This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 2, Episode 13
Crafting an entire network TV season is a lot of work, and often results in episodes like “Pillar of Fire,” i.e. hours of television that do the thankless work of getting storylines where they need to be so we can get the kinds of climactic, explosive episodes that make a TV storytelling experience great. You can tell a lot about the quality of a show by how enjoyable these workmanlike filler episodes are; Black Lightning‘s is a solid hour of television.
“Pillar of Fire”‘s best moments come in the emotionally-driven dynamics and storylines that have been around since Season 1. The best example of this comes in the time spent with Anissa and Jenn, who get a bit of time to check in as sisters who love each other before the superhero vigilantism and missing girlfriend drama kicks in. Amidst the testing of Jenn’s growing powers and her attempts to get revenge for Khalil’s death and Anissa’s hardcore stalking of Grace that reminds us that these are two young women who rely on one another.
Often, that means emotionally—a classic example is Jenn giving Anissa some hard love in suggesting that maybe Grace just wasn’t that into her. Other times, it comes in the form of superhero backup. The fact that Jenn straight-up ignored Anissa’s request that she stay at her apartment to almost kill some gangsters, almost getting herself killed in the process, says a lot about her emotional state right now. Even after Anissa told Jenn she would held her find Tobias and bring him to justice, Jenn was unable to stay still. That’s going to be a problem.
And can we talk a bit more about Anissa’s stalking? I am very on board with the Anissa/Grace relationship and think it should be getting a lot more screentime, but this is not how I wanted it to go. I get that Anissa is worried about her maybe-girlfriend, but breaking into her apartment, stealing some of her personal affects, and testing her medication is next-level. This kind of character behavior is even more uncomfortable, at least for me, when it is applied to male romantic leads, but I’m not giving Anissa a free pass here. I hope Grace calls her on this at some point. I also hope Grace is OK.
Another lingering plot thread that gets addressed for the second episode in a row after a long absence is the question of Garfield High and Jefferson’s place in it. When a video of Principal Lowry mishandling the sit-in goes viral, the school board calls Jeff in to hear his thoughts on the subject. While everyone, including Jeff, assumes he will take the chance to get his principal job back, Jeff changes his mind at the last second, arguing that it is more important that the students of Garfield High have stability.
This is a hard one for me. I get where Jefferson is coming from in the sense that he is torn between his commitments as an educator and his commitments as a superhero, but I still think he is the best person for the job—and definitely better equipped than Lowry. It didn’t feel in character to me for Jeff to pass up this opportunity to at least get someone besides Lowry into the leadership position. Also, I am just sad that we won’t get more Jefferson as Educator storylines, as those are one of my favorite parts of the show and, in my opinion, one of the show’s most successful elements.
While Jeff is making a hard decision at his job, Lynn’s job continues to be an actual nightmare. Not only is Dr. Jace back, but the A.S.A. facility gets straight-up attacked by Tobias’ henchmen, Cutter and a newly-awoken meta with the power of vibration, looking to score some more metas for their black market weapons startup. (Note: The metas are the weapons.) It’s a successful mission for Tobias, who seriously ups his stock, and a devastating turn for the pod kids and Lynn, who does manage to make it out of the building alive, despite Jace’s best efforts. (She really is a good villain.)
Will the burgeoning business bring Tobias the satisfaction he is looking for? Probably not. The guy is talking to portraits of his dead sister in the middle of the night and mentions that he decided to keep Cutter around because Tory always liked her. It’s sad, and very scary just how lonely Tobias truly is. For now, Team Black Lightning seems to be off his radar, but, with the meta business so hot and Jenn actively looking to take Tobias down, it’s only a matter of time before Tobias sets his psychopathic sights on The Family Pierce.