This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.
Black Lightning Season 2, Episode 4
Nothing in Freeland is the same, but things are a lot like they used to be. Metas are no longer a secret, and Chief Lopez wants to register and tag them like domesticated animals. She is promising to bring in new DEGs (directed energy guns) which are specifically harmful to metas. The 100 and Kobra Cartel are warring in the streets, putting lives in danger, with gun violence and the drugs Lala’s crew pushes. The city is back to where it was when Black Lightning began, but more volatile and with more formidable players on every side. Freeland has come full circle, but the city can only survive so much and this might be its breaking point.
The violence that has erupted as the the 100 and Kobra Cartel regain their foothold in Freeland is backdropped by a city devastated by war. The scope of the damage isn’t fully visualized, a practical production limitation I imagine, but it is felt when characters lament the things they’ve lost. After a gunfight results in the death of a boy, Blackbird forces a treaty between the leaders of the 100 and Kobra Cartel that protects a stretch of land—the Blackbird zone— where Freelands unhoused can safely spend their nights. These are some of the questions I hoped this season would answer: How has the city been affected and what is being done, on the ground and elsewhere, to make Freeland whole? Anissa has always been an activist, and I appreciate this consistent characterization and love her in this role.
Gambi is literally flirting with Monovista, or rather Lauren Caruso (Elena Varela), a woman from his past who is trying to recruit him. The company makes DEGs, so he’s presumably using whatever leverage he gains with her or the company to protect his family, but maybe there is more. Giving Gambi personal attachments outside of the Pierces unlocks a lot of storytelling potential and I would love to see what Gambi splitting his attention between his duties and his love life looks like. James Remar expressed a desire to see Gambi find love, and Gambi has earned some contentment, so I look forward to seeing this relationship play out.
Black Lightning has always told very grounded stories, using meta abilities and the fantastical to elevate those narratives. The characters and their relationships to each other and Freeland have been the focal point, and everything always comes back to how the city serves the characters and how they serve the city. After the war, Freeland needs all of its heroes, masked or otherwise. What excites me about the season is the possibility that Freeland will learn who its heroes are, and that we’ll get to explore what that means for the city and for the people who protect it. Jefferson is already moving in a way that puts his secret at risk of discovery, and the city has its eyes on Lightning especially, putting her identity at risk as well. How does Black Lightning’s relationship with the city change if his identity is revealed? This episode doesn’t answer that question, but it does give us insight into what Freeland without Black Lightning looks like.
Jefferson is behaving completely outta pocket. His grief over Henderson’s death has made him destructive. He and Lynn go to couples therapy to work on their relationship, but it is in their individual sessions they are more able to process their realities—something I love to see normalized, especially for Black men. Jefferson hasn’t let go of any of his old hurt about his father, and the loss of his best friend compounds that. It doesn’t help that Tobias Whale is not just free, but completely reintegrated back into the city, and celebrated as a hero in his own right. When Tobias makes contact, Jefferson hits him with a full blast, in front of the school where anyone could’ve happened by. Jefferson is maneuvering through a lot of negative emotions right now and being reckless with his power and his identity at a time when Freeland needs him and Black Lightning, but might be losing faith in both.
Jefferson accuses Lynn of trading one addiction, Glimmer, for another, the meta serum which grants her temporary access to meta abilities, and it is a reversal of their roles from season one. Lynn imbues herself with power then plays sidekick with Jen, possibly stopping Jen from being shot, but taking damage herself. When the girls find out, they ask her to quote, “get back in your lane.” On the one hand, I am intrigued by the possibilities of Lynn taking the serum and what it could mean for her and for metas in general, especially now that Lopez is clearly targeting metas. On the other hand, I would like a return to Lynn being exceptional, not because she’s powered, but because she is a normal human with a brilliant mind. I would love the show to get back to the power of being heroic in your everyday life, the way Jefferson Pierce was for years without the suit.
Black Lightning has always interrogated what it means to be powerful, and what it means to be a hero. And it has always offered more than one right and wrong answer. When Jefferson seeks out gang members in his plain clothes, unmasked, exposed, he’s doing something that can be justified, but isn’t necessarily right. His motivations are called into question and we are asked to be critical of his choices. Similarly, we can root for Lynn as a person who ultimately wants to protect her family, and still be skeptical at the decisions she makes to achieve those ends. I love when the show plays with moral ambiguity and allows us to see these characters complexly. Seeing heroes falter and come back stronger or wiser, or—hell, even meaner—is always interesting. And I am so excited for the ways The Pierces will be tested and what they will come away as.