Returns and Revelations in Black Lightning
After last week’s eventful episode, Black Lightning plays some defense this week. Anissa begins her training as Lynn discovers that Peter has been hiding things. Meanwhile, a villain’s return promises intriguing confrontations. With on-point pacing, the show seems poised to get into its more climactic episodes of the season.
Warning: This review does not discuss major spoilers for episode eight, but openly discusses events from previous episodes. As always, it’s a good idea to catch up.
A Surprising Return
A lot happened last week, but probably the most startling event was Lala’s resurrection. It seemed unlikely that we would see any more of him after Tobias murdered him in the second episode. Considering that Tobias doesn’t appear in this episode, Lala is our primary villain, despite not interacting with Black Lightning or even seeming aware of him. Despite not having a lot of screen time, William Catlett does a superb job with what he’s given. He does quietly-threatening and slightly insane very well.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Lala’s return as much as I did. Before his death, he was little more than a bully, all too giddy over the power a gun gave him. He was a threat, but ultimately pathetic and irritating to watch. I don’t mean that as a criticism; I fully believe that was the writers’ intent. Resurrected, however, Lala is actually menacing. He’s far more interesting to watch now, and I don’t find myself wishing for him to be gone like I did during the first two episodes. Even for a comic book show, bringing characters back from the dead is iffy territory, but this is an engaging development for the character.
The Pierce Family
The show has been shifting more and more toward the relationship between Jefferson and Anissa. In this episode, Jefferson begins directly training her and guiding her. Anissa starts to learn how responsibility and restraint are important aspects of life as a superhero. In a lot of ways, this is really Anissa’s show. She has an interesting arc and the most character growth.
Let’s talk about Jennifer. So far she hasn’t had much of a place in the show. She keeps focus on the Pierce family dynamic, but otherwise, she’s removed from the central plot and developments of the show. Her role has been that of a teenage girl navigating normal teenage girl stuff. However, this week we got hints to her future as Lightning. This was something Black Lightning would eventually explore, but up until now it seemed like it would be a far way off, possibly in a future season. With recent revelations, it looks like they’re ready to go there now, and weave Jennifer’s arc into the central narrative.
The Hero Against the World
Freeland citizens begin to turn on Black Lightning in the wake of Lady Eve’s murder (another major event from last week’s episode). It wasn’t well-established that Lady Eve was a respected member of the community before now. For viewers who only knew her as a criminal boss, this a little jarring. In any case, Jefferson, Anissa, and Peter spend much of the episode following leads to figure out who is responsible. Despite this, the new situation our hero finds himself in lacks emotional weight. Jefferson never seems too concerned that the people he’s protecting have turned on him. Even though we naturally want the public back on Black Lightning’s side, this episode doesn’t do a good job of creating a sense of urgency.
The absence of Tobias underscores all this. He’s already been manipulating Khalil to be the face of an unlaunched smear campaign against Black Lightning. In all likelihood, he’s far angrier now and blames Black Lightning for his sister’s death (seriously, last week was crazy). With public opinion turning on Black Lightning, this was a perfect time for Tobias to launch his smear campaign and really put the pressure on our hero. I imagine that in between events with Jefferson, Anissa, Peter, and Lala, there just wasn’t enough time this week. That’s understandable, but it’s still a missed opportunity.
Overall, the writing in this episode lacked a bit. It seemed like the writers weren’t quite sure how to approach the new status quo and wound up stumbling a bit. That being said, only five episodes remain in this season, and things will get very exciting before it’s all over.
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on the CW.