NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Black Lightning”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Black Lightning has begun its final story pod. It’s the beginning of the end for this once-independent DC drama, which will ultimately mark the second series conclusion for the Arrowverse. Unfortunately, it’s also true that Black Lightning has become very tired by this point. The eponymous character and most of his allies have barely used their powers against actual villains this season, most notably, leaving said villains to pick up all of the most interesting storylines, while many of the heroes’ best moments have instead been exclusively dominated by Khalil and Painkiller, despite the fact that they only properly entered this season’s events a few weeks ago! This is no doubt a bid to boost interest in Black Lightning’s proposed spin-off series, Painkiller, but with Black Lightning spending so much time limping through its final season, one has to wonder why the Arrowverse’s Black Lightning family mythology should continue any further.
“The Book of Resurrection: Chapter One: Crossroads”, Black Lightning’s penultimate episode, and its best chance to amp up the excitement before next week’s series finale, unfortunately continues this season’s trend of the series apathetically shrugging through its hero arcs. No matter how you slice it, Black Lightning now comes off as so frustratingly out-of-gas that it feels like there’s nothing worthwhile to glean from the series anymore. There is at least a decent setup for next week’s final episode during the climax here, as Jefferson finally decisively confronts Tobias at his old family home, but almost everything before that still feels like filler, even as the show’s writing nonetheless desperately tries to amp viewers up for Painkiller, a series that The CW may not even pick up in the end.
As usual, Tobias and Khalil completely steal this episode and run with it, while the Pierce family continues to accomplish little beyond moping and vexing. Anissa and Grace at least make themselves useful by blowing up Monovista’s data cache, but even this comes off of an impotent debate regarding the stolen metahuman genes that might as well have not come up. Anissa and Grace briefly debate whether the pregnant mothers should be told about their babies’ stolen meta-genes, and then they decide not to, and that’s the whole debate. It’s brought up and resolved in the very same scene! Sure, Anissa and Grace at least accomplished something, which is more than Jefferson and Lynn could claim this week, but is this show really so starved for ideas surrounding the Black Lightning family that not even their arguments matter anymore?
Similarly, Jennifer takes it upon herself to fly up to the Ionosphere one last time, in order to charge herself up so she can confront Red. Even the arguments surrounding the Ionosphere don’t mean anything anymore! Regardless, Jennifer’s confrontation with Red is over disappointingly quickly, and most of all, it simply serves to have Chief Lopez accidentally incriminate herself as an anti-metahuman racist (is that the term for it?) on one of Lightning’s live Instagram feeds. The result of this is Lopez injecting herself with some of the metahuman boosters provided by Tobias, after Detective Shakur initially refuses to dole them out to the Freeland PD’s anti-metahuman task force, in yet another proposed story conflict that’s resolved in the same scene, and ultimately goes nowhere.
Probably the best storyline in this episode predictably belongs to Khalil, as he starts driving Looker to face justice, following her defeat during the previous episode. Not only are the interactions between Khalil, Painkiller and Looker actually pretty fun, but they even lead to a climactic confrontation between Painkiller and Ishmael. Oh, thank God, an action scene! This fight continues to demonstrate that Painkiller is planning to massively step up Black Lightning’s often shaky hand-to-hand fight choreography, should The CW actually order Painkiller to series. Granted, the end result of Painkiller poisoning Ishmael to death through his blade feels like a bit of a stretch, but at least Ishmael put up much more of a fight than Red ultimately did!
Despite Red now being in jail however, Tobias isn’t slowed down in the slightest. Tobias is naturally the other best element of this episode, because Black Lightning has barely moved gears throughout its final season, so why change it up now? Unfortunately, the fact that this is the penultimate episode of Black Lightning inevitably means that the whole Shadow Board go down like chumps, as Tobias somehow sets up invisible assassins to take out anyone that defies his rule, forcing the Shadow Board to bow to him, thus effectively undoing the organization in an instant. While this is another cool testament to Tobias’ incredible criminal resources, and nicely plays off of Tobias being able to give and take away metahuman powers in Freeland as he pleases, it’s disappointing that Black Lightning never had enough runway to do anything truly useful with the Shadow Board. They might as well have never existed, because they ultimately contributed nothing of value to the series’ lore, beyond being some metaphorical dragon for the tangible villains to chase.
While Lauren and Lynn team up to try and locate Tobias’ emitter as well, a great alliance that happens far too late in this season to matter, Jefferson arranges his final will, and goes to meet Tobias in order to sign over his old family home. This is a ruse however, since Jefferson plans to hit Tobias with one of Gambi’s devices, leaving Tobias with memory loss, which will in turn erase his knowledge of the Pierce family’s secret identities. Inevitably though, because we still have one episode left after this, Jefferson botches the effort, and instead ends up being choked with the house deed and beaten, seemingly to death, by Tobias. Now, granted, the promo for next week’s series finale already spoils that Jefferson didn’t die here, and will get his powers restored for the real final battle with Tobias, despite Tobias’ ominous phone call to Jennifer during this episode’s final seconds. Yeah, one of the only times that The CW bothered to make an actual promo for a Black Lightning episode throughout the show’s final season, and it merely ends up undermining this week’s big ending cliffhanger, go figure.
“The Book of Resurrection: Chapter One: Crossroads” does the bare minimum when it comes to setting up next week’s series finale for Black Lightning, and not much more than that. This series feels very tired by this point, and as much as it’s made a very positive impact for Black-fronted superhero shows, it now has Batwoman, and potentially Painkiller and/or Naomi, to take up its mantle within the Arrowverse, or at least adjacent to it. Even Superman & Lois is currently presenting a noticeably better version of Black Lightning’s superhero family angle. Thus, it really is time for Black Lightning to be put to pasture. Rather than own its final moments with a glorious, action-packed climax however, this series is so far apathetically shambling toward its demise with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Aside from that standout Khalil/Ishmael fight, too much of this episode is dreadfully boring, and serves as no more than basic setup for next week’s overall conclusion.
Well, Black Lightning, you have one last chance to go out with a bang next week. You deserve better than a thankless ending, so maybe at least try to bring your A-game for the finale?
- Chief Lopez's breakdown and subsequent metahuman upgrade
- Exciting Khalil/Ishmael duel
- Tobias seemingly striking an ironic deathblow against Jefferson
- Too many of the heroes are still accomplishing nothing
- Thankless defeat of the Shadow Board
- Several debates that quickly go nowhere