Will Black Lightning Stick Its Landing?

Black Lightning effectively raised the stakes for our heroes in last week's excellent episode, only to gut them this week with quick, easy resolutions.

Black Lightning
Photo: The CW

This Black Lightning article contains spoilers through Season 4, Episode 10.

If it’s one thing the Pierces gone do, it’s survive. On last week’s episode of Black Lightning, Tobias switched on a meta-power nullifier while Black Lightning, Thunder, and Lightning were each in compromising positions: JJ was flying when her powers ceased to work, so she went into a freefall. She was prevented from becoming one with the pavement by a force field bubble Gambi added to her suit as a failsafe. Anissa was leaving the house of her colleague Darius, who she found dead, when someone drove directly toward her. Her powers stopped working before she could stop the car, so Grace had to tackle her out of the way to safety.  Jefferson lost his power in the middle of his fight with Ishmael, but he held his own, and even managed to protect the police in the process. Tobias may have slowed them down, but the Pierces can’t seem to lose.

It’s hard to tell whether Black Lightning writers are preparing us for an underwhelming finale, or lulling into a false sense of security by keeping the Pierces relatively safe up to this point. But week after week, they persist. And week after week, their win feels more and more assured. Lynn is immediately bailed out of jail by an attorney, Keith, who is—inexplicably—her ex. Jennifer blew up(!) then came back—albeit altered—and has fallen from the sky so many times, it has become commonplace. I don’t want her to actually fall to her death, but I want the danger to be real. I want the heroes to win, but I want their victory to be hard-won. Putting the protagonists in disadvantageous situations, only to immediately pull them out undermines them and cheats us. The Pierces losing their meta abilities should feel like a devastating blow, not a minor inconvenience. 

They all made do without their powers, but they are hell bent on getting them back. JJ electrocutes herself, which does successfully reactivate her power, then she foolishly decides to go to the ionosphere to charge up. She goes too high and almost overcharges, again, but TC is able to guide her back to safety. But, several of her particles are left floating up there… ominously. Jennifer’s teenaged impetuousness has been irksome in the past, but her behavior this season feels like a regression. She continually makes decisions that have bad consequences and still refuses to make better decisions. That said, I understand why it’s so important for her to get her powers back. Lightning is the one part of her that didn’t change, its intrinsic to her identity.

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Grace asks Anissa why she wants her powers back, and it is a question deserving of serious reflection. Anissa has always been “Harriet,” the activist. Even without meta abilities, she has always been about the betterment of her people and her community. Being Thunder (and Blackbird) gives Anissa more outlets to do good, and to be of service. But with that comes enemies and risk. Anissa says she wants her powers to protect Freeland, and to protect her family, but it’s a classic hero’s paradox—do you need powers because there is danger or is there danger because you have powers? Black Lightning could attempt to answer this question by taking meta abilities off the board, even if just briefly. But with only three episodes left in the season, it’s unlikely we’ll get more than a surface level exploration.

Tobias has only just begun to execute his malevolent scheme. This episode, “The Book of Reunification: Chapter One: Revelations” we learn a little more about his plan, and what he’s ultimately after. Using the energy field emitter to depower Freeland’s metas is only one part, and becoming mayor is apparently the other. And while the larger plan is still unclear, the incentive seems to be a seat on The Board. Who or what it is, I cannot say, but Tobias gaining control of Freeland seems the price of admission, and it’s a cost he can’t be allowed to pay. Khalil, who’s in Freeland looking for evidence to exonerate Jefferson and expose Tobias, may be the one to weaken his position. After all, legitimacy is what Tobias is after, and a record of his dirty deeds would shatter that illusion. There are only three episodes of Black Lightning left, and I hope the show goes for broke.

Additional thoughts.

I enjoy TC’s relationship with JJ and the family, and I’m glad he’s elevated to more than just tech support. That said, I love that he’s working with Philky and Khalil, and hope that relationship continues if Painkiller is ordered to series.

Laura finally realized Gambi was playing in her face, and held him at gunpoint while she confronted him about it. I, for one, think a flesh wound was well-earned, but… Gambi managed to gaslight her even more. (Black Lightning writers, please… fix it.)

It is too late in the game to introduce a random ex. Also, Lynn and Jeff have enough issues. They do not need another thing to fight about. Please, let them heal.

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