Black Lightning – Season 4 Episode 12
“The Book of Resurrection: Chapter One: Crossroads”
Black Lightning begins its final chapter with the Pierces scrambling to find a way to stop Tobias as he continues to accrue power.
In many ways this show doesn’t feel like it’s building to a series end given how many different plots are still on the go. It is building to an ending where Tobias is concerned which fits in with the mission statement that Jefferson started with when he became Black Lightning. The Black Lightning persona was created to bring down Tobias so it seems that the endgame of Black Lightning as a show is following through on that promise. Considering how routinely engaging Tobias has been as a villain a satisfying defeat would be at least one good thing to include as part of the concluding chapter.
This episode features Tobias continuing to accrue power. He uses Ishmael to kill one of the members of the Shadow Board so that he can declare his intent to take charge of them as well. Once again he uses fear in order to manoeuvre himself into a position of power while having the the proverbial bite to back up his proverbial bark. When Tobias makes a threat there’s never any doubt as to its credibility and it often comes with an example of how he can carry out that threat. For another example look at Uriah’s death in the previous episode where Jennifer was shown a clear example of what she can expect if she continues to work against him. The same thing happens here with the Shadow Board and they’re frightened enough to literally kneel before him. The Shadow Board remain an underdeveloped late game addition but using them as another example of Tobias gaining influence rather than making them another thread that the show needs to juggle is the best decision that could be made around their inclusion.
The rest of Tobias’ contribution to the episode is focused on his conflict with Jefferson. A reminder of the circumstances of Jefferson’s father’s death is given early in the episode to foreshadow Tobias savagely beating him in his father’s house. Tobias freely admits to killing Jefferson’s father though Jefferson already knew that as he was a witness to it and history repeats itself to some degree as Tobias delivers a seemingly lethal beating to Jefferson in practically the same spot he took his father’s life. It’s a brutally poetic display and very affecting to see play out.
Jefferson is powerless in a number of ways in this moment. He literally doesn’t have his super powers which makes him vulnerable to the far stronger Tobias but he is also powerless in that Tobias holds all the cards. Tobias is very close to owning his father’s house so that it can be demolished in order to build a hospital. It’s all in service of taking something personal away from Jefferson and showing him how easily he can exert influence over him. He has the whole city behind him, the law appears to be on his side and Jefferson has very little going for him in terms of ability to combat him with his reputation dragged through the mud, the loss of his powers and his mental health problems affecting his ability to function. Tobias is absolutely on top and Jefferson knows there’s nothing he can do to stop him though there is a reminder of what he fights for and what makes him strong when he and Lynn discuss what they have been through earlier in the episode. The cliffhanger suggesting his death is manipulative as it’s unlikely he will be killed off in this way with one episode to go but the shock works well when considering Jennifer’s perspective especially in line with her fears around what Tobias has promised to do if she continues to resist.
There was a lot of emotional heft for Jennifer to work through in this episode. Early on she was struggling to process Uriah’s death. It follows familiar beats such as blaming herself and pledging to give up being Lightning because she attributes her exploits in that role to Uriah’s death. Jefferson is there to help give her perspective and urge her that Uriah’s death wasn’t her fault. He opens up to her about witnessing his father’s death and understanding he had to let it happen because revealing himself would have resulted in his death as well. Jefferson relates the unfortunate truth that superheroes can’t save everyone but they have a responsibility to save as many people as they can so those who are lost don’t die in vain. It’s a standard enough lesson as far as superhero properties go but it’s delivered with sincerity and through Jefferson’s experienced viewpoint. There’s a weariness to the advice indicating that Jefferson understands loss all too well and is fully aware of the burden associated with being a costumed hero.
Jennifer’s small arc over the course of the episode is finding the strength within herself to resume her role as Lightning. Jefferson encourages her on the basis that she’s currently the only line of super powered defence between Tobias and Freeland which is one motivating factor but a more personal one for her is avenging Uriah’s death and bringing his killer to justice. In order to do this she needs another boost from the ionosphere which could end up being problematic especially with the unexplained energy she fails to notice being attracted to her. She easily brings down Red and turns him directly into Chief Lopez. It’s a statement that she isn’t afraid of Tobias and isn’t going to let herself be intimidated into inaction while also honouring Uriah’s memory by doing as he asked and not giving up.
Lopez’ reaction to Jennifer bringing Red directly to her showcases her clear prejudice against Metahumans. Earlier in the episode there is the suggestion of a greater motivation at work around her position and her legacy. She thinks that if she doesn’t rid Freeland of the Metahuman threat then she will be the last female Chief of Police to ever be appointed. It’s a brief comment on gender inequality in higher positions though it also points to paranoia on her part and a transparent attempt to find some justification for her own prejudiced views. Referring to Jennifer as “Meta filth” highlights how uncontrolled that prejudice is and it ends up being a costly mistake as it ends up on the internet. This is a great way for Jennifer to use her social media skills to aid her heroism as she is able to show the world Lopez’ true colours. She is left resolving to become the thing she hates when taking a Meta Booster. At this point she’s something of a wild card which makes things a little more exciting going into the final episode though she still suffers from a lack of development. The texture being added to her in this episode is welcome but it should have been more consistently applied over the course of the season.
