Black Lightning – Season 4 Episode 11
“The Book of Reunification: Chapter Two: Trial and Errors”
Black Lightning details the efforts to clear the Pierce name as Tobias continues to have things work in his favour.
As the episode begins things look bleak for the Pierce family. They are powerless, being framed for crimes they didn’t commit and have considerable resources working to tear them apart. They have a small advantage in that Jennifer has her powers back but they are far from reliable and there is a suggestion that she has done significant damage to herself in getting them back. Throughout the episode they are shown to be glitching to the point that she is unable to rely on them.
Jefferson of course doesn’t approve of what Jennifer did to get her powers back because the last time she went up to the ionosphere she exploded in a burst of energy which leads to a quick yet engaging family debate where Anissa points out that reckless actions sometimes get things done and move things forward. It’s very in character for her to think along those lines as evidenced by the actions she has taken as Blackbird in order to protect people or create a more secure situation in Freeland. Her point is that there’s no point chastising Jennifer for her actions because she has already carried them out and didn’t explode so it just wastes time to consider what could have happened. There are consequences to those actions that aren’t fully understood at this point but Anissa’s pragmatic argument makes sense in the moment.
Jennifer does have a lot to deal with throughout the episode. Her powers intermittently failing puts her in a lot of danger and she is understandably concerned about that. She confides in TC who offers her encouragement and support which further reinforces how strong their friendship is. The Jennifer/TC dynamic always works really well, particularly with the Laura Kariuki iteration of the character. Their chemistry is believable and the writing conveys a strong bond of friendship that has grown naturally. His unconditional support as she adapts to her new physical form shows his strength of character and him putting her mind at rest around Uriah’s lack of involvement in her recent ambush was important information to be made available to her.
Her date with Uriah was a really charming and light hearted scene. The two actors interact really well and fully sell the awkward teenage romance. It’s a refreshingly light hearted scene in an episode full of escalating grimness that provides an important reminder that there are people behind the powers and those people have things they want out of life. In Jennifer’s case she has transitioned to wanting some form of normality outside of the constant threats which contrasts her earlier desire to cast aside her civilian identity entirely. A lot has changed for her both internally and externally so the shift in her stance on that is earned and makes sense.
The brief moment of normality quickly gives way to tragedy when Jennifer and Uriah are attacked which forces Jennifer to reveal that she is Lightning to him in order to try and save his life. Due to the problems with Jennifer’s powers Uriah is killed which serves as a warning from Tobias to stop being Lightning if she doesn’t want to see those she cares about die. It’s a standard villain threat but a powerful one in this case particularly after such a wholesome moment between Jennifer and Uriah. She is encouraged by Uriah not to give up being Lightning which prompts Jennifer to honour him by continuing to help people in that identity. It’s worth bearing in mind that only two episodes remain after this one so there would have been limited time to develop this relationship but it is unfortunate that it ends with Uriah’s death when there was such obvious potential. It’s likely this will be used as a motivating factor for Jennifer in the remaining episodes especially with her tendency to behave recklessly.
Powers being connected to identity is threaded into Jefferson’s mindset in a minor way early in the episode. He opens up to Gambi about feeling like he is missing something fundamental without his powers and has no idea how to function without them. As always he is motivated by a desire to protect those close to him and doesn’t see a way to do that without access to his powers. Gambi assures him that there’s more to him that his super powers but Jefferson isn’t in the right frame of mind to see that because the situation at that time is grim with no view on how to improve it. This reinforces Jefferson fighting against negative thoughts and impulses to the point that any setback induces hopelessness. As always Gambi remains the voice of encouragement and a calm presence but Jefferson spirals so easily that positive influence is limited.
This changes when a conversation with Khalil reveals the involvement of Looker in the plot against the Pierce family. Her powers are being used to force people to frame them which accounts for the appearance of evidence from nowhere. Jefferson’s change in attitude comes from knowing what he’s up against and having an idea of how to fight it. What he needed was a way to move forward and start to deal with the threats facing them. The old adage “knowledge is power” certainly applies here as knowing who is involved allows them to mount a defence.
Jefferson enlisting Detective Shakur to get him the access he needs to free an agent of Looker’s influence allows for their engaging dynamic to flourish. A really complex connection exists between them as men who want to do good but have the odds stacked against them. Jefferson’s decision to reveal that he is Black Lightning to Shakur was an interesting development and a major risk on his part considering he doesn’t know Shakur that well. It’s a gesture of trust on Jefferson’s part though Shakur doesn’t initially see it that way as he interprets it as Jefferson setting him up for some as yet unknown reason. The misunderstanding doesn’t last long and they quickly reach the same page in terms of figuring out their next move. The scene where they try to encourage Agent Mason (Jamal Akakpo) to drink coffee in order to take the serum that will end Looker’s control over him is somewhat clumsy but it gets across the information that Jefferson is innocent and determined to prove it while also signifying a major victory for the Pierce family with Agent Mason no longer coming after them. It’s a significant turning point and a much needed positive step after all of that has been counting against them.
