Black Lightning – Season 2 Episode 3
“The Book Of Consequences: Chapter Three: Master Lowry”
Black Lightning introduces the new Principal of Garfied as Jefferson and Lynn come up with an alternative way for Jennifer to find a way to deal with her powers.
The previous episode made it known that Jefferson’s replacement had been chosen and that he’s a white man which automatically puts him on the back foot with Jefferson because he believes that only a black man is able to understand what the needs of the community that is Garfield are. Arguably this is a short sighted viewpoint but Jefferson doesn’t live in a world where there is complete understanding so it’s easy to see why he would think that. Despite his misgiving she still manages to approach the situation with consummate professionalism and is ready to welcome the new Principal as well as make this transition as easy as possible.
Unfortunately for Jefferson, Principal Lowry (P.J. Byrne) has other ideas. He immediately looks to stamp his authority and makes it clear that he feels that Jefferson will be in his way because he has his own ideas on how to run the school. The clear loyalty that students and staff alike have for him doesn’t help matters either. We don’t get much more than that from Lowry which is odd considering the episode title bears his name but it’s an interesting conflict setup that will present an interesting challenge for Jefferson.
Jefferson may have reduced bandwidth to help kids that need it through his demotion at the school but he can compensate for that through his exploits as Black Lightning. The opening scene shows him helping a fellow metahuman who is overwhelmed by their powers and terrified. He comes from a place of experience and is able to help them because he understands what they’re going through. He would relate to the kids at Garfield in much the same way albeit in a very different context but this shows that his skills are transferable and that there can be more to Black Lightning than bringing down Tobias. Jefferson has been fairly insular in his objectives up to this point but this could be a sign that he’s starting to see how heroic he can be as Black Lightning and that he can still make a difference despite his diminished role at Garfield.
Even though he’s doing a good job helping strangers as Black Lightning he’s struggling to find a way to help Jennifer in ways that she will appreciate. He and Lynn make the mistake of enlisting Perenna (Erika Alexander); a therapist with the ability to isolate Jennifer in a custom mind palace where it’s safe for her to express her emotions any way she wants without running the risk of hurting anyone around her. It seems ideal though Jennifer doesn’t see it that way as this decision was made without her knowledge and all she feels in the first instance is ambushed. She feels that her parents don’t offer her the encouragement she needs to find a balance with herself and treats Perenna with hostility because she represents that lack of respect her parents seem to have for her situation. Taking into account the outsider perspective that we as the audience have it’s clear that they do have Jennifer’s best interests at heart though they fail to go about it in the right way.
As always the family drama is first rate. Jennifer is given the opportunity to vent up to a point but eventually she crosses a line and earns a dressing down from Jefferson. He may understand where she’s coming from but he’s still a parent who needs his daughter to know when she’s crossed a line. Little details like this help the situation feel more real despite super powers being involved. As far as Jennifer is concerned she simply wants to be heard and understood but feels that her parents have taken that away from her because they feel that they know how to handle things better than she does.
Jennifer does eventually calm down and let Perenna help her. It’s important to her that it’s a choice she makes after being fully aware of the situation because it makes her feel like she’s somewhat in control of her own life. The experience ends up being a profound one for her as it helps her expand her thinking beyond her own situation. The salon setting is an interesting one because there are a number of layers to it. On one hand it could be seen as a place where black women would go to take away their blackness so that they can blend into society more easily. That’s the superficial interpretation whereby it becomes easier for black women to live in a world that might not be ready to accept them.
Another more promising reading of the location is that it’s a safe haven where black women could congregate and be themselves free from the expectations of society as a whole. Jennifer seems initially resistant but it’s clear that she sees the merit to this idea and understands the significance of the salon as a safe space for her to deal with her emotional issues. It’s basically the first step towards her dealing with the emotions that prevent her from controlling her powers. By the end of her journey she will hopefully learn that mastering her emotions has more value than simply controlling her powers.
pic3The most positive connection for Jennifer at this point is her relationship with Anissa. They share one scene together in this episode but it’s a sterling example of the sisterly bond that only seems to have grown stronger in recent times. Jennifer has an ability to cut through Anissa’s issues and offer meaningful advice on how to proceed. She sees Anissa’s relationship with Zoe B as being the emotional equivalent of cotton candy where what she really needs is something more meaningful. Anissa may see it as nothing but a diversion as well but isn’t prepared to admit it. The best thing about the Jennifer/Anissa relationship is how uncompromising Jennifer is when it comes to telling Anissa the situation as she sees it. Even though their conversation takes the form of a light argument it definitely resonates with Anissa and makes her reconsider her choices.
This brings her back to Grace; a woman she connected with and could potentially give her that meaningful connection that the dalliance with Zoe B. can’t bring her. Grace is still salty because she feels that Anissa ghosted her which she does take responsibility for. Anissa blames the craziness of her life recently for her behaviour but acknowledges that she could have behaved different and been more considerate of her feelings. Since they were never in a formal relationship then there’s no reason for Grace to feel that Anissa is being somehow unfaithful. It’s a good interaction that certainly clears the air between them. These sorts of shows often struggle with resolving conflict as it usually ends up being far too melodramatic. What started as a dropped thread actually turned out to be the meaningful acknowledgement of a character flaw within Anissa and an opportunity to develop her character along positive lines. This is how these sorts of things should be approached so I have nothing but applause for the writers taking what could have been a weakness and turning it into a strength.
