Remember when Black Lightning used to be about oppressed minorities and racial tensions? You don't? I do. And it was a much more interesting show then.
Don't get me wrong, it's still an interesting show. But the last few episodes have put Black Lightning at a pretty standard CW superhero show. It's more family oriented than the other shows, but now it's turned that into pretty standard CWverse-type soap opera antics. Some of which were old back when they did them on Smallville.
So instead of Black Lightning emerging from retirement to fight crime on the street and provide a voice and a (masked) face to the black minority population, it's him doing superheroic stuff more or less in isolation. Yes, he ripped off a car hood this week when it was at a stoplight. But instead of marching into hotel lobbies and walking down streets, Black Lightning just goes into warehouses, dark woods, and private homes and beats up on bad guys.
Since he's in his own little corner of the CWverse, we don't even get a crossover once a year. That used to be part of the show's charm: that it wasn't sandwiched into the CWverse, or the Supergirl-verse or whatever they call it. But they talk in references to metas, and make injoke references to Supergirl and the Outsiders and Catwoman and whoever else, that these days it might as well be.
So what happened in the not-quite-CWVerse this week? Jennifer is still running away with Khalil. They stop at Club 100, which is run by two guys who you wonder why they're still alive given Tobias' lack of tolerance for failure. Khalil demands Tobias' protection money, but the club guys know Khalil is wanted and open fire. Jennifer is forced to use her powers to... do something. Electrify a power line, I think. But this also causes one of Tobias' guys to fall off a roof to his apparent death.
Jeff takes Anissa and Lynn to the sanctum (i.e., Peter's tailor shop basement) and reveals Peter is still alive. There's a little bit of angst about this, but it's pretty quickly skipped over in the search for Jennifer. Lynn goes home, drinks alcohol (future subplot alert!), and tears up Jennifer's bedroom.
Tobias goes to the house of Khalil's mother Nichelle (Yolanda T. Ross) and not-so-nicely asks her to contact her son Khalil. She tells him to get stuffed, and Tobias admits he respects her and wonders how she produced such a weak son.
Khalil takes Jennifer to his Aunt Yvette's (Tonia Jackson) house so they can stay the night before leaving Freeland. While they hang out there, Tobias sends his new hired thug, Cutter (Kearran Giovanni), after Khalil. She apparently doesn't have any meta powers, but is really good with knives and has a lot of them. Cutter shows up at Yvette's house, but Nichelle has contacted Lynn and given her Yvette's address. So Black Lightning, Thunder, and Peter show up there. Cutter manages to take down both Khalil and Jennifer, and they run when Black Lightning does his "electrical lasso" thing on Cutter. He throws her through a wall and she gets away.
Jennifer and Khalil run off, and they finally realize the lump behind Khalil's ear is a tracking device. Jennifer shorts it out and they run off.
Cutter calls Tobias and tells him Black Lightning is involved and Tobias starts to put together the pieces as far as why Black Lightning keeps showing up to help Jennifer.
Inspector Bill shows up briefly when Lynn asks him to put out an APB on Jennifer. There's also a brief bit where he finds out about a dead girl, but it's not Jennifer. So... what?
Anissa also snaps at Jeff for driving Jennifer out of the house just like he did Anissa. And then Anissa goes into her room at the house. Which seems to contradict the point she just made. Maybe she walked into a closet for dramatic effect?
And there's a brief scene where Anissa complains to Peter about all the secrets he's keeping. He points out she's keeping a secret of her own--stealing money from drug deals for the Green Light legal cases--and she thanks him for watching out for her and Black Lightning last week during the whole Looker thing.
And that's it. "Rebellion" and "Exodus" in the title apparently refer to Jennifer, her situation with the parents, and her running away from home. As opposed to the whole oppressed-minority situation in Freeland, it's all Pierce family drama. Which like I said, makes a pleasant change from the other CWverse shows. But other than the family stuff, it seems like rehashed CWverse material. Tobias is just a more charismatic version of the crime lords on the half-seasons of Arrow.
Speaking of Tobias, I'm getting tired of his constant racial putdowns. Yes, we get it: he doesn't like blacks. Maybe it's some kind of statement by the show developers Salim and Mara Akil, that albino blacks really hate black-blacks. But it's not presented in any kind of context like that or something else. Tobias just sits there and insults his black underlings, calling them "thick-lipped" and "lazy". It's not only insulting, but it's unnecessary. As I've noted before, we have other CW superhero shows where the main bad guys don't toss racial slurs at their underlings. Why do we have to have it on Black Lightning?
They've dropped most of the subplots they spent the first few episodes of season 2 developing. There's no mention of Lowry or Jeff's demotion at Garfield. We don't even get much of the ASA or the Green Light babies. We do see one, and he's basically treated as a super-powered drug addict who doesn't display any superpowers. I could live without the racial statements, but the creative team isn't bothering to say much about the locale they spent a lot of season 1 building up. Or even the newer stuff, like the Jeff/Bill blowout. I don't expect Bill to refuse to help Lynn because of his beef with Jeff. But you'd never know he had a beef with Jeff based on what happened this week. A simple, "I may not respect Jeff for lying to me, but Jennifer is too important to let that get in the way " or the equivalent is all that is needed.
In fact, it makes Jeff seem rather selfish. Now that he's no longer principal, he doesn't seem to interact with his community and as I noted earlier, Black Lightning isn't a public figure anymore. He's not fighting crime, he's not battling The 100. Black Lightning is just running around dealing with his family situations. At least Anissa was robbing drug dealers to pay for the lawsuit against the government.
Right now it seems like Black Lightning is just coasting on the talent of its actors and its differences from the other CW superhero shows. Like the background music. You get generic fight music in the other shows, or musical scorings by Blake Neely. You can always count on Black Lightning and Kurt Farquhar to provide something different.
But I'm beginning to wonder if the music and family setting are enough. IMO the show needs to go back to its season 1 roots.
But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
FYI, next week is the mid-season finale. Then the show comes back in January and moves to Monday nights, replacing DC's Legends. Yay for the CW getting Sunday nights for more programming! Make sure to program your DVRs or whatever.
Written by Gislef on Dec 5, 2018