Final Thoughts On ‘The Flash: Armageddon’
by Erik Amaya
Five episodes later, The Flash offers some of its best and some of its worst.
Thanks to the continuing pandemic and the various work stoppages, the first five episodes of the series’ eighth season were packaged as an event storyline. Initially teased as a “tour” around the Arrowverse, it became more of a showcase for characters who may or may not fit well within the Team Flash dynamic. It also attempted to be the Arrowverse take on Armageddon 2001, the 1991 DC Comics summer crossover. Its premise: a time traveler arrives in 1991 to prevent one of the heroes from going bad and becoming a global despot known as Monarch. That persona may yet appear on The Flash at some point, showrunner Eric Wallace seemingly teased the possibility as his version of “Armageddon” began last month, but the premise of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) breaking bad in the future had a lot of promise.
The idea was even held in contrast as Barry initially appeared happy and content as the season began. His team up with Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) proved the show could be quite fun with Barry once again living his life instead of embracing tons of grief. Of course, The Flash, as a series, can never stop putting Barry into situation where his guilt complex can find purchase, so “Armageddon” evolved into the worst day of his life and the worst timeline he could find himself in: one in which the Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh) took everything from him.
And this is where the idea starts to run out of steam. Sure, continued confrontations with Eobard Thawne are to be expected until the show airs its last episode, but this battle ceased to be interesting once Barry traveled to 2031 and found the Reverse-Flash living his life. As a “Reverse-Flashpoint,” the idea may have been more satisfying as its own multi-episode plot, but as an aspect of “Armageddon,” it floundered.
More compelling where the small moments of character interaction like Black Lightning (Cress Williams) assuming Barry put on a Thelonius Monk album to impress him. In fact, we’d love to see the show dig a little deeper into Barry’s status as a white man raised in a Black household. In the future, the dynamics between Iris (Candice Patton), Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie), and Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) were so intriguing that we feel a little bit cheated that the trio only became close friends in a deleted timeline. See also, Ryan Choi’s (Osric Chau) bachelor status and comics-inspired Atom costume — although, as we said a few weeks ago, committing the funds to make it means we will see Choi again soon in the “true” timeline.
But, as it happens, the veracity of the timeline leaves “Armageddon” more hollow than its writers intended. Great swathes of what we saw never occurred. Presumably, The Top (Ashley Rickards) didn’t die in Chester’s (Brandon McKnight) garage. Or did she? No one but Barry remembers Joe’s (Jesse L. Martin) death or the loss of S.T.A.R. Labs. And in a late addition to the story, Nora Darhk (Courtney Ford) simultaneously lived and didn’t live her time as a Legend. Or did it all happen just as before with Nora briefly snatched from her home with Ray?
We’ll chalk that last part up to The Flash‘s compulsive need to set up a new story even as the characters recover from the emotional toll of the current one. Presumably, Joe’s plot this year will revolve around the tale he needed to tell Nora and the Time Stone which is, itself, an anomaly in the “true” timeline. See also, Mia Queen’s (Katharine McNamara) continued presence in the 2020s and her search for her brother, who is now also timelost.
Which leads us back to the underlying problem: “Armageddon” lacked a solid throughline as both the Reverse-Flash and Despero (Tony Curran) traded places as the villain — an issue most keenly apparent in the finale. Despero’s status as the villain was oddly in flux the whole time despite killing The Top (if that actually occurred) and mentally assaulting Cecile (Danielle Nicolet). Once the event he sought to prevent turned out to be the work of Reverse-Flash, he was strangely redundant. That, like so many other off-notes in the story, reflect the ongoing plotting issue within the series as a whole. Great ideas abound, but rarely at a satisfying pace.
At the same time, though, we loved seeing the show embrace its connections to the other programs. We’d love to see Ray and Nora again in a Flash context. We’d love for Iris’s teased female friendships to become real. Also, we’d love to see the show throw off the weight of the world for a time and let Team Flash solve smaller riddles with smaller stakes while building up these soft crossover connections.
But, as seen in this preview for Season 8’s continuation in the 2022, big problems are afoot. In a nice change of pace, however, it will be up to Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy) and her brother Bart (Jordan Fisher) to resolve it.
The Flash returns March 9th, 2022 on the CW.