We’ve known all along that “Armageddon” was not going to be an epic crossover event on the scale of “Crisis On Infinite Earths,” but it still comes as something of a surprise that the eighth(!) season of The Flash kicks off with such a laid-back episode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as past crossovers have had a tendency to get overly hectic (and this one still might). For a show that often takes its pacing cues from its titular hero, it’s kind of refreshing to see things slow down for a change.
The cold open gives us a glimpse of what’s to come: Central City in flames ten years from now, and an alien we will come to know as Despero announcing that the Flash must die in order to prevent the end of the world as we know it. In the present, however, Barry and Caitlin have time to walk to Jitters and chat about their personal lives, even if their coffee time is briefly interrupted when the Flash has to run off and whisk everyone off two bullet trains before they collide. Caitlin has sent Frost off on a trip to get over Chillblaine, and she’s finally ready to start dating seven years after Ronnie Raymond’s death.
Barry and Iris still have baby fever, because the writers haven’t tired of finding ways to interrupt their attempts at procreation. This time it’s Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), in town for a tech conference and taking the West-Allens up on a long-ago offer to crash at their place. No longer a Legend of Tomorrow, Ray is in search of work-life balance, hoping to spend more time with wife Nora Darhk. (There are entirely too many Noras in the CW-verse, leaving me momentarily wondering if Ray was somehow married to either the Speed Force or the West-Allens’ future daughter.)
Chester hasn’t gotten the memo about Ray’s plans, and Team Flash’s new tech geek is way too excited about serving as Ray’s liaison to the conference. That includes setting up pitch meetings with Central City’s young tech hopefuls, a plan Ray shoots down, leaving Runk in a funk. Over at the Citizen, which has blossomed into a media empire including (of course) a podcast, Iris promotes Allegra to managing editor over the more experienced reporters on the team. Allegra doesn’t think she’s ready for it, and neither do the other members of Team Citizen, who ignore her directives and work on their own stories.
Just when you might be wondering if this entire episode is going to be about the members of Team Flash at their day jobs...here’s Barry Allen at his day job, investigating a high tech robbery at Mercury Labs. The thieves are quickly identified as the Royal Flush Gang, who haven’t been around for a while. It turns out this tech theft is part of a planned crypto heist, which also involves breaking a hacker out of Iron Heights. There’s a fun slowed-down sequence in which the Flash rearranges the members of the gang so that they end up attacking each other. Barry, you see, has leveled up.
In fact, everyone has leveled up. We know this because the phrase “leveled up” is used about a dozen times, just to make sure we all catch the theme of the episode. Allegra, it turns out, is ready for the task she’s been given, because she has the voice of the Citizen in her heart. Ray Palmer realizes he can be both a domestic partner and a tech genius, and even break out the Atom suit if he needs it, which it turns out he does.
That’s because “Armageddon, Part 1" does eventually get around to kicking off the promised event when Despero shows up at the tech expo to kill the Flash. This alien, played by Tony Curran, first appears as a sort of futuristic Scotsman and then as a ten-foot videogame demon. He is convinced that the Flash is responsible for the forthcoming Armageddon, but begrudgingly decides to postpone the speedster’s execution once Barry reveals both his good heart and his true identity. (It’s hard to believe that would still be a secret in 2031. It’s barely a secret now.)
For the most part, this is a likeable season premiere that serves as more of an overture than a full-fledged crossover kickoff. Then again, can you really call it a crossover when it’s entirely contained within episodes of The Flash? And when so many of the A-list characters are no longer with us (or at least not scheduled to appear)? The pandemic has certainly played a part in limiting the scope of the event, but it’s not as if trying to go bigger than “Crisis On Infinite Earths” was ever going to be a viable plan. Let’s see if The Flash can level up while scaling down.
- Someone needs to explain to the writers that you need five to make a royal flush, and they all have to be the same suit.
- If I were Barry, I would simply explain to Despero that my kids live in the 2040s, therefore the world can’t end in 2031. Of course, this can only mean there are some timeline shenanigans to come.