Saturday, May 1, 2021

REVIEW: 'Black Lightning' - Jefferson, Anissa & Jennifer's Powers Hit Their Breaking Points in 'The Book of Ruin: Chapter Four'

The CW's Black Lightning - Episode 4.09 "The Book of Ruin: Chapter Four: Lyding"

Gambi warns the Pierce family of a possible crisis looming.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 Ruin: Chapter Four: Lyding" was written by J. Allen Brown and directed by Keesha Sharp

Lynn dreams about removing the metahuman abilities from her family. She believes she has successfully pioneered this innovation. And yet, she feels a great deal of shame and regret in trying to do so. She is fundamentally hurting her family in trying to convert them into her version of the perfect family unit. It's just a dream. One that haunts her. This episode ends with that promise actually becoming a reality though. Tobias has armed himself with the formula to deactivate these powers as well as the energy amplifier that can spread it throughout Freeland. It plays as his big moment of victory. He has successfully taken away everything of value from the Pierce family. They all suffer as a result. They are each capable of incredible feats. Their heroism could quickly turn deadly without their gifts. And so, the show leaves each of them in incredibly dire places as their powers go off. Jefferson is facing off with Ishmael. Anissa is about to be hit by a car likely driven by whomever just killed Darius. And Jennifer is flying away after barely escaping capture by Chief Lopez. Now, the show will probably come up with some convenient way for each of them to survive. Consequences should probably ring out from this action though. It would seem improbable for all of them to emerge from this glimpse at death with nothing to acknowledge it. Tobias is determined to make Black Lightning suffer because he killed his sister. Now, that is some incredibly flimsy motivation. The show simply forgot how to make Tobias a compelling villain. It's all being carried by the menacing performance. Tobias' relationship with his sister was only briefly important in the first season. He has allowed her death to consume him with this rage. He has proven quite effective in turning the family's passions against them. It's all in the name of domination. He must viciously take away the power and abilities that this family has in this city. They are largely adored by the citizens of Freeland. Tobias needs to flip that script. He is certainly aided by Chief Lopez and her anti-meta policies. However, Tobias is the one who gave members of the family glimmers of hope regarding their innovations only to take them away and allow them to contribute to the overall suffering. Lynn knew that she couldn't trust Tobias. And yet, she operated freely because of her ambition in understanding the meta gene. That has always been important to her. Tobias understands that. He has interacted with her enough to know how she operates. He knew she would be curious about Val's DNA. It's then simply collecting her research once it's proven successful. With Gambi, it's a much more murky plot point. He saw the new guns being shipped to the local police as the most urgent threat against the family. They needed to be protected from the weapons that could actually penetrate their suits. That threat was happening right in front of them. He wanted Lauren to focus more on the good and prosperity that could come from the energy amplifying invention. That could radically change the world. He didn't see that as a threat against the family. He helped created this machine. It's the perfect delivery system for Tobias' plan. However, it doesn't come across as something that reveals just how brilliant and well-executed this has been across the season. It's mostly just a story of convenience. It still has plenty of visceral moments that reveal the tragedy behind the family's recent actions. They still make mistakes. They weigh the burden of carrying these powers and the good will they hope to maintain throughout the city. The threats keep coming. They grow more and more dire. They may not be able to survive each of them. The oldest enemies can still launch a brutal assault. They knew it was coming from Tobias. They have dealt with some of the harsh attacks already. But this story wants the family broken and emotionally scared. That also allows them to conveniently be distracted from one another. They have been isolated before as a family unit. That has served its purpose. Here, it feels a bit more constructed for the convenience of Tobias' grand scheme instead of some natural extension of where Jefferson, Lynn, Anissa and Jennifer are in their specific character arcs. At least the final season is starting to intensify in a way that actually stings with unique and compelling purpose. That has largely been missing so far. Of course, that's still the case with Khalil's tangential story. He is trying to help. He's offering no quick progress or much support though. It's mostly just his identity battle that is largely being kept as is in order to potentially sustain a spinoff.