Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Flash season 8, episode 2.
The big twist in the second installment of The Flash’s “Armageddon” crossover doesn’t necessarily mean that Joe West has been killed off permanently. Though Joe (Jesse. L. Martin) being dead was the impression given by the episode’s events, an off-screen death for such an important character is difficult to imagine. Barry (Grant Gustin) may have been right when he declared that Joe couldn’t have died.
Joe’s absence in “Armageddon” was explained by a game-changing reveal at the end of The Flash season 8, episode 2. According to Team Flash, Joe died six months ago, even though Barry has no recollection of such a tragedy. To the characters and perhaps to viewers, this may be a sign of the madness that Despero (Tony Curran) warned him about. Barry’s alleged attack on Team Flash and violent display in Central City boosted evidence for this scenario. Right now, it looks like Barry is in denial about Joe’s death, and that he must have subconsciously repressed the memory. That would explain why show has been hiding Joe’s fate.
The fact that all of the characters clearly remember Joe dying suggests that this somehow did occur in the show’s timeline, but that doesn’t mean definitively that Joe’s story is over. Earlier comments from The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace about Joe’s season 8 story do indeed point to his death on the show not lasting. As for how that could be the case, there’s more than one way that the show can make sense of Joe’s situation that doesn’t involve him dying. While this may be the least satisfying explanation, one possibility is that everything that Barry has been experiencing as of late isn’t real. Or, Barry is trapped in an alternate timeline where Joe died.
Another concept that could be at play here is time travel. Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh) infamously meddled with Barry’s life when he went back in time and killed his mother. Joe’s death could be the result of a similar scheme. Reverse-Flash being behind Barry’s current dilemma would make a lot of sense, especially since the villain is confirmed to appear in “Armageddon”. Plus, Barry handily beat Reverse-Flash in the season 7 finale, which could deepen the character’s vendetta against the Scarlet Speedster.
Even if Eobard Thawne has nothing to do with Joe’s sudden death, time travel still seems like the most logical answer to The Flash season 8’s Joe West mystery. A speedster going back in time and killing Joe could have something to do with why Barry is the only one who remembers things as they’re supposed to be. Somehow, he may not have been affected by whatever changes were made to the timeline. If that’s really what happened, Barry may have to risk another Flashpoint incident to set things right and restore the Arrowverse timeline to what it was before.