Black Lightning Season 4 Episode 6 Review: The Book of Ruin: Chapter 2: Theseus’s Ship

Jefferson struggles to move forward in the wake of Jennifer's change, in another satisfying episode of Black Lightning Season 4.

Cress Williams as Black Lightning in Season 4
Photo: The CW

This Black Lightning review contains spoilers.

Black Lightning Season 4, Episode 6

The Ship of Theseus thought project asks if you replace all the parts of a thing over time is it the same thing or something else. There is no easy answer, except in the case of Jennifer Pierce, who is the same in all but appearance. A person is not just their body; they are the culmination of all of their experiences. And that persists even when the body is altered or damaged—or, in the case of Jen, unmade then made anew. Still the question has to be asked, is Jen still Jen? And while most of the family quickly comes around to yes —even Grace can smell that Jen is the same—Jefferson has a harder time accepting the new reality.

Jefferson is not at his best as a father, or as a partner right now, and it is becoming problematic.  He asks Lynn to create and take a meta booster to find out what power Tobias’ Right-hand woman has. She declines on the account of being a recovering addict and he basically says “so?” He constantly throws Lynn’s addiction in her face only to say that her recovery is less important than his beef with Tobias. This aspect of the storytelling reads as authentic—hurt people hurt people— but is increasingly grating to watch. I both love to acknowledge that heroes can be flawed and need the writers to fix it.

Black Lightning is doing something really interesting with its storytelling, where it is both extremely predictable and delightfully surprising. If, after the season premiere, I had to guess what Tobias would be doing at this point in the season, I wouldn’t have missed at all. His moves could not be more by the numbers, from plotting  on Billy Black to announcing his own mayoral run. Yet the opposite is true with Lala or Destiny, who I expected the writers to sideline after the first few episodes. The back and forth between The 100s and Kobra Cartel have been entertaining to watch and the escalation of their feud makes things more chaotic and dangerous for Freeland.

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Last week, Destiny set Lala up with the police,  and this week she sics a particularly adept merc, Ishmael, on him. Now, Lala is serving Han Solo realness as a slab of concrete, and sis convinces the killer— who is 6 meta kills away from the 100 he needs to gain entry to the League of Assassins—to stay and hunt Black Lightning, Lightning, Blackbird, and Wylde. Add to that Tobias running for mayor and Montovista arming Freeland PD with next-gen direct energy guns, and it’s looking real bad for the meta vigilantes of Freeland.

Still, Freeland needs its heroes. Black Lightning shows us, in uncomfortable detail, what happens when there is no Black Lightning patrolling the streets. Instead of cops making a martyr of a Black woman in a shootout they instigate by entering her home without warning or warrant, Black Lightning prevents them from shooting, causing her death, and the emotional devastation that would follow. This is not something we needed to see because we are too familiar with how these things play out, but I do have an appreciation for the inclusion of this scene. The director takes care not to sensationalize violence against this woman, but also reminds us that Black women are susceptible to the same harm as Black men, and that they deserve the same outrage and demands for justice. (#SayHerName)

Jenn puts on the new suit Gambi has been working on, and comes to Black Lightning’s aid when he’s beset upon by police after interfering. The DEGs make quick work of    his energy shield,  and without Jenn there to boost his power,  he is vulnerable. Working together in sync convinces Jeff that Jen is the same person,  despite her new form. Jefferson apologizes to Jen for how he reacted towards her, but she is grateful he saved her in the first place. The relationships between Jefferson and his daughters are beautiful because they are messy, and I enjoy their dynamics so much, even then they annoy me. Jeff and Jen coming together in this episode feels good.

I enjoy the family drama, the crime drama, and the heroes journeys, and how all of these coalesce in Black Lightning. I remain genuinely excited about each new episode and look forward to that continuing week after week.

Additional thoughts.

I love the moment that Grace and Jen share and I hope that Grace becomes integral to more than just Anissa.

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I enjoyed the “what Lightning means to me” scene and that it emphasized Black girls and women, and how powerful it is to feel reflected in your heroes.

Gambi is doing a lot.


4 out of 5