“Armageddon, Part 2” shows us what is essentially Barry’s worst day—the beginning of what Despero insists is his road to madness—and it’s full of hints that there’s something much darker than any of us probably expected at work. Barry’s not only missing time, but he’s also forgetting important facts, behaving erratically, and doing things we all know the character we love would never do. But why? We genuinely don’t know, and that’s honestly part of what makes this episode so enjoyable to watch.
Is he being mind-controlled? Is he trapped in some sort of simulation? Being manipulated by the Speed Force? (Hey, she was basically responsible for literally everything else last season.) Truly going mad precisely the way Despero predicted?
Pulling off arcs like this, the kind that relies on the threat of the series’ titular hero doing something decidedly unheroic, can be difficult. After all, it’s hard not to look at this and roll your eyes, just a little bit – it’s extremely unlikely that Barry Allen is going to wreck Central City or destroy the Earth beyond saving, after all. It’s something that’s just not going to happen. Not for keeps, anyway. But, as that’s the premise of this entire five-part “event” (don’t say crossover, remember!), we’ve got to go with it, no matter how outlandish the prospect may initially seem.
This is why the fact that “Armageddon, Part 2” manages to create some truly intriguing and believable tension is so impressive. Do I believe Joe West is really most sincerely dead? No, no I do not, but I certainly believe that for right now, in the world of the show, for whatever reason Barry believes he is. And he believes he’s betrayed those he loves most by forgetting about it. (As well as by apparently attacking a bunch of innocent bystanders on his way home.)
Granted, some of this week’s twists—Barry being suspended from the CCPD because he’s only just now a suspected undercover accomplice for Joseph Carver (?!) of all people—are generally ridiculous on their faces. It’s also freakishly convenient that suddenly the radiation scanners in STAR Labs are on the fritz, so much so that the entire facility has to be condemned as a nuclear hazard. It’s obvious the true answer to whatever is happening is more complicated than simply “Barry is actually turning evil,” but for once The Flash is not telegraphing its punches before it throws them, and after everything that went wrong in Season 7, it’s a delightful treat just to enjoy the ride of this show again.
Part of that is due to the distinctly “non-crossover” aspect of Armageddon, a format that means that although we’re seeing familiar faces from around the Arrowverse pop up during this event, the story remains very firmly focused on Barry and the rest of Team Flash.
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