Black Lightning – Season 2 Episode 2
“The Book of Consequences: Chapter Two: Black Jesus Blues”
Black Lightning continues to deal with the consequences of last season as the people in the pods start to awaken and Jefferson prepares to step down as Principal of Garfield.
The people in the pods are clearly a significant problem as there are widespread implications to the entire situation. For one thing many of them have been in suspended animation for a long time which means that they haven’t aged where their families have. What happens when a parent reunites with a child that is now older than they are? That’s just one example that may not actually happen but there are all sorts of possibilities and ethical implications.
Early in the episode has one of the occupants breaking free of his pod and instantly killing one of the doctors before dying as a result of his powers being too overwhelming for his body. This forms an argument for keeping them in stasis for the moment as it’s unclear what effect waking up will have on their bodies. Their powers are unstable and unpredictable so until the biological problems can be solved it makes sense to keep them in the pods for their own protection. The second escapee, Wendy Hernandez (Madison Bailey) fares a lot better though still has the problem of her powers being unpredictable, overwhelming and terrifying. In effect she becomes an accidental villain who doesn’t mean to cause all the harm and panic that she does.
She has been in her pod for 30 years and Gambi points out that he parents are long dead which leaves her with nobody to turn to. This serves as a solid contrast to Jennifer’s situation as she is also dealing with emerging powers that are overwhelming to her but she has a strong support system in place through her father, mother, sister and Gambi. Wendy has nobody so it serves as an example of what life could be like for Jennifer if things were different. That support network proves to be a positive thing as shown by her conversation with Anissa which takes on the form of the sisterly banter that defined their relationship early in the first season. The conversation serves a couple of purposes; one of which it to confirm that Jennifer is starting to get used to the idea of having powers and even acknowledges that there are some benefits to it. The other is to remind the audience of how smart the two characters are as they are well aware of the fact that their parents are getting back together. It’s also an entertaining and natural conversation that is believably one that would be had between sisters.
The other purpose behind Wendy’s involvement is to expand the overall scope of the show to include larger problems that aren’t connected to the Pierce family on a personal level. Wendy represents a threat that is external to them that tests Jefferson and Anissa’s heroic capabilities. This doesn’t work that well in this case because the conflict is protracted to the point that it is largely devoid of meaning. Other than the tragic aspect of Wendy’s current situation she barely registers as a character and has little in the way of meaningful interactions with most of the core cast. She feels very much like a villain of the week in a show that has its strengths lie in serialised long form storytelling. This might be ok if it led to engaging action sequences but they were really underwhelming and her decision to go back in her pod made sense but felt unearned. There is potential for those in the pods to be good one shot villains but more time needs to be given to develop them.
Jennifer has her first confrontation with Khalil since the attack on the school. He has some added complexity since his last appearance with his own morality starting to take hold. It’s good to be reminded that he only works with Tobias because he feels that he has no other choice. Tobias definitely isn’t a good enemy to have considering what he’s capable of and Khalil feels obligated to help him after regaining the ability to walk. His villainous behaviour is dismissed as essentially growing pains. Jennifer resents him for killing Black Lightning but Khalil tries to make it clear that he didn’t intend to do that but didn’t know his own strength. At this point Jennifer doesn’t want anything to do with him but this definitely won’t be the last time they cross paths.
She also has her world view challenged by Issa (Myles Truitt) who makes for a secondary contrast to Jennifer having a living support network to help her deal with her powers. Issa is in a similar situation but his powers end up scaring his mother to the point that she wants nothing to do with him so he has to deal with what he’s going through alone. His power to make people speak the truth -or at least what happens to be on their mind- is an interesting one as it lets some of the buried resentments come to the surface and shows us that the Pierce family aren’t as open as they think they are. It does run the risk of being a cliched storytelling device but it’s only used briefly as a reminder that there are issues to be dealt with that don’t tear the family apart on their own. Jefferson and Lynn are more interested in dealing with a metahuman than what hurtful things have been said.
Jennifer recognises the fear that Issa will be experiencing and takes it upon herself to make sure that he doesn’t feel alone while the adults figure out what to do next. She takes him to the roof and helps him work through his issues while she does the rebellious teenage thing and has a cigarette as a way to calm herself down. They discuss what he’s going through, how lonely he feels and even start to figure out a way to control his ability. She also encourages him to make the power work for him. It’s a good scene because it helps Issa see that he isn’t alone and can still have a life while showing Jennifer that there are others who have it far worse than she does.
Issa works so well because his character is layered. Beyond the family abandonment there is the reveal that the Green Light has artificially turned him into a metahuman which brings with it sever instability. He learns that he is dying and that there is nothing that can be done to reverse the process short of putting him into a pod and figuring out a way to save him later. Naturally this isn’t appealing as going into a pod doesn’t come with any guarantee that he will ever come out.
