Monday, November 22, 2021

The Flash 8x01 Review: "Armageddon, Part 1" (Geddon With It) [Contributor: Deborah M.]

“Armageddon, Part 1”
Original Airdate: November 16, 2021

After ending season seven of The Flash with a happy wrap-up and some romantic renewed vows, the show is back for its eighth season with a five-part crossover special entitled “Armageddon.” So... with that title, I’m guessing those warm-fuzzies of last season aren’t going to be making a reappearance for a while. This epic event is unique in Arrowverse history, as it’s the first crossover in which all the episodes happen within a single show (evidently a COVID precaution, although I’m not entirely sure how — limited traffic on sets, maybe?) and it’s the first in which the Arrowverse’s titular Arrow will not be appearing.

Writing the reviews for these episodes is going to be really fun for me because I haven’t watched any Arrowverse show outside of The Flash for years and I probably won’t know who anyone else is. I hope they’re wearing name tags.


The episode starts with a text setting us in Central City, in the year 2031. Our villain, whose name we won’t know until the end of the episode but for the sake of easy writing I’m just gonna tell you it’s Despero, recites a monologue about having “the strength to do what must be done” while people run around in terror. 

Next, in the present day, we see Barry and Caitlin walking to get coffee. Their whole conversation is a cheerful, low-key infodump for the viewers: summer and fall have passed in-universe since the end of last season, Frost is heartbroken over (uhg, I forgot how much I hate this guy’s name) Mark “Chillblaine” Blaine, and Caitlin thinks she wants to try dating again. The friend-date over coffee is interrupted by news of an impending train collision, so Barry zips out to ensure it doesn't end in loss of life. He comes back after getting everyone on the trains to safety in twelve seconds and he’s all cool about it, indicating that Barry is a lot more sure of himself in season 8. Caitlin says that Barry has “leveled up,” which is a running thing this episode.

Speaking of leveling up: Iris’s “Citizen” paper has apparently evolved into a multimedia empire since last season, since she’s now doing podcasts and has multiple reporters on staff and the whole thing is being run out of a swanky new office building owned by Sue Dearbon. The Iris subplot of the episode is more of an Allegra subplot, while Iris fills the role of a mentor to Allegra and kind of guides Allegra through her first hurdles in a management position at the Citizen. Iris is still clearly a great journalist and everything, but the focus for “Armageddon, Part 1” is on how she excels at making those around her “level up,” as this episode would put it.

Later, at the West-Allen loft, a romantic candlelit dinner with pizza Barry zoomed in from Milan is interrupted by the arrival of Ray Palmer. Ray is cashing in on an offer Barry and Iris made promising him a place to stay in town, since Ray has arrived for CCTC, a tech convention being held in Central City.

And speaking of tech, we get the introduction to our villains of the week: four card-themed metas, one with apparent psychic/telepathic abilities (and all with absolutely ridiculous white face makeup) incapacitate some guards and steal a computer chip. I’m pretty sure every other line from these guys is poker themed and I’m genuinely shocked the writers could cram so many into a single episode.

But Team Flash will deal with those guys later. Meanwhile, Barry and Iris remain awkward with their new house guest. Ray reveals (to me, anyway) that he’s no longer with the Legends, isn’t really the Atom anymore, is trying to be more “balanced” in his life, and is married to a woman named Nora. Yes, yet another Nora in the DCTV universe. Anyway, Ray’s cheerful assessment of his life is interrupted by a knock at the door, revealing Chester in full Ray Palmer fanboy mode as he volunteers himself to be Ray’s CCTC liaison. Because everything is still awkward, Barry and Iris find excuses to skedaddle.

Barry’s excuse is the site of the computer chip theft. We learn that our card-faced villains are the “Royal Flush Gang” and they were the first meta-based criminals to strike Central City, even predating Barry waking up from his coma. When she shows up for info about the crime, Barry nervously asks Captain Kramer about how her powers work, no doubt worried she might pick up some sudden super speed while in his vicinity. Kramer asks whether Barry is uncomfortable about her being a meta, but Barry smoothly jokes his way out of potentially insulting his boss. Haven’t months passed since Kramer’s meta nature was figured out? Why would Barry still be wondering how her powers work?

