NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review

 

 

The Flash’s five-episode Armageddon crossover event got off to a disappointingly dull start during its previous first chapter, one that added insult to injury by wasting the return of Legends of Tomorrow alum, Ray Palmer. Fortunately, the crossover at least established a compelling antagonist from the jump, that being the powerful, longstanding DC villain, Despero. Despero’s dire warning about Barry’s mad future managed to achieve some shocking new heights in, “Armageddon, Part 2” as well. Finally, this second chapter of Armageddon starts delivering some legitimately exciting material, though its ‘crossover’ element remains disappointingly unrewarding for now.

In this second chapter for Armageddon, The Flash brings in a Supergirl character… Sort of. Supergirl’s Alex Danvers is contacted by Team Flash to try and find more information on Despero, presumably via the newly-reconstructed DEO and its archives. Disappointingly though, not only does Alex only appear in two scenes, both of which are behind a screen, but she ultimately contributes nothing of value to the Armageddon storyline at this point. All Alex does here is reveal that Supergirl and Martian Manhunter are conveniently off-world, providing a forced excuse for why they can’t assist in the fight against Despero, and that the DEO has no information on Despero. I assume this is yet another retcon to the Supergirl mythology within the post-Crisis Earth-Prime, because Supergirl’s early episodes on Earth-38 definitively indicated that the DEO had a file on Despero. Either way, Alex is once again completely wasted in this episode, even more so than Ray was during the previous episode, and this continues to leave Armageddon struggling as a crossover event.

On the bright side, Barry’s conflict with Despero finally starts gaining momentum here, complete with a surprisingly harrowing battle against a new villain. As Team Flash struggles to determine how Barry will go insane, following Despero warning that Barry’s mental downfall begins that very day, Barry and his friends start looking out for any evidence of The Flash’s pending instability. This episode does a pretty good job of keeping viewers guessing too, beginning with Kramer suspending Barry from the CCPD for corruption, after evidence is found that falsely implicates Barry as a mole for Black Hole, and later following that with Barry getting psychically attacked by a mindbending villain from National City, Xotar.

Xotar, like Despero, is another major, longstanding presence from DC’s Justice League comics, where he was a criminal mastermind from the distant future. In the Arrowverse however, Xotar is not only female, but also simply appears to be a psychic metahuman at this point, one that’s in Central City to use her powers in order to steal expensive art and money. When Barry tries to initially stop Xotar however, he finds himself instantly thrown into the loft, which he apparently destroyed in a blind rage, nearly killing Allegra, Chester and Caitlin in the process! This is pretty intense, but it also appears to be yet another red herring on the surface, one that’s later resolved after Barry eventually manages to subdue and arrest Xotar, seemingly saving Central City yet again.

One of the single most daring and exciting twists in this episode however, one that seems more tightly connected to Barry’s imminent breakdown, is the fact that Team Flash ends up kicked out of S.T.A.R. Labs before Xotar is arrested, after S.T.A.R. Labs is shut down by the city on account of an apparent radiation leak. Barry manages to hide the vulnerable sectors that would reveal S.T.A.R. Labs as the home base of Team Flash before the city officials can see them, though this comes at the cost of deleting S.T.A.R. Labs’ entire archive, which includes erasing Gideon forever. Granted, another Gideon still lives on in the Arrowverse via Legends of Tomorrow, but Barry having to sacrifice virtually all of his team’s resources is a great first step when it comes to not only compellingly crippling Team Flash during a major event storyline, but also effectively justifying why Barry would suddenly fall apart, even while his marriage to Iris and connection to his friends remain intact.

The coup-de-grace that seemingly cements Barry’s mental collapse is then delivered towards the end of this episode, one that also presents an exciting new twist, even if it did feel slightly telegraphed beforehand. If you didn’t notice, The Flash’s lead characters have openly referenced Cecile, “Having a hard time” for the past few months, and have conspicuously never brought up Joe in the process. Once Barry finally declares that the team can celebrate at Joe’s house following their defeat of Xotar however, he learns something chilling; Joe apparently died six months ago. Granted, I’m almost certain this is a fake-out, especially since Jesse L. Martin is still billed as a series regular on The Flash at this point, but Barry somehow failing to notice that Joe is dead, or being led to believe Joe is dead, could more feasibly put The Flash’s mental state into question. That reality becomes even more apparent later in this episode to boot, following a news report supposedly depicting Barry, as The Flash, going on a violent rampage throughout Central City, something Barry doesn’t recall at all. What’s going on here?!

The question of Barry’s sanity falling apart is becoming legitimately riveting to explore, with The Flash doing a pretty good job of creating an unreliable presentation that masks what’s real and what’s not here. When Armageddon focuses in on this central idea, it finally becomes an impeccably exciting event, if not yet an exciting crossover. That’s true to the point of this episode’s subplot being completely overshadowed by the superb Barry material as well. There’s supposed to be a B-plot involving Chester struggling with being a pacifist here, after Frost orders Chester to build a weapon that’s capable of harming Despero. We then learn of a tragic incident in Chester’s past around this point, wherein he confesses to Allegra that he burned a childhood friend’s house down during a botched experiment, but Chester ends up bailing Team Flash out from a Despero attack towards the end of this episode anyway, so this doesn’t totally register. This subplot does provide a bit of welcome insight into why Chester is uncomfortable building weapons, something that came more easily to Cisco, but it still fails to compare to the much more interesting core storyline surrounding Barry.

“Armageddon, Part 2” finally has The Flash’s new event storyline mostly finding its footing. It just needs to eventually start better justifying itself as a crossover event, and then we’ll really be in business. Sadly, Alex Danvers’ glorified cameo here is somehow an even bigger waste than Ray Palmer’s unfulfilling subplot from the previous episode, to the point where Alex doesn’t even bother leaving National City before telling Team Flash that she has nothing to offer on Despero. Why even bother showing this video call with Alex then? Regardless, Barry’s mental state truly coming apart is beginning to create a genuinely scary, unpredictable new challenge for the Scarlet Speedster and his allies, one that potentially carries major, highly destructive implications for all of Central City. Even then though, something about current events feels off. Barry’s already a mess, yet he doesn’t destroy the world for another ten years? It feels like this is probably an illusion, but who’s to say at this point?

The fact that The Flash is once again able to create a compelling scenario where no one can perceive the real threat feels like a great throwback to the show’s excellent first two seasons, and that’s definitely overdue. On that note, maybe it’s about time that Team Flash actually committed to calling in some proper backup from other corners of the Arrowverse.

The Flash Season 8 Premiere Part 2: "Armageddon, Part 2" Crossover Review
The Flash finally amps up the excitement behind its Despero battle in, "Armageddon, Part 2", though its crossover element is somehow even weaker here.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Barry's series of misfortunes being a solid red herring
  • Xotar creates a great interpretive element
  • Joe's alleged death seemingly sending Barry over the edge
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Alex Danvers cameo is somehow an even bigger waste
  • Chester subplot isn't that interesting
82%Overall Score
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