This The Flash: Armageddon article contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 8 Episode 1
“This is not a crossover,” showrunner Eric Wallace tells me via Zoom of Armageddon, the five episode event story that kicks off The Flash Season 8. “I cannot stress that enough. This is a five part special event, which means it’s a traditional graphic novel centered around Flash that’s a little bit bigger. A little bit more exciting, a little bit extra, the emotions are a little deeper, but it is not a crossover.”
That doesn’t mean that Armageddon isn’t big. It is. Five episodes, six heroes in addition to the Team Flash regulars, and one of the most legendary villains in Justice League history all turn up over the course of Armageddon. Just maybe not all at once.
“What I don’t want to do is get people ready for a scene with 20 heroes in it and we’re going to 10 different worlds and 15 different timelines,” Wallace says. “People need to understand that we still can’t do crossovers because of COVID restrictions and protocols. What we do want, is to get across some of the feeling with Armageddon, that folks would associate with these kinds of larger stories that are called crossovers.”
Even though additional guest heroes include pivotal characters from Batwoman, Black Lightning, Supergirl, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, Wallace keeps the focus firmly on The Flash.
“One thing I want to get across that’s completely different about Armageddon from any other Arrowverse event is this is not a story of Barry and Oliver like all other past crossovers were,” he says. “This is a Barry story. This is the story of Barry Allen’s worst day ever, and how it affects his marriage. It’s very Flash-centric, so that’s going to feel different right out of the gate for folks.”
RAY PALMER RETURNS, THE NEW ATOM IS COMING
Judging by the first episode, it’s not about the quantity of what’s happening on screen, it’s the quality. Despero arrives in Central City with his three-eyed sights set on Flash, believing that he’s the catalyst for an unimaginable catastrophe a decade in the future. Impressive superhero/supervillain throwdowns ensue, with Barry getting an assist from Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), wearing his full Atom suit for the first time since long before he left Legends of Tomorrow.
And as Armageddon continues, Ray won’t be the only Atom onscreen, with Osric Chau making his first appearance as Ryan Choi since Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“I knew we were having Ray Palmer very early on and I wanted to have both Atoms [and] tell some kind of story with the original Atom and the new one too,” he says. “We managed to get both of them into different parts of the story in a very unique and almost very funny way, especially with Osric Chau. He’s got a very fun and funny storyline.”
THE ROOTS OF ARMAGEDDON
Armageddon is a Flash story four years in the making.
“As crazy as this sounds, I’ve had the idea for Armageddon since Crisis on Earth-X, back in season four,” he says. “I had this crazy kernel of an idea and I just put it in a drawer.”
So when Wallace was asked if he had an idea for a big, event story that could kick things off, he went back to his original Armageddon idea.
“Thankfully, the kernel of that idea is the same,” he says. “Obviously, there’s been many changes since then because the team was different. It had to be scaled back from what my original conception of the idea was simply because I can’t have the other shows five nights in a row actually crossing over. Which means I couldn’t have a cast of thousands and I couldn’t have all the leads from all the other shows because they’re busy making their own shows.”
But there’s still a lot of heroes coming to help out Team Flash in Armageddon, and each one was carefully chosen.
“At first there was kind of just a big list,” he says. “How many people can we get in these five episodes considering the COVID restrictions? Sometimes we can’t even have them in the same room. We have to find clever ways of creating team ups that are a little smaller than I think fans might be used to.”
ARMAGEDDON GUEST HEROES
While The Flash team considered virtually every active character in the Arrowverse, it all came down to a combination of talent availability, scheduling with the other shows that are currently filming, and other practical concerns. This left Wallace with one question:
“Who do I absolutely have to have emotionally given the story that I’m telling? And two characters had to be in the story, emotionally speaking, as a part of Barry and Iris’ journey: Black Lightning and Batwoman.”
Of course, Javicia Leslie’s Ryan Wilder is busy enough shooting her own show, but once Wallace spoke to Batwoman showrunner Caroline Dries, he was able to clear her participation. And from the sound of it, that wasn’t difficult.
“It turns out Javicia was more excited than anybody,” he says. “She actually wanted to be in this five part event even more than we were able to use her because she would have been taken away from her own show, which would have been bad for the Batwoman folks and we don’t want to hurt our sister show obviously.”
