NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning” are present in this review
After spending entirely too much time on its ‘Book of Ruin’ story pod over the past four episodes, Black Lightning can finally move on to a different story pod, as it enters its final few weeks on the air. “The Book of Reunification” focuses on a seemingly tighter, two-episode story pod, one that sees the entire Pierce family collectively lose their powers. Tobias’ latest master stroke thus quickly deprives Freeland of its resident superheroes, all while Tobias continues to grow and consolidate his power in the city. Fortunately, the Pierce’s have a fighting chance to incriminate Tobias thanks to Khalil, who hunts for a ledger that will serve as a means to clear Jefferson and Lynn alike of legal scrutiny.
Not that they necessarily deserve it, mind you. Jefferson and Lynn have spent an annoying amount of this final season for Black Lightning bickering and sniping at each other over ridiculously petty things, and that trend made an unwelcome return this week. Their latest spat involves Lynn using her phone call to contact Anissa, who gets in touch with Lynn’s old college ‘buddy’, Keith Michaels, a highly skilled attorney. Keith gets Lynn out on bail, using some of Anissa’s, “Supplementary income” (I guess Freeland doesn’t do a good job of vetting money for court cases), but Jefferson nonetheless becomes passive-aggressive about Lynn’s past relationship with Keith. This is already ridiculously childish for a man in his late 40’s especially, but what’s worse is that Lynn also inexplicably leads Keith on, once again making both of the Pierce parents look like terrible people for no real reason. Why?!
Fortunately, there were still plenty of interesting story developments on Black Lightning this week, especially now that the Pierce family can start actually working with some better storylines. The exception in this case is Jennifer, who spends this entire episode bellyaching about how her only worthwhile identity is as Lightning. I think this is supposed to signify Jennifer continuing to struggle with her new appearance, but if that’s the case, the dialogue doesn’t do a good job of indicating that. Instead, Jennifer just comes off as a whiny brat. What’s doubly unfortunate here is that Jennifer can also defy Tobias’ power-dampening emitter surprisingly easily, first by electrocuting herself, and then flying up into the Ionosphere, again. Well, that kind of takes the bite out of Tobias’ big plot against the Black Lightning Family, doesn’t it?
Regardless, I will still give credit where it’s due; Tobias playing the long game against the Pierce’s throughout this season continues to make for excellent story material. Tobias playing the Pierce’s against each other, while also exploiting the weaknesses in their civilian identity, is positively brilliant. Hell, even Gambi ends up getting sucked into Tobias’ machinations, specifically when Tobias steals the experimental power emitter from Monovista, which leads to Gambi being busted as a spy by Lauren. Well, that’s awkward. Even the accidental effects of Tobias’ plot are having a massively negative impact on the Pierce family, which really goes to show just how ruthlessly efficient Tobias’ plans are for Black Lightning’s endgame!
In fact, it’s kind of a shame that Black Lightning continues to tease future threats and ballooning criminal enterprises, even when the show is quickly running out of episodes. Just as Tobias’ election as Freeland’s mayor supposedly guarantees him a place on the ‘Shadow Board’, a faction of super-villains that’s been teased as a background presence throughout much of Black Lightning’s run (even though they don’t appear to exist in DC Comics lore), he also finds himself able to easily corner Destiny, thanks to providing Red a dampener for his dampener (convenient), which allows Tobias to coerce Destiny into handing the Kobra Cartel over to him. That’s it, eh? It really sucks that the show probably won’t be able to adequately capitalize on the Kobra Cartel in the end, especially considering that Lady Eve hasn’t appeared at all throughout this season. Actually, wouldn’t Lady Eve see fit to intervene in her cartel being stolen ASAP? Surely, Destiny is going to suffer some horrible fate for this perceived incompetence as a Kobra Cartel underboss!
Perhaps the idea is to keep some Freeland threats active after Black Lightning’s run concludes, in case the show’s in-development spin-off, Painkiller gets picked up. Sure, Painkiller is set in another made-up burg called Akashic Valley, not Freeland, but considering that Akashic Valley also seems to have some sort of link to the Shadow Board and the defunct ASA, maybe there will end up being a relationship between the criminal element of these two cities. Regardless, Khalil manages to occupy a highlight action scene in this episode, after he takes on some more henchmen of Tobias’, only to discover that Tobias has quite a few metahumans on his payroll. What’s most surprising here in fact is that Looker of all people has been receiving recent payments from Tobias as well! Remember her, from Black Lightning’s ‘South Freeland’ arc of Season 2?
It definitely seems like there’s something of a full circle being set up for Black Lightning’s storytelling, even as Grace challenges Anissa on the idea of the Pierce’s being very desperate to regain their powers as soon as they can. Fortunately, the show doesn’t dwell on this for too long, mercifully sparing us yet another pointless Anissa/Grace spat, but it does beg the question of how Black Lightning ending in a few weeks may affect the Arrowverse at large. I seriously doubt that Freeland will suddenly be rid of crime, like Star City apparently will be until the 2040’s (still an awful excuse for Team Arrow to retire after Arrow’s finale, but whatever), but will some of the Pierce’s opt to sacrifice their powers and live as regular people anyway? Showrunner, Salim Akil has teased that Anissa and Jennifer at least will still make appearances in Painkiller, if it goes to series, but he never specified that they would have powers. Depowering some or all of the Pierce’s could be a decent way to organically retire Black Lightning’s storytelling, while still allowing the show’s characters to show up elsewhere in the Arrowverse down the road, if a future storyline invites them.
Whatever the case ends up being for the Pierce family’s future in the Arrowverse, “The Book of Reunification: Chapter One: Revelations” is a bit of a mixed Black Lightning episode, presenting more standout ideas for Tobias, and a few solid ideas for the rest of the supporting cast too. Sadly, on the flip side, Jefferson and Lynn have gone back to wasting time with pointless, petty arguments, especially through Jefferson’s weirdly immature reaction to Lynn’s old college buddy getting her out on bail, despite the gravely serious charges that Lynn is facing. Likewise, Jennifer using some impractical cheats to get her powers back, despite Tobias’ power-dampening emitter, feels pretty contrived, and seems to indicate that Black Lightning wrote itself into a corner by de-powering the Pierce’s, and T.C. The Pierce family storytelling is still better now than it was throughout much of this season beforehand, but it’s still frustrating to see how little they’ve ultimately accomplished during this climactic struggle against Tobias and his cronies. If anything, the battle against Tobias being so one-sided could contribute to the feeling of Tobias’ eventual defeat being unbelievable in all the wrong ways, in turn threatening to deflate Black Lightning’s fast-approaching series finale in a few weeks.
Let’s hope I’m wrong to worry about that.
- Tobias' emitter plot brilliantly striking at all of his enemies
- Exciting Khalil scenes continue to tease Painkiller's potential
- Grace teasing the prospect of permanently depowering the Pierce's
- Jefferson's and Lynn's inexplicable immaturity around Keith
- Jennifer's contrived workaround against Tobias' emitter
- Why isn't Lady Eve intervening in Tobias' takeover?