NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning” are present in this review
After a fairly decent, if also rather passive start to Season Two of Black Lightning last week, the show is continuing on much the same note this week, as the Pierce family drama continues to stand tall above almost everything else. “The Book of Consequences: Chapter Two: Black Jesus Blues” more or less continued to gradually build on the events of the season premiere, and has pretty much completely settled into slow burn storytelling without any kind of centralized threat at this point. That’s well and good, and this altered story formula helps Black Lightning stand apart from the other four DC dramas currently airing on The CW, but it’s also easy to get the impression that the season is dragging its feet in the early stages.
As I said, the episode was often at its strongest when it continued to focus on the Pierce family above all else. There was an especially interesting wrinkle here when Lynn decides to bring the so-called, “Body bag boy”, Issa, the metahuman boy that came back to life after being killed by police, home to stay for dinner, since no one else wants anything to do with him. After it initially goes well, the family starts passionately arguing and calling each other out in Issa’s presence, and Jefferson decides to dismiss everyone while Jennifer goes to the roof with Issa. Obviously, something was up here, and it turns out that Issa has another metahuman power; The ability to compel people to tell the blunt truth whenever he makes eye contact with them.
This is obviously dangerous, since Issa is completely unaware that three of the four Pierce family members have superpowers, and two of them are currently operating as Freeland’s resident superheroes. The truth-compelling powers did provide a pretty good scene with Jennifer on the roof of the Pierce house however, since Jennifer briefly has someone to confide in, in a subtle way, about the difficulty of being a metahuman in the Black Lightning universe. Things get worse for Issa as well when Lynn discovers that artificial metahuman genes created by Green Light will eventually cause cells to deteriorate, resulting in the death of the powers’ host. Death didn’t seem to bother Issa before, but he nonetheless decides to stay out of a pod and live out his remaining days with his girlfriend’s family. This bittersweet moment is soon after made more complicated by a pretty inspired twist though, namely that Lynn is actually going to study Issa from a distance, and provide more data on metahumans to the ASA. Lynn’s resistance to Jefferson’s Black Lightning persona made her a very specific kind of obstacle last season, but will her affiliation with the ASA now force her to become a legitimate enemy to her ex-husband and daughter in the weeks to come?
The only weak link among the Pierce family storylines to some extent this week was Anissa, who didn’t really have a bad storyline, but still had a subplot that definitely felt very rushed. The show is now trying to establish Anissa as growing arrogant and conceited with her abilities, leading to her casually hooking up with a rich musician (I know Anissa pulls, but damn, she works fast!), and being accidentally re-discovered by Grace Choi, who happens to be working with the catering at said musician’s event. Grace running into Anissa right when she’s starting to go back on the prowl feels like the mother of all coincidences, and the show does seem to be straining to find a believable excuse to bring them back together. Likewise, I’m not totally buying Anissa as an arrogant showboater while under her Thunder persona quite yet. It just seems like such a heel-turn, after Anissa was established as being such a no-nonsense vigilante last season. Why is she suddenly acting like an over-the-top clown?
The tomfoolery with Thunder does at least mean that we get a proper Black Lightning and Thunder appearance in this episode, but only briefly, once again. The two heroes patrol Freeland at one point to go look for a missing metahuman that escaped from the ASA pods after a mishap, that being Wendy Hernandez, who appears to be a loose adaptation of Outsiders member, Windfall from DC Comics lore. The aerokinetic metahuman is suffering from a psychotic break after thirty years in the pod, forcing Jefferson to zap her and shock her back to her senses, after both Jefferson and Anissa have to clean up some property damage caused by Wendy’s powers. The Wendy situation is resolved fairly quickly once she’s shocked back to reality, and the show simply returning her to her pod afterward feels like it somehow tried to play her off as an accidental villain-of-the-week, which works to mixed effect. Why is Black Lightning suddenly afraid to let its titular hero fight actual bad guys? Sure, Tobias Whale is still out there, but all he’s doing is smacking around Khalil, and killing the people that witnessed Alvin Pierce’s death at this point. Tobias still isn’t fitting into the show’s storylines as smoothly as he should, and it’s disappointing to see that this is still a problem in Season Two of Black Lightning, especially when Tobias is an otherwise very effectively imposing arch-nemesis to Jefferson.
Finally, we also get another pretty interesting dramatic obstacle for Jefferson after he has to step down as principal from Garfield High, wherein he learns that the replacement principal for the school is going to be Caucasian. Since Garfield High’s student populace is predominantly African-American, Jefferson is taking offense at the decision, claiming that it’s a deliberately out-of-touch move by the board that will see many of the struggling black students at the school be abandoned by the system. At the very least, Jefferson remains the MVP of his own show, as wonderfully demonstrated in this storyline, since he’s a character that effectively carries himself with grace and dignity in his civilian identity, even when his professional world is crumbling around him. The scene of the students at the school all reciting Jefferson’s motivational mantra to him when he publicly endorses the new principal is an especially uplifting moment, suggesting that, even if Jefferson is no longer the principal of Garfield High, there are still tons of students that admire and look up to him, and students of all races at that.
The new Garfield High situation is probably going to be a big focus for Jefferson’s storylines over the next several episodes, though most of all, I hope that the storylines of the next few weeks also start slowing down with Anissa’s character arc, and actually creating believable consequences to her sudden change in attitude. “The Book of Consequences: Chapter Two: Black Jesus Blues” is still overall keeping Black Lightning on the same gear that it was on during last week’s season premiere, namely where it’s good enough, but not quite as great as it was during many of Season One’s episodes. I’m still going to give the show the benefit of the doubt for now, and assume it’s just building up to better storylines that will be executed later in the season. Nonetheless, I think the show is pretty blatantly out-of-balance for now, since the superhero element is being pushed completely into the background, with Black Lightning and Thunder too often feeling like an afterthought in what is ultimately supposed to be a DC drama. Once we start getting some more time to have Jefferson and Anissa properly suit up for more than one brief snag, maybe Tobias Whale can start making himself truly useful again to boot.
- Issa and Jennifer being metahuman confidants for one another
- Lynn's treacherous actions with Issa
- Jefferson's bittersweet stepping down as principal of Garfield High
- Anissa's storyline is too rushed
- Tobias still isn't doing anything truly useful