This Black Lightning article contains spoilers through Season 4, Episode 9.
The fourth season of Black Lightning will be its last and, barring any CW superhero crossover cameos or the greenlighting of the Painkiller spinoff, this may be the last time we will see these particular iterations of these comic book characters. The benefit of knowing the end is coming—a relative rarity in broadcast network TV, which are traditionally designed to run forever—is that it can allow writers to go places they might not otherwise go. With four episodes left ever, Black Lightning certainly isn’t holding any of its punches.
The latest episode of Black Lightning, “The Book of Ruin: Chapter Four: Lyding,” lives up to its title. The Pierces are going through it. Tobias has been plotting on the Pierces ever since he discovered their vigilante identities, and it seems his machinations have culminated into a single attack so devastating, it could bring an end to Black Lightning, Lightning, and Thunder. Gambi’s girlfriend completed her work on the Energy Field Emitter, which her superior at Monovista sells to Tobias. The emitter, coupled with meta-boosters harvested from Val—whose powers nullify meta abilities—creates an anti-meta field around Freeland, leaving every meta powerless. I hate to see a villain win, but I respect a well-executed plan.
Jefferson tracks down Ishmael and pulls him into confrontation, but loses his powers mid-fight. Ishmael is an experienced meta hunter, with practical and technical skills which, put up against Jefferson’s un-enhanced melee ability, puts him at a major advantage. Blackbird and Wylde only barely escaped Ishmael at their full power, and Jefferson is going toe-to-toe with him with nothing but vibes. It doesn’t look good. Meanwhile, a car guns down the street toward Anissa and she can’t thunderclap it to a halt or harden herself against the impact.
After Lightning goes on Instagram Live with her crush Uriah to fundraise for Garfield’s music program, Chief Lopez uses Uriah’s social media to lure Lightning into a trap. Lightning just manages to escape and takes to the sky, but she loses her powers mid-flight, and begins to free fall. JJ has survived a lot but a landing from that height would be fatal. Things are dire for the powered Pierces. Tobias isn’t just coming for the metas, though. He framed Jefferson for embezzling money from Garfield High, then implicated Lynn by making it seem as though her research was financed by those embezzled funds. The FBI confiscates all of Lynn’s files and research, and apparently finds (or creates) something incriminating enough to arrest her for.
Lynn is booked and processed, then denied her bodily autonomy as she’s forced to strip down, and cavity searched. This dehumanizing treatment is hard to watch, especially given what we know of her innocence. And yet it echoes similar treatment of Tobias by the ASA and Lynn. Whatever her motives, and however much Tobias may have deserved it, Lynn actively participated in his dehumanization. A one-to-one comparison can’t be made, because the individual circumstances differ, but there is a symmetry here. We have a different relationship to Lynn than we do Tobias, but the fundamental wrongness is stark when it’s someone we care about. I am interested to see whether this is interrogated at all.
Black Lightning has never pulled punches with the audience and this episode is aiming for a KO. We have seen Jefferson and the girls survive worse, but never alone, and never de-powered. The danger feels real, and the closer we get to the finish line, the less safe they should be. If there is one positive, it is that Khalil is back in Freeland, and he—and Painkiller—is on the Pierces side. The anti-meta field might take away Khalil’s ability to inject toxins (and their antidotes) but Painkiller and his myriad combat skills are in-tact and having shootas might be how the Pierces survive. It would be very nice if PK—Khalil nicknamed him—could provide an assist because Black Lightning needs the help, and I enjoy seeing him fight. But I don’t want things to be easy for any of them, Jefferson especially.
More than anything, I wanted this season of Black Lightning to push its characters to extremes, and this episode delivers on that. Jefferson, Lynn, Anissa, and JJ are in trouble, and it’s fun to anticipate how they’ll respond to that distress. I am invested in everyone, even Tobias, who I hate. As viewers, we want to feel like anything can happen, and that everything is possible, good or bad. We want the stakes to be real, and the results to feel earned. I’m coming away from “Lyding” excited about the possibilities.
Chief Lopez had to do more or do less. She’s interesting as a concept, but the lack of development beyond her tunnel vision for hunting metas is disappointing.