The above image is a bit misleading, although the CW press site is partly to blame for playing up the return of Cress Williams as Black Lightning in this second installment of the so-called crossover “Armageddon.” I decided to stick with it as the main image even though Williams doesn’t appear until the 59th minute of the episode, because it really sums up what an anti-event this is turning out to be. “Armageddon” may end up being a decent story arc of The Flash, but why pretend it’s something more than that?
Yes, we’ve had cameos from other corners of the CW-verse. (It seems weird to keep calling it the Arrowverse more than a year after the end of Arrow.) We get one early in the episode by Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers a.k.a. Sentinel, representing the recently departed Supergirl. She reappears later in the episode to let us know Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter are both off-world. The big guns won’t be helping Barry this time, as he learns when he shows up at the Hall of Justice to find what looks like an abandoned museum of some long-ago Age of Heroes. Only Black Lightning is around to answer the call.
As a crossover event, it feels empty. But this story is really all about Team Flash anyway. We’ve already done “evil Barry of the future,” but we’re doing it again with a different spin. Despero has given Barry seven days to prove he’s not the destroyer of Earth (a promise that goes out the window pretty quickly). He claims that Barry will start to go mad the following day, so Team Flash decides that all he has to do is not go mad and that will be the end of the threat. Frost commissions an anti-Despero weapon from Chester, who complies despite being a pacifist. (Just as an aside, Chester’s tale of how he became a pacifist sure feels like it should be a much bigger trauma in his life than the throwaway treatment it’s given here. He burned down his friend’s family’s house and almost killed them? And this is the first we’re hearing about it?)
The source of Barry’s impending madness appears to be new meta Zotar, a telepathic thief who uses her powers to drive a security guard insane. She zaps the Flash, causing him to go nuts on the West-Allen loft, nearly frying Chester in the process. Even before that, things have begun to go badly for Barry. He’s stripped of his badge due to an investigation that appears to point to him as the inside man at CCPD for Black Hole mastermind Joseph Carver. STAR Labs is shut down due to a radiation leak that the internal sensors failed to detect. The team has to take their valuables and seal off the rest of Flash HQ, dumping all computer files, including (sob) Gideon.
But the biggest revelation is yet to come, even though hints have been dropping since last week’s premiere. Cecile and Jenna have been having a hard time lately...why? Kramer, in the course of suspending Barry, muses about what Joe would do if he was here now. But it’s not until the Flash has subdued the Zotar threat (by creating lightning in his body through vibrating individual cells, another new “leveled up” ability) that we learn what’s really going on. Joe West is dead and Barry won’t accept it.
If that’s not bad enough, TV news footage of the Flash attacking City Hall with his lightning is the proof Despero needs that Barry has gone mad. His attack is thwarted by Chester, allowing Barry to escape to the Hall of Justice. But questions remain: I almost can’t believe I’m writing this, but what if Barry is right and everyone else is wrong? I know this goes against everything we’ve learned about Team Flash over the years, but perhaps he really has leveled up. After all, Jesse L. Martin is still in the opening credits. It’s not too much of a leap to suspect someone has been messing with the timeline, especially with the Reverse-Flash due to reappear soon. On the one hand, it’s a shame that Barry hasn’t been able to get much help from the other super-folk this time around. On the other hand, that may be because his true emergence as a leader is at hand. We can only hope.
- The POV “madness” shots, with the rest of Team Flash looking haggard in unflattering lighting, were an effective touch.
- The one-off meta villains keep getting less interesting. Zotar might have been the least-developed one yet.
- I’m sure STAR Labs will be restored eventually, but having the team operate out of garage with jerry-rigged equipment is a fun change of pace.