Positive steps are taken towards clearing the Pierce name with Looker being handed over to Detective Shakur. This is someone that can be trusted so there’s less chance of her going missing before she can testify though the widespread corruption created by Tobias makes that far from a certainty. There’s not a lot to say about this plot other than it serves as a reminder of the Painkiller/Khalil duality and showcases a really cool fight scene between Ishmael and Painkiller. Ishmael is killed in this encounter and dies just as he lived; underdeveloped. One of the notable things to take from this plot is Looker’s fear of testifying against Tobias. She recognises that she currently has no choice but still fears what consequences might come her way. Khalil insists that Jefferson can protect her but she’s understandably less than convinced. Another thing to take away is the reminder that Khalil can’t be anywhere near the Pierce family because of the Painkiller programming. Painkiller reminds him of that unfinished business but Khalil still opts to keep that respectable distance.
Further positive steps can be found in Lauren, Lynn, Gambi, Anissa and Grace’s efforts to find the emitter and stop Tobias Whale in any way they can. Lauren feels a measure of uncertainty because Gambi is still keeping things from her but accepts that he doesn’t consider it his secret to tell. This goes away when Lynn confirms her suppositions about the Pierce family being mostly made up of Metahumans. It’s a strong reminder of Gambi’s morality and Lauren respecting that while still agreeing to help despite not having all of the information further confirms hers. Her interactions with Lynn are a true meeting of the minds and excellent to see play out. They immediately come across as peers and their dynamic is immediately engaging.
Anissa and Grace disagreeing over whether to tell the mothers that Meta genes were taken from their babies rather than cystic fibrosis is a much more organic example of them not seeing eye to eye than has previously been depicted. Their differing viewpoint is motivated by their background. Anissa thinks the mothers should have all the information where Anissa makes an appeal for blissful ignorance because it will do them no good to know what was done to them. Grace points out that Anissa came from a relatively privileged background so is better equipped to handle bad news where these mothers came from a background similar to what Grace experienced and she firmly believes that it would do no good for them to know. Anissa accepts this and backs down. It’s a great character beat that makes great use of the fact that they are two very different people who love one another because of those differences. They make each other better and the openness in their relationship is an asset.
A strong episode that sets the stage for the finale nicely with an engaging emotional arc for Jennifer and ramping up the Jefferson/Tobias conflict in a really significant way. Tobias continues to accrue power the same way he always has; through fear. A threat from Tobias always has weight because it often comes with an example of how he can carry out that threat. This is shown by him arranging for Uriah’s death and reinforced by him taking over the Shadow Board by showing how easily he can get to them. They were something of a pointless addition this late in the run of the final season but using them as an example of Tobias’ ability to gain power was the best possible way to use them without overcrowding what the show needs to cover. Tobias’ conflict with Jefferson plays out brilliantly here. He holds all the cards while Jefferson has lost so much and ends up being savagely beaten in practically the same spot where Tobias took his father’s life. It’s brutally poetic and culminates in the shock of Jennifer learning that Tobias killed her father. It’s unlikely to actually be the case but Jennifer’s perspective allows it to land as it needs to.
Jennifer’s arc over the episode is brief and predictable but no less effective. Uriah’s death impacts her greatly because she blames herself and wants to give up being Lightning as a result. Jefferson encourages her not to on the basis of heroes not being able to save everyone but still having a responsibility to save all that they can. There’s a weariness to that advice from Jefferson’s point of view that comes through clearly and the way he opens up about learning that lesson through watching his father die resonates powerfully. Jennifer gets to a place where she wants to avenge Uriah’s death by bringing his killer to justice which she does and also manages to discredit Chief Lopez at the same time. Lopez openly shows her prejudice towards Metahumans and her words are broadcast on the internet for all to see. This is a great showcase of how Jennifer’s social media skills can be an asset to her in her role as Lightning while adding some texture to Chief Lopez through suggesting she can’t control her prejudice even though she thinks she’s addressing gender inequality in high up positions by targetting the Metahuman threat. By the end she’s left as a wildcard who becomes the thing she hates. It doesn’t make up for the lack of development over the season but the added depth is welcomed. The Khalil part of the plot allows for a really cool action sequence where Ishmael dies just as he lived; underdeveloped. There’s a reminder through Looker of how terrifying Tobias is and the duality of the Khalil/Painkiller dynamic is further represented. The Lauren/Lynn dynamic is a true meeting of the minds and immediately works as well as being used as a way to reinforce Gambi’s morality as well as confirm Lauren’s through her acceptance of him keeping secrets that aren’t his to tell. Anissa and Grace’s disagreement is more organic than many of their previous ones because it is informed by their background and makes great use of the strength of their relationship where they make each other better.
- Tobias continuing to accrue power through fear that he is able to back up with very real examples
- the Tobias/Jefferson conflict
- the brutal poetry of Jefferson being savagely beaten on practically the same spot his father was killed
- Jennifer struggling with Uriah’s death and Jefferson’s experience driven advice to help her process it
- Jennifer taking steps to avenge Uriah by bringing his killer to justice
- a great use of her social media skills to support her heroism
- Lopez’ prejudice against Metahumans being something she is unable to control
- positioning Lopez as a wildcard who is forced to become what she hates
- the cool Khalil/Ishamel fight
- further coverage of the engaging Khalil/Painkiller duality
- Lynn and Lauren’s engaging meeting of the minds
- reinforcing Gambi and Lauren’s morality through their approach to the secrets Gambi is keeping
- an organic and well executed disagreement between Anissa and Grace that enhances their relationship and makes use of their backgrounds
- The Shadow Board still feeling like an unnecessary addition
- Ishmael remaining underdeveloped
- Chief Lopez lack of development over the season meaning that the texture added here wasn’t as strong as it could have been
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