Monday, March 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Black Lightning' - Jefferson and Jennifer Finally Confront Tobias in 'The Book of the Apocalypse: Chapter Two: The Omega'

The CW's Black Lightning - Episode 2.16 "The Book of the Apocalypse: Chapter Two: The Omega"

Lynn goes head to head with Dr. Jace once and for all. Gambi risks his life to save Jennifer. Tobias makes a major move to cripple Freeland and kill Black Lightning, requiring our superhero family to step up like never before.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of The CW's Black Lightning.

"The Book of the Apocalypse: Chapter Two: The Omega" was written by Charles D. Holland and directed by Salim Akil

This season of Black Lightning was building to two big moments: Jennifer having her confrontation with Tobias and Agent Odell warning the Pierce family that the Markovians are coming to Freeland to start a metahuman war. Both are powerful and interesting moments. They are just lessened a little bit by just how odd and weirdly paced this entire season was. Jennifer's story was strong throughout with her learning how to control her powers. She isn't like her father or sister who carry multiple superhero identities as masked vigilantes and in their personal lives. She doesn't have a true sense of her own identity. So much of it could be wrapped up in her pursuit of vengeance against Tobias for killing Khalil. That was an incredibly effective story. But it also felt as if the show was giving itself a convenient way out with the re-introduction of Lala at the end. He comes back and follows the same exact trajectory as he did at the end of Season 1. That's incredibly anti-climatic. Sure, it wouldn't make any sense for him to be the one to kill Tobias. The only way that would work was if it robbed Jennifer of that moment and she wouldn't know how to process it. She continues to struggle with her powers even though she comes into her identity as Lightning here. But again, Lala serves as a convenient distraction meant to keep the energy up despite no real meaning to it whatsoever. His personal motivation is clear though. That's not as easy to say when it comes to some of the other characters this season. The story this year really tried to do one too many things. As such, it lost the plot thread on a number of overall messages that actually worked in the first season. Jefferson was defined more by his time as Black Lightning than as a teacher and community leader. His final moment of getting caught up in the emotions of his family being safe after all of this remains genuine. But it's also lost in the sense that he hasn't really worked to uplift the community. That has mostly been left up to Reverend Holt to articulate the many ways in which the people here are choosing to combat fear and hate with love. That is a powerful message. However, it gets lost in all of the superhero antics going on. There is simply no sense of what Tobias was trying to do with any of this. Cutter realized that eventually and took off. That should keep her as an engaging player moving forward. But Tobias increasingly seemed like he just wanted to create chaos in Freeland and had no real vision for its future. That's a significant criticism because he was suppose to be the main antagonist for the family. And now, he is sent away to a metahuman prison with no hope of escaping or being given a fair trial. That too may feel like a simplistic conclusion to his story and the tension with the Pierce family solely because he's been so elusive for so many years. The police haven't been able to arrest him for a crime that will stick. But now, he is sent away just because he proves to have metahuman strength and managed to wake up all of the pod kids. That's weird and is mostly just the show accepting that it needed to change up the status quo with him.

However, it's also just so infuriating to see all of the plot threads that this finale didn't even aspire to tackle. The show went into this final hour with the understanding that it had a lot that it needed to deal with. However, it spent a lot of its time on Jennifer overheating and needing to control it while also hurting Gambi in the process. Plus, it featured a fight where Black Lightning and Thunder took on the criminal metahumans who have essentially been used as puppets. None of them are engaging characters though. So, there is no real reason for that sequence to be this long drawn out battle that takes its toil on everyone. It means that no time is left to answer who tried to kill Gambi. That remains a mystery. The show may even be choosing to forget about it completely despite how malicious it was with the manipulation attached to that specific plot point. Moreover, no update is given to Grace and her shapeshifting powers. The big conclusion was Thunder having that fight with her that only created more questions. Anissa has no understanding of what this relationship was and how it turned out this way. And yet, that is mostly treating Grace as a plot point that needed to be solved instead of as a genuine character who could somehow enrich Anissa's life. That's the biggest thing missing from this season. Yes, the heart is still there amongst the Pierce family. They are working together to protect the metahuman population from those who wish to exploit them or condemn them. They wish to give those with powers the tools they need to survive in this world and make whatever choice is best for them. Jennifer wasn't pressured to use her powers. She just had to understand how to control them so that she could be a part of society once more. She chose to become Lightning out of a sense of vengeance. She may continue to act as a superhero because it's the family business and she is a part of Odell's new operation. And yet, there are plenty of things that Odell is keeping from the family as well - like the fact that he has Khalil in a pod. That's an ominous note. But it's also the show basically confirming that no plot point is destined to stick because it can always be undone later on which isn't really a lesson that should be had here. It would cancel out any of the remaining stakes left in the proceedings.