With Arrow gone, Flash is the oldest of the Arrowverse shows still airing. Plans for assorted crossovers last year were foiled by complications from COIVD, but they’re now trying to make up for that a bit. Flash’s eighth season starts off with “Armageddon,” a five part event with each episode guest starring a hero from elsewhere in this world of heroes. Part one sets up the new status quo, introduces a new villain and some updated older ones, and puts things into motion.
The show begins in Central City of 2031, as chaos reigns supreme and the city seems to be under attack. There is an ominous voiceover, and we learn that whoever is narrating blames all this on someone, and goes to stop them. In the present, Barry and Caitlin have a rare moment of calm as they walk to Jitters, get coffee, and talk about life and dating. Because it’s a hero show, there’s a crisis to deal with, but since it’s the Flash we’re dealing with, he’s gone and back before his coffee gets cold. Caitlin talks about how much better he’s gotten as a hero, and for the first of many times, we hear the phrase “levelled up.” I don’t know why almost everyone says that this week, but it gets old fast. Either one of the writers just heard this for the first time, or someone just started gaming. We also find out that Frost is off on a tour and won’t be around for a bit, sparing Danielle Panabaker from performing dual roles for a while.
Iris’ company has clearly gone through some changes, as she does a recorded interview with Kramer, the former anti-meta representative from the governor. The Central City Citizen is no longer just a shoestring internet paper, having grown a lot since we last saw it. Kramer announces the dissolution of the metahuman task force, there’s talk of unfair targeting that I disagree with, and Kramer makes sure it’s now very publicly known she’s a meta. I’m not sure that was a good idea, either. As Kramer leaves, Iris has a meeting with Allegra, and they talk about all the additions to the staff, as well as a new landlord we all know the name of. Iris surprises Allegra with a new position, and the younger woman is clearly not comfortable with this.
Both having had a busy day, Barry and Iris settle in for candles, pizza, and some alone time. Before you can say “That won’t last,” there’s a knock on the door, and we get this week’s guest, Ray Palmer. Ray gives a rough synopsis of what he and his wife have been up to since they left the Legends (a move very unpopular with many fans and with Brandon Routh, who plays Ray). As a bit of awkwardness about unexpected (but not uninvited, Ray is far too nice for that) guests plays out, a new version of the Royal Flush Gang attacks Mercury Labs. They have some new abilities, one fewer member, and easily get what they came for in a heist that mostly demonstrates what they can do and their fondness for card-related puns. The Royal Flash Gang are a staple in the comics, occasionally in cartoons, and have appeared on both Arrow and Flash in past seasons. Mercury Labs has also been on the Flash series before.
In the morning, Ray continues a running joke from Legends at breakfast time, and Chester turns up. Chester is apparently a huge fan of Ray’s, and is going to work with Ray at the big tech convention. Barry beats a hasty retreat, and Iris follows suit, leaving their guests in their apartment, which is a bit odd. For once putting in some time at his civilian job, Barry works the scene of the Royal Flush Gang’s attack. Kramer is there as well and things get awkward on a few levels. Allegra tries her hand at the new position Iris put her in, and it goes disastrously badly.
Barry is at work in his lab at CCPD, oddly with Cecile there. I can think of a lot of reasons a defense attorney shouldn’t be wandering around the police crime lab, but this apparently doesn’t matter. Barry talks about his findings concerning the Royal Flush Gang, and the phrase “levelled up” is used once again. As often happens, Chester’s enthusiasm gets the better of him, and he’s come up with a very detailed itinerary for Ray. This doesn’t quite jibe with Ray’s pans, and Chester ends up very embarrassed. At the convention, we see another mention of Kord Industries (will we ever see Ted Kord or his alter ego, Blue Beetle?) and the con’s founder gushes at Iris about the coverage they are getting. Allegra turns up to talk to Iris, because I guess they don’t have phones or something, and Iris sort of reassures Allegra but basically sends her back to the job.
The next small disaster is a disturbance at Iron Heights Prison, which the Flash easily deals with. Unfortunately this was a distraction, and the Royal Flush Gang got away with who they wanted. Chester comes in, not happy with earlier events or his inability to divine what the Gang is up to. Between them, Team Flash figure out what’s going on, and, yes, once again, someone “levelled up.” Flash takes on the Gang, and shows why you should never get cocky with A) a speedster and B) the star of the show. He trounces them with the same effortless win the Gang receives so often in the comics. There are a lot more card puns. At the tech expo, Chester is filming something for his podcast, and chats with Barry. I’m very amused there was a booth from STAR Labs with no one actually working it. Does anyone work there aside from our heroes? It seems like a really big building for just them. At any rate, Ray comes by, tries to talk to Chester, but the man flees. Ray talks about what he wants with Barry, who offers some good advice. There’s another “levelled up,” and a recurring theme of Ray not seeming happy with having left the Legends. I wonder if they threw that in as a nod to the messiness that happened in the real world around that?
In an utterly predictable scene, Allegra meets with the reporters she had problems with earlier and paraphrases Iris’ earlier advice. It’s not a great meeting, but it’s better than it was before. At the tech con, Iris interviews Ray about his plans. Just as Ray makes a sort of vague announcement about his future, things get complicated as Despero arrives from the future, intent on killing Flash, who he blames for the chaos we saw earlier. Or later. Time travel is confusing to write about. Flash arrives and there’s a lot of pre-fight talk before Despero turns into a more monstrous, alien form. In this form, he’s been a thorn in the sides of various DC heroes for a very long time, first appearing in Justice League of America #1. Chester and Iris talk Ray into helping, and he runs off, ripping open his shirt ala Clark changing into Superman. That’s fitting enough as Brandon Routh not only plays the Atom, but he was Superman in the film Superman Returns and reprised the role during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Flash does the speedster trick writers have them do when they don’t know what to do and runs around in circles. Atom joins the fight and shrinks them both to avoid one of Despero’s attacks. This leaves Barry woozy and calls back a joke about Diggle whenever he dealt with Flash’s speed.
The fight ends when Ray pulls another good trick, leaving behind some bewildered heroes. Back at STAR, the team mulls over the alien’s claims and what to do next. Iris and Allegra compare notes on their days at the Citizen, and Iris doesn’t seem too sympathetic to Allegra’s doubts about the new job. With some odd timing that seems more determined by filming schedules than plot logic, Ray prepares to leave as the others tell him it’s fine if he goes. Before he does, he patches things up with Chester and makes the younger man very happy. Ray departs with some words of advice for Barry. The team moves on and lures Despero back to them. Flash takes a different tactic dealing with the alien and buys some more time, as well as continuing Barry’s trend of revealing his identity to just about everyone. They part with a sort of truce in place, and this will no doubt lead us to the next team-up.
What I liked: It was great to see Ray again. I enjoyed the Atom being back in action, and the joke about Diggle was a nice touch. Despero is an interesting choice to bring into this story. I’m amused the Royal Flush Gang was just as ineffective here as they usually are in the comics.
What I didn’t: There was an odd comment about Joe that has me worried about him and wondering why he wasn’t around. I was really hoping we were done with Kramer. I don’t know who got stuck on the phrase “levelled up,” but that script needed some editing.
It was an ok, but not great, start to the season. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. I’m looking forward to seeing the other heroes show up.