This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 2, Episode 4
Cracks are beginning to show in the Pierce family phalanx, and Tobias Whale has more power than ever by the end of tonight’s Black Lightning.
After electrifying another laptop by accident during a bout of high emotion, Jeff and Lynn let Jennifer know that they will be homeschooling her from now on. Jen’s reaction is so very teenager, which is to say: realistic. She tells them it is unfair (it is, but it’s not their fault) and accuses them of punishing her. They do the best they can: honestly telling Jennifer about their decision and their decision-making process. For now, that’s the best they can do.
For Jennifer, it’s not enough. After avoiding Khalil for weeks, she returns one of his messages, asking him to meet up at Garfield High. This is probably not a good idea for Jennifer, but it’s great news for Khalil, who needs someone to confide in who truly cares about him and who will listen. And who knows? Maybe it will be good for Jen, too. She needs access to the peer group she so desperately wants to be a part of, and they are mostly off limits. Khalil may not know about her powers (yet), but he does know about the world of metas. He knows what it is like to be “a freak.”
Speaking of “freaks,” the Freeland P.D. Officially has Tobias in custody, but it quickly becomes clear that everything is going according to Tobias’ plan. Tobias allowed himself to be arrested after destroying all of the evidence that linked him to Alvin Pierce’s death. Jefferson is the only witness, and he lied about being there, on Gambi’s advice (to keep Jeff safe), all those years ago. Henderson is forced to let Tobias go, giving Tobias the legitimacy he so desperately desires. He no longer has to mastermind from the shadows.
The arrest of Tobias may bring Bill and Jeff into the same room, but Bill makes it clear that he is far from forgiving Jeff for lying to him for all of these years and for putting him into this position as a friend and a detective. I love that Black Lightning is giving Bill’s character purchase here. Jeff keeps trying to move past this revelation, and the show keeps giving Bill space to try to explain to Jeff just how big this thing is, just how long it will take for him to process, just how unsure Bill himself is about how he will feel about Jeff when he comes out of the other side of this thing. If he ever comes out of the other side of things.
Frankly, it’s pretty bad timing for Jeff, who seriously needs a friend right now. Not only is he dealing with the release of his father’s killer and the anguish of Jennifer’s current situation, but he doesn’t even have Garfield High. At least, not in the way he used to. When two of his students get into a fist fight in the halls, he makes them apologize and moves on. But Principal Lowry, who is officially the worst, has instituted a one-strike policy when it comes to violence. He expels both boys.
For Jefferson, who argues that Garfield High was built on a belief in redemption for all, it is his worst nightmare. First he tries to argue with Lowry: if you kick these boys out, not only are you giving up on them, but you are most likely giving them over to a life in which they will be dangerous and violent. When that doesn’t work, he tries strong-arming him: you need me to sell your authority here, Jeff tells Lowry. But Lowry’s not going for that, either. He tells Jeff that Jeff isn’t there to cover his ass; he’s there to cover the board’s ass, and he’s not wrong. Lowry may be terrible, but he knows how to hold onto power (and isn’t that the worst possible combination?).
Things aren’t going much better for Jeff in his relationship with Anissa. When he finds out she stole a bunch of money from professional criminals to help fund the neighborhood clinic, he gives her an ultimatum: either play by his vigilante rules or move out of the house. She chooses the later, unwilling to compromise on her own values or her autonomy as a vigilante and activist for her father. And, unlike Jen, she is an adult.
In a measured move, the two manage to patch things up enough to team up to save the clinic, which is quickly targeted by the same professional criminals Anissa stole from. Anissa admits that she made the clinic a target, even if she doesn’t fully regret her actions or decide to move back into the house. Jeff offers Anissa his father’s place to stay in, an olive branch of sorts in their tet-a-tet. I love that they are able to work together, even if they haven’t completely resolved their ideological differences. It says so much about the commitment they both have to their work. They may not agree on method, but they agree on purpose: to keep the people of Freeland safe and free.
While Anissa and Jeff are trying to work things out, Gambi is keeping a major secret from the Pierces, which is especially not cool given his history of keeping major secrets from Jeff and the others. (I thought we’d moved past this, dude.) He has Kara locked somewhere in his tailor lair (his tail-lair?). She dies, too far gone, but not before she lets Gambi know that Tobias has the briefcase everyone and their mother is after. I’m sad we didn’t get to see Jefferson confront Kara properly, and, if I were Jeff, I would be pretty pissed at Gambi for robbing him of that opportunity.
Back at the A.S.A. Labs, Dr. Jace is having the time of her psychopathic life, gleefully gathering more data as one Pod Teen comes to life, uses their power, and then promptly dies. For her, they are not kids; they are simply subjects. Lynn is for sure wasting her time trying to convince her otherwise.
The especially scary thing about Dr. Jace’s lack of conscious? She’s very, very smart—too smart for the Pierces’ own good. When she finds samples of Jeff, Anissa, and Jennifer’s DNA in the database, Lynn tries to play it cool. But it feels like only a matter of time before the scientist figures out who they belong to. She’s that smart.
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