Anissa is starting to become noticeably overconfident to the extent that it may result in her downfall. the clearest example of this is her stopping to bask in the glory of helping people. There’s nothing outwardly wrong with that though Jefferson doesn’t approve because he firmly believes that it isn’t why they do what they do. Anissa doesn’t see a problem with enjoying the praise of the people she protects and takes the time to let them be around her for a little while. There’s no right answer here as it all comes down to personal preference but she is definitely behaving recklessly in the field and starting to believe that she’s more or less invincible when that’s really far from the truth. So far it’s not a huge problem other than causing some friction between Jefferson and Anissa but if it remains unchecked then it could end up being a very serious issue for Anissa that could cause her a lot of pain.
After some advice from Jennifer, Anissa decides to do some maintenance on her love life and hooks up with a rich singer named Zoe B. (Andy Allo) who wastes no time in showing her an affluent lifestyle that tempts Anissa almost more than she can handle. She resists that temptation and returns to her life but if the intention is to develop an arc around Anissa having a lack of focus then this is definitely a good way to go about it. The relationship between Anissa and Zoe develops very abruptly which is sort of the point though the flirtation is far too quick considering the entire rationale is based on them staring at one another while Zoe was performing to a room full of people. They also seem too comfortable with one another considering how little time they’ve known one another. This episode also features the return of Grace and sets up a love triangle that will likely play out and contribute to Anissa’s lack of balance between the different aspects of her life. It’s good to see Grace back as their interactions were really engaging last season but I hope the love triangle doesn’t become overly tedious.
Tobias continues to work in the background in really interesting ways. He’s acting almost like a wounded animal lashing out at everyone around him. A lot of power and influence has been lost and he’s painfully aware that a dragnet might be closing in on him. His next move seems to be killing anyone who might have enough information on him to be a threat. His visit to Marsellus (Ralph Wilcox) is brief but effective. Their short conversation shows that there is a lot of history between them and that Tobias sees him as a close friend. There is mention of his money taking care of him and the general tone of the conversation is a friendly one so it’s clearly a connection that Tobias valued at one point. This is what makes Marsellus’ death at the hands of Tobias so impactful. We as the viewer have no reason to invest in this character but establishing that he and Tobias are close before his neck is snapped tells us everything we need to know about how serious Tobias is about staying off the grid. Marsellus even realises what is about to happen when it dawns on him that he’s very much a loose end. His death is as quick and painless as possible showing that Tobias takes no pleasure in it and considers it a necessity. This could end up being a problem for Khalil eventually especially with the presence of a chess board connecting Tobias interactions with Marsellus and Kallil meaning that Tobias could eventually want to rid himself of that loose end.
Jefferson sacrificing his position as principal of Garfield in order to ensure that the school remains open is something that weighs heavily on him. It’s interesting to see his private reaction contrasted with his public stance on it. In private he’s less than enthusiastic especially when the school board appoint a white man named Matthew Lowry as his replacement. Jefferson sees that as an insult as he doesn’t think a white man coming into a predominantly black school will be looked upon favourably by the faculty or students. It might be seen as a white saviour coming to protect the black people at least as far as he’s concerned. Publicly he has to tow the line and act as if this is a positive change even though he doesn’t believe it himself. The teachers and students completely share this opinion and are really upset at this change in leadership.
The assembly that Jefferson leads at the end of the episode is really moving in a number of ways. Jefferson’s speech about how much his time has meant to him is since and heartfelt. The students repeating back the words that he encourages them to live by shows how much of a positive impact he has made on their lives and the standing ovation he gets is a really powerful indicator that Jefferson has done right by them more often than not. Jefferson will still be a teacher at Garfield which makes sense as he will likely come into conflict with the new principal who will either turn out to be a villain of some sort or have the best interests of the students at heart but struggle to get them to accept him. Either way it’s a shift in the status quo that is working well for now.
A strong episode that expands the scope of the world the show is set in while continuing to explore what this means to the Pearce family. The pods are going to be hanging over the show for a while and for now seem to be a source of one shot villains. In this case it doesn’t really work as there isn’t enough time to properly establish Wendy as a character so her contribution and resolution feels weak as do the action sequences her presence prompts. She does exist to create a contrast between how Jennifer handles having powers with an extensive support system and how those who don’t have anyone to turn to react. Issa is a far better example of this because he gets to interact with her on a personal level but it’s clearly a major theme. It’s also good to see Jennifer starting to see the benefits of her powers.
Anissa is getting to the point where she has lost focus on her priorities and is starting to behave arrogantly. In her mind she is all but invincible so she will obviously be heading for a major downfall that will teach her an important lesson. For now she’s clashing with Jefferson over how they see their responsibilities and it makes for fascinating interactions. The love triangle she is slowly becoming involved in doesn’t interest me though it’s good to see Grace back. Tobias is continuing to work in the shadows and eliminating anyone who stands in his way. Killing Marsellus is an effective moment because it’s clearly a last resort for him and the repetition of the chess imagery foreshadows this eventuality for Khalil. Jefferson stepping down as principal plays out really well. The speech he gives is sincere and heartfelt with a really endearing reaction from the students.
- the contrast between Jennifer and others over what it’s like to deal with having powers
- setting up Anissa’s arrogance causing her own downfall
- Tobias desperately trying to go off the grid
- Jefferson’s handling of removing himself as principal
- the heart-warming reaction he gets after his speech
- the week episodic villain plot
- underwhelming action
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