Monday, December 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Black Lightning' - Jennifer Must Choose Between the ASA and the Resistance in 'The Book of Resistance: Chapter Four'

The CW's Black Lightning - Episode 3.09 "The Book of Resistance: Chapter Four: Earth Crisis"

The Pierce family fears for Jennifer's life.

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 next episode of The CW's Black Lightning.

"The Book of Resistance: Chapter Four: Earth Crisis" was written by Lamont Magee and directed by Tasha Smith

At the start of the series, the creative decision was made to keep Black Lightning separate from the rest of the Arrowverse shows on The CW. It wanted the freedom to tell its own individual stories without being bogged down by the various mythology requirements. The drama certainly tells its stories in a different way as well. That helps it stand out too. It approaches its narrative through grounded social commentary. It aspires to tackle real-life issues even if it's framed through a superhero framework. Earlier this year though, it was announced that Black Lightning would officially be a part of the annual crossover event. It made sense because the existential threat that currently unites heroes across the multiverse is an antimatter wave destroying every single version of Earth. As such, it has brought the executives great creative control by bringing in various actors from numerous DC-related projects from over the years. Crisis on Infinite Earths has aired two episodes already through Supergirl and Batwoman. A criticism could be that it has focused too heavily on amusing cameos instead of telling a coherent story. As such, it could be a huge risk to suddenly force a huge metaphysical twist into the Black Lightning universe when it doesn't entirely fit with what the show has been doing. That's a potential consequence for it airing episodes at the same time as Crisis on Infinite Earths is airing. Characters from DC Universe's Titans and former CW/WB drama Smallville have appeared briefly in the crossover event already. However, that doesn't mess up too much of their continuity because their stories have already finished for the moment. With this show, it means the sky suddenly turns red when everyone in Freeland wants to be concerned about the occupation and the Markovian forces. It means there is yet another target on the Pierce family that can inflict a whole lot of damage. However, this show channels the spirit of the crossover ambition in order to simplify things down to one story concern. Yes, there are things still happening that concern the overall story of the season. The tension between the resistance and the ASA continues to grow. But this hour is largely focused on Jennifer and the choice she has to make about which side to believe in. Her entering a parallel universe doesn't come with some cheeky nod as to what insane life she could be living. It simply presents two alternate options based solely on the choice presented at this point in her life. That is the diversion with which these worlds have seemingly separated. It's clear that the ASA is a threat to all of them with their need to flood the city with green light to create more metahumans. It's already scary to see how willing Lynn is to make that drug at home in order to get her fix. But it's incredibly resonant on a deeply personal level for Jennifer. She doesn't know which truth to believe. She sees a world incredibly divided because people believe their truths to be worth more than what the other side is saying. She listens to what the resistance and the ASA have to say. She knows that they are both good and bad. They each make decisions that can save and take lives. It's always risky to be involved as a superhero. Jennifer is still striving for her own personal identity. She has her moral convictions. She has grown across the series so far. Here, she sees a world where she has become too passive and eventually loses her father. In another, she becomes too powerful and ends up killing her entire family as well as all the other metahumans. It puts things into startling context for her. It's a wonderful character study that showcases her learning this lesson and growing from it. She believes that she has the best of both worlds. She knows how to avoid making the same mistakes. It can be empowering for her even though it's terrifying for her family because they don't know what's happening to her. Of course, all of this suggests that everything will go back to normal after the crisis is done. This entire world may be wiped out at the conclusion of this hour which forces the viewer to start watching The Flash. Jefferson may be saved. That may not be his priority at the moment. Family will always motivate him to save lives. That is the driving thesis of the show. Hopefully, he can apply that same morality while standing by his convictions even when in a crowd of other superheroes with abilities he has never seen before. His mind may suddenly be open to more possibilities than ever before as a result of this move. However, this creative team needs to be aware that the focus should remain on the grounded storytelling and not go too big after all of this is done.