NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning” are present in this review

 

 

Black Lightning has been doing very well with its storytelling over the past several weeks, and it seemed to kick off its ‘Book of Rebellion’ story pod on a pretty strong note last week! With this week’s episode then serving as the show’s midseason finale, the stage was thus set for an exciting and dramatic climax to conclude Jennifer’s and Khalil’s runaway efforts… Except that’s not really how things panned out. “The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Two: Gift of the Magi” ended up being a frustrating and awkward midseason finale for Black Lightning in the end, especially when it ends the show’s 2018 run on a very unsatisfying note, namely due to the Book of Rebellion pod still not being done, and having to pick up with its proper conclusion during the midseason premiere in January.

Fortunately, Jennifer and Khalil at least remain the strongest point of the storytelling in this second chapter for the Book of Rebellion arc, and these two characters pretty much single-handedly elevate what’s otherwise a disappointingly lacklustre midseason finale. Now that Khalil has been poisoned by Cutter, and seems to be dying, Jennifer must go to increasingly desperate lengths to try and keep Khalil alive. This is primarily demonstrated when Jennifer uses her powers to steal medicine from a hospital, and somehow manages to sneak out from right under Jefferson’s and Anissa’s noses, again! Seriously, why does the Pierce family suck so much at finding Jennifer, even when she’s a few feet away?! It’s almost becoming self-parody at this point! Not helping matters is that Jennifer definitely should have been spotted by someone at that hospital, especially at the front desk! Henderson has no doubt sent Jennifer’s information all throughout Freeland by now, and a hospital would probably especially be on the lookout for her! How in everlasting hell did Jennifer get around hospital security, especially in a city as fraught with danger as Freeland?!

It didn’t really feel like anyone aside from Jennifer was that competent on Black Lightning this week, in fact, and that was another massive problem with this midseason finale’s storytelling! Jefferson holds the crowning achievement of stupidity here too, when he tries several times to fly around Freeland without his suit amid Gambi’s protests, risking his secret identity, Anissa’s secret identity, and the safety of his family at large in the process. I get that Jefferson is not thinking clearly, but even by those standards, flying around the city without his identity disguised is aneurysm-level idiocy! Cutter didn’t fare much better either, since her tactics are laughably terrible by this point. The very fact that Cutter was wasting time tracking Jennifer in the hospital is inexplicable, since A) Jennifer is not her target, so tracking her is pointless, and B) Khalil was stashed in a barn, and was a complete sitting duck at that point! Why didn’t Cutter just grab him then? Who cares what Jennifer is doing! This is why stretching the Book of Rebellion arc to three episodes just doesn’t work, because the show has to keep coming up with increasingly ridiculous explanations for how Jennifer and Khalil are still managing to evade their pursuers!

At least Tobias got a slightly better storyline this week, as he starts preparing to groom a new protege named Todd Green. After Todd is rejected for a research grant, Tobias beckons him to Club 100, where he quickly starts tempting the young man with money, booze and women. Seeing Tobias corrupt another promising young soul is effectively tragic, since we’re fully aware that things inevitably won’t end well for Todd in the long term, after Tobias’ temptations inevitably prove successful. This nicely played off of Khalil desperately trying to escape Tobias at the same time, as the cycle prepares to repeat. Todd, unlike Khalil, doesn’t appear to exist in DC Comics lore, but Tobias appears to be grooming him for something big, since Todd merely attending the club invitation nets him $100,000! Todd happily agrees to whatever Tobias’ terms are at that point, but we won’t see what this entails until Black Lightning returns in 2019. Still, I’m glad to see that the show is finally giving Tobias something else to do beyond terrorizing Khalil, because that was really starting to get old!

Like I said though, it’s Jennifer and Khalil that are still serving as this episode’s best personalities. Almost all of the best scenes in this midseason finale took place in the barn, with Jennifer trying to tend to the dying Khalil as best she can. Seeing the two reflect on how they met, and talk about their hope for the future, is both sweet and emotional, bringing the characters down to their most desperate states in a strong way. As much as Jennifer is unrealistically outsmarting all of the adults around her lately, her interactions with Khalil still felt genuine and sweet, and true to her still being a teenager, with a teenager’s priorities. This story arc is pretty much certainly going to serve as a key means through which Jennifer will start maturing into a true adult, since I imagine that there will be some unforeseen consequences, likely for Khalil, by the time she’s reclaimed by her family.

Of course, the other obvious thing to infer from these developments with Jennifer is that they’ll no doubt lead straight into her transformation into DC superheroine, Lightning, which The CW has since confirmed will definitely take place during this season’s back half in 2019! Jennifer using her training with Perenna (apparently Jennifer has a ‘mind palace’ now?), to locate Cutter using Cutter’s own bio-electricity was pretty awesome, as was Jennifer subduing Cutter single-handedly (again, isn’t Cutter such a capable and deadly assassin, being so easily taken out by a teenage girl?!), and using her own poisoned knives against her, so that Cutter would cough up the antidote for Khalil. Cutter is allowed to live and get away, but Jennifer’s resourcefulness and courage is starting to show the shades of what kind of superheroine she’ll be as Lightning, especially when Jennifer is quickly starting to rival Anissa in terms of her cunning, and her drive to help others!

The episode then ends with a mysterious teleporting metahuman assassin being called, after tearing apart an entire bar and killing everyone in it, and then being directed to Freeland. Hopefully, he’s a better metahuman killer than Cutter ever managed to be! Despite all of these promising story obstacles still being laid out for Jennifer and Khalil however, “The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Two: Gift of the Magi” still had Black Lightning ending its 2018 run on a frustrating sour note. The show seems to have quickly run out of excuses for Jennifer and Khalil to have somehow still avoided capture, leading to Jefferson’s crew and Tobias’ hired goons alike having to unrealistically bumble around and get nowhere, with all of them somehow being outwitted by a teenage girl with no survival experience! Moreover, having the middle chapter of the Book of Rebellion pod serve as the show’s midseason finale is just plain bizarre. Maybe this could have worked with a tighter, better-executed storyline, but in the end, starting Black Lightning’s midseason break halfway through a story pod just feels like a bad idea in this case, leading to an awkward cut-off to the current ongoing conflicts, which won’t see any real payoff until late January. Jennifer is obviously a very smart and capable young woman, but even considering that she’s about to become Lightning, she really shouldn’t be this good at what she’s doing, especially when her father and sister have already made superhero careers around having to track far more slippery people!

Black Lightning 2.9: "The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Two: Gift of the Magi" Review
Black Lightning's midseason finale unfortunately ends up being a misfire this week, as Jennifer's and Khalil's runaway efforts are now making less sense by the minute.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Jennifer's growing resourcefulness and power
  • Great dramatic moments with Jennifer and Khalil in the barn
  • Tobias preparing to groom another tragic protege
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Jefferson's idiotic desire to fly around un-disguised
  • Cutter's awful, incompetent tracking tactics
  • Jennifer definitely should have been caught at the hospital
63%Overall Score
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