Black Lightning – Season 4 Episode 4
“The Book of Reconstruction: Chapter 4: “A Light In the Darkness”
Black Lightning continues to explore the rifts that exist between the characters while looking to make steps forward as it heads into its next arc.
The opening arc of this season has been very strong on the whole with intimate looks into what the characters are going through and how their despair has accumulated over the course of a very long year. Strong relationships are on the verge of being torn apart, Freeland is a city that can’t function because the events of last season have exacerbated the issues that underpin the society and the current setup has allowed unsavoury elements to settle in to further their own agendas. The intimate exploration of many of these ideas has certainly been appreciated and now we’re at the point where there is significant forward movement as there should be going into a new arc.
Lynn and Jefferson start the episode far from being on the same page about anything. Jefferson is suffering from intense nightmares brought on by fear of what he stands to lose. In this particular nightmare he lies dying in the street as Lynn shoots up with some powers that can save him before Tobias appears to finish him off. This highlights his fear of losing Lynn to her addiction and concerns over what Tobias has planned for him. Even though he hasn’t made massive steps forward in terms of ruining Jefferson’s life at this point he still plagues his thoughts which shows that Tobias is winning even though he hasn’t really done anything. The anxiety associated with the threat hanging over him is impacting him on a visceral level as shown though these dreams. When awake he can’t process it and feels he has nobody to articulate his concerns to as he and Lynn always end up arguing and Gambi’s focus is on getting him back out there as Black Lightning. This is all Jefferson’s perspective so he doesn’t see that Gambi is there to support him unconditionally though Gambi’s constant insistence that he suits up to protect Freeland won’t be helping matters as it represents a blind spot on his part.
Gambi does provide some useful advice that he’s not willing to listen to at that point. Jefferson is hung up on the fact that Lynn didn’t tell him about having dinner with Tobias and Gambi points out that he has to wait for her to come to him with it because she probably had a good reason. Tobias actively teasing him about the fractured relationship he and Lynn have based on his own observations only intensifies Jefferson’s anger therefore making him feel completely betrayed. On some level he thinks that Lynn is withholding the information because she has allied herself with Tobias because he doesn’t have the objectivity to recognise how ridiculous it it.
Jefferson is still in a place where he can’t deal with his emotional issues in a healthy way. He goes back to Lala’s fight club so he can beat a willing participant to within an inch of his life in pursuit of making himself feel better. All four episodes so far have had Jefferson use violence in search of a personal catharsis which remains concerning as his coping mechanisms are completely unhealthy while also being destructive to those around him. He doles out punishment because he feels hopeless and in previous cases beating provided by Jefferson was savage. As a man who was once focused on making his community a better place through setting an example and showing people a better way forward this is a radical departure and shows exactly how lost he is at this point.
This does change when he pipes up in a bar about Black Lighting and counters those praising him for all the good he’s done. He directly asks what good he really did beyond beating up a few thugs here and there. The response is very passionate particularly from Detective Hassan Shakur who regales Jefferson with the story of how he was personally saved by Black Lightning as an example of the good that he did while highlighting that Black Lightning represents something that Freeland can look up to. The words take root and start to shake him out of his funk so that he can take steps to repair what has been fractured.
This starts with Lynn and they have a really frank conversation that clears the air in a big way. Lynn admits she should have come to Jefferson about the meal with Tobias but didn’t feel that he was mentally equipped to handle the news and Jefferson is forced to admit that she was right because he has started to understand that he hasn’t been dealing with his issues in the most healthy ways. Lynn assures him that she won’t work with Tobias but Jefferson sees it as an opportunity for them to gain information and negate at least some of his advantage. This is a very dangerous game that puts Lynn in harm’s way though the flip side of that is that they’re all already in danger so her agreeing to work with Tobias probably doesn’t increase the risk a great deal. The important thing to note is that Jefferson and Lynn are finally united on something and there’s a definite desire on his part to work through his issues in a more constructive way. It feels entirely earned because the struggle to get to this point has been covered in immense detail. He promises Jennifer that he’s going to work through his issues more constructively though she’s unwilling to hear him at this point probably due to a lack of belief in this newfound clarity. It is acknowledged that nothing has been resolved but Jefferson has admitted that there are things he needs to fix which is an important first step.
