Brief Thoughts On ‘Black Lightning’ Season 4, Episode 11

by Erik Amaya

Now, we’re in endgame(?)

As Black Lightning closes in on its final two hours, the final combatants appear to stand ready to fight. Certain ideas are also cast aside as the time to explore them comes to an end. Then again, this is Black Lightning — it may yet find a moment or two in order to circle back to Gambi’s (James Remar) possible happy ending, the real situation at Monovista, or (we hope) one last hurrah for Lala (William Catlett).

For the moment, though, we’re glad to see the tail end of the embezzlement thread. It never struck us as a viable conflict — particularly as taking Jefferson (Cress Williams) to court would’ve been tough to shoot in a plague year. But even beyond that, it never really re-enforced the notion of Tobias’s (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) increasing political power in a compelling way. For the most part, it was just another thing for Jeff and Lynn (Christine Adams) to fight about. All that said, the apparent resolution of the story does offer something interesting for the future. Adding Looker (Sofia Vassilieva) to the Painkiller mix could be quite interesting with her very obvious racism and a power that can still create a lot of problems for Khalil (Jordan Calloway) even if she can’t use it on him directly. Also, a blatant racist with an ambition to recreate plantation life is a good hook for a villain. Although, as we’re still unsure if Painkiller will become a series, using the embezzlement storyline to introduce beef between these characters could still be a waste of time.

We also hope the end of the thread means the end of the lame romantic triangle between Jeff, Lynn, and her lawyer. Not that we necessarily want Jeff and Lynn to reconcile — it’s clear they should not remarry — but Jeff’s perception of the lawyer as a romantic rival was a boring and obvious take on things. Although, if it nudges the needle toward Lynn deciding she doesn’t want to live with Jeff, we’ll reconsider our opinion of this plot.

Meanwhile, the episode also features the rare fridging of a male character. In fact, we hope the intention in killing off Uriah (McKalin Hand) after a handful scenes of him spread across three or four episodes was to highlight fridging as a cheap narrative device. To be fair, the series really doesn’t have time for Uriah and it seems like Painkiller wants to hold J.J. (Laura Kariuki) in reserve for a potential rekindling of the Khalil and Jennifer relationship. Nonetheless, J.J. didn’t really need any more motivation to go after Tobias. Their conflict never really cooled off after she shocked him at the end of Season 2 and all the circumstances of the last year already primed her for a rematch. So, we’re left with a commentary on a superhero trope. Or, at least, that’s the way we’re choosing to read this.

But the episode as whole does highlight a growing problem with the final storyline: Tobias’s plots and methods no longer feel effective. The scene in which he gives the police chief metablocker serum and emitter-resistant wristbands, for example, doesn’t feel like the big moment it might’ve been earlier in the year. His mayoral campaign largely occurred off-screen, so his win carries no weight. We half-expected Lala to burst free from his concrete slab when the camera lingered on him. Such a thing would highlight how nothing ever really works out for Tobias Whale. And though it is nice to see a supervillain be so impotent, that does not appear to be the thematic point of his schemes this year. He’s supposed to be amassing power for the final fight and yet it feels like victory is already slipping from his grasp.

The again, we could be wrong with this read.

If we’re right, it speaks to an astonishing amount of senioritis among the writing team. Or, perhaps, a reworking of ideas when it became clear Season 4 would be the last. Either way, we hope most of the final fight occurs next week so the series finale can be more about recovery and a wedding reception for Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Grace (Chantal Thuy). That sounds like a much better note to end on that Jeff and Lynn getting remarried.

Black Lightning airs Mondays on The CW.

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