Black Lightning returns for its final season as the Pierce family continues to struggle with the aftermath of war.
When Black Lightning last lit up TV screens, the conflict between the Markovians and their leader, a metahuman named Gravedigger, had escalated into an all-out war. Though Black Lightning, Thunder, Lightning, and their allies were able to stop both the Markovians and the ASA experiments, there were many casualties, including police chief Bill Henderson.
The premiere of Black Lightning’s final season opens a year later with Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) standing at Henderson’s grave and paying his respects to his best friend. Still shaken by the events of the Markovian War, he declares to the ghost of his father that Black Lightning is dead and that he blames himself for Henderson’s death. Despite his refusal to put on the suit, Jefferson lashes out in broad daylight towards two white police officers brutalizing a young black kid.
Meanwhile, Jefferson has also regained his principal job. He and Lynn (Christine Adams) have been attending couples counseling though their relationship remains strained. Anissa (Nafessa Williams) has been sitting by the bedside of still comatose Grace (Chantal Thuy) over the past year, when she’s not fighting criminals and stopping drug deals with Jennifer (China Anne McClain). Lynn continues her experiments with the meta serums by injecting herself with different powers and taking up masked vigilantism. Gambi (James Remar) continues to help out the Pierce family while turning down a business offer from an old friend.
The entire Pierce family is thrown for a loop when Tobias (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) returns to Freeland claiming to be a philanthropist determined to help Freeland recover. Lala (William Catlett) is also threatened by Tobias’ reappearance as he is fighting to regain control over Freeland’s streets. In addition, Freeland’s new police chief, Chief Ana Lopez (Melissa De Sousa), is determined to document every metahuman in Freeland while Detective Hassan Shakur (Wallace Smith) tries to connect with Black Lightning after finding instructions left behind by Henderson.
As the family debates how to deal with Tobias, especially now that he knows their true identities, Jefferson’s refusal to have his family kill Tobias causes friction between him, Lynn, and Anissa. Meanwhile, Jefferson’s reckless decision to use his powers without his suit leaves behind evidence that leads to Chief Lopez questioning him and subsequently opening an investigation on him.
After having two of his drug deals broken up by Thunder and Lightning, LaLa sets up a trap leading to Jennifer getting shot by a special metahuman gun. Though she is seemingly okay at first, Jefferson gets revenge on the gang member who fired the shot by attacking him in his apartment, once again using his powers without his suit. As Tobias uses his wealth and influence to gain access to Lynn and her lab research, Jennifer seemingly loses her powers midway through an evening flight and ends the episode in a free fall.
The episode does a good job at exploring the aftermath of the Markovian war on each member of the Pierce family and shows the darkness and grief that comes from war and the resulting casualties. Meanwhile, the episode also sets up conflicts for the rest of the final season.
The time jump between seasons doesn’t work, as tonally the episode feels like it’s only been a couple of months rather than a whole year. While it would take some time for Freeland to recover from the conflict, it doesn’t make sense that the introduction of a new police chief and Tobias’ return to Freeland would take an entire year to happen.
Despite Jefferson’s refusal to put on the suit, Anissa and Jennifer pick up the mantle and team up as Thunder and Lightning to protect Freeland. It is incredibly fun to watch the two work together and to see their powers combined to beat up criminals. Lynn has also started doing some vigilantism of her own, and it’s exciting to briefly see her in action. In addition, the Sanctum, Gambi’s home base for the Pierce family, has received some significant upgrades and looks great. This show is stronger when the Pierce family works together, and there will hopefully be more great moments throughout the season.
The show’s strength of highlighting real-world issues through the lens of a superhero show continues, as this episode features police brutality and introduces the newest police chief, who wants to create a database of undocumented metahumans. While the show seems to have sidestepped the Covid-19 pandemic, at least for now, the show continues to be unafraid to pull punches regarding many other real-world issues.
Jefferson deals with the most grief and emotional fallout in this episode, but he comes off as a bit of a hypocrite throughout most of this episode. Though he refuses to put on the suit, he is still using his powers without it. When Gambi confronts him about it, he keeps insisting that Jefferson saved the kid rather than Black Lightning.
Jefferson is also adamant that the rest of his family doesn’t kill Tobias, despite how dangerous he is to them and Freeland, and complains about their casual attitude towards murder. While it’s understandable he doesn’t want his family to continually murder people, Jefferson himself is using his powers throughout the episode to electrocute people and nearly killing them without hesitation. While Jefferson’s attitudes towards murder and how his wife and daughters handle things have always been a source of conflict for the family, it remains to be seen if and how this issue will finally be resolved in this final season.
Another frustrating part of this episode was the handling of Anissa and Grace’s storyline. The biggest complaint about the show by many fans, particularly LGBTQ+ fans, is how little the relationship of Anissa and Grace has been developed onscreen compared to the relationships between Jefferson and Lynn and Jennifer and Khalil. When Chantal Thuy was finally upgraded to series regular status after recurring on the show since the first season, there was a lot of hope that Grace and her relationship would finally get more much-needed screen time.
While there’s still plenty of time left in the season, it is frustrating to see that Grace is still in a coma after a year. As depressing as that is, it’s even more depressing that Grace doesn’t wake up in this episode. Even though Grace will hopefully wake up sooner rather than later, it’s disappointing to see Thuy’s first episode as a series regular has her solely lay unconscious in a bed for one scene.
Despite the episode’s issues, there are a lot of storylines that will be exciting to see play out through the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see what Tobias and Lala do and how the Pierce family deals with them, particularly as Tobias now knows their secret identities. Having a new police chief at odds with metahumans while in the process of investigating Jefferson for his actions in this episode will inject more conflict into the season.
There will hopefully be more great moments for the Pierce family throughout the season, and that the final season will provide a satisfying conclusion for them and the people that they love.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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