This Black Lightning review contains spoilers for Season 4, Episode 1.
Jefferson Pierce has had enough. His family barely survived the occupation of Freeland by the ASA and the proceeding war with Markovia, a year ago. He lost his best friend, Henderson. And both of his daughters, and his partner, were soldiers on the front line. Blood is on all of their hands, and Jefferson has to reckon with his responsibility in all of that. He couldn’t help being a meta as much as he couldn’t help passing on powers to his daughters, but being a vigilante was a choice. And it’s the repercussions of that choice Jefferson has to contend with.
After leaving Henderson’s grave, Jefferson comes across a Black teen being singled out and harassed by two white officers. He intercedes, and when officers point guns at him, he lights them up. Then he fries the squad car, along with the dash cam, and drives away. This is in stark contrast to last season, when Jefferson took a beating from the ASA goons posted up at the high school. He suppressed his anger and his power then. But not this time. He’s not in his suit, and even if he was, Black Lightning avoids escalation. Jefferson uses his powers in plain view of those officers and doesn’t hold back at all. He’s not just being reckless with the possibility of being discovered, he’s being reckless with his own health. The suit does more than amplify his power, it protects him as well. Later, when one of Lala’s people injures Jen, Jefferson seeks them out for revenge. He’s beyond looking for justice, he wants people to hurt like her hurts, and that makes him dangerous.
The rest of the Pierce family is coping a little bit better. Lynn has been experimenting with the serum that lets anyone borrow meta powers, using it on herself to gather data and do some masked vigilantism—oh, how the turntables. Jennifer and Anissa take on the 100s as their alter egos Thunder and Lightning, but their constant interference puts them on Lala’s radar. After they bust a large deal, Lala equips his people with anti-meta guns and sets a trap, which they fall into. Lala tells his people to go for Lightning because she’s stronger, and they do. She heals from the gunshot quickly, but when she’s on her regular fly about —flying is her thing now— her powers disappear. Mid-flight, while she is high above the clouds. We don’t see what happens, but it’s looking dire. The implications are huge, and with this being the last season—and actress Chyna McClain announcing her departure—the show might actually Go There with these characters, meaning nobody is safe.
Last season, Lala had no consistent presence in the story and his inclusion seemed out of place when he did pop up. He did ultimately serve a purpose, using his firepower to help defend Freeland, but it felt more like writers making use of him than the story needing him. This season seems to be a correction, returning us to the original status quo. Lala is running the 100s and Tobias is a respected member of the community. What’s changed, however, is that Tobias knows who Black Lightning and his entire family is, and is using his wealth and influence to get closer to Lynn, almost certainly towards nefarious ends.
Lynn and the girls want to clap Tobias expeditiously, but Jefferson doesn’t want to—or rather, doesn’t want them to. Jefferson has shown that he isn’t above violence, especially to protect the people he cares about, so the issue isn’t whether killing Tobias is right. He doesn’t want to accept that his partner and their daughters are shootas, and he doesn’t want to deal with his own guilt surrounding that. With Henderson’s replacement, Chief Ana Lopez (Melissa De Sousa) looking to register all metas, and Henderson’s protege Hassan Shakur weighing his allegiance to Black Lightning, the scene is being set for internal and external conflicts. The moral dilemmas will go beyond what makes sense for the Pierces, but what is right for Freeland, for metas, and for everyone who is surviving in the aftermath of war.
It’ll be interesting to see how Tobias and Lala coming back into prominence are handled now that there are three masked vigilantes—none of which are Black Lightning. The 100s have always been a part of Freeland, and without shady government agencies hogging all of the attention, the masked metas of Freeland have time for the locals. But Lala isn’t your average local kingpin, he has power too, and he’s found ways to hurt other metas. And with Jefferson being all rage and vengeance, an eruption of violence is all but assured.
Last season was apocalyptic for Freeland, and it’ll be hard to top in sheer scope. But the characters and relationships that pull us into Black Lightning are all still alive and fighting… mostly. Grace has been in a coma for a year, and Khalil hasn’t returned. But those who remain are still our heroes, and we’re rooting for them.