Even as J.J. Stewart (Laura Kariuki), Jen still being a highschooler still seems weird.
Sure, Kariuki looks a little more natural in the uniform, but after spending so much time outside of Garfield High, it’s weird to see Black Lightning attempt to make it an active part of the story again. Although, having walked the extensive Garfield set ourselves, we at least understand the practical, real world reason for keeping the location alive in these final episodes. Also, considering Jefferson’s (Cress Williams) explanation about holding onto his father’s house, there is a larger reason outside of the narrative for J.J. to stay in school; a Black teen superhero needs to graduate. As a side benefit, it also means T.C. (Christopher Ammanuel) gets to leave the Sanctum and Uriah (McKalin Hand) gets to reintroduce a teen element to the program.
But like Tobias’s (Marvin “Krondon” James III) current scheme to tar Jefferson’s name, the Garfield plots never quite meld into the show’s overall narrative. Or maybe it just feels that way after the occupation of Freeland. If it all turns around and J.J. (or Jen) graduates in the finale montage, there may be some value in Garfield High after all.
Meanwhile, we can’t help but note J.J.’s recent stability test, indicating Jen (China Anne McClain) may make one more appearance before the end. Or, at least, that’s the way we read it. From Lynn’s (Christine Adams) perspective, the test may indicate she is about to lose her second-born again. That tension could lead to something interesting, especially if Lynn has to inject herself with the nullifier power to stabilize J.J. Then again, Gambi (James Remar) seems to be holding onto the power, so perhaps he’ll be called into service on this one.
Another interesting development: Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace (Chantal Thuy) are doing all the action beats now. If the rumors about them moving to Painkiller are true, this sort of makes sense. But it also means they need an enemy all their own, which brings us to Ishmael (Rico Ball) the ninja. He’s a strange character as he operates as both menace in the action scenes and comedy in his observations. Thanks to Gambi’s appraisal of the situation, it is possible he’s a Kobra cult member, but it is really late in the run to make Kobra a thing. Also, can Warner Bros. or DC even use Kobra outside the comics without Hasbro raising a stink? Sure, they exist as the name of Lady Eve’s syndicate, but no one says it very often. Then again, Ishmael is dressed like Storm Shadow, so someone is clearly having fun with the ambiguity.
At the same time, we wish the conflict was just down to the Pierces, Tobias, and Lala (William Catlett) as we get close to the final month of the series.
Oh, and then we get a surprise visit from Khalil (Jordan Calloway) and Philky (Alexander Hodge), who need T.C. to enter Khalil’s mind. We’re going to assume it’s part of Khalil’s plan to merge with Painkiller and, no doubt, set up their participation in the show’s final book. It is interesting to see Khalil re-enter the narrative at this point. His offer to help stop Tobias may be the thing the team needs to uncover the truth behind the embezzlement scheme. And, really, with only five episodes remaining, it is time for the show’s longest-running threads to resolve.
With all that in mind, we have to say this episode is emblematic of a unavoidable mid-season slump. All of these scenes need to be here, but they do not happen in the most compelling fashion. Consider: Jefferson apologized to Lynn for his behavior in Episode 6 and we’re only bringing it up now. Next week will be the end of “The Book of Ruin” and we hope it brings closure to some threads before the final book begins.
Black Lightning airs Mondays on The CW.