Later, after contemplating why the Royal Flush Gang’s MO has changed from stealing cash to stealing technology, Barry has circled back to the train crash at the beginning of the episode and discovered identical heat signatures for both crimes. Cecile, who is helping Barry spitball his ideas, asks what they could’ve wanted from the train crash and Barry tells her it was a “bleeding-edge” power source — another piece of tech the Gang has apparently changed their MO to get.

The brainstorming is interrupted by a SWAT team announcing that every cell in Iron Heights was unlocked and opened, allowing the inmates free roam of the facility. Barry speeds over to Iron Heights and contains everyone again, but discovers another strike from the Royal Flush Gang was what opened the cells in the first place. We get another mention of some “leveling up,” which Barry says in regard to the Gang kidnapping a prisoner.

Team Flash convenes in STAR Labs to go over what they know, which is basically just that the Royal Flush Gang has been stealing tech and people. No one knows what their ultimate goal could be, since even Chester can’t pinpoint what they’d use the items for. Chester, by the way, has resigned as Ray’s CCTC liaison after getting a little over-enthusiastic and organizing a pitch meeting with a bunch of tech geeks that Ray had no real interest in talking to. Side note: Chester mentions that he’s “dead to [Ray]” and Cecile has a weird reaction that causes Chester to apologize to her. Uh... what’s that about?

Chester mentioning that the convention is paying in cryptocurrency strikes a eureka moment in Barry, who figures out that the Royal Flush Gang hasn’t changed their MO much at all. They’re still stealing money, they’re just using a supercharged computer to swipe money out of the digital coffers of casinos. All the items stolen (including the prisoner, who’s a hacker) were needed to build the computer necessary for the heist. Cecile asserts that the Gang didn’t change their MO, but just “leveled up.” I am begging you to stop leveling. There are too many levels.

Defeating the Royal Flush Gang takes a matter of minutes for Barry, since they’re technically season 1 villains facing season 8 Barry Allen. When he runs in to save the hacker they’re about to kill off, they attempt to execute a “full house maneuver,” but Barry just zips around and stops them before they can even start. The villains of the week are defeated and cuffed with fifteen minutes left in the episode. Whatever could happen next?

After Barry does some cute nerding out at the tech convention, the fun of being post-villain defeat is interrupted by the arrival of Despero, who appears just as Iris is finishing up her interview with Ray Palmer on the convention floor. Despero tells all the con-goers to run and calls for the Flash to show himself, which Barry does. Apparently Despero hates Barry, as villains are wont to do. He has decided that Barry must die, as villains are also wont to do. I think all villains in this universe are given roughly the same playbook and then “make it their own” with details — like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but with declarations of murder. Despero presses a button on his belt buckle and transforms into a huge red monster, then he and Barry fight.

Ray puts the Atom suit on, presumably for the first time in a while, and allies with Barry against Despero, but they’re really no match for a ten-foot-tall monster with super strength, apparent psychic ability, and a serious vendetta against Barry. Before Despero can kill Barry, Barry asks him to reveal what will happen in the future and we get the scenes from 2031 we saw at the beginning of the episode. Despero says that Barry will create an “Armageddon” in ten years’ time that will destroy the planet. In order to save the world, Despero has to kill Barry — but not yet, as Ray shrinks down to short out the belt device and send Despero to some random location in space and time.

Amazingly, the episode is still not over. Despero is too big a deal to leave up to chance, so Barry devises a plan to lure him back to STAR Labs, where they can face each other and get to the bottom of this whole Armageddon situation. Barry wants to convince Despero he’s not a threat by inviting him to look into his mind with his freaky third eye and scan for any deception, and when that doesn’t convince him, Barry unmasks and reveals his secret identity. All this gets Barry is a “stay of execution” that’ll last seven days, and then Despero will kill him.

Other Things:

  • Iris, about the massive amounts of luggage Ray left in their living room: “I thought he could shrink things?”
  • Iris, hilariously faking checking her watch for the time while trying to flee from Ray: “Dah! That’s a bracelet!”
  • Barry, after getting shrunk down by Ray: “Ooh, now I know how Diggle feels.” Hee.


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