Jennifer’s main focus remains trying to control the narrative around Lightning’s reputation in Freeland. The media are dragging her through the mud and she’s trying to combat that through social media. It’s working to an extent as she has a lot of followers but her activity so far has been minimal and there’s sure to be an added hindrance when Chief Lopez blames her for the death of Mayor Black. Another hindrance is that she might be dead after exploding during another trip to the Ionosphere. This is something she has done in every episode and concerns have been raised over the impact of absorbing that much energy. So early in the season it’s unlikely that what has happened to her will be fatal and it looks to me that she will manage to reform. This certainly parallel’s Lynn’s struggles with addiction and exploding is a clear consequence of becoming addicted to the feeling that comes with absorbing so much raw power.
Grace and Anissa deal with a very minor domestic issue when Grace suggests bringing her belongings out of storage. Anissa takes issue with Grace interfering with the “vibe” of her loft which starts them down a path of their new marriage having growing pains as Anissa isn’t willing to fully accept Grace into her life with different furnishings and belongings that mean something to her. It makes sense to a degree as Anissa has been living there alone for over a year while Grace has been in a coma so an adjustment period is expected when it comes to having someone in her life again after so long alone. As an extended plot it could have been interesting to explore the possibility that Anissa and Grace may have rushed into marriage but the conflict is resolved very quickly with Anissa making a gesture declaring her acceptance that the loft is now their home rather than hers. It’s such a neat and boring resolution to what could have been an interesting character driven issue for them to work through. Everything around their marriage in the previous episode pointed towards it being rushed so the lack of coverage of this is disappointing. Grace does reclaim the name of Wylde as her superhero name after rejecting it earlier in life which isn’t given the attention it really needed to make it a profound choice on Grace’s part.
Tobias continues to be a really engaging villain who barely conceals his agenda and takes great delight in pulling strings. Mayor Black isn’t the most intelligent of people so takes Tobias’ offers at face value and is easily manipulated into doing what Tobias wants him to do. In this case he sets himself up for his own assassination by agreeing to speak to the homeless people to give them his assurance that Freeland hasn’t forgotten about them. This sparks Lala to attempt to kill Tobias to remove that problem while Tobias engineers a situation where it looks like the Mayor was gunned down by the Freeland police. All this positions Tobias as the saviour of Freeland and shows that he is capable of manipulating the media narrative to suit his agenda. Currently he has all of the power and nobody is currently able to stop him. He’s a major threat because so many aren’t aware of the threat he represents and he has managed to connect himself to everything the show is juggling at this point.
Another strong episode that takes important steps forward with Jefferson and Lynn, continues to position Tobias as a significant threat and persists in a complex portrayal of different emotional issues. Jefferson and Lynn getting to the point where they can be on the same page feels earned because the struggle to get there has been explored in detail with each step being a difficult one. Having them united in taking on Tobias and resolving to use the offer made to Lynn as a way to get information that may help them is risky but not much riskier than what they’re facing now. Jefferson’s journey to get to the point of admitting that he hasn’t been dealing with his issues in a healthy way has been a long one with examples of his problematic coping mechanisms found in this episode. Hearing normal people as well as Detective Hassan Shakur detailing how much good Black Lightning does for Freeland helps him see things differently and starts him down the road to finding healthier ways to deal with his issues. He promises this to Jennifer who isn’t prepared to accept his claims at this stage. Her story is still focused on controlling the narrative around Lightning’s exploits. Her social media following is large but there isn’t much movement from her and being blamed for the Mayor’s death will present a different challenge assuming she survives exploding at the end of the episode.
Anissa and Grace face some domestic growing pains after Grace suggests bringing her belongings out of storage. To an extent Anissa’s reaction makes sense after a year of living alone while Grace was in a coma but what could have been an interesting story around whether they rushed into marriage and how easy it will be to figure out how they function as a married couple is resolved nearly in a later scene which is disappointing. Tobias is holding all of the cards when it comes to furthering his own agenda. Mayor Black isn’t all that smart and is easily manipulated into positioning himself for his own assassination. After it happens Tobias is able to control the narrative and move his plans forward showing that he has considerable influence and has connected himself to everything the show is juggling at this point so is a considerable threat.
- earning Jefferson and Lynn getting to the point where they can be on the same page
- showcasing Jefferson’s unhealthy coping mechanisms before beginning to understand the good he has done as Black Lightning
- clear signs that there is a lot of work to be done before the issues are resolved
- further complications associated with Jennifer’s desire to improve Lightning’s reputation
- Tobias easily manipulating the Mayor into his own assassination
- Tobias positioning himself as the saviour of Freeland and controlling the narrative to further his own goals
- neatly resolving the domestic issues between Anissa and Grace and sidestepping what could have been a compelling character driven plot
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