Chyler Leigh’s Sentinel from Supergirl followed, with the series finale fresh in everyone’s mind, but the biggest surprise might be the return of Katherine McNamara as Mia Smoak-Queen, the Green Arrow of the future who was once slated to get her own spinoff series called Green Arrow and the Canaries.
“I have no idea what the plan was for the spinoff had it happened,” he says. “But we looked very specifically at that backdoor pilot episode and what it kind of proposed and then we did our own jumping off point from where we thought Mia’s journey might take her. I’m happy to report it linked up perfectly with Barry and especially links up very well with Iris’ emotional journey. We pick up in a very unique way right from that backdoor pilot. I know that series never happened but we do not only open the door back up for Mia Queen, but we break it down and we keep it open permanently so that she can return at any time.”
It takes a big villain to require all this extra heroic help, and that’s exactly what Armageddon brings to the table in the form of Despero, the red-skinned, three-eyed, fin-headed alien with the intense mental powers…who also shares the distinction of being the villain of the original Justice League of America #1. And while he spends a lot of time in a more “manageable” human form, the first episode also shows off an impressive, comic book accurate look for the baddie at the appropriate moments.
For Wallace, choosing a big bad for Armageddon came down to “what villain best will ruin [Barry and Iris’] day and support the kind of story I want to tell?”
He found his answer in his comic book collection.
“I looked at Despero and I didn’t want to force him into the story,” he says. “But when I looked at the story, I looked at the emotional journey and realized what his power set was. It turned out to be the best thing ever. I’m very glad we didn’t end up using the villain who I originally intended because I can’t imagine this story without Despero and without Tony Curran who’s going to blow folks away with an absolutely riveting Shakespearean performance of epic proportions. It’s really exciting.”
Of course, for longtime DC Comics fans, the “Armageddon” title is somewhat loaded. A major 1991 crossover event called Armageddon 2001 involved a mysterious villain called Monarch who had taken over the world to disastrous results, with the understanding that he was a former hero gone bad. It was an interesting concept (that also introduced a time-traveling character known as Waverider, the namesake of the coolest ship on TV), but the ending of the story was so botched by editorial mandate that it is now almost synonymous with the kind of superhero event storytelling that doesn’t pay off.
And considering that TV’s Armageddon opens with a vision of 2031 (hmmm…10 years from now, just like 1991 was from comics’ Armageddon 2001) and the implication that a hero gone bad (in this case, Barry) is responsible, it’s hard not to notice the similarities. And Wallace is savvy enough both as a writer and a fan to know that others would make that connection.
“Without giving any spoilers away, there’s a reason for that title and yes, I’m very aware of the feelings toward that storyline without trying to offend DC Comics or anyone, I understand and I sympathize with those feelings,” he says. “I read that storyline too. I think people will be very excited to see what the title really means, and what it does or does not mean in relationship to the past baggage of the Armageddon storyline from the comics. Because we’re not necessarily doing that. This is a mix of a whole lot of things. “
And it’s true. Despite my teasing question to Wallace on this subject, it’s clear from the first part of Armageddon that they’re going a different route. Plus, Despero wasn’t even present in Armageddon 2001. Wallace promises that fans have nothing to worry about.
“I would say to those comic book fans, relax. I hear you. I had the same concerns too. Don’t worry. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE FLASH SEASON 8?
Wallace revolutionized The Flash when he came on board as showrunner with the show’s sixth season, eschewing the sometimes overlong single villain arcs in favor of breaking the season up into smaller chunks, which he refers to as the TV equivalent of “graphic novels.” It’s an approach that has worked so far, and Armageddon is the first of what will be a total of three “graphic novels” that make up The Flash Season 8.
“We had an extra one sitting around that we didn’t get to,” Wallace says. “What’s really exciting is we turned lemons into lemonade, and it turns out it was the best thing for this particular story, which is going to be the first story up after Armageddon. Obviously no spoilers, but it has a lot more resonance because the story will be happening after the events of Armageddon and will really affect Team Flash forever.”
The Flash: Armageddon continues each Tuesday at 8PM on The CW.