The Flash Season 8 Episode 4 “Armageddon, Part 4”
Director: Chad Lowe
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Danielle Nicolet, Kayla Compton, Brandon McKnight, Jesse L. Martin, Neal McDonough, Chyler Leigh, Tom Cavanagh, Javicia Leslie,
Runtime: 42 minutes
The end of the last episode made it clear this one would be the most crossover-heavy installment of Armageddon so far and while it is pretty fun because of that it’s also the most seriously flawed part of the event. The series drops the ball when it comes to explaining the major unsolved mysteries and some dull personal subplots drain a lot of the life out of the proceedings.
“Part 4” starts off a few moments before the last episode’s surprise ending at Thawne and Iris’ engagement party. We get a few nuggets of info about this future timeline as the guests mingle, including that Allegra has been overseas for years and Iris and Ryan Wilder have grown quite close, to the point where Ryan had Iris serve as her maid of honor at her wedding (to Batwoman’s Sophie Moore) and Iris is now returning the favor. After they all get outraged at Barry’s arrival he tries to explain the truth and changes into what he thinks is his costume but is really a Reverse-Flash suit, after which Thawne dons a Flash costume and the others ready for a fight, with Alex and Ryan also suiting up as Sentinel and Batwoman, respectively. Thawne hits Barry with lightning and he flings some back, but Ryan Choi (who has taken up his comic book identity as a new Atom) shrinks him with a device on his wrist to evade the blow. Alex hits Barry with a “paralysis ray” that briefly takes away his speed so she and Ryan can double-team him, beating him and eventually slamming him through a table, before Allegra blasts him, with the women stating that they are doing this for Ray, Nate Heywood, Sara Lance, and Cisco, all of whom Reverse-Flash Barry apparently killed. I appreciated the level of detail here, as Barry is finally shown to be decently competent in hand-to-hand combat but still overwhelmed fighting two experts at once and the whole fight is a strong opening action beat. When his powers come back Barry manages to zoom away, taking Iris to try to talk sense into her. But she still believes he’s a villain and Thawne then zooms Barry outside.
Thawne’s need to gloat is, as usual, helpful for exposition purposes, as he explains to Barry how he did all of this. After Barry showed he was faster at the end of last season, Thawne believed the only way to become more powerful than him was to take his life for his own. As he puts it he created a Reverse Flashpoint, going back to 2021 to cause the radiation leak at STAR Labs and push Joe onto the train tracks, before disguising himself as Barry and attacking Central City. But he also went back even further to alter two more crucial points in Barry’s past. In 2013, Thawne made sure he himself was struck by lightning the night the particle accelerator exploded so he became the Flash, the leader of STAR Labs, and Iris’ love interest. And most devastating of all he fulfilled his original mission and killed Barry as a child, meaning that when the timeline solidifies at midnight Barry will cease to exist (his hand already becomes intangible, Back to the Future-style when he tries to strike Thawne). As always, playing Thawne brings out the best in Tom Cavanagh and his completely unhinged performance is both magnetic and genuinely frightening to watch as he reveals the character to be even more depraved than has been shown before. Unfortunately, the writing fails to fit the character into the story in a way that makes sense. First of all, Thawne’s story contradicts a lot of what has been established about the Armageddon plot in the last three episodes. Despero came back in time looking to stop Barry Allen, the Flash, from causing the end of the world. But the altered timeline shown here means that he either should have expected Barry to be the Reverse-Flash, or been targeting Thawne. In addition, Thawne’s changes to 2021, including killing Joe and making Barry look like a crazy threat, are pointless if he was going to both make himself the Flash and wipe Barry out of existence. Sure, you could say that he did those things simply to cause even more pain for Barry before killing him and Thawne’s certainly deranged enough to think like that but it still makes the plot confusing and nonsensical.
Barry escapes and meets with Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). A villain from both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, Damien has been dead for years in the main timeline but has been revived as an accomplice of Reverse-Flash Barry in Thawne’s new world, surprisingly making him the only person Barry can go to for help. Damien was one of the worst threats the Arrowverse ever faced in his first years in the franchise (he once tried to nuke the entire world) but Legends did the impossible (as it often does) and gave him a convincing redemption arc rooted in his love for his daughter, Nora (Courtney Ford). The Flash cleverly writes his role in a way that allows McDonough to play both the hammy villain and more nuanced fatherly sides of the character. Barry first gets his help breaking into STAR Labs by pretending it’s a standard supervillain heist, which also allows Grant Gustin to deliver some very amusing comedic beats as he plays Barry pretending to be a bad guy, which he is hilariously bad at. Damien gets wise when Barry stops him from killing members of Team Flash during the break-in and back at his place Barry has no choice but to come clean. But he manages to convince Damien to remain with him by telling him that in the real timeline Nora is alive and he is dead, not the other way around as it is in Thawne’s world. As always McDonough is most amusing when showing how giddily Damien delights in villainy but also brings plenty of pathos that makes his heroic turn later on convincing. It’s an absolute pleasure to see him in the role again and one of the best treats Armageddon has delivered.
