Black Lightning: Season Two

"Things just got a lot more interesting."

A good sophomore season, with a lot of plot advancement and many enjoyable moments. My only real complaint was the lack of pay off. Season two felt mostly like set-up for season three.

This review INCLUDES SPOILERS.

Jeff and Lynn

Although Jefferson Pierce is the lead in this series, his professional life took something of a back seat this season. Because he saved Garfield High not as himself but as his hero alter ego Black Lightning, Jeff lost his job as principal to Mike Lowry, a racist white guy who was probably the last person that should be the principal of a majority African American high school. Once again a teacher, Jeff had the supreme frustration of watching Lowry screw up the positive changes Jeff had made, including installing metal detectors and a zero tolerance policy that did nothing to help the kids.

Things at home didn't go well, either. Interestingly, Jeff laid down superhero rules at a family meeting: (1) Don't tell anyone, (2) everyone has backup at all times, and (3) no killing. Anissa and Jennifer were not on board; for them, killing a villain like Tobias Whale feels like the right thing to do. It's an intriguing set-up for family superhero conflict although again, mostly set-up.



Lynn worked unwillingly for the ASA caring for the Green Light Babies in the pods which made sense, in light of her medical research skills. But every time the story returned to the pods, I became impatient. The addition of the totally villainous Dr. Jace helped a bit. Lynn's unexpected fist fight with Jace in the season finale was Lynn's best moment in the season.

I wish that there were better plot developments for Lynn, because I found her character nearly as frustrating this season as the last. What ticked me off the most was Lynn complaining about being married to Black Lightning as if his powers were a choice he had made, and as if he had deliberately screwed up Jennifer's chances in life.

The Sisters Pierce

This was clearly a great season for Jennifer, with big advances in her superhero journey as well as in her surprisingly tragic personal life.

Jennifer is so powerful that she is like a loose nuke – she could literally explode. In an attempt to protect her, her parents insisted in a home lockdown and home schooling, which of course pushed Jennifer into running away with Khalil, her ex-boyfriend who had broken bad with Tobias Whale in exchange for a new super-spine.



Khalil's storyline this season wasn't at all what I expected. After his understandable mistakes in season one and after compounding those mistakes by convincing Jennifer to run away from home, Khalil showed remarkable physical and moral courage by refusing to assassinate Reverend Holt and standing up to Tobias – resulting in his horrifying death.

Throughout the season, Jennifer worked with Perenna, a meta-therapist, who helped her create a safe place within her own mind. The most touching use of that plot piece was when Jennifer "took" the dying Khalil to the prom. Jennifer also worked with Gambi to create a superhero costume that would protect her from her own powers. I again really enjoyed Jennifer's closeness to sister Anissa. As mentioned above, it will be interesting if the show explores more fully the conflict between how Jeff sees being a superhero with the way his daughters see it.

When Jeff set down the rules, Anissa moved out of her childhood home and in with Uncle Gambi. Anissa had several lives going on simultaneously in season two: the exploits of Thunder, her work at the Free Clinic, a complicated love life, and her new Robin Hood persona, Blackbird. I really enjoyed her Blackbird takedowns, raiding drug dealers and dumping their money on the floor of the church, even though it is clearly way too risky.



I was less interested in Anissa's mysterious shapeshifter girlfriend Grace, although that was probably because there was a ton of set-up, but no pay off. Let's see what they do with Grace next season.

"Uncle Gambi" had an interesting season, too. In "Requiem," Gambi's SUV was attacked to the tune of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," and he used the fiery crash to fake his own death, retreat into his Sanctum slash Batcave, and devote himself to Jeff's superhero family pretty much full time. This also resulted in a change to Gambi's wardrobe, too – casual tees instead of prissy suits.



Villains

In season two, Black Lightning tried to make their bad guys as interesting as their good guys. Did they succeed? Again, I'm not certain since, and I'm repeating myself, most of this season felt like set-up.

