By Joelle Monique
Black Lightning is back on the CW and showrunners, Mara and Salim Akil are not pulling any punches. The fourth DC series to arrive at the CW and the first not to fall under the Arrow universe, season one excelled at making this a distinctly different space. With a focus on political corruption, police violence, and the difficulty of running a Black school with a white school board the Akil’s pushed the boundaries of superhero network television.
Embracing the comic book aesthetic, a new title card has been created. Sketches in black and red ink depict our heroes in action. Each season is a book. Season 2 is the Book of Consequences. Chapter one is The Rise of The Green Light Babies.
The show opens with the shaky cell phone footage of a Black teenager, Issa Williams (Myles Truitt), being suffocated by two white police officers. His mother or sister screams for the cops to stop. When it’s revealed that Issa has passed someone yells, “He’s a child,” as one of the officers tries to cover the cell phone with their palm.
It’s reported that Issa is a green light baby. A play on the term crack baby, the term is used to describe the young kids addicted to the super-power-giving drug, green light. Freedland is still being overrun by the drug despite Black Lightning and Thunder’s efforts to get the drugs from the dealers last season.
Later, as Issa’s body is being carried out of the morgue, his mother and sister trail behind lamenting the fact they aren’t allowed to bury him properly. Then something strange begins to happen. The body bag starts moving. Officers drop the bag and draw their weapons. Issa is alive and well. He calls for his mother and in a heartbreaking scene, she tells him she was happy to bury him. At least he wasn’t using drugs anymore.
She quickly realizes what she’s saying as the shock wears off but the damage is done. Cops begin to move in on him. But the women in his life won’t see him die a second time. They yell for Issa to run. He disappears as cops begin firing indiscriminately into the crowd.
Back at Garfield High, Principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is being reprimanded by the school board. Last season, when Black Lightning was saving the school from Khalil and other students hopped up on the green light, Pierce was nowhere to be found. Jeff lies and says he was on a mini family vacation, but the school board isn’t buying it. They’ve decided to close the school until they can get grief counselors for the students and figure out an appropriate punishment for Jeff.
Pierce is flippant about the whole thing. After all, he knows he didn’t abandon the school. But he can’t let anyone else know he’s really Black Lightning. His only option is to wait for his slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, the school being closed means all of the students he worked so hard to protect are out on the streets and vulnerable.
This puts the only Black person on the school board, Napier, in a rough position. “You’re putting me in a position to have to explain to these white folks all things African-American, including your Black ass,” he exclaims. The men tussle verbally. Jeff all but calls Napier a house slave for siding with the board. “They’ve got money for metal detectors…but never for books.” Napier is trying to protect the school not Jeff’s job. They leave the fight there, with neither conceding.
Later, Napier delivers the news that the board has decided to close the school permanently. For a minute Jeff is speechless. Then, everything becomes very clear. His choice was to operate as Black Lightning. He fell down on his duties as principal; one of which is being visible in a crisis. Jeff swiftly agrees to take all the blame for everything bad that has happened at the school in the past couple of months. He knows he will be lambasted, but it’s worth it. He finally agrees with Napier, it’s better to save Garfield High than to save Principal Pierce’s job.
Jeff isn’t having much luck with any of his male friends. As Black Lightning, he goes to meet Deputy Cheif Bill Henderson. Henderson is fuming. He knows Jeff would never abandon the school. He saw Black Lightning come out of retirement to save the Pierce girls. Now, Henderson is positive it’s Jeff behind the mask. Jeff hesitates to reveal the truth. Henderson threatens to shoot him. Unable to audibly confirm what Henderson already knows to be true, Jeff removes his mask.
Friends since elementary school, Henderson can’t understand why Jefferson would lie to him for decades about his true identity. Jeff is visibly relieved not to be lying to Bill anymore. He asks Bill what happens next. Henderson doesn’t have an answer. He simply walks away.
Lynn (Christine Adams) is being interrogated by Agent Odell (Bill Duke) of the ASA about how she found the pod-people. Lynn is a terrible liar. She says she received a random call because of her research with the green light kids. Odell is dry and humorless. “That dog won’t hunt,” he tells her right before forbidding her to leave the city and revoking her access to the pods.
Back home Lynn and Jefferson are fighting and it feels like the first half of season 1 all over again. Lynn thinks Jennifer should be in therapy. Jefferson thinks she needs to be trained to use her powers. The truth is the body cannot live without the mind. Jen will need both training and therapy to improve. But, the world isn’t kind to those with powers. They know she can’t see just any therapist. Even Jefferson isn’t sure what’s going on with Jen physically. He compares her infrequent ability to control her power to a baby learning to walk.
Lynn and Jeff also have a row over Lynn’s involvements with the pods. Jeff is keen on keeping his entire family safe. Any contact with the ASA, pod people or green light puts a target on their back. Lynn is a hero in her own right. She’s a doctor and she wants to help. So much so, that she later asks Gamby to pull some strings at the ASA to put her back in charge of the pods.
This action infuriates Jeff and Odell. With Jeff, Lynn explains that she is not a child. She does not need his permission to protect people. She leaves their home deciding they can’t agree on anything. Luckily, it’s not season one and the couple has matured. Lynn comes back home to work things out with Jeff. She asks him to go to therapy and though he doesn’t agree straight out, they end in a much better place than they began.
