Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Flash 8x04 Review: "Armageddon, Part 4" (Love and Paradoxes) [Contributor: Deborah M]

“Armageddon, Part 4”
Original Airdate: December 7, 2021

We’re still Armageddon-ing out here in The Flash as the five-part crossover event continues. This week, the show attempts to make sense of time travel shenanigans and fails to do anything other than confuse and anger me.


Previously on The Flash, Barry went ten years into the future to find Eobard Thawne getting engaged to Iris. Currently on The Flash, Barry tries to talk to the angry people surrounding him at that engagement party. To prove he’s not evil, he attempts to change into his Flash costume but ends up in the yellow Reverse-Flash costume. Thawne is the one with the red costume and the Flash moniker now. This, by the way, completely goes against my understanding of fictional time travel, which generally treats the possessions of the time traveler as part of the traveler themselves — i.e., if Barry remembers being the Flash and wearing his red suit when he traveled through time, the suit should remain red within his ring because the suit and his memories fall along the same timeline. One changing without the other is a paradox. But, whatever. The people in charge wanted the wacky suit-switch to happen so here we are.

A fight breaks out, since everyone at this party is a superhero and they think Barry is a villain. While fighting, Barry does the thing I absolutely loathe every time characters find themselves in alternate realities or timelines: he begs them to see sense and asks them why they’re acting weird. Because this isn’t your freaking reality, Barry! You knew that stepping into this scenario, why are you shocked? Barry gets beat up but takes a moment to zip over, swipes Iris, and tries to talk to her back at what is now the West-Thawne loft.

Before he can get far, Thawne swipes Barry and deposits him in an alley. It’s a proper villain gloatin’ alley. Thawne says he created a Reverse-Flashpoint, which is different from a Flashpoint because it has the word “reverse” in front of it, and orchestrated everything to steal Barry’s life from him. Thawne made sure he was struck by lightning in 2013, that Iris wrote about him as the horribly-named The Streak, and he led Team Flash and got Iris to fall in love with him. Doesn’t this imply that Iris only fell in love with Barry because he was the Flash? I always got the impression that Barry and Iris had mutual childhood crushes on each other, but Thawne implies being the Flash is the way to Iris’s heart and that… is not a good implication for your leading lady, The Flash.

Thawne keeps talking, saying that he actually went back in time and successfully killed Barry as a child. This means Barry is Back to the Future-ing out of existence and, when Thawne’s new timeline solidifies at midnight, he will cease to exist. But… how is this timeline’s Barry the Reverse-Flash? How did the yellow suit get into Barry’s suit ring? Why do timelines solidify at midnight instead of instantly? We’re so early in the episode and I already have many questions.

Barry can’t even turn to the Speed Force because Thawne says that in his new timeline the Speed Force chose him instead of Barry. He shoots Barry with speed-lightning and declares his victory, shouting, “Who’s the fastest now?!” I always forget this rivalry is about being fast. I always forget that, because it’s the stupidest possible thing to base an epic timeline-and-universe-spanning rivalry on. Fastness. Good heavens, man, get a hobby.

Barry overhears that Damien Darhk was Reverse-Flash’s partner in crime and recently got released from Iron Heights on a technicality after being imprisoned for killing the alternate timeline versions of Cisco, all of the Legends, and Ray Palmer. Barry pays Darhk a visit to get his help, pretending to be the actual Reverse-Flash and spinning a story about how Thawne-Flash went back in time to orchestrate a new timeline. Darhk repeatedly and incorrectly calls fiddling with time “creating an anachronism” when I’m pretty sure he (and the writers) means “paradox.” Anachronisms are like, seeing an iPhone in Renaissance Italy, bro, not creating a whole new timeline. 

Darhk explains how they’ll need the “Particle Eradication Distributor” or “PED” in order to “correct” the timeline. Instead of just playing off his ignorance of this PED MacGuffin as a side effect of time travel hijinks, Barry tries to act all villainous and does not do a great job of it. This is going to go well! Remarkably, Darhk seems to believe Barry and they hatch a plan to retrieve the PED from STAR Labs.

Meanwhile, at STAR Labs, Thawne is still playing the role of heroic team leader. So did this guy really like, save people and stuff for years? Pretended to be friends with and care about all his team members? Or did he just blip back onto the scene as a hero after his timeline-altering and he’s only been pretending for a few days now? So. Many. Questions. And the show will answer none of them!

Barry and Darhk infiltrate STAR Labs for the PED, with Darhk making the attacks and Barry quickly locating the PED. Darhk wants to go all-in by killing Team Flash on this, the day before Thawne-Flash’s wedding, but Barry stops him and zips them back to Darhk’s place. Darhk is suspicious, leading to Barry telling him the truth about Thawne being the real Reverse-Flash planning to erase Barry at midnight. Allying with Darhk was really a best case scenario, because he’s both amused enough by Thawne’s evil to stop trying to kill Barry and susceptible to Barry appealing to him as a father. Darhk agrees to help Barry restore the timeline.

As a hint toward true love surpassing the power of time travel shenanigans, Iris confesses to Batwoman/Ryan Wilder that she’s struggling with her wedding vows because she can’t stop thinking about her brief conversation with Barry. Ryan tells Iris to listen to her heart and everything will work out.

After running some calculations, Barry realizes that he’ll need to hit Mach 20 to time travel and needs a runway of about 40,000 miles. Darhk suggests running around the world, which would have a cataclysmic effect on the planet and cause the Armageddon that Despero warned them all about. Darhk tells Barry he needs to try it anyway, because otherwise he’s leaving the whole planet in Thawne’s hands, but Barry’s still worried about his ability to reach the right speed at the right time. Hilariously, when Barry asks what else besides speed could help him, Darhk yells, “Love, you idiot!” and brings up the fact that Barry restarted the whole universe with love.

Darhk has to pep talk Barry into believing in the power of love, which is pretty strange coming from a villain. Still, it’s what Barry needs for inspiration and he goes to visit Iris again before trying their time travel plan. Iris pulls a gun on Barry but just as he’s about to get all emotional, Thawne shows up and tells her to shoot him. Instead, Iris shoots Thawne and tells Barry to leave before she changes her mind. Barry goes back to Darhk, ready to do his little run around the globe and open a temporal portal.

In a matter of seconds after Barry starts running, the Armageddon stuff starts happening and alt-Team Flash goes after Darhk while Thawne goes after Barry. Darhk tries to keep Barry on task from afar via magic, but ends up felled by Ryan Choi, Alex, Frost, and Chillblaine. It’s up to Barry to use his love for Iris to fuel that extra burst of speed that generates the temporal portal, which Barry dives through.

Back in 2021, Despero has killed all of Team Flash while interrogating them on Barry’s location, with Cecile being the last one left alive. Just as he’s about to kill Cecile as well, a wave sweeps through the room as the timeline is reset. So we don’t have to wait until midnight for that timeline to solidify, then? Okay. Barry gives Despero a recap on everything that has happened since he left for 2031, so Despero goes to 2031 to confirm it.

Barry reunites with a much happier Team Flash and finds out that Joe is still alive. Yay! But then we see that Thawne is hatching another plot against Barry. Boo!

Other Things:

  • Most of the alternate-reality stuff involved characters I don’t really know, but one The Flash-related plot was Allegra and Chester becoming a thing.
  • Damien Darhk calls Chillblaine “Chill-lame” and while that’s not the best bon mot I’ve ever heard, I am so on his side. I have to assume the writers know what an awful tool Chillblaine is, right? Dude wears a furry jacket and no shirt as his superhero costume.


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