Anissa’s love life is only a small part of the package. Being an activist is still important to her as shown through her continuing to steal money from corrupt organisations in order to pass it onto those who need it. In this episode her target is a real estate developer who plans to buy a building containing a clinic. Stealing the money accomplishes two goals for the price of one; the clinic is able to remain open and the church has more money to use to fund those law suits. Everyone wins as far as Anissa is concerned and Gambi backing her up on this adds extra resources to her arsenal. My guess is that there will be problems that arise before too long but for now being Freeland’s Robin Hood is a good fit for her in line with her values.
Lynn is having difficulty staying true to her own values when she is forced to bring in Dr. Jace (Helga Riker); a criminal scientist who can help with those trapped in the pods. She is forced to do this by Agent Odell (Bill Duke) who didn’t want to hire her in the first place. For Lynn working with Dr. Jace is palatable to an extent because her priority is the kids trapped in the pods. If it means she can help them then working with a criminal is something she can live with. This could be the first indication of how dangerous working with the ASA will be for Lynn.
Khalil is well on his way to being a complex and potentially redeemable antagonist. It was established last week that he is somewhat trapped in his current situation due to his enforced loyalty to Tobias who always has a threat hanging over his head. Tobias has him running errands to collect money that is owed to him and things quickly get out of hand when Khalil accidentally kills a drug dealer when trying to scare him. It’s fine for Tobias but less than ideal for Khalil. His run in with Jefferson as Black Lightning is interesting because of the doubts that clearly exist within Khali. Jefferson points out that he has lost control of his life and that his situation hasn’t improved at all. The purpose of this conversation is so that Jefferson can find out where Tobias is but ends up having the more important secondary effect of potentially knocking some sense into Khalil who could start down the path to redemption.
Henderson learning the truth about Jefferson is picked up in this episode in a fairly uninspiring way. There have been so many examples of police in these sorts of shows reluctantly using the resources of a law breaking vigilante because it will be easier to get the job done that way. This show does have the Henderson/Jefferson history and it’s used to some extent but it doesn’t elevate it an awful lot. I did like the courtesy of telling Jefferson of Tobias’ arrest. This surely won’t stick but for now it helps increase the stakes in unexpected ways.
As with last week the action is a mixed bag. Any action sequence involving Anissa is really well done as it relies on well choreographed hand to hand combat that is both exciting and dynamic. Any sequence involving Jefferson is a lot less interesting because all he does is zap them with electricity. Jefferson needs more villains that are a match for him in order to make his exploits as Black Lightning more visually interesting.
A strong episode that keeps the various plots moving forward while remaining grounded on the characters. The introduction of the new Garfield Principal is brief but also clearly sets up a conflict for Jefferson that will be difficult to overcome. Lowry clearly feels threatened by the loyalty Jefferson has cultivated and Jefferson has lost the power to make real change. He compensates for this to some degree as Black Lightning by helping a disadvantaged metahuman which expands the purpose of Black Lightning organically. Jennifer exploring how to control her powers through a dreamscape salon she is taken to by newcomer Perenna is fascinating because it gives her a safe space to work out her feelings and gives her a deeper understanding of historical context. The conflict leading up to this where she feels that her parents are making decisions for her when all she wants is some control over her life. This episode starts her down the path towards emotional balance.
The strongest relationship in the show is Anissa and Jennifer because of how natural their sisterly bond and how meaningful the advice that Jennifer gives. This is used to pick up a thread that was thought dropped when Anissa goes to reconnect with Grace by taking some responsibility for her behaviour but being firm about the fact that they weren’t in a relationship so she has nothing to feel guilty about. Anissa stays true to her activism roots by continuing to target the corrupt rich and steal from them in order to fund the causes of those less fortunate. For now it’s working out fine but I suspect it will escalate before long. Lynn offers a contrast to this by compromising her morality to help the pod people by working with a criminal doctor. Once again it’s a thread that is at the beginnings of its development but is intriguing nonetheless. Khalil feeling guilty about his involvement in the death of a drug dealer sets him up nicely for redemption especially when Jefferson tries to appeal to his sense of pride by pointing out his life was better before. The capture of Tobias is almost certainly a temporary measure but it does allow for further attention to be given to the Henderson/Jefferson dynamic. The only real weak spot of the show at the moment is any fight involving Jefferson as Black Lightning. All he does is electrocute and move on where Anissa has dynamic and well put together combat sequences. The show needs to introduce some villains that can handle Jefferson in a fight.
- Jennifer starting to gain a deeper understanding of her powers and how they relate to her emotions
- her stance on the way her parents are trying to control her life
- the Jennifer/Anissa relationship
- Anissa reconciling with Grace in an adult way
- the continuation of Anissa’s hidden heroic exploits
- Khalil on the road to redemption
- the brief introduction of Lowry
- any fight scene featuring Jefferson being uninteresting
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