The Flash season 8 episode 1, “Armageddon, Part 1” aired on 16 November 2021.
We’re here, folks. The Flash has reached it’s 8th – EIGHTH – season, and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s hard to believe that Barry first woke up in Star Labs seven years ago. The show’s last two seasons were experimental and ambitious. They didn’t always come off, but one could see the attempts to grow. ‘Armageddon’, this five-part season opener, is the most ambitious of the lot.
What is The Flash: Armageddon about?
The gist of it is this: the super-powered, super-strong, mind-reading alien Despero sees Central City in carnage in 2031. He determines the Flash as the cause, and travels to present day to kill him. However, Barry convinces Despero to let him prove that he would never cause such destruction. Despero gives him seven days – if Barry causes him any doubt, he will kill him immediately.
In 2031, Despero stands amidst the chaos of an ‘Armageddon’. He narrates that it could have been prevent but for ‘lies and betrayal’.
Back in the present, changes are abound. Things didn’t work out well for Frost and the hunky bartender. However, Caitlin is ready to try dating again. CC Citizen has expanded to CCC Media, with staffed departments, IT support, and a new podcast. As Iris finds her time taken up by upper management work, she promotes Allegra to an editor position. Allegra struggles to manage and assert herself over the other writers who are older and have more journalism experience.
The Flash saves passengers from two trains before they collide, then returns home for a candlelit dinner with his wife. However, their night is interrupted by Ray Palmer, the honoree at the Central City Tech Con. His hotel was overbooked and Barry did say he could stop by any time…
The next morning, Ray explains to Barry and Iris that although leaving the Legends was a hard decision, his work-life balance has improved. He’s grown closer to his wife Nora (née Darkh) and has returned to his old love of research. Chester arranges a pitch fest for aspiring entrepreneurs. However, Ray explains that he no longer wants to get into the tech startup business, as he will fall back into work and lose the balance he currently has.
CC Citizen isn’t the only group in town that has levelled up. Meta-criminal quartet Royal Flush Gang has started stealing tech when they previously robbed casinos. (They got away because Barry was still in coma then.) Eventually, Chester works out that they are still stealing money – just digital money. Oh boy. You know a show has landed in 2021 when a character says “cryptocurrency”.
The Royal Flush Gang kidnap a hacker, who assembles a supercomputer with all the stolen tech, and transfers out all the crypto from the biggest casinos in town. Of course, the gang try to kill him so they don’t have to split the earnings. The Flash speeds the hacker back to prison before confronting the gang. Telepathic Queen goads that she can tell what his moves will be, then orders the gang to unleash an all-out attack. However, the Flash can think at superspeed, so the Gang are acting on information that’s a split-second too old. He apprehends them easily.
Barry attends Tech Con the next day, and it is surprisingly his first. Dude, you were supposed to be a nerd. Ray frets that he has upset Chester, and muses that he does miss working with others, as well as being at the center of tech advancement. Barry tells him that part of his growth was nurturing his teammates. Perhaps that is the next step for Ray.
An old hero returns…
Iris is also at Tech Con, to host a live interview with the honoree. As their interview wraps up, Despero appears on stage. With the outfit he has, he looks more like a cosplayer at Comic Con. Until he sinisterly mind-projects a single message to the attendees: Run.
Well, someone in the city is good at running. The Flash shows up, and Despero transforms into his large, red alien form. He overpowers the Flash, so Ray decides it’s time for desperate measures. I love how he runs off pulling his shirt open Superman-style. I love how the Arrowverse leans into the fact that Brandon Routh once portrayed Superman.
The Flash and Atom fight Despero outside the conference building. The alien toys with them, teleporting around so it seems to onlookers that the heroes are fighting nothing. Barry tries to confuse him with a speed mirage, but he sees through that too.
Cornered, Barry asks to know at least what he did that made Despero describe him as “once good” – when did he stop being good? A third eye opens up on Despero’s forehead, and he shows Barry the vision of 2031.
During this time, Atom snuck inside Despero’s tech belt and scrambled it, teleporting Despero away. For now.
…and leaves again
Tech Con ends, and Ray bids team Flash his farewells. He tells Chester that although the pitch fest blindsided him, it also gave him food for thought. And while he does not want to start any tech company, he would like to start a fund for young entrepreneurs. As a token of thanks, he’d like to name it after Chester’s tinkerer father.
Ray’s last advice is for Barry to simply show Despero who he is. Then, Despero would see that Barry Allen would never seek to cause the destruction Despero saw. (I mean, in one timeline Barry did become an evil speedster and went back in time to kill his wife…)
So Barry does just that. Despero finds him in the speed lab, already waiting in his Flash suit. Barry declares that he won’t run, reveals his identity, and suscepts his mind to reading, to show that he is not the destroyer Despero believes him to be. Despero is not fully convinced, but decides to suspend judgement for seven days.
It is fitting that The Flash would house this “not-a-real-crossover” miniseries. It is now the oldest of the remaining Arrowverse shows. If renewed for season 9, it will surpass its predecessor Arrow as the longest-running, a feat that may not be surpassed in a while given the ending of Supergirl and Black Lightning (the latter of which will get a send-off feature in ‘Armageddon’). Legends of Tomorrow might make it to season 8 (their 7th season began airing last month), but has rather become a niche oddball. The Flash has a more general pull, and as of March 2021 was still the highest-rated CW show.
The Flash also better lends itself to crossover-type storylines, because Barry Allen is just a friendlier and more team-oriented person than Oliver Queen. That’s not a slight on Oliver – his experiences shaped him a certain way and Barry’s made him into someone more suited to drawing in other characters from multiple places. It also helps to be able to travel to different cities and parallel Earths in a flash, pun intended.
As far as storytelling goes, this episode did a good job of feeding us plenty of fun superhero action, while still just setting up Barry’s conflict with Despero to come. And about our big bad – I grew to enjoy Tony Curran’s interpretation of the character by the end of the episode.
I recently read a critique that the Arrowverse has forgotten about its heroes’ civilian lives. Watching this episode, it was hard not to notice that at play. Okay, Barry had two scenes as a CSI, but they served mostly to progress the Meta(s) of the Week subplot along.
Allegra’s cameo this week felt extremely real, however. When thrust into a management role, the new work scope and office dynamic can be daunting, especially if your team seems more qualified than you in one way or another. I have been there myself. Luckily, Allegra has a supportive mentor in Iris.
By the way, I’m really happy to see Iris progress from indie blogger to founder of a full-fledged publication. But as of last season, the Citizen had only 2 employees, inclusive of Iris herself. How much time has passed since???
Lastly, I think that Ray’s words about balance will play out across this season, even after ‘Armageddon’ concludes. 8 years is a long time, and perhaps Barry’s trials to come might make him consider hanging up the cowl for more family time. It does help to already know you have kids in the future who continue your work.