Brief Thoughts On ‘Black Lightning’ Season 4, Episode 4

by Erik Amaya

For once, a Black Lightning book closed with a proper climax.

The program’s decision to group every four episodes or so as a “book” is something we’ve appreciated since it was formally introduced in Season 2 even if it has never been deployed in a manner we like. Instead of working like a six-issue comic book story arc, Black Lightning‘s book system is meant to evoke more of a thematic consistency across the episodes than offer a hard end for a given storyline.

As an example, Season 4’s first book, “The Book of Reconstruction” is more about the failure to rebuild than it is about healing. The fact the term “reconstruction” has such a contentious place in American history was the first clue that Black Lightning was going to start its final season in a darker place. And true to the book title, very literal forward progress has been made for Freeland or the Pierce family to recover from the ASA/Sokovian occupation. As we’ve been saying all season, it’s the right choice even if it makes the show an emotionally difficult watch. You always want the Pierces to persevere and, right now, they’re just not doing that.

Even the hopeful note of Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace’s (Chantal Thuy) quicky marriage gave away to one of the recurring problems in their relationship: Anissa’s need for independence. Although they were living together before Grace fell into a coma, Anissa wasted little time putting all of her partner’s stuff into storage so the apartment could be hers alone again. As she put it, the place had a “vibe.” Thankfully, Anissa corrected herself a few scenes later, but it calls to her habit of using her space and her causes to set herself apart from the people she loves.

Although, inviting Grace to observe the mayor’s speech in the homeless safety zone was a step in the right direction. But considering how often the pair have broken up, there may be a continued conflict in their future.

As for the show’s other prominent couple, we’d love for Jefferson (Cress Williams) and Lynn (Christine Adams) to call it quits. They’ve been having the same argument all season and, to a certain extent, their entire life together. Lynn may have probed some of the reasons why in her therapy session last episode, but it led to no positive change. Well, okay, maybe a little as Jefferson sees a way she can help against Tobias Whale’s (Marvin “Krondon” James III) latest scheme. And if the show won’t let them quit each other, there needs to be some breakthrough for them or, perhaps, an understanding of why they keep coming home to each other. As we’ve said before, the push-pull of their relationship may be realistic, but it doesn’t necessarily make for great drama if they’re at each other’s throats all the time. For us to want them to work through this, we need to see how good they are together again.

Or, like we suggested last week, the way to healing may be to be apart.

Meanwhile, Tobias and Lala (William Catlett) finally have interesting stories revolving around their criminal enterprises. While not exactly in direct conflict, it is interesting to see them recognize the threat the other still presents. It’s sad, then, that Jill Scott cannot join in the proceedings to make the Kobra Cartel more of a player in this aspect of the plot. Nevertheless, we can’t wait to see Lala’s reaction when he learns he did Tobias’s dirty work for him.

Finally, Jennifer’s (China Anne McClain) explosive final moment in the episode plays in a different light if you’ve seen McClain’s teary-eyed video in which she announced her departure from the show. Is it possible we’ve already seen her final moment on the series entirely? Or will Jen reconstitute to help Khalil (Jordan Calloway) establish his spinoff status quo? As it happens, there is a half-heartedness to her story and, we have to say, McClain looks silly in the Garfield High uniform at this point. Maybe taking her off the board for the next book is the right choice.

As it happens, the next book will be called “The Book of Ruin.” A title which indicates things will still have to get worse for the characters and their city before it gets better.

Black Lightning airs Mondays on The CW.

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