This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 1, Episode 12
Black Lightning long ago established that the way to Jefferson Pierce’s heart is through his school (and his family). As they are the same man, the same can be said for Black Lightning. While last week’s episode included a particularly affecting sequence that saw Jeff being arrested in front of all of his students, this week’s episode sees a very different kind of attack on the students of Garfield High: one that didn’t just target their morale, but their physical safety. It also almost cost Jefferson Pierce his life.
As Black Lightning races towards the end of its excellent first season, it continues to feel like Jefferson Pierce is running out of time, luck, and places of sanctuary. He and his family are now living in cognito at the house Jeff’s father was murdered in, trying to out-think the well-resourced ASA. With a spy at Garfield High, corruption in the police department, and a grieving Tobias Whale at their disposal, the ASA has never been more dangerous for Jefferson Pierce.
The genius of Tobias and the ASA’s plan against Black Lightning is that, unbeknownst to them, it used one of Jeff’s students to get to him. The student in question is Khalil who is not only back and walking, but has a new ‘do and a new attitude to go along with his miracle recovery. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that someone is manipulating Khalil to do their bidding and, while Jeff may understand what’s going on, that doesn’t mean he can help Khalil—at least not at this juncture. When Jeff tries to talk to him, Khalil bites back that Jeff seemed to abandon him following his injury. While Khalil’s assumptions about Jeff’s motivations for taking a step back are off-base (it wasn’t because he didn’t care, but because he has had his hands very full), he isn’t wrong when he accuses Jeff of not being there for him.
Not even Jennifer can get through to her ex when he shows up on her roof to try to get back together with her. Khalil’s obvious affection for Jen is a sign that the boy who once asked so timidly to be Jen’s boyfriend is still in there, though he is thoroughly buried under several layers of anger issues. This plot line would have been a bit more affecting if we had gotten to know Khalil a bit better before his transformation, but it still smarts when Tobias convinces Khalil to attack the very school community he used to be a part of (without a disguise, which seems dumb).
Not only is it disturbing on a meta level to see students running in terror as they are attacked inside the very institution that should keep them safe, but it ends with Khalil accidentally (temporarily) killing Jeff. Anissa and Jen find the lifeless body of their dad lying in the school hallway, and it is horrific. It should not be lost on viewers that it is the powers that Jennifer has so ardently tried to get rid of that end up saving her father’s life. If Jennifer had not inherited her dad’s powers, then she would not have a father anymore. No doubt this moment, as well as the powerlessness Jen felt as she watched her ex-boyfriend attack her friends and family, will affect how Jen feels about her powers at least a little bit.
For now, Tobias thinks Black Lightning is dead, though Martin Proctor isn’t ready to believe it until he sees the dead body. I don’t blame him. Black Lightning has seemingly been killed before only to come back from the dead… and he isn’t the only one to have been resurrected. In the mean time, Proctor puts out a hit on Thunder, as well, desperate to find the secret to keeping his meta soldiers alive and kicking. What is it inside the Pierce family’s DNA that keeps their abilities stable? Was it something Jeff’s dad figured out or is it a natural part of their genetic makeup?
Speaking of Anissa, the classroom fight between her and Syonide was a thing of beauty: graceful and brutal, suspenseful and unexpected. We still know very little about Syonide, other than that she seems completely loyal to Tobias and that he seems to trust her in return, so it was nice to see more from her in tonight’s episode. At one point, she shoots the henchman who saved Tobias’ life, but left Tori to die. Presumably, it was on Tobias’ orders, but who knows? Tobias seems to like that she is unpredictable. She’s also smart. In her fight with Anissa, she quickly figures out that her vulnerability lies in the moments when she isn’t holding her breath.
The episode ends with the Pierce family more or less running away, presumably to regroup. After taking their home, the school, and Gambi’s tailor shop, the family is running out of places to hide. They wind up at what looks like an old hunting cabin, Jeff still unconscious following his brush with death. It’s Lynn who’s left to treat the man she loves yet again. She may be beyond tired of this, but she’s also tired of not being with him, too. Earlier in the episode, the two rekindled their romance and both seemed happier than ever.
Unfortunately, the relationship almost immediately hit a snag when Jeff found out that Lynn was researching potential ways to suppress Jennifer’s powers. The fight feels a little contrived. Lynn’s desire to find out more about her daughter’s powers seems like a healthy and smart response to this whole thing. Jeff doesn’t really give Lynn a chance to explain, instead taking Jen’s skewed, teenage interpretation of the situation. Then again, emotions are pretty high and Jeff may simply be trying to protect his heart. Sabotage the relationship before Lynn can change her mind. It’s not the most emotionally mature response, but it would be a very human one.
Heading into the final episode of the season, Black Lightning has a lot of storylines to tie up in some way. I’m not worried. This show’s confidence has allowed me to trust it right from the beginning. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in next week’s finale, but I know it’s going to be a good one—and that’s a great place to be.