Black Lightning season 2 episode 11 review: Prodigal Son

Tobias' kill count rises on a devastating episode of Black Lightning, out now on Netflix UK. Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

2.11 Prodigal Son

Damn, Black Lightning. I actually can’t believe you did that.

For months, Black Lightning has eschewed its more grounded elements in the black community of Freeland for superhero and supernatural matters that are sometimes not even in Freeland. It’s made for an unfocused first half of season two. But there was nothing unfocused or unrelatable about tonight’s episode. It dealt with the consequences of Tobias’ continued, unchecked rise to power. And it depicted the most grounded, relatable consequence of all: death.

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Black Lightning killed off not one, but two recurring characters. First, we lost Reverend Holt. He died in the middle of a sermon about the importance of challenging and working outside a system that doesn’t support or value black lives, poisoned by Cutter on Tobias’ orders.

Then, in the final moments of the episode, we lost Khalil. He died from the complications of having his spine ripped from his body by Tobias, his loved ones by his side.

It’s a shame to see Khalil go—not only for how it will affect Jenn and Jeff in particular, but for the loss of this character in general. We’ve seen him go through so many changes in his time on the show: from determined, sweet boyfriend to Jenn to a frustrated and in pain survivor of violence to a killer to a remorseful young man trying to do right by the people he loves.

Khalil’s redemption arc, as well as his relationship with Jenn, has been one of the most effective storylines of season two. His character will be missed…

Though, presumably, especially if the promo for next week’s episode is anything to go by, not forgotten. I’m not sure if I’m excited to see yet another superhero story explore the theme of the difference between vengeance and justice, but I am intrigued to give Black Lightning a shot—especially as it has always situated itself as more understandably ‘radical,’ i.e. in favour of fundamentally changing a system that regularly perpertrates violence against people of colour.

It seems like this exploration will happen next in Jenn’s grief-driven need to kill Tobias, though she isn’t the only one who may take the murderous approach when it comes to Tobias. Don’t forget that Khalil asked Jeff to promise to make Tobias suffer. Now that Khalil is dead, and Jeff feels no doubt guilty about his former student’s demise, Jeff may take drastic action.

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As we’ve seen ad nauseum on other shows, superhero dads tend to have a double standard when it comes to vengeance: It’s not cool for their daughter to kill in the name of vengeance, but male superheroes often have a different standard for themselves. (Note: I hope Black Lightning doesn’t go down this path.)

While the Pierce family was holding vigil at the hospital, Gambi and Bill teamed up. In a move that, as far as I can tell, can only bring good things to this show, Henderson now knows about the lair. He’s already brought some much-needed groundedness to the Black Lightning lair. “What y’all got to eat down here?” Henderson asks, upon succombing to the plan that he and Gambi will work together to bring Tobias down. The dude’s asking the important questions. He’s basically the Felicity Smoak of the situation.

Gambi uses Henderson to do some recon of Tobias’ swanky apartment. They figure out the make and model of Tobias’ safe, only to discover that the much-sought-after MOD briefcase is not in there. I’ll let this plot distraction slide because it represented one of the many ways Black Lightning consolidated its storylines in tonight’s episode. Henderson not only hangs with Gambi, but with Tobias.

Meanwhile, Tobias joins forces with the other absolutely reprehensible person on the show: Dr Jace. It turns out the two go way back. It was Jace who made Tobias’ anti-aging serum. By the end of the episode, Todd has broken Jace out of jail and she has joined Tobias’ villain team. Between Jace, Todd, and cutter, Tobias has assembled quite a squad. They break into the ASA’s pod facility at the end of the episode. The plan? To add some metas to their arsenal.

If Team Lightning is going to try to take down Tobias again, they’d better do it fast. He’s never felt more powerful.

Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, Angelitos Negros, here.

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