The Armageddon mini-series is meant to be a sort of crucible for Barry. After fighting off Mirror Master and Reverse-Flash once again, everything seems to be going well for him. He’s running faster and fighting smarter, and keeping his life in check. And then Despero shows up to kill Barry, he explains, to save Earth. Enter Barry’s worst day ever. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 2, “Armageddon, Part 2.”
“Armageddon, Part 2”
THE FLASH SEEKS HELP FROM BLACK LIGHTNING — Despero (guest star Tony Curran) warns The Flash (Grant Gustin) that great tragedies will befall the speedster and cause him to lose his mind. Once that happens, Armageddon will begin. Determined to prove Despero wrong, Barry doubles down on proving his innocence but a devastating revelation from Iris (Candice Patton) pushes him to the edge and sends him to seek counsel from Black Lightning (guest star Cress Williams).
Don’t let the description fool you; Black Lightning is in this episode for about 2 seconds. He’ll figure much more prominently into next week’s episode, making it weird for the CW to so prominently place him in the promotion for this one.
The Worst Day Ever begins
But that’s not the episode. This is a tough episode to watch. It feels kind of like Daredevil’s “Born Again” storyline, which season 3 of that show covered. In that story, the Kingpin had learned of Daredevil’s true identity as Matt Murdock, and used that information to begin dismantling Matt’s life. Through various forms of subterfuge, Kingpin strips Matt of his (relatively insignificant) money, gets him disbarred, and forecloses his apartment. By sheer chance, his girlfriend had dumped him just before all this and turns up with his partner, Foggy.
In this episode of The Flash, Despero continues warning Barry, and then it all begins to come dangerously true. He has a weirdly tense encounter with Cecile, who tells him she’s been having a hard time lately. Then he shows up to work a crime scene, only for Kristin Kramer–who now holds Joe West’s job–to tell him to hand over his badge because he’s being investigated for connections to Joe Carver, one of the Season 7 villains. He goes to Star Labs, and finds out that the site is being shut down for unattended radiation leaks caused by melted circuits in their radiation detectors.
After the team sets up shop in Caitlin’s apartment, Barry encounters a powerful psychic named Zotar who mesmerizes him. By the time he wakes up, he’s standing in Caitlin’s half-destroyed apartment, with his friends telling him that he almost killed Chester. They scan the speedster and show no signs of additional psychic interference. They find Zotar again, who then whips out telekinesis. She lifts Barry into the air and begins to bend him while making references to bending spoons. Barry vibrates his cells to build up a charge and defeats Zotar (and a few car windows) with the ensuing zap.
And then it gets worse
Going off of that win, Barry suggests they go hang out at Joe and Cecile’s and see if Joe can cook for them. Here’s the last straw. His friends look at him like he’s a space alien and tell him that Joe died months ago. Barry heads to Joe’s to find the memorial for the dead cop on the mantle. The pieces start to come together; Chester had said that Ray was “dead to me” last week, only for the team to admonish him for the comment. This week, Cecile has been “having a hard time lately.” Then Kristin Kramer comments on “if Joe was here.” In other words, the show foreshadowed this a few times. Then, Barry sees on TV that he–Barry himself–was seen attacking people randomly downtown, throwing lightning at passers-by.
We’ve been trying to avoid going through recap in these reviews, but in this case it seems important to lay out all the moments that led up to the hopeless spot we find ourselves in at the end of the episode.
Born Again, Again
The similarities between The Flash‘s Armageddon and Daredevil’s Born Again are undeniable to me. It almost feels like the writing team used it as a blueprint. However, I’m a little wary of believing that any of this stuff is actually happening. Both of the villains Flash has fought this season are powerful psychics, and both have affected Barry’s behavior and shown him visions. It feels like all of this could be in Barry’s head, and that his true fight is escaping the mind prison.
Further, showrunner Eric Wallace told TVLine that “Joe is going to get an incredibly different perspective on life, and it’s going to lead him to, I think, a really big choice.” You can’t make choices if you’re a dead guy. Well, that’s not entirely true, this is comic books we’re talking about. But this strongly suggests that Joe isn’t dead.
Further, there hasn’t been any casting news about Jesse L. Martin leaving the show. Not only that, but the show spent almost half of last season trying to let go of Tom Cavanaugh’s Wells character(s)–it seems unlikely the show to kill off one of its core cast members with absolutely no fanfare.
What is this, a crossover episode?! (kind of)
A couple of times throughout the episode, the characters consult with Alex Danvers–Chyler Leigh’s character on the recently-completed Supergirl. She doesn’t actually appear in person, making her appearance as Sentinel somewhat perplexing. She provides some exposition for the team to fill them in on Despero, but it’s all done via the clearest, best-lit webcam session in Earth’s history.
This episode does a great job of dismantling Barry’s life and putting him in a desperate situation all at once. The show also smartly avoids giving any strong foreshadowing about what might really be going on. The primary clues that not all is as it seems are all meta stuff–casting, show habits, and such.
But that also means it’s a little hard to judge this episode on its own merits. While it does, again, a great job of making its events harrowing, whether or not it works will ultimately be the result of how the show pulls off the rest of the story. Despite Black Lightning ending with Season 4, I’m excited to see Cress Williams back in the suit. He and Gustin had great mentor-mentee chemistry during the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline and I’m hoping that’ll continue here. I’d also like to see Alex Danvers show up in person. Between her webcam-only appearance and the misleading logline for this episode, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at the crossover nature of this miniseries.