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

 

 

With the true mastermind behind Barry’s supposed mental collapse, and its world-destroying consequences, having now been revealed, The Flash’s current crossover event kicks into a higher gear with arguably its best chapter yet! Frustratingly though, a big heap of awful CW teen soap writing too often intrudes on what’s otherwise a pretty superb battle against Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, after Thawne rewrites the history of The Flash, so that Thawne is The Flash, and Barry is now Reverse Flash. A, “Reverse Flashpoint”, if you will. This explains why Team Flash is very unhappy to see Barry in 2031, and why they quickly turn weapons on him, believing that Barry has been the team’s arch-nemesis for nearly two decades.

This hook is fantastic, finally paying off the many separate mysteries in present-day 2021 with aplomb. Barry being placed into the role of the villain effectively cuts him off from all of his former resources to boot, including the Speed Force itself, which has now sided with Thawne in the revised future. Thawne even saw to it that the Legends were killed in this new future, preventing Barry from going to them for help as well. This demise for the Legends also comes off the back of another inspired twist, namely that Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion of Doom was now successful in their battle against the Legends, meaning that Damien Darhk is still alive in Thawne’s new reality, with Nora Darhk instead being the one that perished.

To top all this off, Thawne has already gone back to the past to kill Barry as an infant, meaning that, by midnight, when Thawne’s new timeline solidifies, Barry will cease to exist. That’s a weirdly specific deadline that Thawne shouldn’t logically be able to track so accurately, but whatever. This new Arrowverse history also carries a few additional questions, not least the fact that Thawne’s future should logically come apart once Barry disappears, but perhaps this is the point, illustrating that Thawne is willing to wreck reality itself in order to destroy Barry once and for all. This is yet another effective way to keep elevating the stakes within the increasingly ruthless battle between Barry and Thawne. Thawne even deliberately set up his timeline manipulation to gaslight Barry in the present, and make him (and Despero) believe that Central City’s resident hero was going insane. This clever trick was completed when Thawne replicated Barry’s face and costume while attacking Central City in 2021, thus explaining why Barry was shown attacking the city on the news, despite having no memory of doing so. I guess we can likely attribute The Flash’s loft attack to the disguised Thawne as well.

Like I said, this payoff to Thawne’s long game through time is excellent, finally allowing the Armageddon crossover event to fire on all cylinders. That’s why it’s annoying that this episode’s subplots are astonishingly bad, including the one that incorporates Batwoman’s new eponymous lead, Ryan Wilder. Ryan is only present to knock Barry around a bit here, with some help from Alex, and then talk about how she and Sophie apparently got married, and want to have a kid together. Good for them, I suppose, but was this really a worthwhile justification to drag Javicia Leslie into this crossover? It’s well and good to make sure that Batwoman is represented in Armageddon somehow, and I guess it’s also promising that Ryan develops a close relationship with the other Arrowverse heroes at some point (particularly Iris, as Iris was apparently Ryan’s maid of honour), but it’s disappointing that Ryan really didn’t need to be present in this crossover, ultimately lacking the key story connection that Black Lightning delivered during the crossover’s previous episode.

It’s also frustrating to see an otherwise excellent Barry/Thawne storyline repeatedly get tripped up by a completely asinine romance subplot between Allegra and Chester. Putting aside the fact that the Allegra/Chester romance still doesn’t make much sense to begin with, the real issue here is that Alex in particular sticks her nose into an apparent sexual encounter that Allegra and Chester had ten years previous, only to eventually learn that Allegra lied about ‘ghosting’ Chester. Allegra is apparently afraid of getting hurt, and she and Chester eventually confess their love, and good God, who cares?! The entire point of this episode is to abort Thawne’s tainted future! Why the hell would anyone invest in a relationship subplot that’s just going to be erased from the timeline anyway, especially when Allegra and Chester are an awkward, non-sensical couple to begin with?! Oh, and Ryan Choi is suddenly reinvented as an unmarried ‘player’ in this new future, though after a scolding by Alex, he claims he just wants to be loved. Oh, for God’s sake! What is The CW’s pathological obsession with trying to shove relationships down their audience’s throats?! Why is this network so petrified of singlehood, to the point where they actively demonize a character that prefers to be a bachelor in an altered timeline?!

Okay, putting aside this horrendous, pointless subplot, the actual process of Barry correcting Thawne’s time manipulation is much more thrilling, especially when it leads to another surprisingly heartfelt core plot involving Damien Darhk. Darhk was seemingly killed permanently on Legends of Tomorrow a couple of seasons ago, but with Thawne’s meddling having swapped Darhk’s fate with his daughter’s, Barry is given a surprising ally in his quest to correct the timeline. Initially posing as a proper Reverse Flash, Barry is eventually identified as an imposter by Darhk, before Darhk uses his magic to see that Barry is telling the truth about Thawne perverting the timeline, resulting in Nora being killed when she shouldn’t have been. The chance to save his daughter again inspires Darhk to help Barry achieve Mach 20 by running around the world, which would lead to Darhk sacrificing himself a second time, even in a future where he and the Legion of Doom are extra powerful, and practically operate unchecked.

This is a very intriguing twist, since Damien Darhk being the one to inspire Barry to fix the timeline essentially makes Darhk the unexpected hero of Armageddon. Regardless, take a shot. Darhk technically being a villain also helps him justify the fact that Barry must run around the world to the point of over-stressing Earth’s mantle, which results in global disasters that essentially destroy the planet, thus proving Despero’s prophecy to be correct. This is another clever twist, particularly when Barry must also outrun a pursuing Thawne at the same time. It might have been ideal if Barry didn’t achieve the proper speed through rather cheesy means, namely by Iris somehow empowering Barry with love across the manipulated timeline (I know that Barry is the Paragon of Love, but come on!), though regardless, despite Barry essentially torching the future, he still makes it back to 2021, thus negating Thawne’s entire plan, and restoring Barry in history. I don’t know what exactly is stopping Thawne from just running back and killing Barry as an infant again, but, baby steps.

So, with Thawne having followed Barry back to 2021, and Despero being appeased (for now), Armageddon is set to kick off its fifth and final episode next week. “Armageddon, Part 4” is a high point for this crossover event as well. This episode would have been a gem all around, had it not been polluted with inexplicable romance subplots that kill the momentum, and are inevitably erased by the Arrowverse’s reset timeline anyway, making them both irritating and pointless. I get that Chester and Allegra are still supposed to be developing a romantic connection in the proper present, but this doesn’t change the fact that they’re not a believable couple at this point, and are only being forced together because The CW has a weird obsession with soapy romances. Worse still is that Batwoman is another wasted crossover presence here, at least outside of teasing potential connections for Ryan Wilder that may be explored in future Arrowverse crossovers.

Still, “Armageddon, Part 4” nonetheless represents improved momentum for The Flash’s five-episode premiere event, and it should hopefully lead into a thrilling climax next week. Hopefully Chester and Allegra can put their unimportant interpersonal dysfunction aside at that point too.

The Flash Season 8 Premiere Part 4: "Armageddon, Part 4" Crossover Review
The Flash's latest crossover event finally delivers some excellent, world-threatening stakes in, "Armageddon, Part 4", only being dragged down by more infuriatingly bad romance subplots.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Thawne's brilliant plan to steal Barry's identity
  • Damien Darhk becoming the unexpected hero of the crossover
  • Barry risking the world itself to stop Thawne
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Romance-driven subplots are inexplicable and awful
  • Batwoman isn't meaningfully utilized for the crossover
84%Overall Score
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