This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 2, Episode 2
Our cultural criticism tends to give more points to stories that make us think than stories that make us feel, but my own personal preferences have always fallen toward the latter. Few shows—network or otherwise—make me feel as much as Black Lightning does, and this was particularly true in the final scene of tonight’s episode.
In it, we see Jefferson Pierce tell the Garfield High student body that, because of his absence during the attack on the school and its aftermath last season, he will be stepping down as principal. The response is an emotional one: distraught, angry, maybe even afraid. Ultimately, the response is also one of faith, of support, of love. Because if Jefferson Pierce has taught this student body anything it’s the power of community, hope, and believing in yourself and one another. Teaching shouldn’t just be about imparting knowledge; it should also be about listening.
“Thank you for always teaching me,” Jeff tells his students. And they take the responsibility seriously because that is what Jefferson has always expected of them. Where’s the future? It’s here at Garfield High—not only with these bright young students, but with Jefferson Pierce. He isn’t done yet. Not as Black Lightning and certainly not as a vocal member of this community who stands up for the rights and lives of its students.
Something tells me that Jefferson, though he may have agreed to make a show of support for the new principal, is going to stay quiet for long. The board has brought in a white administrator named Mike Lowry to take over for Jefferson. Jeff is very skeptical, but is doing what he can to make the transition a smooth one. It helps that he will still be at Garfield High as a teacher. Black Lightning isn’t a show to fall into simple storytelling, so I have a feeling this Mike Lowry won’t be a straight up antagonist, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some growing pains.
While Jeff is losing some of his power as a shepherd of Garfield High’s young people, Lynn is gaining power as a shepherd of the pod children. When one of them unexpectedly wakes up, unwittingly killing one of Lynn’s fellow scientists and himself and letting another scared, dangerous pod kid loose on Freeland, Lynn has some decisions to make. She sends Jefferson and Anissa after escaped pod kid Wendy Hernandez and focuses her attention on Issa Williams, the young meta who seemingly came back from the dead after being gunned down by the police in the season premiere.
Issa is sweet and scared, and has been treated as a criminal not only by the police, but by his family and the ASA. Lynn takes him home for family dinner, and it’s exactly what poor Issa needs… Not that it solves any of his problems. It becomes apparent during the course of family dinner that one of Issa’s metahuman powers is the ability to make others tell the truth, or at least what’s on their mind. It scares most of the Pierces away, but Issa finds solace in Jennifer’s company. After all, she knows what it’s like to be afraid of herself, or for others to be afraid of her, too.
Ultimately, Issa is embraced by some members of his family, but the kid is living on borrowed time. If Lynn doesn’t find a cure for his unstable meta genes, a mutation that came about not naturally but because of Green Light, then Issa will die. It’s not the only thing he has to worry about, either. Lynn’s bosses seem poised to use any meta’s powers for their own purposes, should they find an effective way to control them—something that surely will only become more of a problem for Lynn as the season progresses.
Lynn has taken on the responsibility of all of the pod kids’ lives, and that’s no small thing. The point is hammered home not only in young Issa being forced to face the possibility that he could die at any time, but also in an effectively simple scene that sees Lynn securing Wendy Hernandez back into the pod. Unlike Issa, Wendy chooses to go back into the pod in the hopes that it will give her more time, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t terrified. She stares into Lynn’s eyes as she falls back into a deep slumber. No pressure, Lynn, but these kids are counting on you.
It’s no surprise that Wendy chose to go back in the pod. Before waking up, she had been in stasis for 30 years. The world has moved on without her. Her friends and family have lived decades without her, if they are still alive at all. It’s the kind of isolating experience that we see play out in Tobias’ loneliness. With Syonide seemingly dead, Tobias has taken to kill off anyone who knows him. The task involves shooting a crooked cop and going to a nursing home to kill an old friend who has aged as Tobias has stayed young.
What is Tobias’ aim? Who knows, at this point. Khalil knows who he is, though perhaps not enough of who he is to pose a real threat. Black Lightning will obviously never forget Tobias Whale, and one would think in this age of technology that it is impossible to completely erase yourself from existence. Still, Tobias seems poised to try, and if anyone can pull it off, it’s probably him. After all, he is a smart, determined man with one terrifying trait on his side: he has nothing to lose, save for his power.
I like that Khalil is becoming a more complex and sympathetic character in Season 2. He visits Jen and tells her how scared he is of Tobias. (And rightly so.) He doesn’t want to be a bad guy, and is desperately looking for a way out.
Anissa’s got a new girlfriend—a rich, famous singer—and Grace is not happy about it. Frankly, it’s great to have Grace back. Her character was one of the lingering threads that Black Lightning was not able to tie up in Season 1. Right now, Grace is understandably pissed at Anissa for blowing her off, but something tells me these two aren’t done yet. (Yeah, I ship it.)
Apparently, supowerpowers eliminate the pain of period cramps? This would be a definite bonus.