Brief Thoughts On ‘Black Lightning’ Season 4, Episode 3
by Erik Amaya
And, finally, a ray of light appears on Black Lightning.
No, we’re not just talking about Lynn’s (Christine Adams) pointed references to her brother John. Although, that nice shout-out to either John Stewart or John Diggle indicates some of the sadness surrounding the characters may be finally lifting. Which isn’t to say they’re healing, though. Just look at how Lynn’s rather good therapy session led to her sitting down with Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” James III). While we suspect he somehow got a hold of the therapist’s notes, would Lynn have been as receptive to him had her ego not been boosted while in session?
Making things more complicated is the fact Lynn needed that breakthrough so she can define a place in her family without powers; much like how she had to find a place among the Stewarts without joining the military. As she put it, that conflict is the root of her addictive tendencies. That Tobias could use the breakthrough to further sow discord among the Pierces is unfortunate, but oddly in line with the episode’s overall tone of muted hope.
As another example, take Jefferson’s (Cress Williams) decision to fight in Lala’s (William Catlett) illegal cage match. There was immediate catharsis in beating a Zangief look-a-like, but the way he ultimately helped Marcel Payton (Kedrick Brown) by giving him the keys to his father place suggests a way for Jefferson to do good without his supersuit. Yes, Gambi (James Remar) is right to question Jefferson’s outlook on Black Lightning, but maybe the superhero identity is poisonous at this stage of Jefferson’s life. Again, muted hope. Nevertheless, it was so thrilling to see him feel right about something that we’re going to lean more into the hopefulness than worry about a Freeland without Black Lightning or the fight Jefferson and Lynn are going to have next episode.
This is also why we’re going to celebrate Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace’s (Chantal Thuy) super-quick wedding. Much like Anissa, we’re tired of seeing these two pulled apart and their wedding postponed. We’re also happy to see Dr. Darius Morgan (Todd Anthony) officiate as last week set him up as a wedge between Anissa and the comatose Grace. We’d much rather see them all enjoy some drinks together than one getting jealous of the other.
Maybe, though, that quickly-accepted relief is part of the point. For the last two episodes — and the first half of this one — Black Lightning has been focused on unresolved pain and trauma. We totally get why. That shot of the George Floyd memorial flyer should put to rest any doubts about the authorial intent here. But the way the characters are grabbing onto these partial hopes reflects the need to find any light after a long struggle. And as viewers, we’re happy to see it because we look to these shows for more than the Pierces fighting one another.
Whether or not this means they’ll stop fighting is a different matter entirely, though. The hopes they’ve all found have the potential to drive them further apart. Science is something Lynn ultimately can’t share with her husband or her daughters. Anissa and Grace need to start their own lives. Jefferson, being Jefferson, is less likely to share his good news anyway since it comes with a side order violence, and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) … well, it seems like the series is setting her up to be cancelled. Considering McClain was planning her exit before The CW pulled the plug on Black Lightning, her tussle with kids hip to Twitter and a Fox News-esque TV anchor may be leading to Jen’s last days in Freeland.
Oh, and since we haven’t mentioned it before, Gambi’s flirtation with the company behind the DEGs can only spell trouble in the long run.
In the meantime, though, we’re happy to see the Pierces find room to breathe even if it means they’ll be pulled apart for the moment. And, we have to admit, maybe separation is exactly what they need. It would be funny if that were the case and Tobias inadvertently makes them stronger despite his belief that it will break them. That right there is definitely a hopeful thought.
Black Lightning airs Mondays on The CW.