The Flash – Season 8 Episode 3
“Armageddon Part 3”
The Flash continues the Armageddon event with crippling self doubt for Barry and a re-examination of the details around Joe’s death.
Joe’s death was a shock reveal in that it came out of nowhere. It wasn’t shown which obviously points to it being a deception of some kind as if such an important character were to be killed then it would be depicted and mined for all of the emotion possible. Thankfully the show doesn’t entertain the idea that Joe is actually dead for long and very quickly explores the notion of it being a deception.
Iris spearheads this investigation which puts her at odds with the rest of the team as there’s a working belief that her grief combined with a desire to help Barry is clouding her judgement. There is no disagreement on Barry needing help but Cecile in particular is working really hard to hold herself together following the loss of Joe so has no desire to reopen that wound by considering the possibility that he could be alive. She believes that he’s gone and would rather concentrate on accepting it rather than chasing down what could amount to false hope.
The detail of her empathic ability intensifying her grief because she is exposed to the grief of those around her is a really nice touch that makes her ability appear far more tangible. It’s more than a helpful resource used to move forward a particular plot; it’s an important part of who she is and it has major emotional drawbacks impacting her on a deeply personal level. Too often on this show powers are treated so matter-of-factly and that has often been the case with Cecile but treating hers as a curse in this instance supports the intensity of her grief and forms the basis of her particular difficulties in this episode.
Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t entirely lean into this idea and gets bogged down with her powers being used to track Barry down. Enlisting Rosa Dillon to amplify her abilities so she can extend her reach in order to track Barry down fails to be as significant as it needs to be with Rosa’s inclusion ultimately being unnecessary. She does berate Cecile into pushing aside her grief in order to use her powers to their full potential and Rosa does take job in having access to so many distant minds but it’s all so surface level and her betrayal has no real impact. Despero almost killing her is little more than an incidental detail so Rosa’s overall contribution is far less than meaningful despite the amount of time spent on it. She could have been left out and very little would have changed which is an obvious misstep especially considering her ability to interfere with the emotions of others could have naturally fed into the overall mental health commentary being provided.
In terms of Cecile as a character, it was difficult to track her emotionally throughout the episode as too many of her scenes had her emotional state dialled up to the point of mania. This makes a lot of sense in the context of what’s going on as she is consumed by both her grief and the grief of those around her but the lack of subtlety in her performance makes it more difficult to connect with what she is feeling. It’s likely this was a directorial choice as Danielle Nicolet has proven herself more than capable of delivering emotional nuance. This would track with other performance oddities in the episode such as Candice Patton playing Iris as distracting detached in key scenes.
Cecile’s motivation to help Barry makes sense when considering her established background of mental health issues. She references the events of the episode in the previous season where she was confronted with her own mental health issues and wants to be there for Barry in the same way he was there for her. Him losing his way is no justification for giving up on him as far as she’s concerned so she leads the charge on finding him so that they can offer support. Iris chooses to pursue the Joe angle as a way to support Barry so a division is created within Team Flash that doesn’t factor in as prominently as it should.
Iris’ investigation reveals how Joe supposedly died. He fell -or was pushed- into the path of an oncoming train. When reviewing the footage Iris thinks that she sees him disappear the instant before the train hits which leads her to conclude that things are not as they seem. Backing that up is her seeing something emanating from the train tracks and later evidence that she is reviewing as a consequence of her vaguely explained time sickness. All of this points towards the timeline being interfered with and Barry not actually going mad. This looks to be the most likely explanation and there is no attempt to suggest otherwise. The scenes where Iris and Allegra investigate this aren’t all that interesting because it’s clear they’re leading to a very specific conclusion and it relies on a vague latent power that Iris has to provide answers rather than intelligence or investigative ability.
Another problem within the episode is Despero. He’s working to find Barry just as Team Flash are but his presence is largely passive. Tony Curran is clearly having fun chewing scenery but there’s a significant risk of undoing the good work put into making him sympathetic. In this episode he comes across as more of a moustache twirling villain regardless of the previously established details giving him his motivation. Instead of coming across as a desperate man driven to the edge by horrible circumstances he appears more gleeful in making others suffer. His unnecessary attack on Rosa is a clear example of that and the general brutality in how he regards others. In particular his treatment of Cecile stands out as unnecessarily cruel. The lack of remorse associated with his actions is problematic and at odds with what has been established.
Barry spends much of the episode trying to prevent himself from being a danger to others. He believes that he has lost control of himself and is capable of what Despero is accusing him of. Grant Gustin dials up the intensity in his performance which makes sense but also gets to be too much in places. It successfully conveys his fear and desperation but it also doesn’t allow for a deeper exploration of Barry’s emotional state. There are some quieter moments such as when Barry reflects on Joe’s favourite music but they are awkwardly offset but his dogged insistence that his powers have to be taken from him for the greater good.
