The Flash – Season 8 Episode 4
“Armageddon Part 4”
The Flash continues the Armageddon arc with the bleakest of futures that only the power of love can save.
It’s fitting that this episode airs close to Christmas as it gives off strong It’s A Wonderful Life vibes. The comparison isn’t one to one as Barry isn’t quite exploring a world where he was never born but it’s close enough as he finds his life stolen by his greatest enemy. Eobard Thawne has changed the timeline so radically that he has now taken Barry’s place as the Flash complete with the team and Iris by his side.
He calls it a “Reverse Flashpoint” which is very on the nose but undeniably delightful. Enjoyment of this episode will largely depend on the ability to ignore all the things about it that don’t make sense. Unfortunately that’s almost everything but if, like me, you’ve long since given up on this show making sense then there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Let’s get the nonsensical elements out of the way first as an analytical review has to address them. Thawne’s explanation is that he went back in time to the point of the creation of the Flash and substituted Barry for himself. He then led Team Flash, got Iris to fall for him and became regarded as a hero while Barry took his place as the Reverse Flash and was known as the villain. This doesn’t make sense as it isn’t explained what happened to Harrison Wells since Thawne wears his face or how the Particle Accelerator could exist in the first place without Thawne being the one to facilitate its construction. The episode definitely doesn’t want these details questioned and doesn’t hang around long enough for them to even be asked.
Something else that doesn’t make sense is the explanation that the destruction Despero witnessed was caused by Thawne as the Flash trying to stop Barry from fixing the timeline. Despero coming back in time to find the Flash doesn’t work because the entire world in 2031 was blaming Reverse Flash for the destruction. The story around Barry going mad doesn’t fit the narrative created in the altered timeline meaning that Despero’s motivation shouldn’t exist. Once again it isn’t something you should apply too much thought to because everything unravels if you do but it does stand out that Barry makes these definitive statements about the truth of what happened when none of what he says matches up with what the previous three episodes established. It’s frustrating that the standards for enjoyment of this show are so low and viewers have to wilfully not think about it in order to enjoy what is being presented.
It bears mentioning that “Reverse Flashpoint” is a lot better executed than regular “Flashpoint” even if it has a lot of the same problems. The most glaring is the lack of time to explore this new reality. Given that the setup in the first three episodes of this arc amounted to nothing in this one it would have been far better to start the event here and task Barry with undoing the bleakest timeline while exploring it and taking time to flesh out some of the finer details. Like “Flashpoint” this episode provides a whistle-stop tour of the involved characters and their lives before getting to the point where it’s undone and everything learned about them is rendered meaningless. No matter how many episodes were spent in a doomed timeline that would be the case but there would at least be more time to enjoy the differences.
It doesn’t have to be entirely meaningless as Barry could have used what he learned in this timeline to help people along certain paths after repairing it. Things like recognising dark eventualities for those he cares about and taking action to keep them off that path, encouraging relationships to progress after seeing the potential and even taking note of Thawne’s leadership style before adapting it in his own way. Alternate realities can be informative if those who retain the awareness can find ways to use the knowledge they gained, otherwise it is a wasted opportunity.
In this case, the biggest takeaway Barry has is to appreciate what he has in life and not take it for granted. For all his flaws this is something he already knows so there’s no need to learn that lesson. At no point does it come across that he takes Iris or the team for granted nor does he ever seem like he doesn’t appreciate the life that he has. He goes back to it being glad that he was able to get it back which is self evident given how horrific the altered timeline is.
Where this improves on “Flashpoint” is that it feels more expansive because it includes characters from other shows. Javicia Lesley’s Ryan Wilder aka Batwoman, Chyler Leigh’s Alex Danvers aka Sentinel, Osric Chau’s Ryan Choi and Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk all appear to create a sense of scope. “Flashpoint” failed in that scope by only sticking to the characters in this show where this takes the opportunity to bring in guest starts as a way to highlight how the changes impact the Arrowverse as a whole.
For the most part the guest characters are used well. The sisterly bond that exists between Ryan and Iris comes up more than once and is engaging when it does. Their conversations are very deliberately structured with Iris advising Ryan to follow her heart when it comes to having a baby so that Ryan can return that advice when it comes to Iris deciding whether to trust Barry. Something that crops up with every character except Barry is considerable attention given to details of their lives that only exist within this timeline meaning that there’s no reason to invest in the decisions made. Ryan deciding to have a baby is a meaningless development because her decision won’t carry into the other timeline. This is doubly true as she isn’t a member of the cast of this show. Their dynamic is engaging enough for me to want to see them interact in the regular timeline and explore whether a similar friendship is possible. It’s an example of something existing to further the plot in a particular direction but the actors fully commit and sell it.
Another engaging dynamic is Ryan Choi and Chester who are best friends in this timeline. Instead of being a devoted family man with kids, Ryan is very much the opposite with a strong belief that committing to someone else isn’t desirable. Most of his dialogue reinforces that opinion to factor into Chester’s pining for Allegra so it’s another example of a plot specific character dynamic but the actors create a natural friendship within it that also prompts a desire to see them interact in the original timeline. As with Ryan’s decision to have a baby, Ryan Choi coming around to the idea of love being an important part of life and it being something people should fight to obtain means nothing because he isn’t the same character to the one previous featured and his personal revelation won’t stick.