The despicable Tobias Whale, their front-and-center villain, spent most of the season acquiring more interesting henchpersons, like the beautiful Cutter and her poisoned knives; budding psychopath Todd Green; Khalil, although that didn't work out; and Dr. Jace and the super metas.

I'm honestly going back and forth about how I feel about Tobias Whale. He dominates every scene he's in but is so deeply evil that I'm often impatient when he's on screen. His romantic relationship with Cutter practically made me gag, although their break-up to "The Look of Love" was totally hilarious. I think they tried to make Tobias a little more human by having him talk to his dead sister Tori's portrait, but that didn't work for me. In the season finale, Tobias was taken to "the pit" at a black site. Part of me wishes they'd leave him there, although I know they won't.

Then there was a two episode outing in South Freeland with the diabolical Looker who bled silver, and the opposing peoples Sange and Perdi. I wasn't quite sure what they were doing there, but it was super weird and felt like it didn't belong in the series.



What I really enjoyed was the return of Lala, resurrected by the super creepy Lazarus, who also likes to resurrect roadkill. One of the best moments of the season was Lala's attempt to redeem himself and finally die by saving Black Lightning. I hope we get Lala back in season three.

Best Episodes

2.10 The Book of Rebellion, Chapter Three: Angelito Negros: The culmination of the runaway plot, where Khalil brought Jennifer home and figured out on his own who Black Lightning and Thunder were. After facing Tobias, Khalil had his artificial spine ripped out of his body, which shocked me. Tobias' rejoinder, "I told you I'd always have your back" was a groaner of epic proportions.



2.12 The Book of Secrets, Chapter Two: Just and Unjust: Jennifer was expelled from Garfield after leading a protest when Lowry had Khalil's memorial taken down. I thought the song they chose for Khalil's funeral, "It Will All Make Sense Tomorrow," was particularly touching.

2.15 The Book of the Apocalypse, Chapter One: The Alpha: A lot of enjoyable pieces to this one: the bad guys amassing as a team, Jeff and the superhero rules, Lazarus resurrecting Lala, Jennifer's love for her new costume, and Jennifer and Anissa bonding.

2.16 The Book of the Apocalypse, Chapter Two: The Omega: Black Lightning and Thunder fought the meta Masters of Disaster, while Gambi and Jennifer turned the power in Freeland back on to save Jeff. Lala saved Black Lightning, one of my favorite moments of the season. Reverend Holt returned to his church, and the Green Light babies woke up and staggered around in their undies.

At the end of the season, Markovia and its metahuman program to take the Freeland metas took center stage, and the dryly evil Agent Odell of the ASA invaded a lovely Pierce family moment to enlist our superheroes to fight Markovia. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Bits:

— New titles. I like them.

— There were a lot of genuinely funny moments this season. I particularly liked Gambi pulling Jeff down as he kept trying to fly off, and Anissa's theory about the effect of superpowers on menstrual cramps.

— Again, really liked the music. Especially at the funeral.



— Deputy Chief Bill Henderson figured out that Jeff was Black Lightning, and was helpful in several episodes. But sadly, he was underused this season.

— Why the continuing focus on pod girl Wendy Hernandez? More set-up for season three?

— Odell is so evil that he murdered his own people, the ones he set to watch the Pierces.

— I liked the set decoration of Jennifer's bedroom. In 2.8, Lynn lost it and trashed the room. And then left it that way! As the episodes kept progressing, I kept saying, Lynn, why aren't you cleaning up the mess you made in Jennifer's room?



— We learned that Freeland is in Georgia. Is Freeland supposed to be Atlanta?

— In a meta moment, Grace was seen with Black Lightning and Thunder comics.

— In this season's hair report, Khalil's dreads were like an outer manifestation of evil. Jennifer cut them off when he went back to being a good guy. Later, after his death, the mourning Jennifer cut her own hair.

— Of course, Khalil is alive and in a pod. Not a surprise.

Summary

I am now a fan of this show, and particularly of the Pierce sisters and their, yeah, I know this expression is overused and cliched, superhero journey. Three out of four special costumes,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Tamara said...

I loved it. It is exactly that I think.