​"The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three: Angelitos Negros" – Black Lightning S02E10 Review

And welcome back to TVMaze's weekly Black Lightning reviews! Yes, the holiday hiatus is over and all of the CW superhero stuff is officially back with Arrow and Black Lightning tonight.

When last we left the show back in December, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Khalil (Jordan Calloway) had gone on the run from Tobias and his bounty hunter, Cutter (Kearran Giovanni). The teenagers got the drop on Cutter and forced her to give up the antidote to a poison she used on Khalil. They escaped and Cutter got dragged away into the forest. Black Lightning, Thunder, and Peter arrived just too late to find the wayward Jennifer. And with Cutter MIA, Tobias called in a pretty ominous looking teleporter bounty hunter to take over.

So tonight we come to Chapter Three, and... the teleporter is nowhere in sight. Although the fact Tobias has access to a super-deadly teleporter will raise a question later. But for now we'll just pretend the last couple of minutes of Chapter 2 didn't happen.

China Anne McClain, Black Lightning S02E10

Khalil takes Jennifer to the old abandoned rail yard where he hangs out in an abandoned passenger car. I guess. The place is awfully well lit from the inside, to the point I thought it was daylight once or twice. Khalil gives Jennifer her necklace back, they almost have sex, and then Jennifer decides she doesn't want to have sex on the run in an old train car and goes back to her house after she hears a searching Lynn call out to her.

Jeff is none too happy to see Khalil at his place. But eventually Khalil convinces Jeff and Lynn he wants to do the right thing and keep Jennifer safe. So he'll turn himself in to testify against Tobias. Jennifer and Anissa have a sister-to-sister chat, and the chemistry between China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams is one of the best parts of the show. Ms. Williams makes a better sister than she does a superhero.

Jeff asks Inspector Bill to make a handover of Khalil to the Feds happen. Given that Bill now knows Jeff is Black Lightning, I'm still not sure what's going on with them. They basically seem to have a slightly pissier version of the relationship they had before. So same old same old, mostly. Bill comes through but Tobias sends Cutter to get Khalil. Somehow she does: she takes out a half-dozen Feds who have their guns drawn and have her in their sights, and she's all of twenty plus feet away from them. They've been kind of cagey about what kind of meta she is, but she must have some kind of superspeed to take out a half dozen experienced Feds who have her in their sights.

Which is the question I raised earlier. Tobias has access to someone who can kill a half-dozen armed-and-ready Feds without raising a sweat. And a teleporter, wherever the heck he is. Tobias himself is apparently unaging and superstrong. And had Syonide and Khalil/Painkiller working for him for a little while. Why the heck hasn't he already taken over Freeland? It gets even worse at the end, when we find out Tobias recruited Todd (RJ Cyler) to decrypt the ASA computer briefcase he obtained. Todd does so, and we find out there were four original Green Light Babies, or metas, or whatever. They're part of Project MOD, which stands for Masters of Disaster. They're "super-metas", but given that Tobias can do practically anything he likes with the metas he has, you wonder why he needs more or for that matter, what the heck a "super-meta" is, super-wise. You've got Cutter, who can casually take down armed Feds. You've got the mysterious teleporter. You've got Black Lightning, who can do whatever the creative team requires.

I do have a soft spot for the Masters of Disaster, a goofy bunch of comic book villains who fought the Outsiders occasionally. But I'm getting a little tired of the Outsiders references. Plus, they seem kind of redundant since we've got the "real" animated Outsiders over on the new season of Young Justice. The Black Lightning there is a lot more interesting than the Black Lightning here. And Jeff's wife on YJ, from what little we've seen of her, isn't a whiner like she is on the CW show.

In the end, Tobias rips Khalil's artificial spine out and has him dumped in front of Reverend Holt's church. Where Holt starts praying over him, rather than... calling 911, maybe? Cutter presumably dumps the body, and also the multi-million-dollar artificial spine on the street nearby. So presumably we're not done with Khalil.

Other than that, there's a lot of shots of Jeff looking pensive, Lynn looking upset, Peter doing not much of anything, and the usual couple of racist remarks by Khalil. Anissa and Jennifer provide a little bit of humor, and there is a funny exchange or two between Tobias and Todd. Although Tobias' management style is still weird: what's the point of wooing and wowing Todd and then threatening and insulting him? Maybe that's been holding him back from mobilizing the metas under his command taking over Freeland.

So we wrap up with Khalil crippled again, Tobias about to add to his meta arsenal of super unstoppable metas with "super-metas", and not much else. Jennifer is back in the Pierce house, and Jeff and Inspector Bill seem to have some kind of unspoken detente. There's no indication of anything with the new bunch of ASA people like Agent Odell, or anything about Jeff being demoted at the high school. I guess the whole thing took place in a single night, and we don't really find out anything about the community.

We do find out why the clinic is so valuable: the super-metas are hidden somewhere in the walls. Which seems kind of unlikely, but then I'm no Gregg Henry that runs a secretive government organization, either. Me, I wouldn't just leave four super-metas on ice for 20-some years. But that's probably why I don't rule the world.

Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning S02E10

We do get a good performance out of China Anne McClain, and from Nafessa William when she's not wearing a costume. And when you ignore Marvin Jones III's racial slurring, he gives a good performance as a sneering bad guy. Tobias is like a low-budget Kingpin from Marvel's Daredevil. Which I suppose makes sense, since Tobias Whale in the comics was a low-budget version of Kingpin in the comic books. The actor seems to be enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm tends to overcome the shortcomings of the character: primarily his racist comments which they wouldn't have gotten away if they were in the mouth of a Caucasian actor.

But not much really happened. At least unlike the end of the preceding chapter, The Book of Blood, there's a promise of something to happen. Tobias is finally going to unleash his master plan, whatever the heck it is. We'll get four "super-metas" to challenge Black Lightning, and that's part of what season 2 needs: something to challenge the protagonist on a superhero level. His personal problems have either all but disappeared (being demoted at Garfield High) or he's been upstaged by his family. Maybe the creative team will get back to give him someone challenging to fight and remembering that BL and Tobias are mortal enemies since Tobias killed Jeff's father.

Or maybe The Book of Secrets will be another bust. We'll have to wait and see. And hopefully the teleporter guy will show back up.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Jan 22, 2019


Billo0255 posted 21 days ago

Gislef - I wasn't suggesting that you "move on". I was suggesting that whoever is setting the tone of these shows move on from constantly beating a concept or opinion theme to death. To avoid my repeating what I'd already written refer to the paragraph above the last line. You do a great job and I enjoy your writing style and perceptions.

Yup, I could have been clearer in that last line.

The only comic book titles I skimmed were the Black Lightning titles from the 1970's, 1990's and the 2009 Year One title. There might be others but these are the one's I had.

I'm only aware that DC released a Black Lightning title three times. There might have been others but I didn't follow the Black Lightning title mostly because it didn't stick around. I'd collected ones from the 1970's and it was by accident that I came across the reboot in the 1990's

Out of the ones I have, the Black Lightening comic book title (that I'm aware of) that relates closest to the TV show is the 2009 Year One comic book series (5 issues).

In earlier Black Lightning comic book incarnations (1970's, 1990's) he was single. In the 2009 Year One series he's married and has one daughter, Anissa, who looks to be around 5 y.o.. Lynn is pregnant in that series with, I assume, Jennifer.

It's interesting that you mention the JSA. In some Justice League special (old one) it had stories about how various Justice League members were recruited. In one of those stories there was a push by Green Arrow to recruit Black Lightning and Black Lightning turns them down.

Gislef posted 26 days ago

Move on from what? My "job" (heh: that's why I get paid the big bucks) is to point out what the creative team is doing. As long as they continue doing it, I'm going to continue pointing out that they're doing it. They do something different and move on, I'll move on. Either that, or stop reviewing BL which probably isn't going to happen. And if I did, it would probably be over to Arrow, where they're kind of treading water as well.

Didn't Jeff have two daughters in the comics, Anissa and Jennifer, i.e., Thunder and Lightning? Jennifer may have disappeared in one retcon or another, but I definitely remember her from the JSA comics.

Billo0255 posted 29 days ago

Spot on.

Drama is an essential part of the super-hero genre, but so is action and. Black Lightning has drifted past drama and into the realm of soap opera. I get why they are focusing on family dynamics, especially the desire to protect the people they love. That is a time honored component of the super-hero genre. For example, The Flash was on the verge of killing Cicada after Cicada paralyzes The Flash's daughter XS. The Flash was only stopped when XS shows up to show him she's healed. It's a common theme in all of CW's DC universe super-hero shows and is revisted at least every other episode in case the audience missed the message.

But, as I mentioned above, the other essential part, and usually what I think attracts most people to the genre, is action. Supergirl, Arrow, Flash seem to have achieved a better, although not always a perfect, balance between action and drama that Black Lightning hasn't matched.

Where does all this drama come from? Jefferson Pierce is portrayed as self-righteous, judgemental, short tempered, stubborn with a tendency to jump to conclusions, and has an incessant need to control and always be right. Between his inability to recognize anyone else's point of view than his own, coupled with Lynn's emotional instability and passive-agressive behavior, they both frequently instigate/escalate the drama unnecessarily.

I've been skimming through some of the older Black Lightning comic books from the 1970's, 1990's and a 2009 Year One series just to see how the Black Lightning character had evolved. The 2009 Year One series comes closest to the CW's DC TV version showing Jefferson Pierce as married but with just one young child (Anissa) and one on the way. Lynn definitely isn't the emotional wreck that she is in the TV show. Black Lightning in the comic books still has his inner demons and obsessions although with only one young daughter and a much more stable and supportive wife his focus is about cleaning up the neighborhood. The TV version of Black Lightning seems to be in need of some parenting classes and maybe get into a meditation class so he doesn't come off as much of a control freak. My preference, if I had any choice, would be for the TV version of Black Lightning to move more towards the comic book version.

Although I've watched all of the episodes, I realized recently that I haven't actually looked forward to them coming on. They started making me tired. I felt the same way about many of this season's episodes of Supergirl. Sometimes TV shows and movies feel the need to provide social commentary on hot button issues. I'm okay with that. But when the message continues to drag on for episode after episode, well after most normal audience members have already had the "okay, I get it" moment, it becomes less entertaining and feels like I'm being preached at or lectured at. That holds true for relevant social issues and for the "we must protect family at all costs" message.

So, Yup, I got it. You're right. Now, move on.

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