Jefferson’s presence is welcomed to offset Barry’s intensity as he provides a measured and rational voice. Having dealt with his own mental health struggles on his own show he has an idea of what Barry is going through and offers him the support he needs. Barry’s argument around him becoming dangerous is initially convincing enough for Jefferson to follow his lead. Reference is made to “Injustice Protocols” put in place by everyone who has logos on the chairs to create a contingency in case any of the heroes should ever go rogue. Barry feels that it has come to pass for him and he needs to have his powers removed for the greater good. The protocols are a good idea though they come entirely out of nowhere as they were never shown to have been put in place so it’s an element that fuels so much of the episode without having any real grounding. Conceptually it’s easy to understand though it stands out that only Jefferson would be present to help Barry implement them despite the apparent gravity of the situation.
One thing Jefferson quickly recognises is that Barry needs help and needs to be challenged on this decision he has made. They previously bonded over understanding loss and Jefferson recognises Barry as a fundamentally good person so doesn’t see him as being capable of going rogue so constantly encourages him to approach this from a different angle. Barry is so caught up in his own panic that he struggles to listen but Jefferson persists after failing to rob him of his powers. It is drawn out and contains unnecessary conflict to pad it out but the Barry/Jefferson dynamic is engaging and Jefferson was true to himself in the context of his role within this episode.
Barry’s point of view is easy to understand as he lost his job, lost S.T.A.R. Labs and has no memory of Joe’s death so it’s understandable that he sees no alternative. Ultimately Jefferson manages to convince him by invoking the memory of Oliver Queen and asking Barry if Oliver sacrificed himself just so that Barry could give up. He points out that he never met Oliver but recognises him as someone who believed in Barry and gave up his own life in support of that belief. This show often doesn’t evidence Barry being in any way worthy of that sacrifice but Oliver’s commitment to that decision was never in doubt. This combined with the evidence pointing towards the timeline being interfered with gives Barry the confidence not to give up. In keeping with the characters drawing strength from those they care about, Barry’s shift in attitude comes when he accepts he has the support of those he cares about.
The ending where Barry visits 2031, sees Eobard Thawne announcing his engagement to Iris and everyone present being less than welcoming when they notice Barry witnessing the event was really striking. There are obvious questions to ask around how something like this could come to pass and the attendance of Alex and Ryan Wilder aka Batwoman is confusing. This ending feeds into the notion of Barry losing everything he once felt he could count on with Iris being the most prominent fixed aspect of his life. Losing her raises the personal stakes considerably and presents a defined problem for him to deal with, particularly with the involvement of Eobard Thawne.
A good episode that makes strong use of Cecile’s established history and utilises Jefferson Pierce brilliantly as a supportive voice for Barry. Cecile’s history of mental health issues fuels her desire to help Barry because of everything he did for her when she needed it. Her empathic ability is used for plot purposes but also feeds into her overall emotional state through how it connects to her grief. She experiences the grief of those around her as well as her own which makes her power more tangible and an important part of who she is. Cecile was difficult to track emotionally as Danielle Nicolet’s performance was often dialled up to the point of mania. It makes sense in context but the lack of subtlety makes it difficult to connect with her. There are oddities in the performances of other actors so this is likely a director issue rather than an actor issue as they have proven themselves more than capable in the past. Getting in the way of this is Rosa’s unnecessary appearance; the episode would be unaffected if she weren’t included. Iris’ investigation into Joe’s death to identify if it was faked or not is less than interesting and relies on vague powers rather than actual character intelligence which means these scenes largely fall flat. Another issue exists with the handling of Despero who loses a lot of his nuance and behaves in ways that clash with what has been set up. His treatment of Rosa and Cecile is unnecessarily brutal and the lack of remorse is at odds with what has been previously established.
Barry spends much of the episode trying to prevent himself from being a danger to others. He is convinced that he is heading to the point where he will destroy the world and invokes a contingency plan that will rob him of his powers. Jefferson Pierce aka Black Lightning is the only available support for him at this point but protocols are referenced that were never known to be established in the event of one of them going rogue. Barry’s point of view is easy to understand given what he has recently experienced but the intensity in Grant Gustin’s performance gets to be too much in places. The poignant quieter moments fail to stand out in the way they need to because of this. Jefferson’s presence is welcomed to offset this and offer Barry a different perspective. Their established dynamic is used really well and invoking the memory of Oliver Queen as a reminder of Barry being a good person was a really strong touch. That combined with the realisation he has the support of those he cares about is enough to change his mind which leads to an engaging cliffhanger furthering the threat posed by losing everything he felt he could count on.
- Cecile’s empathic power being treated as an important part of who she is
- her actions coming from her established history and her motivations making sense within that
- Barry’s strong reaction to all he has lost
- Jefferson offering a measured and compelling perspective on Barry’s emotional statue
- great use of the established Barry/Jefferson dynamic
- Jefferson invoking the memory of Oliver Queen to prove a point
- Barry gaining confidence when he realises he has the support of those he cares about
- the striking ending
- Danielle Nicolet’s manic performance making Cecile hard to track emotionally
- the pointless inclusion of Ross
- Grant Gustin’s intense performance being too much at times
- Iris’ investigation relying on vaguely explained powers rather than character intelligence
- Despero losing a lot of his nuance in the way he behaves
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