Unfortunately, the other characters aren’t put to nearly as good use. The trip to the alternate future provides an interesting opportunity to hint at possible upcoming storylines but the writers make the mistake of making all of these revolve around romance, which they still haven’t realized is one of The Flash‘s biggest weaknesses. Iris predictably comes to remember Barry and how things are supposed to be through the power of love. The only thing interesting about this arc, which is a retread of ideas used in Elseworlds and countless other storylines throughout the show’s run, is that the person Iris discusses her feelings with is Ryan Wilder, with Candice Patton and Javicia Leslie showing decent chemistry. Still, it’s hard to get too invested in their dynamic because we haven’t seen the friendship they have in the new timeline develop. Ryan also exits abruptly to deal with a Two-Face-related problem in Gotham, but not before telling Iris she’s inspired her to adopt a child with Sophie. The fact that Sophie and Ryan are together in the future isn’t a surprise at all given how much work Batwoman‘s been doing to set up their romance and Ryan’s role being so brief is disappointing, even if it’s probably a result of COVID-related production restrictions. Not having present-day Ryan, who has yet to team up with any non-Gotham heroes, meet Team Flash feels like a particularly big missed opportunity.
Worse is a storyline I’ve been dreading since this season began, that being a dysfunctional romance between Chester and Allegra. The teammates are noticeably uncomfortable around each other, leading Alex and Ryan Choi to inquire about what’s going on. Apparently, the two hooked up once years earlier, with each claiming the other ghosted them the next morning, leading them to decide to just be friends. Eventually, it comes out the Allegra really did the ghosting because she was afraid pursuing a relationship with Chester would eventually result in her leaving him. Alex continually encourages the two to embrace their feelings for one another with Ryan playing the cynic and criticizing the very idea of love. Eventually, he admits this is just because of his own trouble forming relationships (apparently he’s not a married father in this timeline) and agrees with Alex. During the episode’s action climax they admit they love each other and kiss. It’s hard to overemphasize how poor this storyline is. Not only does it ruin the enjoyable friendship between Allegra and Chester that started last year and all but confirms that the present-day narrative will pursue making them a couple, but Kayla Compton and Brandon McKnight simply don’t have romantic chemistry. The intensity of their feelings also feels completely forced and Chester’s explanation that he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Allegra the morning after they had sex comes across much more creepy than romantic. Furthermore, the arc utterly wastes Leigh and Chau’s guest roles. This is especially disappointing in the former’s case given that this could very well be the last time she ever appears as Alex, who received a much stronger send-off in the Supergirl finale.
Barry eventually figures out that he can go back in time and restore his reality by running around the Earth until he reaches Mach 20. However, for some reason, this would cause massive damage to Earth, essentially doing what Despero said he would and causing Armageddon. But Damien encourages him to press forward and make things right, with his reasoning pretty much being that love will make everything OK. When Barry starts the process Frost and Chillblaine (Jon Cor) attempt to stop them but Damien holds them off, although he must do so without his powers because Frost and Chillblaine have been shielded against magic by John Constantine (sadly no Matt Ryan cameo). Thawne pursues Barry and is about to catch up when thinking about Iris, who has remembered she loves Barry and seems to be able to make telepathic contact with him, getting Barry to go fast enough to create the portal and escape. In the present Despero has captured the entire team at STAR Labs and killed all of them except Cecile, whose mind he is trying to force himself into to find Barry. When she manages to fight him off he kills her as well but then an energy wave passes through the room and everything changes back to normal, with only Barry and Despero still there. Barry explains that Thawne was responsible for everything and Despero agrees to look into this and possibly let Barry off the hook but emphasizes that if he finds out he’s wrong or lying he’ll still kill him. This scene has the unintentional effect of highlighting how the Despero and Thawne elements of the story contradict each other,
Barry happily reunites with the team, believing the danger to have passed. Iris states that they need to call Frost and Joe to let them know Barry’s OK and he asks to call Joe personally, with a wave of relief passing over his face when he hears his foster father’s voice in another great bit of acting from Gustin. But unbeknownst to the team Thawne arrives in the Time Vault in the present and swears revenge. Again, Thawne is almost always exciting to watch to some extent but his inclusion in this event can’t help but feel forced.
“Armageddon Part 4” is a rude awakening that we’re still dealing with late-season Flash and suggests that the crossover is not the start of an uptick inconsistent quality for the show as myself and others hoped. Although Gustin, McDonough, and Cavanagh do great work and there’s some of the usual crossover fanservice to enjoy the lack of consistent logic to the plot and the sappy portrayal of romantic love drag the episode down.
- Cavanagh gets a new Reverse-Flash suit to match the one designed for Gustin but it’s a significant downgrade from the usual costume. It seems the designers were going for a more comic-accurate look with a brighter yellow but this actually makes Thawne less imposing and the cowl doesn’t fit Cavanagh’s face well.
- The only good thing about the Chester/Allegra storyline is Caitlin being completely baffled when they make their declaration of love. I imagine Danielle Panabaker’s reaction is similar to the one a lot of the actors had while reading these parts of the script.
The Flash Season 8 Episode 4
Armageddon's most crossover-heavy episode features superhero team-up fun and strong performances but is hampered by a nonsensical plot and dull personal drama.