Did ‘The Flash’ Really Just Kill Off [Spoiler]? (RECAP)

Candice Patton as Iris, Grant Gustin as Barry in The Flash
Spoiler Alert
Katie Yu/The CW

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Flash Season 8 Episode 2 “Armageddon, Part 2.”]

Maybe we’re just fooling ourselves. But The Flash just dropped a bombshell so big that we’re hoping we’ve been affected by the meta attacking Central City in “Armageddon, Part 2,” or any meta or alien across the Arrowverse.

And the episode has us asking one simple question: Can Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) — who’s watched his parents die in front of him — suffer a loss so great that he loses his mind? If Despero (Tony Curran) is to be believed, yes.

Oh, and if you were wondering about Joe West’s (Jesse L. Martin) absence and a certain line of Chester’s (Brandon McKnight) to Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) in the premiere, the pieces continue to fall into place.

What Drives Barry Mad

Picking up right where Part 1 left off, Despero slams Barry to the ground, testing the amount of force necessary to kill him. “I’ve seen your destiny, Flash. I’ve watched you use your power to destroy everything and everyone,” the alien explains, due to “madness. Many times in the past, the pain you suffered merely crushed you. But soon a new despair will befall you, and it will create an unbroken chain of sorrow so great, your mind will crack, and with it the world ends. You see, your power has recently accelerated but so too has your ability to descend into madness. Tragedy is coming for you, Flash. What remains to be seen isn’t whether or not you’ll break, it’s when.”

Brandon McKnight as Chester, Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin, Kayla Compton as Allegra in The Flash

Katie Yu/The CW

And “tomorrow is the beginning of the end, your end,” he continues. He’ll be staying close, so as soon as he senses a change happening, he can find him. So, he’s watching when Barry is suspended from the CCPD for supposedly being Joseph Carver’s second mole.

Team Flash turns to Supergirl‘s Alex (welcome to “Armageddon,” Chyler Leigh!) for intel on Despero, but she doesn’t have anything, which, she says, is a concern. Barry plans to just prove Despero wrong, but Frost (Danielle Panabaker) comes up with her own solution and asks Chester to build a weapon to stop the alien.

But it’s around this point that we start getting hints that there’s a tragic reason behind Joe’s absence. Iris (Candice Patton) mentions that Cecile and Jenna “both have been having a pretty hard time lately.” Kramer (Carmen Moore) says “if Joe were here” at a crime scene. Cecile remarks that it’s “just been hard lately, I mean, you know why,” to Barry, who doesn’t quite look like he does. As Despero observes Barry, he says, “your mind is suffering due to this tragedy, but no, it hasn’t broken… yet.”

Carmen Moore as Kristen Kramer, Grant Gustin as Barry in The Flash

Colin Bentley/The CW

Barry thinks it can’t be a coincidence that a security guard lost his mind the same time that he supposedly does as well, and a visit to see that guard in the hospital gives him a lead. But first, there’s a major problem: STAR Labs is being shut down!

Why Despero Cares About Earth

Dangerous levels of radiation have been detected, and the lab is a day away from a meltdown. It turns out their radiation scanners haven’t been functioning for a while. So, the team gathers what they can, Barry puts up holographic walls to hide critical areas that reveal it’s the Flash’s home base, and he must erase all information — including Gideon — to ensure his identity remains a secret.

As for that lead, the guard said the name of a meta from National City who controls her victims’ minds and drives them crazy. But when Barry tries to catch her — and therefore ensure he doesn’t go crazy — he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a fight … against Caitlin (Panabaker), Allegra (Kayla Compton), and Chester! He sped in and started destroying the place, they inform him. He doesn’t remember any of that and assumes the meta is to blame.

Grant Gustin as The Flash, Tony Curran as Despero in The Flash

Colin Bentley/The CW

As he looks for the meta again, Despero finds him, and Barry asks why he cares so much about a world that’s not his. His planet, Kalanor, was overrun by evil, and he led the rebels in a coup. But when the time came, he spared the oppressor’s life, and that just allowed him to reign in terror once again. His enemy banished him to Earth, so this is now his only home. “I’ve been through a Crisis” — of Earth X, on Infinite Earths — “before. Whatever’s coming, I can handle it,” Barry insists. But “crisis and tragedy are like fires. Some are strong enough to endure them, but others are destined to be consumed by them,” Despero says. “Soon, we’ll find out who you are.”

The Truth Comes Out

When the meta attacks the city again, Barry intervenes, building up lightning in his body even as she holds him suspended in the air with her telekinesis. (It’s another “level up” for him, given that he should need to run to do so.) The subsequent release of lightning blasts the meta back, allowing him to cuff her.

But while Barry may want to celebrate, say with Joe’s famous jambalaya, everything comes crashing down. “That’s not funny, Barry,” Allegra says, while Caitlin wonders, “Why are you doing this?” Doing what? “Acting like Joe’s still alive,” Chester tells him. And that’s when they realize Barry doesn’t seem to remember that Joe died six months ago! He refuses to believe it when they tell him.

Cress Williams as Jefferson/Black Lighting in The Flash

Katie Yu/The CW

Barry speeds to and around the West house, looking for Joe. Iris looks to the plaque on the mantle: “Dedicated in the memory of Ret. Captain Joseph West, Central City Police Department, September 9, 1968 – May 23, 2021.” She reminds Barry, “you gave the eulogy at his funeral.” But Barry can’t accept it, even when Cecile repeatedly tells him that Joe’s dead. “Why are you saying all these things all of a sudden?” she asks. “It’s like the last six months, this living nightmare never even happened.”

Then Iris gets an alert that Barry is all over the news: The Flash attacked Central City after apprehending the meta. So he can blame his attack on the loft on her, but not this. For Despero, this is proof of what he’s been saying. To Barry, this is one of his illusions. But Iris, Cecile, then Allegra and Chester defend Barry from Despero, who’s determined to end his life with the undying fire of his home world, the flame of Py’tar. That gives Barry the chance to run. “Stand in my way again, any of you, and suffer the consequences,” Despero warns the others. “I will find the Flash and end him before he brings about Armageddon.”

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And as Iris wonders, “what will he be like when we [get him back],” Barry goes to the Hall of Justice (where we see Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow suit in a case). It’s there that Black Lightning‘s Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) joins him. “You look like death warmed over,” he says. “I need your help,” Barry tells him. What’s going on? “Injustice,” Barry says. (Injustice is the DC comic book series in which Superman becomes evil after the Joker tricks him into killing Lois.)

Did The Flash really just kill Joe West off off-screen? Or do you think there’s something else going on?

The Flash, Tuesdays, 8/7c, The CW