Khalil’s involvement allows Looker herself to be tracked down which leads to an excellent action sequence taking place inside Khalil’s mind where Khalil and Painkiller both work to defeat Looker. It’s a great showcase for the variety of abilities and makes strong use of the Khalil/Painkiller duality with Khalil being more methodical in opposition to Painkiller being more of a blunt instrument. In the end Khalil’s insistence that they need Looker alive wins out and the situation resolves itself. It’s a good reminder that this internal struggle remains a problem for both Khalil and Painkiller who often have conflicting agendas but there is something of a harmony between them that proves functional. Seeing them fight together is a clear representation of that and Looker makes for a credible threat against them.
Gambi and Lauren find further common ground when he opens up to her about his reasons for being so duplicitous. Anissa strengthens her case by providing a tangible example of what he was trying to protect and they are able to find a way to work together. Gambi tells her the truth about Tobias and shows her evidence of the stolen Metagenes which is enough to convince Lauren that their cause is worth supporting. The Gambi/Lauren relationship has been engaging over the course of the season and her affiliation to MonaVista certainly cast her in a pseudo villainous light early on but the progression to establishing that she was simply thinking from a business point of view and was ignorant -whether wilfully or not- to the magnitude of what she was involved in has been natural. She is firmly established as a decent person who doesn’t want to see harm come to innocent people regardless of the impact it has on her company’s prophets therefore solidifying Gambi’s decision to trust her. Having her supporting the Pierce’s at this point is well earned even if there was some stumbling along the way to getting there.
Tobias does very little in this episode though things are falling into place for him with his election to Mayor. He has yet to appear to the public in this new role but he makes sure to give the police access to Metahuman abilities as well as weaponry which gives him a decisive advantage considering how powerless the Pierce family are at this point. One thing that doesn’t quite work is properly identifying Chief Lopez’ actual role in all of this. She has been established as intelligent and her grudge against Metahumans is well known -if not fully justified- but it remains unclear if she’s corrupt or simply a pawn in Tobias’ game. If the latter then it will take away from her intelligence as Tobias is far from subtle in the way he conducts himself around her. With so little time left the lack of clarity around Lopez is concerning.
A strong episode that once again makes great use of the ongoing character dynamics while providing a natural turning point in the run up to the finale. Jennifer regaining her powers isn’t without complications both in terms of how stable they are and Jefferson’s reaction to what she did to regain them. Anissa’s point about the reckless behaviour yielding a positive result regardless of the risks is an impressively pragmatic point that connects naturally to Anissa’s prior actions as Blackbird. Jennifer’s struggle with identity connects to her powers as explored through her engaging friendship with TC as well as her relationship with Uriah. Their first date is really charming with strong work done by the actors to sell that connection. It’s also a refreshingly light scene in the midst of grimness found elsewhere. Uriah’s death is definitely a tragedy and doubles as a warning from Tobias for Jennifer to stop acting as Lightning if she wants to keep those she cares about safe. Uriah’s final words are to encourage her to continue helping people in that role so it will likely inform a determined heroic Jennifer in the final episodes. Powers connecting to identity is briefly covered through Jefferson questioning his worth and effectiveness without them. As always Gambi is a calming and supportive presence but Jefferson is still fighting against negative thoughts so can’t accept that. This changes when Khalil informs him of Looker’s involvement which means that he now knows what he’s dealing with and how to fight it. His interactions with Detective Shakur leading to Agent Mason being freed from Looker’s control allow for the strong and complicated Jefferson/Shakur connection to receive attention as well as provide a significant positive turning point for the Pierce family.
Khalil’s conflict with Looker is brilliantly handled with an excellent action sequence that makes strong use of the Khalil/Painkiller duality further reinforcing harmony between them despite conflicting agendas. Seeing them fight together is a clear representation of that and Looker is a credible threat. Gambi and Lauren being on the same page after Gambi helps her understand the reasoning behind the decisions he has made shifts things in interesting ways. Lauren is freed of her ignorance of the overall situation and gains a greater understanding of everything that is at stake. This reinforces her as a decent person and the progression towards this point has been natural despite some bumps along the way. Tobias being made Mayor is an expected complication with him preparing for his first public appearance in that role. It’s unclear at this point whether Lopez is corrupt or a pawn in Tobias’ game. The latter would take away from her established intelligence but either way the lack of clarity so late in the final season is concerning.
- the pragmatic discussion around the restoration of Jennifer’s powers
- Jennifer continuing to struggle with her identity
- her engaging friendship with TC
- the refreshingly light first date scene between Jennifer and Uriah
- Uriah’s death acting as a moment of inspiration for Jennifer
- Jefferson and Shakur’s engaging and complicated dynamic
- the shift in Jefferson’s attitude once he learns what he’s up against
- a major turning point in removing Looker’s control from Agent Mason
- the excellent Khalil/Painkiller vs. Looker action sequence
- making great use of the Khalil/Painkiller duality
- Lauren being firmly established as a decent person
- Gambi helping her understand what is at stake and why he made the decisions that he made
- the lack of clarity around whether Chief Lopez is corrupt or another pawn of Tobias
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