With Odell, Lynn begins to display some political tact. Switching from lying to finessing. She tells Odell to call her Doctor Pierce. She no longer cares what he believes, she has the power and the authority to take care of these kids and she’s going to do it until he forces her to stop. Odell is very suspicious and guarantees he will cut her strings eventually. This is going to be a fun match to watch unfold.
Things aren’t going much better for Jennifer (China Anne McClain). She wakes up to discover her sister Anissa at the foot of her bed. Anissa shows Jen cell phone footage of Jennifer floating four feet above her bed and surrounded by glowing lights. Jen begs Anissa not to tell their parents but that ship has already sailed.
Jen’s best friend Keisha (Kyanna Simone Simpson) thinks green light babies are freaks. Khalil has been calling to apologize for weeks but she can’t answer his call. Jen’s powers are out of her control and she wants nothing to do with them. She saw her mother and her uncle kill people, and she’s worried she may have killed someone too. The weight of all these secrets is overwhelming. It shows.
When Lynn confronts her about needing to address everything she’s experience, Jen tries to walk away. But Lynn keeps pushing and Jen accidentally blasts her in the shoulder. Jen’s powers are definitely tied to her emotions. She’s a teenager so she has a lot. When her friend shows a video of Issa coming back to life, Jen hides in her bathroom.
By the time Jeff gets home the bathroom is filled with floating balls of electricity. Jeff is able to absorb and control the energy by embracing her, but Jen’s not in a better place. She’s still holding all of those secrets. She’s still floating above her bed when she sleeps.
The Freedman community is distraught at the treatment of the pod kids. The government has declared a public safety issue and taken ownership of the pods and the people inside. A representative has asked for visitation for the families who for years thought their children were dead. But, the government denies that request. Now, they’re going to sue the city. Unfortunately, that’s going to cost at least $500,000.
Jeff and Anissa are in the church audience when this conversation takes place. Anissa wants to help. She knows raising that much money will be nearly impossible for the impoverished congregation. Jefferson is tired. He still hasn’t caught Whale, the family and school are in danger, and real change can’t be forced. Better for the legal system handle this so that real change can be enacted.
Of course, Anissa hears only half of this argument. Donning a new vigilante uniform consisting of a 3X black hoodie, black leggings, and a black mouth mask, Anissa begins robbing drug dens. Totally in her element, she takes out 30 bad guys in a matter of minutes and escapes with a bag full of cash. She delivers it to the church in her new uniform and is surprised to find everyone packing heat. With the green light still on the streets, even the hobbled preacher isn’t taking chances. But, when the congregation sees the cash they lower the weapons and proclaim the gift a miracle.
Former Vice Principal and ASA Agent Kara Fowdy (Skye P. Marshall), is making a getaway when Syonide (Charlbi Dean Kriek) shows up demanding she go with her to see crime boss Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III). This was my favorite scene of the episode. It encompasses everything that makes Black Lightning great. Kara is a silver pantsuit and Syonide is a navy blue jumpsuit cut down to her navel is a great nod to the 1970’s. This is the decade the comic book version of the series was first released.
Then the women fight and it is so badass. They start with guns, but they run out of bullets at the exact same moment. Syonide has two extendable batons, but Kara has retractable spikes heels. At one point it looks like Syonide has the upper hand, but at the last minute, Kara chucks the shoe at her throat. She kills Syonide! And she walks off with one of the best lines reads in the show, “You got my hair wet, bitch.” I screamed.
After killing Syonide Kara knows Tobias is going to be after her. With the ASA already on her trail, she needs help. So, she goes to the only other person who got out; Peter Esposito, the untouchable tailor, aka Gamby. Gamby is obviously suspicious. At gunpoint, Kara explains that she didn’t know she was working for a rogue arm of the ASA. She offers to retrieve the mysterious briefcase Syonide gave to Tobias in season one. When Gamby asks what’s in the case she just shakes her head and says, “Hell.”
A woman of her word, Kara goes to retrieve the briefcase. Whale’s hideout is pitch black as Kara sleuths her way through the building gun raise, night vision goggles ablaze. She finds Whale behind his desk. “Syonide was the last person I cared about,” he tells her. “You should have taken better care of her,” she retorted.
It looks like Kara may have the drop on him, but then Whale fires his beloved harpoon gun straight into Kara’s gut. He pulls the connecting string, dragging his prey to him. Kara’s not down, yet. She severs the chord with a concealed knife and runs straight for Whale as he proclaims, “I’m going to peel your skin off with a butter knife.” At the last second Kara ducks and slides past Whale’s massive form. She dives out the window and escapes.
So, to recap:
Lynn is in charge of the pods.
Jeff is out as Garfield High principal.
Anissa is robbing from drug dealers to give to the victims.
Jen is bursting with secrets.
Kara is wounded.
Issa is on the streets alone.
It’s been an explosive first episode back. I predict Kara is headed to Gamby’s to be stitched up and to join the team as a former ASA insider. Lynn will be going head to head with Odell in the coming weeks. Jen is going to call Khalil back because she can’t help herself. Jeff will lose himself in Black Lightning with no other work to preoccupy his mind. Anissa is going to get herself in a lot of trouble when she comes against a green light baddie.
What do you think season 2 has in store? Tell us below in the comments.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.