Chester and Allegra’s relationship takes up a significant amount of time. Even though it chronicles something that won’t carry over into the restored timeline it’s more impactful than other content because it represents an evolution of what has been building. In this timeline Chester and Allegra acted on their flirtations and spent a night together before a misunderstanding drove them apart. Allegra says that Chester left her following their tryst but the truth is that she left because she was scared of letting herself being vulnerable by admitting her feelings for him. Ultimately this results in them admitting their feelings for one another as Barry is tearing the world apart around them. This shared declaration of love is meaningless because it won’t carry into the main timeline but it gives an idea of where they’re connection is heading. Their emotional honesty in this timeline offers some insight into how they might feel about one another in the main timeline so possibly acts as a tease of things to come. It’s very by the numbers and unfortunately takes up the majority of Alex’ contribution to the episode.
A particularly engaging dynamic was the one between Barry and Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough is always a joy to watch and the gleefully evil Damien Darhk is very much preserved here. Barry pretending to be evil to enlist his help provides some fun interactions and Damien’s role within the episode was significant. His change of heart being motivated by restoring the timeline that has his daughter survive makes sense while feeding into the on the nose themes of following one’s heart and love conquering all. Despite being evil, Damien Darhk is a devoted parent who will do anything to protect his daughter. Upon learning of the sacrifice he made in the original timeline that allowed Nora to live he is willing to help Barry restore that sequence of events so that Nora can live a life. It makes sense within the context of what the episode sets out to achieve though it’s more likely he would try to find a way to ensure both he and Nora survive.
His pep talk to Barry around the importance of love makes great use of Damien’s personality. It’s about time someone called Barry an idiot even if it is just in service of shaking him out of self pity. His points underscore the theme found in almost every interaction within the episode and reinforce the importance of the connections Barry has made in his life. Barry is almost ready to give up because he sees the speed required to open a time portal as impossible. Without the support of loved ones he lacks the necessary self belief but Damien tells him that it’s only important for him to be aware of the way things should be. That awareness means that there’s hope and Barry shouldn’t give up on that hope because allowing the current timeline to solidify is unthinkable. Damien Darhk being his most prominent supporter and giving him emotionally driven pep talks is amusing in itself and delivers a fun twist on the familiar.
Barry and Thawne’s dynamic is also engaging. Thawne taking pleasure in taking over his life and making the woman Barry loves fall in love with him is excellently performed by Tom Cavanagh. There are some fun touches that briefly appear throughout the episode such as Thawne’s more decisive leadership style and him visibly struggling to occupy the role of the good guy. More time in this timeline to get a sense of how Thawne lives this life would certainly have been an asset as he doesn’t interact with Iris enough to get a sense of their relationship. This makes her betrayal of him fall flat as she goes from being devoted to him to doubting him with no weight to either side of this emotional state. Her turning on him in favour of Barry was expected but also completely unearned in context no matter how many pep talks about Iris trusting her heart instead of her head there were.
One part of this crossover remains though there’s a real finality to this outing other than Eobard Thawne making cryptic remarks about doing something else at the end of the episode. It’s disappointing and frustrating that none of what was set up in the previous episodes will stick. Barry doubting his sanity was interesting enough on its own and the notion of him losing all of the resources he relies on was a good source of tension. As fun as this episode was it fails to be the believable culmination of everything that was set up previously because the future depicted doesn’t flow from the present day events. Ultimately this episode feels disconnected from what came before other than Thawne gloating about all he did to make Barry believe he was losing his mind. At least the final part will be unpredictable.
An entertaining episode that makes no sense when any thought is applied to what it offers but is a lot of fun regardless. Thawne’s explanation of the events that resulted in the altered timeline don’t make sense. Similarly Despero’s entire motivation is undermined by what this episode offers though it’s clear that it’s something the viewer isn’t intended to think about. This is where the “Armageddon” event should have started with Barry navigating the bleakest of timelines. It would have provided plenty of opportunity to explore it and set up things that could inform storytelling once the previous timeline is explored. Instead a snapshot of the new status quo and character relationships is provided in service of the themes of love conquering all and following one’s heart. Character dynamics such as Ryan and Iris or Ryan Choi and Chester are engaging by themselves but the detail of what develops is meaningless as they will be erased. Something to latch onto to some degree is Allegra and Chester’s feelings for one another as there’s a strong suggestion that things are heading in this direction in the original timeline. On the whole this does work better than the previous “Flashpoint” because characters from other shows are included which gives the changes more scope.
Barry and Damien Darhk have a meaningful and engaging dynamic with Damien’s gleefully evil personality fully preserved. Emotionally driven pep talks coming from him is a fun twist on the familiar. His dynamic with Thawne is a lot of fun as well though more time to see how he functions within the life he stole from Barry would have been better. There’s no sense of his relationship with Iris so her turning on him falls flat however expected it was. Ultimately Barry fixes the timeline but there are no lessons to be learned for Barry as he never took his life or anyone in it for granted so he can just be grateful he has it back. There are also no lasting consequence to anything that was built up over the previous episodes as everything is undone. One part of this arc remains, at least it’ll be unpredictable.
- “Reverse Flashpoint” having wide scope due to characters from other shows being present
- cohesive themes around love conquering all and following one’s heart
- character relationships like Ryan and Iris or Ryan Choi and Chester being engaging by themselves
- the Barry/Damien Darhk dynamic
- Damien Darhk providing Barry emotionally driven pep talks being a fun twist on the familiar
- Barry and Thawne’s dynamic
- very little of what is presented making sense
- the build-up over the prior episodes leading to nothing
- developments for characters and within relationships being meaningless because they won’t stick
- not enough time to flesh out the altered world
- no sense of Thawne’s relationship with Iris or how he functions in the stolen life
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