Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 24, 2021)
About 40 years after the character’s DC Comics debut, Black Lightning hit TV screens. This Blu-ray set includes all of Season Two’s episodes. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
Rise of the Green Light Babies: “After the Pierces survive Tobias's (Marvin 'Krondon' Jones III) attack, the Garfield board considers a motion to shut down the school out of concern for the students' safety.”
“Rise” picks up pretty literally where Season One ended, and that means S2 should be able to start with a bang. However, “Rise” seems a bit sluggish, as it mixes fairly dull expository bits with out-of-nowhere action beats. Hopefully this just sets the table and S2 picks up after the opener.
Black Jesus Blues: “Jefferson (Cress Williams) must break the news to his students and faculty that he is stepping down. Struggling with his new life as Painkiller, Kahlil (Jordan Calloway) pays a visit to Jennifer (China Anne McClain) in hopes of mending things. Tobias continues to enact his plan.”
When the most interesting drama revolves around Jeff’s struggles at work, I think we might be in trouble. “Blues” manages some lively action at times and perhaps it sets up the table for better material later, but the episode tends to feel a bit scattered and not especially strong.
Master Lowry: “Jeff cleans out his desk after the board retires him as principal. Meanwhile, Anissa (Nafessa Williams) goes looking for money to keep Holt's (Clifton Powell) clinic from going insolvent, Lynn (Christine Adams) gets a new co-worker, and Jennifer meets Perenna (Erika Alexander), a woman with a unique gift.”
Three episodes into S2 and I continue to wonder if the episodes will ever connect in a meaningful manner. Parts of “Master” offer some promise but the show seems too scattered to really work.
Translucent Freak: “While Tobias scheme to clear himself of any suspicion of Alvin's death, Jeff has it out with Anissa, Jennifer, Bill (Damon Gupton), and Lowry (PJ Byrne).”
As a career-long school system employee, I remain semi-interested in the material at Garfield High, though it doesn’t ring true. Also, who thought it was a good idea to name the new principal “Mike Lowry”? That name just provokes giggles since it echoes the Will Smith role in Bad Boys.
The capture of Tobias seems like it should add drama, but it doesn’t go anywhere especially exciting so far. All of these factors make “Freak” another watchable but erratic episode.
Requiem: “Jefferson and Anissa make a shocking discovery while investigating a creepy man at the clinic. Tobias pressures Khalil to fill the void that Syonide left.”
The series (possibly) kills off a prominent supporting character and largely devotes “Requiem” to that aftermath, but not in an especially compelling way. Some of that happens because smart money would bet the “dead character” in question remains alive, but most of it stems from the blah presentation. The show just doesn’t generate the emotion it needs.
The Perdi: “While Lynn deals with the aftermath of fourteen deaths, Anissa meets with Anaya's (Birgundi Baker) parents and help her deliver her baby - only to receive a surprise.”
And… the so-called dead character returns! I feel a bit surprised the series didn’t try to milk his “demise” a little longer, but since I viewed his death as unlikely, I like that the show didn’t stretch this subject for too long.
Beyond that, “Perdi” seems spotty, especially as it introduces a new Romeo & Juliet-esque theme. None of this goes much of anywhere.
The Sange: “Looker (Sofia Vassilieva) and her clan attack Black Lightning and Thunder. They fight to get her to release the Sange. Jennifer and Kahlil continue to grow closer.
The Perdi/Sange theme adds minor intrigue, but the episode doesn’t do much with it. Instead, we tend to stick with a lot of melodrama.
Exodus: “Jennifer's disappearance roils the Pierce family. The family discusses the best way to find her. Lynn asks Detective Henderson to arrest Khalil after she learns Jennifer is with him.”
For a superhero series, Black Lightning seems bound and determined to avoid superheroics. Much of Season Two cares more about family dynamics and romantic relationships, so we spend too little time with the title character. “Exodus” continues that trend.
Gift of the Magi: “Jennifer separately tries to save a feverish Khalil after their narrow escape. Jefferson, Lynn and Anissa work on tracking down the pair.”
Surprise surprise – we actually get a fair amount of action material, and even a smidgen of humor, a commodity in short supply through this hyper-serious series. These factors make “Magi” better than average for Season Two, if not quite enough to make me optimistic the rest of the episodes will really redeem the show.
Angelitos Negros: “While on the run, Khalil and Jennifer start to plan a future. Jefferson needs a favor from Henderson.”
I thought the Jennifer and Khalil thread would run its course quickly, but S2 seems determined to milk it. That tale continues to dominate, and it also makes “Angelitos” a fairly lackluster episode, one that squanders the progress from “Magi”.
Prodigal Son: “Jefferson zeroes in on Tobias as a suspect for a recent malicious attack. He thinks Henderson will back him but is in for a surprise. Lynn confronts her difficult past.”
With a darker tone, “Son” manages to threaten to reignite S2. It doesn’t quite soar, but because it focuses more on narrative and less on soap opera, it becomes a pretty good show.
Just and Unjust: “Jennifer grieves in the aftermath of Khalil's death, and Odell (Bill Duke) saves Lynn from an abduction. At Garfield, Jennifer and Jeff both confront Lowry, while Anissa is surprised by a sudden turn of events with Grace.”
After the rebound of “Son”, S2 sputters again with the more erratic “Just”. It struggles to find a consistent tone, though some decent action redeems it to a degree.
Pillar of Fire: “Tobias activates one of the Masters of Disaster (Hosea Chanchez) and sends him and Cutter (Kearran Giovanni) to bring him the other pods. Napier (Robert Townsend) gets Jeff a chance to get his old job back, and Anissa learns more about Grace's (Chantal Thuy) history.”
Whereas S2 should be heating up at this point, “Fire” only does so to a moderate degree. I feel like the show dawdles and drags too much, whereas it needs greater drama and tension than it provides.
Original Sin: “Jeff receives a visit from a former student, Anissa goes looking for Grace, and Jennifer gets a new suit.”
As noted in the last episode’s review, I feel like S2 should build toward real narrative momentum so late in the year, but “Sin” doesn’t really do that. It gives us moderate story development but nothing especially involving.
The Alpha: “Tobias initiates the first step in selling his army of metas, Jeff sets down some ground rules to his daughters, and Lala (Michael Wright) and Lazarus (Michael Wright) have a chat.”
S2 has built inexorably toward a major Black Lightning vs. Tobias confrontation, and “Alpha” pushes in that direction. It does so reasonably well, mainly because it focuses more on action than family melodrama.
The Omega: “Black Lightning and Thunder take on the Masters of Disaster, while Peter (James Remar) and Jennifer try to restore the city's power during the riots that break out after Cape Guy's (Jay Ayers) death. Tobias and Cutter have a disagreement, and Odell makes his move.”
S2 concludes with a moderate bang. “Omega” manages a fair amount of excitement and decent closure for the narrative thread, along with the expected tease for Season Three.
“Omega” becomes a mostly positive finale for a disappointing season. S2 of Lightning tends to feel more like soap opera than superhero, and that makes it mediocre at best.