Warning: spoilers ahead for the November 23 episode of The Flash on The CW, called “Armageddon, Part 2.”
After The Flash used the first part of the “Armageddon” event to set the stage for Despero wreaking havoc on Barry’s life for crimes he hasn’t yet committed, "Part 2" wasted no time in piling the problems onto the Scarlet Speedster and his team. Barry and Co. were on the lookout for new crises after Despero claimed he would lose his mind due to great tragedies, and clearly had no faith that Team Flash would be able to stop Barry’s descent. And after this episode… well, Despero might have a point, and The Flash should follow Arrow’s example in certain ways to guarantee that “Armageddon” packs the biggest punch possible.
But first, let’s look at what went down! The first loss that Barry sustained in "Part 2" of the five-part event came with the news that he was under federal investigation, and kicked off the CPD investigation into a meta with powers to drive victims inside. Then, STAR Labs was overtaken by government officials after the reveal that something had gone wrong (or been sabotaged) and there was a massive radiation leak. They had to evacuate their longtime home at STAR Labs and set up shop in apartments, with Gideon gone and no hope of going back to all their resources there.
And then, of course, came the biggest emotional blow of the episode: the confirmation of Joe’s death six months ago. Despite Cecile saying that Barry has known about this, and Iris saying that Barry spoke at Joe’s funeral, he frantically insisted that there was something wrong and needed investigating because Joe couldn’t be dead. Iris was clearly concerned at this development, but not enough that she wasn’t grateful that Allegra and Chester showed up in time to help Barry get away from Despero.
So, as of the end of “Armageddon, Part 2,” Barry lost his job, his base at STAR Labs (including Gideon), his father figure, and potentially his sanity, and here’s why I think that Arrow would be a good blueprint for the show to follow with the next three parts of the event and beyond into Season 8.
The Flash Shouldn't Reset Armageddon Tragedies With Time Travel
The tragedies that Barry has suffered just two episodes into Season 8 are considerable and would change the fabric of the show for however much longer it lasts, particularly the losses of Joe and STAR Labs. But The Flash needs to make some changes to the format at this point, and these are changes that the show make proactively. The show had to write out Cisco and Wells due to the actors’ decisions, and had to cut Ralph without much setup, but "Armageddon" could deliver deliberate and game-changing moves that help frame anything and everything that happens next without a rinse and repeat. And Arrow proved that making big moves – even tragic ones – without resets works.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Arrow is responsible for introducing Lazarus Pits into the Arrowverse, and I’ve had issues with magical pits of resurrection juice from the very beginning. Thea and Sara’s deaths didn’t stick (although Sara’s arguably might have if not for Legends of Tomorrow), but Arrow otherwise was pretty good about sticking with its big moves when crossovers weren't involved, even early on. Tommy and Laurel died and stayed dead. Team Arrow lost the original Arrowcave in the foundry and never got it back. Oliver’s identity was outed in Season 3, and they had to lose Roy to recover from it. Oliver went to jail and stayed there for a while. Deaths usually stuck... eventually.
All the losses provided the opportunities for change. For better or worse, Arrow didn’t reset itself, and the last thing that The Flash needs at this stage is another one. “Armageddon” so far is reminding me of nothing so much as a smaller-scale “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which ended on a reset that nevertheless came at a great cost with Oliver’s life. I’m not saying that Barry should die or anybody from Team Flash needs to sacrifice themself, but sticking with Joe’s death and the loss of STAR Labs would be a good thing to make some fundamental changes. Even if I would miss Jesse L. Martin!
The Flash Deserves A Reputation For Losses Mattering
Back when The Flash premiered, it was more or less the anti-Arrow when it comes to tone. Where Stephen Amell's show was dark and broody and bloody, Grant Gustin's show was bright and upbeat enough that some of the darker elements like prisoners in the Pipeline didn’t seem so bad at first consideration. But a lot has happened since those early days, and with both Arrow and Supergirl (the other brighter and cheerier Arrowverse show) gone, The Flash can stand to get darker and more serious. And if The Flash walks back these tragedies, then it might lose any chance of ever convincing viewers that bad things are going to stick. The shot of the memorial to Oliver at the end of “Part 2” gives me hope on this front.
Admittedly, some of "Armageddon" will probably have to reset, now that the Scarlet Speedster has been caught on camera wreaking havoc in Central City, and the show doesn’t have a series regular waiting in the wings who could take the fall like Roy did for Oliver. But I can’t help but compare the idea of The Flash undoing what it has done in Season 8 so far to another long-running CW show: Supernatural. Sure, Supernatural toward the end delivered some big deaths for characters who stayed dead, but the main three characters died so many times before coming back that it was hard to keep track of, and the general assumption before the final arc was that Sam, Dean, and Castiel would always come back. And that’s not a reputation that The Flash needs.
The Flash Should Put A Cap On Superpowers
One convenient thing about the Green Arrow for storytelling purposes was that there were limits on what exactly he could do as a hero without superpowers. He was in peak physical condition and could do things that the average person couldn’t, but there was only so much he was capable of. He could zipline off of trick arrows and wear an armored universe, but he couldn't fly or bounce bullets off his chest or super-heal. And that was a good thing. At the end of the day, the founder of the Arrowverse was an archer with no meta abilities or magic, and the show getting creative to let him achieve the nearly impossible kept things fresh. There was no "Run, Barry, run" equivalent for Oliver.
And sure, sometimes Arrow gave him sidekicks with magic and meta abilities, but Oliver himself had limits. The Flash Season 8 is showing that Barry leveling up so much so quickly may have backfired pretty spectacularly. If that sticks and the show doesn’t go back on it, that could put a cap on Barry’s powers for good without relying on Barry just getting faster every time he needs to go above and beyond. His lightning explosion in “Part 2” was promising, in that he did damage to everything around him as well as taking down the meta with the telekinetic powers. It had a cost.
This may somewhat come down to viewer preference for superpowered vs. non-superpowered heroes – the old Superman vs. Batman debate – but I think that the show would benefit from putting a definitive limit on what he can do. The Flash touched on that last season, and the “Armageddon” event could drive it home. “Run, Barry, run” more or less powered this show for seven seasons; why not see what else can work in Season 8? And yes, I know very well that Arrow wasn’t a perfect show, but it was a show that set up an entire superhero universe on The CW, and that wouldn’t have happened if the series didn’t find a style of telling stories that worked.
That said, I’m not all that confident that The Flash will continue much longer beyond Season 8, at least not without losing more original cast members. Still, only time will tell. See what happens next for the “Armageddon” event with new episodes on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Black Lightning turned up at the end of “Part 2” (which featured Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers) and will seemingly have a key part to play in the next episode, with Kat McNamara soon appearing to bring a touch of Arrow to The Flash again.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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