This review contains spoilers.
2.15 The Alpha
The second season of Black Lightning hasn’t been the most cohesive, but The Alpha reminds us how great this superhero show can be when all of its storylines line up, and all of its characters feel like they exist in the same world.
In The Alpha, everyone is looking to kill Tobias – though some of them have dads with fancy new superhero codes that prohibit them from taking such drastic measures. I’m speaking, of course, about Jenn, who has been pretty understandably determined to kill Tobias since he killed Khalil. I get why Jeff doesn’t want his daughter to become a killer, but she makes some good points – mainly, that, as long as he is alive, he will cause pain and murder. Also, it’s kind of hypocritical for Jeff to forbid his daughter from killing Tobias when he was trying to do it for so long.
His argument, delivered over an adorable father-daughter lunch out (the pronouncement of the superhero code was given over family dinner, obviously), that actually worked for me – no doubt at least partially because of the current president – was this: “Those with the greatest power should not be able to decide who lives and who dies. That is a path that can only lead to darkness.”
Fair point, sir. Though, that being said, Jeff’s announcement of the superhero code to be ratified and carried out without any discussion period was a little tyrannical. Jenn is a teenaged girl living under his roof, but he could at least pretend to give her a say, and Anissa (as she points out) is a grown-ass woman. Why does she not get to help write their superhero constitution.
If you were wondering, The Superhero Code is this:
1. No telling anyone.
2. No doing anything without backup.
3. No killing anyone.
Predictably, Jenn has broken one of those by the end of the episode (#2), with the intention of breaking another one (#3). So far, The Era of The Superhero Code is going great.
Jenn isn’t the only character actively trying to kill Tobias. Lala is also on the hunt, after realising that Tobias has caused a lot of the problems in his life. (This is true, but dude also has to take some accountability for his bad decisions, you know?) Lala has the support of the mad scientist who brought him back to life and who is cool with bringing Lala back to life again, should he die – which, given how ineffective he is at taking on Cutter wihout getting stabbed multiple times almost immediately, will probably happen.
Is there a chance Jenn and Lala could team up? That would be an interesting character dynamic, though not one the show seems poised to explore, with Lala lying within Tobias’ abandoned compound with multiple knives sticking out of him and Jenn lying in the road outside of the compound, completely overwhelmed by her out-of-control powers.
While Tobias ends the episode fleeing from his lair, he continues to make some serious power moves in this episode, basically staging a commercial for his new metahuman mercenary market on The Dark Web. No doubt he will have some takers, though he should keep an eye on Dr Jace, who is never to be underestimated. It’s not wise for Tobias to risk alienating Jace by ignoring her criticisms of Cutter, though I do appreciate his honesty about his appreciation for Cutter’s “possessiveness.”
Meanwhile, Team Black Lightning has a potentially much more dangerous threat zeroing in on them. Odell spends the entire episode creeping on the Pierce household, and pretty much knows everything about their secret superpowers now? (So much for Superhero Code #1.) While Lynn is busy worrying about Wendy and watching news on her office computer during work hours, Odell is no doubt figuring out how best he can use their information to get what he wants.
Jenn seems particularly vulnerable, as we know Odell’s main tactic is manipulating teen metas. Frankly, in a face-off between Odell and Jenn, I’d never bet against Jenn—though Odell is very scary. He may be the scariest character on this show, and he has an institution behind him to support his villainy.
The least successful main plot in tonight’s episode was Anissa’s continued search for Grace, who she beings to suspect may be the shapeshifter she faced off against in last week’s episode. I am very much here for the characters of Anissa, Grace, and their relationship; I just wish the show had given them a bit more screen time together before Grace disappeared.
Still, Anissa’s continued search for Grace fits in nicely wiht the larger theme of the episode: the exploration of Jeff’s new rules, and their viability. When Anissa confides in Jenn on the Pierce family roof, she wonders out loud if things would have turned out differently with Grace had Anissa told her girlfriend about her powers (i.e. breaking rule #1, albeit at a time when the rules were not specifically in place). It probably would have changed things, and for the better, calling into question Jeff’s rules—or at least that one—as absolute mandates.
As much as Jeff—and no doubt Anissa and Jenn—would like to come up with a simple rules to follow to keep his family safe while at the same time using his powers for good, the world tends to be messier than that. As we race closer to the conclusion of season two, it will be interesting to see if Jeff is able to hold fast to his own rules, and if it will be the right decision.