tricks. There simply isn't enough material and rather than add more and make sure every episode is full of twists and turns and revelations and story, what's present is simply overextended.
Universally loathed sexual harasser Andrew Kreisberg has no business working in television (he literally has no more business), but it's painful to consider that he had a strong vision for THE FLASH and his successors don't seem to have any vision for it at all.