This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 2, Episode 6
Black Lightning expanded its world with the inclusion of South Freeland in “The Perdi.” We’ll have to wait and see where this story expansion goes, and if the show can juggle both the events of South Freeland and those of Freeland itself, but, for now, I am fascinated.
We’re introduced to South Freeland through Anissa, who we saw make her way there at the end of last episode in search of the pregnant Anaya. Anissa finds Anaya and her family, a black, rural community who lives in the wood of South Freeland. Anissa learns that this community is known as The Perdi, and they have lived separately from the town’s rural white community since the abolition of slavery.
The white community is known as The Sange, and they are led by a meta called The Looker who has some kind of silver substance she can put into people and use to control them—it’s what Anissa saw crawling under the South Freeland cop’s skin at the end of last week’s episode.
It’s a lot to take in, a whole lot of worldbuilding to drop randomly in the sixth episode of the season, but I am into Black Lightning‘s ambitions to expand its world, and I am particularly intrigued by its interest in exploring rural communities.
But that more thorough exploration will come later. For now, there is some major, fast-paced plot. When Anissa tells Anaya that Deacon, aka the Sange father of her unborn child, is dead, Anaya goes into labor. With Anissa’s help, she births not one, but two children—one white, one black, both with gleaming eyes that suggests they may have the same kind of power as The Looker. After all, Deacon was under the influence of The Looker’s power.
The newborn twins are obviously important—not only for their powers, but for what they represent: the union between a Sange and a Perdi. The Looker and her forces come for them and it’s only with both Thunder and Black Lightning’s help that they are able to partially escape. Anissa races away with Anaya and one of the babies (the pale-skinned babe), while the dark-skinned baby falls into Looker’s hands. Yikes.
We don’t know what The Looker wants with the babe, but she doesn’t seem like the maternal type. She uses her powers to discover that there is another child, and declares her intentions to get that baby. Watch out, Freeland. South Freeland is coming for you.
It’s not like Freeland Proper doesn’t have enough problems of its own. Lynn has to announce to the families of the Pod Kids that, following Jace’s less-than-honest experiments on the kids, 14 of them have died. Worse yet for the loved ones, Lynn is unable to tell them which kids survived and which didn’t, which, frankly, I don’t really get and only makes things worse for Lynn.
Lynn has a bit of a well-deserved meltdown in this episode, getting a bit drunk and confiding in Jennifer. It’s not often we see Dr. Stewart vulnerable and kind of a mess in this way—frankly, she’s usually the one holding everyone else altogether—and I wish it had been given a more prominent slice of the episode. Instead, the cuts back to Lynn’s agony feel tonally out of place as she is so isolated from the other plots. I would have liked to see Lynn’s storyline integrated in some way. Perhaps, she travels with Anissa to South Freeland? Perhaps Gambi confides in her?
Oh yeah, Gambi is alive! The wily one had a trap door in his vehicle through which he tucked and rolled before bursting his careening car into flames. Yes, this came off as ridiculous on screen as it sounds in written form. The point is: Gambi is alive and he’s coming for the people who went after him. And, in the mean time, he’s keeping his survival from the people who care about him, which is pretty darn cruel and no doubt his way of “protecting them.” (Classic dude superhero logic.)
While the South Freeland plot may have been the most effective from a plot point of view, Khalil’s continued struggles with Tobias and his own morality were where this episode’s emotions were at. When Tobias not only lets drop the information that he was the one responsible for Khalil’s paralysis but also asks Painkiller to kill his former Reverend, Khalil’s doubts about what he’s doing skyrocket.
In an emotionally powerful scene, Khalil is unable to kill the Reverend, though it’s touch-and-go for a while. The Reverend is an official badass, if that wasn’t already clear. When Khalil tells him to leave Freeland, the Reverend tells him he’s going to stay and die. That’s how much this community and this fight mean to him. That’s how much Khalil means to him. Like Jennifer, the Reverend knows that Khalil isn’t a bad person, that there is still hope for him. It’s a nice thematic echo to Jefferson’s comments earlier in the season about how Garfield High was built on the belief that everyone is capable of being saved, of being forgiven, of seeking redemption for their mistakes.
There may be hope for Khalil, but if he chooses the path of light, it’s not going to be easy. When he tells Tobias that he wasn’t able to kill the Reverend, making up some lame excuse about how there were too many people around, Tobias pummels him with his fists. Khalil may want out, but he doesn’t fully believe he deserves it. Until he does, there is no way that he will be able to figure out a way to get out from Tobias’ rather formidable control.
At least Khalil has Jennifer on his side. When he goes to visit her on their rooftop, she affirms that he has her. These two continue to grow closer, and are easily the most engaging ‘ship on the show. (Grace and Anissa need more screen time.) This dynamic has been built over two seasons and many challenges and changes, for both kids. I’m rooting for them, and I am rooting for Khalil whatever may happen with his relationship with Jen. This Painkiller act is poised to be one of the most powerful of Season 2.