NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
After so much excitement with Jennifer and Khalil attempting to flee Freeland during the, “Book of Rebellion” arc, Black Lightning appears ready to take a well-deserved breather, while also hopefully starting a better, more consistent story arc. “The Book of Secrets: Chapter One: Prodigal Son” picks up after the violent aftermath of Khalil getting his synthetic spine ripped out by Tobias, with Reverend Holt and his clergy beginning a sustained effort to pray for Khalil’s unlikely survival. The Pierce family stands at Khalil’s side all the while, as Tobias’ plans with the briefcase continue to move along, bringing another new ally into his circles.
The intentionally slow, methodical pace of this episode certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking, and it is difficult to argue that this is a bridging episode for Black Lightning, one that’s meant to lay the foundation for the next couple of weeks. The drama-heavy focus after the shocking events with Khalil feels appropriate however, even with action once again taking a backseat in this episode, particularly with Black Lightning and Thunder not even showing up at all in this episode. The heavy suspense and emotion is something that will easily hold viewers’ interest nonetheless, even if the actual story pacing doesn’t move forward that quickly, at least not before the final turnout of the episode.
Things at least start off pretty exciting, as Reverend Holt collapses during his uplifting sermon in the opening minutes of the episode, with Cutter casually walking away from the scene soon afterward. This was a strong opener for sure, especially in an episode that’s otherwise almost entirely focused around the dying Khalil. Holt ends up dying right from the jump too, after spending the episode’s entire intro praying with his clergy for Khalil to live, leaving Tobias free to snatch up Holt’s clinic, while also leaving no trace of his influence. Apparently, Henderson thinks that Holt merely died of a heart attack, though obviously, Jefferson points him to the inevitable possibility that Tobias is behind Holt’s death. Obviously, he is, and this did finally allow Henderson to fully come around to the fact that the letter of the law is not going to be enough to bring Tobias down.
The way that Henderson ends up being brought into Jefferson’s and Gambi’s inner circle is pretty cool, especially when he’s sent in to try and find the briefcase during a seemingly routine visit, secretly using some of Gambi’s hidden tech to photograph Tobias’ lair. Obviously, it’s not that easy, with Tobias hiding the briefcase away, to the point where even Gambi’s tech fails to spot it. As usual, Tobias is a very slippery foe, one that even the combined forces of Jefferson, Gambi and Henderson won’t be able to take down so easily. The idea of bringing down Tobias on a RICO case is an interesting new turn though, and one that feels well-timed, since Tobias has just recently taken this opportunity to expand his circles, namely between Todd, Cutter and Dr. Jace.
Oh yes, Dr. Jace is making a comeback in this episode! After returning to her cell, Todd uses a hologram to help bust Jace out, and lead her into a meeting with Tobias. Jace agrees to help find the hidden metahumans at Holt’s clinic, which Tobias is obviously now free to own, and the episode ends with Tobias busting down a wall with his new cronies, as they bear witness to what appear to be the pod-imprisoned Masters of Disaster. Like I said, Tobias expanding his forces does theoretically make him much more vulnerable to RICO prosecution, so the show has the Pierce family/Tobias animosity in a great place right now, despite Tobias now being very close to recruiting some of the most dangerous metahumans in the Black Lightning universe! The fact that the show managed to pivot the story in this sharp direction without any need for action is all the better, even if some viewers will still probably be a bit disappointed that there’s no actual superhero element to Black Lightning this week.
Another more prevalent drawback to this episode however is that it feels like it has to cover a lot of ground to set up Black Lightning’s next major storyline, and that can sometimes lead to a feeling of being disjointed. In the same episode, Perenna helps Jennifer contain her powers after a woman angers her in the parking lot, Lynn tries and immediately fails to get Khalil into a pod, despite bringing the full muscle of the ASA during a second attempt, and, as I mentioned, Jefferson takes this moment to bring Henderson in on his and Gambi’s Black Lightning operation. The structure of the episode is certainly suspect, but the final result of everything is nicely unexpected and emotional, as Perenna helps Jennifer take Khalil into a safe space for some brief time together… And then Khalil dies. The ultimate failure to save Khalil was very effectively bittersweet, since his romance and story arc with Jennifer ended on pretty much the perfect note, thus also giving Jennifer some especially potent motivation to keep developing her upcoming Lightning persona. I imagine that Jennifer is definitely going to be out for blood in the following episode as well, something that I’m sure will keep Jefferson and Anissa both very busy, especially considering Jennifer’s outrageous degree of power!
“The Book of Secrets: Chapter One: Prodigal Son” made for a strong, emotional goodbye for Khalil’s character, even if much of the episode had to be filled with smaller, less relevant moments that didn’t end up going anywhere of note. The key developments to take away are that Khalil’s death is no doubt going to have Jennifer gunning for Tobias even more than her father, and Henderson is finally being fully let in on Black Lightning’s resources. Tobias recruiting Dr. Jace also has some solid promise for the weeks ahead, bringing Freeland’s greatest menace one step closer to commanding the Masters of Disaster. There may not have been any action or superhero work this week, but I imagine that it won’t be long before the Pierce family has to suit up and start striking at Tobias’ operations again, especially with Jennifer moving ever faster toward her future career as Lightning!
- Jefferson finally bringing Henderson fully into the Black Lightning operation
- Jennifer's tearful final moments with Khalil
- Tobias successfully recruiting Dr. Jace
- Disjointed structure makes several subplots pointless
- Slower pacing won't be to everyone's liking