Black Lightning – Season 4 Episode 10
“The Book of Reunification: Chapter One: Revelations”
Black Lightning picks up the pieces following Lynn’s arrest and the loss of powers across the main characters.
The cliffhanger ending from the previous episode where Jennifer fell out of the sky was predictably resolved very quickly in a way that made it cheap and manipulative. Gambi having a contingency gadget for such an eventuality makes sense for him as a character but it’s also a crutch the show leans on very heavily which does tend to rob moments of tension. It’s an example of consistent characterisation robbing the show of tension and often raises the question around why Gambi hadn’t dreamed up a contingency gadget for other dangerous scenarios.
It’s a quick moment and easily dismissed but it is a notable weakness that shouldn’t be forgiven as it stands out how manipulative it was to put Jennifer in that situation without her ever being in any real danger. Of course it’s one of those cliffhangers that isn’t easily resolved without some sort of contrivance but it also didn’t have to be framed that way in the first place especially with so many other dangerous situations that could arise. Other scenarios were more realistic such as Anissa being at risk of being killed by a car without her powers. The resolution of that was equally quick but was far more natural as Grace simply pushed her out of the way at the last minute therefore making use of their connecting and reminding the viewer that they always look out for one another.
Naturally the loss of powers is a really big deal that the characters have to deal with. They have no idea how widespread it is and are all aware of how vulnerable they are without having the protection afforded by their abilities. This situation does a really great job of increasing tension within the group dynamic. Jennifer is more obsessed than anyone with regaining her abilities to the point that she irritates Gambi with her continued questions. Gambi is typically calm and collected so the fact that he raises his voice is a strong indicator of how serious the situation is. He has no idea how to proceed or how to fix it which is a rare mindset for him as he is used to having the answers. This is a great way to use established characteristics to heighten the urgency.
Jennifer’s obsession with regaining her powers prompts her to behave recklessly. This is consistent with how she usually reacts to adversity but there’s an extra underlying motivation linked to her fractured sense of identity. Following her recent change in appearance she is no longer secure within herself and sees being Lightning as the one consistent thing in her life she can hold onto. By her own admission if she can’t be lightning then she has no idea who she really is. This calls back to what Lynn has been saying since the show began around the family being addicted to their powers. Jennifer is certainly proving that point with her stubborn insistence that she needs her powers to define who she is. Her reckless attempt to restore them by electrocuting herself makes a degree of sense based on her own logic but it still enables an addictive personality and doesn’t properly address her major identity issues.
It becomes very clear that she’s still struggling with her addiction to absorbing power from the Ionosphere through how difficult it is for her to pull away. TC has to bring her to her senses before she ends up exploding again which shows that Jennifer still has a lot about herself that she needs to address before she can be considered healthy. The energy left behind swirling once she leaves is curious and may point to her previous physical form making a reappearance in some way. Even if that’s not the case then there remains a lot for Jennifer to resolve before she can be comfortable within herself and the way this is addressed within the episodes continues to be compelling.
Anissa has similar issues around connecting her sense of self to her powers. Grace makes a very valid point about how not having their powers might not be a bad thing when considering their future together. She points out that they are in constant danger and there’s a high chance that their luck may one day run out. It’s a lot of pressure to place on them as individuals as well as within the context of their relationship so Grace makes a very valid argument around happiness possibly not being connected to their abilities. Anissa makes the point that Grace met and fall in love with her when she was a Metahuman and can’t see any future that doesn’t involve her having powers. This suggests an unhealthy connection between her sense of self and her powers as if she doesn’t feel like she is of any worth without them. The perspective Grace holds makes sense as she deeply resented her powers not so long ago so giving them up doesn’t seem like such an unpalatable concept to her where Anissa has always embraced hers so is more reluctant to imagine a future without them. It’s a really fascinating communication barrier between them and showcases a major blind spot for Anissa that she can’t distance who she is from what she can do.
Gambi’s duplicitous ways catch up with him when Lauren uncovers his deception and reacts as expected. It’s handled really well with Gambi opening up about his reasons for deceiving her and manages to talk her down which was an unexpected resolution to this. It’s something that deserved to have a lot more attention given to it but the final season is so busy already that it’s difficult for everything to receive the coverage it deserves. It appears that this largely exists so that Lauren can blame Gambi for the loss of the Inhibitor in order to clue him into the reasons that the powers have been lost. It’s a means to an end which does a disservice to the engaging dynamic between Gambi and Lauren before this point. The scene where they discuss his betrayal is good with Elena Varela completely selling the betrayal. It comes across that she isn’t a bad person even if the inventions are being deployed in less than ethical ways. In a lot of ways she’s part of the problem by failing to acknowledge what they are being used for but she isn’t actually a bad person which makes the situation infinitely more interesting.
