I should’ve seen it before, and now I’m conflicted. The Flash is playing with one of the biggest parts of the Flash: Rebirth comics, using it in another context. Spoilers follow for The Flash Season 8, Episode 3, “Armageddon, Part 3.”
“Armageddon, Part 3”
One of the problems with The Flash is that even if it has a good idea at this point, I have a hard time being patient. The show has squandered so many concepts and villains at this point that I find myself rolling my eyes before the show can get to its point, and rarely have I felt like my pre-judgment was misplaced. I’m questioning myself now, though.
While the original Flash: Rebirth story is about the return of Barry Allen after being dead since the Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, it was all predicated on one idea: that the Reverse-Flash wanted to make Barry miserable so badly that he worked to destroy his life piece by piece, beginning with pushing him down the stairs, and right up to and including killing his mother, Nora (one of the many Noras of the Arrowverse). That storyline now seems to be playing into Armageddon.
I’ll admit, I was so distracted by Despero’s terrible costuming that I didn’t catch on when I should’ve. I still think that Daredevil’s “Born Again” storyline likely served as inspiration here, but both that storyline and Rebirth are about pulling the hero’s life out from under them.
The last moments of this week’s episode take barry to 2031, where Harrison Wells–yes, Tom Cavanagh is back, again–is speaking proudly to an audience that is made exclusively of Barry’s friends. Next to him is Iris West, who is clearly in love with the man who is 25 years her senior. In the present, Iris was beginning to find signs that the time stream had been manipulated. When Deon, the holder of the Still Force, came to check, they discovered that someone had been manipulating the Negative Still Force. That was always going to be a thing–the show has talked about the Negative Speed Force on multiple occasions.
This is the kind of Flash nonsense I signed up for. I’m not sure yet if they’ll pull it off. But it makes me wonder, why filter it through Despero? Despero is, through no real fault of actor Tony Curran’s, one of the least exciting Flash villains in a while. His costume makes him look like Space Braveheart, and he’s done little more so far than just warning Barry about how bad things are going to be if he doesn’t just lay down and die already. He’s also yet another example of the CW turning a big monster into a regular guy to save money on CGI, but in this case, it’s for a crossover event with huge promotion behind it. It’s enough to make a guy say “alright, already!”
The Despero stuff, as it stands right now, feels like it could’ve been left out. Instead of sighing every time he appeared on the screen, I could’ve been wondering what was happening to Barry.
This episode has something else going for it, too: Black Lightning. Jefferson Pierce showed up in the last few moments of the previous episode, and this episode doesn’t disappoint. Barry is frustrating as usual, running straight toward the worst possible decision head-first with his eyes closed, and Jefferson serves as a calming force. He’s been a superhero for longer than Barry, and has wisdom to spare. He even breaks out one of his best bits from the show, pushing Barry to repeat the saying that he has his students chant:
“Where’s the future?” “Right here.”
“And who’s life is this?” “Mine.”
“And what are you going to do with it?” “Live it by any means necessary.”
You could, in theory, apply that to the idea of Barry giving up his powers, but what Jefferson is talking about is asking Barry to make his choices by his own morals and wisdom, not by the potential warnings of others. These scenes hit home, especially with Barry’s usual father figure out of the picture. Jefferson exuded great dad energy throughout all of Black Lightning, and it’s a genuine thrill to see him back in the suit again. This is the kind of thing I want from the Arrowverse. Give different characters their time in the sun, let their stories end, but bring them back for episodes like this.
Moments like this make the Arrowverse feel like a bigger, more lively place without asking a bunch of actors with their own full-time shows to figure out schedules. Cress Williams can drop in for a few days, and it reminds us that there are still superheroes elsewhere–without making that reminder the whole point.
The Flash moves too slowly sometimes
I feel like I’m finally invested in this storyline, and I do have to give it to the show: The Flash, for all its problems, makes some of the best use of recurring villains in a show like this. Reverse-Flash is truly an arch-nemesis–whether he’s being portrayed by Tom Cavanagh or Matt Letscher–because we know he’ll always be back to make Barry miserable again. Next time, guys, don’t hide it behind a villain you cheaped out on, please.