The Flash Showrunner Todd Helbing Talks The Season 5 Finale

Cicada II and Eobard Thawne will square off against Team Flash tonight in The Flash's season five finale -- the last one before things start to get really crazy with "Crisis on Infinite Earths" looming over the first half of next season and the long-teased disappearance of The Flash moved up from 2024 to 2019. At this point, it is not clear who will survive the finale, and whether Thawne will still be out and about when "Crisis" happens -- although in the original newspaper that teased Barry's disappearance, it suggested that he was fighting Thawne when he vanished, so it seems unlikely they will take him into custody tonight.

Executive producer and showrunner Todd Helbing joined ComicBook.com to talk about tonight's finale and what comes next.

This season has revolved so much around Nora. What, as you were breaking story, like, how important was it to have a real sense of Jessica's skill set, since she had to do a lot of heavy lifting this year?

In a lot of ways, she's the emotional backbone of the story, you know? If it wouldn't have worked with her, it wouldn't have really worked at all. I knew Jessica. I never worked with her on Smallville, but she was on it and that was my first show. I knew her from Black Sails, that I wrote on, my brother and I.

So I knew her acting ability so it's one of those where, you know, you sit down and you meet with the actor before they're officially hired, but the second she walked in the door, I was like "oh, right, yes, she's so awesome." Really, that question never came to mind. We knew how perfect she was going to be literally from the first time in the ["Crisis on Earth-X"] crossover when she showed up, and the chemistry that she had with Grant.

What went into the decision to switch big bads halfway through?

It's always one of those things. We know in 22, 23 episodes, how boring one villain can be, and I think one of the things -- that being an audience member myself on other shows -- you forget that there's a whole other process which is actor's availability, contracts. We had a different version in the back half which sort of had, it was going to be more of thirds.

You're always sort of at the mercy of what you can do with whoever you cast and their availability, which we've been lucky; for the most part it works. But sometimes it doesn't, and you have to change. Having Thawne ultimately be revealed and Cicada II, we wanted to sort of keep the energy up the whole season and not have a lot of down episodes that felt like filler. It's always something to do but in 22 episodes it's a little more tricky than it would appear even.

This season, so much has been kind of set into motion by Nora and Thawne, which means that we are in the dark as to the why. Has it been fun to unintended ripple effects that our leads can't explain like they can if it's them who are doing the time traveling?

Yeah, I think it has been fun. Like always, once we go down this path, after a couple episodes we all question ourselves and why we decided to do it this way. [Laughs] I think the idea that Thawne could send somebody back to change things for his benefit, at its base level, if you understand time travel, I think that's really all you need to know. Since Thawne is sort of the only person that can manipulate the timeline to get the outcome he wants, it's been fun, and it sort of frees us up to do whatever we want.

I don't think you need to go through time and then see how the ripple machinations work exactly. I think there's such a language now with the audience and the show about how it works that hopefully it's not too confusing. Hopefully as the seasons have gone on,f it's gotten easier to understand.

Have you guys already started to figure out what's going to be Tom Cavanagh's role in season six?

That's more Eric Wallace than myself. Eric and the writers and Tom, that question sort of rears its head right around episode 17, 18. So I know that those guys have had some conversations and what they're talking about seems like it's going to be a lot of fun.

Back to Thawne -- is it challenging to write this character that has to be playing eighth-dimensional chess with everybody?

Yeah, it is. He's always the smartest guy in the room, you know?

That part of it is always fun, the sort of Hannibal Lecter of it all is fun with him. With Thawne, it's the most twisted that we can get with him is whenever it's personal. In the comic books he erases people from Barry Allen's life altogether all the time. He just tortures this guy over and over and over. Whenever we can do anything like that with him, with his family, with his friends, back to 115 when he killed Cisco. That whole idea that he can manipulate a timeline to do whatever he wants is so much fun, especially when he can sort of hone all of that in on team Flash.

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The Flash airs on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. Tonight marks the season five finale, and after that begins the long march to next season's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event.

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