Lynn and Jefferson still have a lot of issues to work through. Her recent arrest has her feeling vulnerable and it has cost her everything that she used to define herself. It’s a really difficult emotional state for her to be in and Jefferson is less than sensitive to it because he’s more concerned about where the money to pay her bail and defence is coming from as well as the fact that her lawyer is none other than her ex boyfriend. Being occupied with those details makes him less able to be there for her when she really needs it which shows that there is still a gulf for them to cross. There is still strain on their relationship being caused by a number of lingering issues and a lack of appetite to properly address them which means that the friction remains.
This episode suffers in how it handles the villains. There is mention of Tobias taking over the Cobra Kartel which comes largely out of nowhere, This comes with Ishamel apparently deciding to work for Tobias which has no weight as a loyalty shift because of how poorly defined the character is. There is also the introduction of a Board that he reports to with the reveal that his Mayoral campaign has been entirely geared around gaining a prominent seat on that board. No information is given about who they are, what influence they command or what their purpose is. Tobias reporting to them suggests that they are formidable considering how much influence he personally commands but it comes across as a left field addition especially so late in the final season.
With only three episodes remaining there are serious concerns over whether this show can resolve everything currently in play. It is looking less likely because there are still major issues in the Lynn/Jefferson relationship, Jennifer is struggling with her sense of self, the situation in Freeland grows ever more complicated along with so many other loose threads that demand to be tied up. An open ending isn’t always a bad thing as it acknowledges that real life doesn’t have an ending but there’s a difference between that and unresolved arcs. Time will tell if the remaining three episodes build to a satisfying conclusion but with so much to cover and new elements being brought in so late there are legitimate concerns.
An engaging episode that makes good use of lingering character flaws and heightens tension through well established character traits. Gambi’s lack of understanding of what caused the loss of powers and his frustrated reaction to it increases the tension massively as he is typically someone who remains calm and collected no matter how desperate the situation. Having no idea how to proceed is practically unheard of for him and his frustration sells the overall urgency of the situation. Jennifer’s obsession with regaining her powers is tied to her self worth especially in the wake of the changes she has recently experienced. If she can’t be Lightning then she has no idea who she is which makes for a very unhealthy attitude to her own sense of self. It also ties into Lynn’s repeated comments about power addiction that are further proven by Jennifer’s inability to pull away from the Ionosphere without TC intervening. Anissa has a similar issue around identifying herself through what she can do. Grace makes valid points about their future and how their luck might eventually run out. She suggests that happiness might mean leaving their powers behind but Anissa insists being a Metahuman is a big part of who she is. Grace resented having powers not so long ago where Anissa has always embraced them so the positions they occupy on the issue are both valid and it’s a fascinating problem between them. Jefferson and Lynn are still having issues communicating effectively and Jefferson is insensitive to what she’s going through because he’s fixated on the wrong details.
Gambi’s duplicitous actions catch up with him when Lauren confronts him about his betrayal. It’s a good scene though the situation itself deserves more attention than simply being a means to an end in order to compliment another plot. Lauren remains complex as she is not a bad person even though the company she’s a part of makes things that are being used for less than ethical things. The episode suffers massively in how it handles the villains. Tobias taking over the Cobra Kartel comes out of left field as does Ishamel’s decision to work for him though the latter is largely due to Ishmael having no definition as a character so it’s unclear what motivates him beyond what has been said. The introduction of the Board that Tobias reports to and the desire he has to have a place on it seems to come too late in the final season. Tobias reporting them suggests how threatening they are but there’s no real sense of what they are or how they fit into everything that is going on. With only three episodes remaining there is a lot to tie up and possibly not enough time to do so in a satisfying way.
- heightening tension through Gambi’s frustration not knowing how to proceed
- Jennifer connecting her powers to her sense of self and how unhealthy that is for her
- calling back to power addiction and clearly showing that through Jennifer
- Anissa also linking her powers to her sense of self
- Grace’s valid argument around powers making for an uncertain future
- still a lot for Jefferson and Lynn to work through
- the complex Lauren and Gambi dynamic with Lauren remaining a layered character
- general missteps with the villains
- Ishmael still failing to be a character
- the introduction of the Board being far too late in the season
- Gambi’s contingency gadget undermining the cliffhanger
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